History of Cretans in Utah - Minos Society


Authored by TNH Staff

Published in The National Herald - June 2, 2018

(Note:  HGG has the permission of The National Herald to reprint articles that may be of interest to our group.)


SALT LAKE CITY, UT – The Cretan community of Utah will host a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the formal establishment of their local Cretan organization, the Minos Century Celebration, June 1-3. 

Minos Chairman Dr. Tony Gianoulis told The National Herald that “the Cretan community in Utah has a very large presence. Many Cretans came to Utah at the turn of the 20th century to work in the copper mines. As the years went by, more and more Cretans immigrated to Utah and established their families, homes, and businesses here. Today, we are one of the largest Cretan communities in the United States. Moreover, we are proud of the fact that Utah had the first organized Cretan club in all of the United States.” 


Here are some achievements of the century-plus history of Cretans in Utah: 

• In 1905, they helped build the first Greek Orthodox Church in Salt Lake City. 

• John Leventis immigrated from Chania, Crete to Bingham Canyon in the early 1900s, and with his brother Steve opened a butcher shop and the Acropolis coffee shop. He was known as the “Kapetania” of the Bingham Cretans. In 1910 he organized the Brotherhood of Bingham Canyon, the first Cretan club in the United States, but the club dissolved in 1912 when most members returned to Greece to fight in the Balkan Wars. The Kennecott Copper Mine accused local Cretans of organizing a union, and some served jail time. Leventis continued to be their leader. An insurrection by Greek miners, calling for a 25- cent raise per day and to stop agent Leonidas George Skliris from collecting finder’s fees from each paycheck, caused Utah’s National Guard to end it. In 1918, Leventis, Sam Kounalis, John Harhalis, among others, reorganized a Cretan club, this time in Salt Lake City, called the Cretan Brotherhood of Minos, and later shortened to Minos. 

• In 1923, the first Cretan Magazine, written by Kounalis, circulated across the United States. It later became Kriti (Crete) magazine, which continues to circulate today. That same year, the new Holy Trinity Cathedral was established, its cornerstone dedicated to Minos, which raised over $8000 for the church’s construction. 

• In 1924, the Castle Gate No. 2 Mine Explosion killed 172 men, including 49 Greeks, all but one of whom were Cretan. Minos raised over $130,000 for the victims’ families. No monument was left for any of the Greeks, but in 1986, Minos President Chris Tsoutsounakis led an effort including all local Cretan chapters, the Church of Salt Lake, and the Hellenic Cultural Association (HCA) of Salt Lake to construct a monument to honor them. The monument stands on the Holy Trinity grounds. 

• In 1929, many Cretans from across the United States created the Pancretan Association of America (PAA), including Sam Kounalis, who was integral in its creation. PAA engaged in much philanthropy over the years, donating to the Venizelion Sanatorium Hospital in Iraklion, St. George Hospital in Chania, the Venizelos Scholarship, among other endeavors. The Utah Cretans hosted the PAA national conversion in 1934, 1956, and 1978, the latter two chaired by John Maragakis, and most recently in 2015, chaired by Kosta Katsohirakis. 

• In 1961, Minos honored Mike Manatos, White House Assistant for Senate Liaison to Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, the highest-ranking Greek in both administrations and founder of the first Cretan club in Washington, DC. 

• In 1971, the Pancretan Youth Association convention was held in Salt Lake City, chaired by George Brokalakis. Proceeds went to the Venizelion Scholarship Fund and the Salt Lake Church.

• In 1975, Minos raised money for the High School of Hora Sfakion. 

• In 1978, the Utah Cretans donated $50,000 for the Prophet Elias Church (Salt Lake) narthex. Under Tony Kourianos’ presidency, they also raised money to sponsor a PAA sound system for the church’s memorial building. • In 1980, the Cretan clubs of Utah sponsored a banquet to honor all the 57 living Protoporoi. 

• In 1983, Minos hosted a national exhibit on The Battle of Crete. • Tsoutsounakis, Jim Fuskandrakis, and Jim Katsanevas, from 1985 to 1989, raised $80,000 for the purchase of a Cretan House. 

• In 1986, Minos hosted members of the Labry Dance Group from New York, which inspired the Salt Lake Cretan youth to start their own, which today contains over 100 members. 

• In 1987, Minos brought the Venizelos Exhibition to Utah, featured at the University of Utah. 

• In 1991, Minos raised money for the construction of the Iatreio of Anopoli, Sfakion. 

• In 1999, under President Michael J. Katsavenas, Minos raised $10,000 for the restoration of Holy Trinity Cathedral and $250,000 for the construction of the new pavilion at Prophet Elias in Salt Lake. 

• In 2001, under President George Liodakis, Minos raised $27,000 for the Despotiko Throno at Holy Trinity. 

• In 2005, Minos’ Andrew Hillas discovered that 29 of the 1924 mining disaster Cretans were buried in mass or unmarked graves and was able to find their records and create a monument for them, with Minos’ help, in the Price cemetery. That same year, under President Tsoutsounakis, Minos raised $12,000 for Prophet Elias and $1000 for the Venizelion Scholarship.