The turn of the century saw a rise in immigration to Lawrence County. While many Irish, German, and Welsh had flocked to the area in the latter part of the 19th century, now the county began to see more southern Europeans, Slovaks, Russians, and Hebrews. Many of them went to work in the mills, limestone quarries, and railroads. And most had to live near their work. The southside of New Castle, and the mill area of Ellwood City teemed with a multitude of cultures and languages. Wampum and Hillsville also had a new group of immigrants.
Many came here with a skill, such as stone masons, tin workers, ironmongers, and others were merchants or peddlers, but the majority were common laborers.
They were sent to quarry the grey gold (limestone) needed by the iron and steel industry, or to work as furnace men. These newcomers lived near others who spoke the same language and held the same traditions. They also formed social clubs where they could gather to spend their leisure time, what little they had.
Men worked 12 hour shifts, six or seven days a week. The heat in the factories was almost unbearable, and the work was hard hand labor. Young boys went into the factory by the age of ten or twelve. To survive every member of the family had to work. The women often took in boarders and sometimes laundry. Young girls early learned to help prepare meals and take care of household chores. Many were hired out to help more affluent neighbors.
By the beginning of World War I, the families in the cities had weathered several violent labor strikes, and massive unemployment. In the country, life was not much better. While there was fresh air and good food, low payments for their crops, had caused many farmers to look for outside employment.
The 20’s started with a bang. Such promise. Construction was at its highest level since the building boom after the Civil War. There was work in the the service industries, as everyone rushed to the movies, or a vaudeville show. Restaurants were plentiful and the stores were full of merchandise.