Wyo4News Staff, [email protected] [PRESS RELEASE]
April 30, 2022 – Rock Springs was once home to not one, but two foreign-language newspapers, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum reported on Saturday.
Italian immigrants were among the dozens of nationalities who came to Rock Springs during the decades that straddled the turn of the 20th century, drawn by work in the coal mines.
The peak years of Italian immigration to Wyoming were from 1890 to 1910. By 1910, 7.7% of the state’s foreign-born population was Italian, mostly from the northern provinces of Tuscany, Lombardy, and Piedmont. By the early 1920s, more than 60% of Wyoming’s Italians lived in Uinta, Laramie, and Sweetwater Counties.
The strong Italian presence in Rock Springs fostered the creation of two local Italian language newspapers between 1907 and 1909: Vita Nuova and Il Grido Del Popolo.
Over 800,000 pages of historic Wyoming newspapers are available online from the Wyoming Digital Newspaper Collection; among them are images of a single issue each from Vita Nuova and Il Grido Del Popolo.
Vita Nuova (New Life) was a weekly. On the Wyoming, Digital Newspaper Collection website are the 102 pages of the edition for February 7, 1908. One story on the front page describes the February 1, 1908 assassination of King Carlos I of Portugal and his son and heir, Crown Prince Luis Felipe. The pages are filled with advertisements, including one for The Hubb, a clothing store in Rock Springs.
Il Grido Del Popolo (The People’s Cry) was also weekly. A one-year subscription cost $2.00. Unfortunately, there are only four pages of the December 9, 1907 issue on the Wyoming Digital Newspaper Collection website.
The director for both newspapers was an Italian-born physician, Dr. F. Di Giacomo. The papers did not last long, and in 1915 he moved to Kemmerer, where he established a new medical practice but met a gruesome end three years later, when he was brutally murdered on June 21, 1918.
Dr. Di Giacomo maintained his practice in his home, (which was common at the time), and his body was found there by a neighbor during the early evening of the 21st. As reported at the time, “The body of the victim was terribly mutilated. His skull had been fractured behind the left year, the blow literally crushing the skull; a bullet had been fired into the abdomen, its range being downward, coming out at the thigh; a long scalp wound inflicted with a sharp instrument had been sustained, as well as bruises on the head. The most revolting phase of the crime was the removal of the right ear of the victim apparently after death. This was accomplished by the use of a razor.”
Di Giacomo’s killer, subsequently identified as Peter Natala, was arrested roughly six hours later trying the buy a train ticket at Opal, about 16 miles east of Kemmerer. His jacket was heavily bloodstained and he was carrying an “automatic revolver,” a razor, and $127 in cash. While drinking in a saloon on the afternoon of the murder, he told people that he’d been treated for a stomach ailment by Dr. Di Giacomo but not cured, and that the physician had “robbed” him of $60 out of the $75 charged for his treatment. It was reported that “The lefthand coat pocket revealed the most gruesome part of the murder. It was bloody inside, and distinct marks of where he [Natala] had carried his victim’s severed ear could be traced by the outline of the blood ring. The missing member has not been located.”
Natala was transported to the Lincoln County Jail in Kemmerer. Only a few days later, on the night of July 1 / 2, Natala and two other prisoners staged a successful escape. Museum researchers could find no information that he was ever recaptured.
The Wyoming Digital Newspaper Collection can be found at https://wyomingnewspapers.org/. An outstanding resource for historical research, the site is readily searchable, and searches can be refined by city, county, newspaper, and by date frame.
The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and there is no charge for admission.