Of Italian descent? Earl wants to know | AspenTimes.com

Of Italian descent? Earl wants to know

A local author and historian who has written about the history of Basalt and the Roaring Fork Valley is looking for sources for a book about Italians who came to the Woody Creek area in the early 1900s.

Basalt-born Earl Elmont, whose book will be called “Woody Creek and the Italian Connection,” said Italians came to the Aspen area in droves in the early 1900s due to poor conditions in northern Italy. The immigrants faced poverty and harsh conditions with an inspirational work ethic, according to Elmont.

“It’s assumed by many that they got their lands free on some kind of land grab,” he said. “Not so. They went to local banks and borrowed as much as $20,000 or more and bought their farms and ranches. They had one of the finest work ethics in the history of this country. Because of that, they prospered for the most part.”

Elmont said many of the Italian families have since sold their properties at great profit in what he calls a fascinating “rags to riches story.” Many of the ranches, which survived for years on hard immigrant labor, have recently become havens for the stars.

“My own aunt sold her ranch to Don Henley of the Eagles,” he said. “Nearby is the home of Don Johnson. Even Prince Bandar has a home near McLain Flats.”

Elmont’s previous book, “Basalt and the Frying Pan; a Legacy of the Colorado Midland Railroad,” is popular in the Aspen area.

He said he has found seven local families of Italian descent for his book thus far. Now living in Utah, Elmont said he hopes more families will contact him for his research. Any Italian family who had relatives in Woody Creek, McLain Flats or Starwood should write to Elmont at 7730 South 1000 East, Midvale, Utah, 84047.

Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com

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