I took a moment today to pause as I exhaled a big “whew”! One less thing on my plate after today. I am far from done but the hard part is over. I am meeting with a printer that I know and am hopeful that we will find an affordable, yet classic way to produce the family history project. Fingers crossed and my meeting is tomorrow, I also am also meeting with my aunt and uncle tomorrow to get the pictures that I need.
At this point the story is still a summary even though I tried using a fictional narrator to disguise it. This is my mostly done draft…… Oh and he totally nixed my ……’s.
This tale longs to be told so that future generations remember where they came from. Every family has that one person who is larger than life. We are lucky enough to have a few. I am specifically referring to my grandfather Guiseppe in this story, the man who brought us to America.
I dedicate this story to my father, to my uncle, and to my aunt, the keepers of the stories.
I took the common elements of their recollection of the story, added my own twist, and hopefully it gets their seal of approval. ( a few more things about linking it to my home town and other family members) completing a full circle if you will.
Adoro la mia famiglia, Zia ( not 100% sure that this is how you say I love my family)
Hello my American cousins. My name is Vincenzo, but you can call me Jim. I recently inherited my uncle’s belongings, and as I was piecing together his past from pictures and letters, I came across a piece of your family history. I would hope that this story has been told to you since you were bambinos, but I can’t be sure, so I will tell the tale the best that I can. I will start with the way the classic stories always do:
Once upon a time in a little town called Rotondella, when Southern Italy was in it’s depths of despair, there was a young man named Guiseppe The (family name) were a large family with an estimated four brothers and three sisters. My records are sketchy, so bear with me as I try and put them together for you. I have the sisters listed as Aurelia, Rosina, and Carmella. The brothers were Pasquale, Gaetano, Vincenzo (like me, but not me) and Guiseppe. That was a lot of mouths to feed in a time where food was scarce, and you should know that you come from a long line of resourceful people who were never hungry.
Guiseppe had earned a nickname early on as Scarpe Legge or “light shoe” because he was fast and he ran everywhere. The legend is that he ran all the way from Rotondella to Naples to get on a ship to America.
In Italy in the 1900’s it was very easy for a man to book free passage to America, with the stipulation of earning his freedom by working that debt off. Hopeful men crossed the Atlantic with dreams of a better life, only to become indentured servants to the companies that brought them over. Scarpe Legee was brought over by a company in the hills of West Virginia that mined coal. Italian immigrants were easily replaced, since there were so many who were willing and able. If a mine caved in, it wasn’t a big concern. There were always new men to send in. The coal mines were a dangerous place to be in that time.
I am not sure what Scarpe Legee’s duties were at that time. I only know that he worked for a coal mine , and it was along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The camp where he worked was always under armed guard, and most nights he just took notice. While his coworkers were sleeping he was learning the timing of the trains. In no time at all he had the schedule down to a science. One night when the train was due to slow down very close to the camp, Scarpe Legee and a few of his friends overpowered the guard and jumped the train.
They hid in a car behind the coal car, the one full of steel beams, until the train stopped. They had no idea where the train was going, and when it stopped at the B&O station in (my town), everyone was ready to call it home.
Those steel beams that provided Scarpe Legee cover in his flight, later provided income for his family. He finally convinced them to leave Italy and join him a few years later.
In the future when you refer to yourself as an Italian, remember this story. This man who was larger than life, sacrificed everything to come to the New World, and make a better place for himself and his family. This is who you come from. Be proud of your heritage.
There will be lots and lots of pictures dispersed throughout this story. For me it has always been about taking your family out of the box. Pictures packed away serve no purpose in preserving the past.
178.89 miles by car would take roughly 3 hours and 23 minutes…..that’s a lot of running. I am so glad that this part is done, it was like pulling teeth to get information on this and each story was different. This was one of the hardest subjects of the family history project so far.
I don’t have anything else to report….this has consumed all of my time….Zia