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Finding the history behind Albert

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Manuell Alvarez

Joined: 14 Jun 2011
Posts: 240

PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 7:51 pm    Post subject: Finding the history behind Albert Reply with quote


I began my research on my late father's horse racing and work career in earnest starting with my retirement in January, 2008. My late sister, Helene, and I were to do this work together; however, she passed away in 2005, after a long illness. I waited too long to start this work. She was eager to start, loved genealogy, and enjoyed learning and talking about our family history. She called me just about every day, and I miss having her help.

Our father never really spoke much about his horse racing, work experiences, and early life in this country. His four children did not evidently ask enough questions; therefore, what we are left with is a lot of mysteries and empty spaces which can never really be filled entirely. Our connection to the Spanish communities where Dad and his family first lived, worked, and started life in America is mostly distant and unknown to us just like his Asturian heritage. It is there outside of Clarksburg in Anmoore that Dad probably learned to speak and write English with the help of the Spanish Asturian community. Evidently, upon his arrival, he must have learned very quickly since I believe that due to his farming background and health conditions, he did not like working in the zinc foundry and left that job as soon as possible. He claims to have been an interpreter for an American doctor sometime during his various careers. That takes a good command of both languages. Dad was extremely bright for a person with the equivalency of a third grade education.
I know that he was not trying to be mysterious about his life experiences because Dad would never have thought that his everyday life and work experiences were historical, worth writing or talking about. He was a very humble and unassuming person. Many times, along the Charles Town Racetrack backside rail, he would often say that horseracing was not for me and that it had humbled and broken many people that he knew, including himself. As I make each discovery, I come to realize that he is a man of the ages and possessed a great deal of knowledge and practical wisdom, and that his children, despite our educational accomplishments and life exploits, our life experiences have paled compared to his. He actually made the road a lot easier for us by hard work, and I wish that I had asked more questions or took more time to appreciate him. Each April 22, on his birthday, I always reflect what I would have done differently. Dad took quite a lot about his life to the grave with him.
Finding some of his thirty-four international racing wins in Canada and Cuba between the years of 1937 to 1947, has given momentum to my efforts in continuing the search. I feel that there is now much more to find and I have only scratched the surface. Further, those obscure references to his life that he did share, give me hope that someday I may be able to connect more of the dots, but not all. Much documentation has been lost and is compounded by the lack of nonexistent and unconfirmed anecdotal information.

Dad was born on April 22, 1902, in the Principality of Asturias, Spain, to Manuel and Manuela Alvarez, the eighth child of nine. His twin sister died at child birth and the doctor chose the male child to save. He was baptized the next day which was also the same day his sister was buried. Our grandparents named him, Arsenio, in honor of the doctor that saved his life. His given name was, Arsenio Alvarez Alvarez. His early chores were to guard, feed, and care for the farm horses. It is there in Asturias, that we believe he learned how to handle and care for horses.

The question about how and when he acquired the middle name of Albert has always been bantered about in our family. Unfortunately, we can only surmise the reason since he passed away in 1975, after receiving an untreated head injury from one of his horses he was exercising at the Charles Town Racetrack at the age of 72. Our mother succumbed to cancer in 1959, so we have no frame of reference for his acquiring the middle name of Albert; except, for one discovery that the Spanish community in Clarksburg/Anmoore where he first lived used nicknames.

A good friend of ours gave us a copy of the 2009 Fall edition of the Goldenseal Magazine, which featured several articles concerning the Asturian emigration to the Clarksburg area. It would appear according to the article and a book written about the life of these Spanish immigrants that men from the Asturias region of Spain were highly preferred because they could withstand the heat of the zinc furnaces in the foundry. This magazine gift has led to many other discoveries and has given me hope that there is more history to be found. I never knew that our Dad was a zinc worker; although, I am sure that he did not last long in that occupation since he grew up on a farm. He spoke about mining coal in Rivesville and Logan and never once mentioned anything about working in a zinc factory or living in Anmoore.

Most Asturian men came because they were recruited by the lure of money or had family members already employed in the zinc mill and; therefore, they had a support system readily established. We do not know why Dad really came. He was from an agricultural background. The two family farms were probably not that productive to support a large family, and Dad did not have the means to purchase his own farm. Many Asturians migrated to other countries to find work. Traditionally, in Spain, all the inheritances go to the oldest son and Dad probably was unemployed, without any job skills other than farming, and dependent on his parents for support. One thing is for sure, each Asturiano came to America with a different dream and reason. Why Dad came is just as mysterious as his acquiring a middle name of Albert.

Our father sailed from the Asturian Port of Gijon to Cuba. Both he and his brother, Ramon, were under the age of twenty-one. They were not accompanied by an adult and the Ellis Island Immigration Officials would not allow them to enter the United States through New York. Meeting them in Cuba was their older brother, Angel, who brought them into the US at Key West. From there they made their way to Clarksburg, WV, and just three days later they were recorded in the 1920, US Census as staying with their sister, Josepha, brother-in-law, Jake Alvarez, and their three children. Also living in the house on Ash Street in Anmoore were their brother, Angel, and two Spanish boarders named Garcia. Dad listed his occupation as being a laborer in a chemical mill which was probably the zinc foundry. Our father represents one of many thousands of Spanish Asturians who left Spain, never to return back to their place of birth. Most were assimilated into the American culture and moved looking for work and a new home in this country after the zinc plants closed. That may explain why Dad held many jobs and why he left Clarksburg and his siblings.

After reading the only book dedicated to the Clarksburg Spanish community entitled, Pinnick Kinnick Hill; I believe that I have finally discovered why he may have had the name of Albert. All the Spanish workers utilized a nickname in the zinc mill rather than their own given names. It is probably as good as any other explanation. Finally, I think I found the history behind his name of Albert. Everyone called him Albert, and it was not fully understood by me that this was not his given name until I received a copy of his Spanish birth and baptismal certificates from my sister in January, 1976, a month after his death.

In searching for the history behind Albert, I have discovered that once I had three Spanish Alvarez cousins who briefly lived here in West Virginia and left Clarksburg with their parents for the journey back to Spain. I have also have made contact with other Spanish descendants, who like me are interested in preserving the history of our Asturian families who suffered and persevered many travails while trying out the American dream in Clarksburg. Dad drifted from job to job after 1920, until he became a horse trainer in 1937, by which he will be best known for his international racing. Dad's domestic racing career and record is not quite as spectacular, interesting, or historical as the international racing records he established in Cuba and Canada.

1942 was a milestone in my father's life because he became a naturalized citizen and won thirteen international horse races that same year with Cuban bred, Azabache, winning the 1940 Riverside Handicap in Cuba, worth two thousand dollars, and Loyal Son winning five out of thirteen in 1942. Currently, there is a scholarship established for both him and our mother at Shepherd University totaling over one hundred thousand dollars in aid for West Virginia students. He is the only Spanish immigrant and horse trainer to have a bridge named in his honor in the state and a sizable scholarship. Further, because of his international racing accomplishments, he is recognized on the Famous West Virginian website, Asturian American Migration Forum, El Comercio newspaper, and in the West Virginia History Archives. Even with these recognitions, and small glimpses into the biography of a person's life, one will never get to fully appreciate and understand the person.

Note: Most of what we know about our Asturian father is mostly anecdotal and is not verified through documentation.
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