By Ted Roelofs
In the grainy black-and-white photo, taken c. 1920, Pietro Frustaglio sits with his miner's hat in his lap, erect and proud, surrounded by miners that are taller than him. Documents say he stood 5-foot-3 and weighed 147 pounds, dimensions that might not suggest a lifetime of hard physical labor.
But the Italian native was the original Frustaglio, the first of four generations to carve a living from the Upper Peninsula iron mines. Relatives say he put in 50 years underground before retiring. It is a family history replicated dozens of times in this part of the UP, where generations of Italians, Finns, Swedes and other immigrants built a life from the earth.