American Marriage of Two Italians

In 1881, Giuseppe (Joseph) Damato and his brother, Luigi (Louis), immigrated from Montecorvino Pugliano, Salerno, Campania, Italy to New York.[1] Louis became a barber in the Boston area while Joseph took his skills as a tailor to the South, settling in Jacksonville, Florida, by at least 1887.[2]

 However, Yellow Jack, the personification of Yellow Fever, showed up in the summer of 1888. Whether the trip had already been planned or was a response to the epidemic, Joseph left town and headed to Boston. While he was there, he published his marriage intentions to Angela Previte in the Boston Globe.[3]

damato-previti marriage record-cropped On 2 September 1888, Joseph Damato and Angela Previti married in Boston. Athanasius Butelli, priest at Church of St. Leonard of Port Maurice, officiated at the ceremony.[4] Amazingly, at least in my mind, the newlywedJoseph Damato ad in Florida Times-Union -17 Oct 1888 p3 col 6-cropped couple left for Jacksonville before the threat of Yellow Fever was completely over.  Joseph ran an ad for his tailor business in the Florida Times-Union on 17 October 1888,[5] so I would assume they had returned to Jacksonville by that date.

 

Angela Previti (also recorded as Previte and Prevett), a young Italian girl of seventeen, had only been in the country for about two and a half years when she married Joseph. Leaving her family to live in an unknown place with a man she probably did not know very well must have been a scary situation for Angela (also recorded as Angelina). Thankfully, there was a Catholic church in the city where she was going. At least that part of her life would remain stable.

John and Louis Damato - Green book -pg 5This union produced two sons, John and Louis, born in 1889 and 1893, respectively.[6] John followed his father in the tailor business, and Louis started working in the post office. Louis began a ninety-nine year legacy of descendants of Joseph and Angela working continuously in the United States Postal Service in Duval County.[7]

 The couple weathered two known crises in their marriage – a lawsuit against Joseph and his tailor business and the 1901 fire of Jacksonville.  The lawsuit – Reese v. Damato – began in 1896 and was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.[8] I’ve read the final judgment and, although I have very limited legal knowledge, the court ruled in favor of Damato. He continued to operate his tailor shop and advertise in the city directories.

The fire of 3 May 1901 rendered ten thousand Jacksonville residents homeless within eight hours. My great grandparents were among them.  However, a map of the burned district revealed that his tailor shop at 233 West Bay Street was unscathed.[9] The irony of the situation is that had the lawsuit mentioned previously not been appealed, there would be no extant record of the trial because the courthouse burned in the fire.

 Thankfully, they and their two sons survived the fire. These two people joined their neighbors and acquaintances and rebuilt their lives, businesses, and city. Joseph and Angela refused to let this tragedy chase them away from the life they had made in Jacksonville all their married life. But one more catastrophic event was the last one they faced together.

 For the rest of the story about Joseph’s death, see an earlier post entitled The Apparent Italian Bostonian Was Really an Italian Floridian.

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 [1] “Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897,” online images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Mar 2011), manifest, Ferdinand de Lessyss [Lesseps], arriving 16 May 1881, p. 3, Guiseppe [Giuseppe] Damato. 

[2] Wanton S. Webb, Webb’s Jacksonville and Consolidated Directory of Representative Cities of East and South Florida 1887; digital images, Jacksonville Public Library (http://jpl.coj.net/coll/florida/cdindex.html :  accessed 1 September 2014), entry for Damato Joseph, p. 78.

[3] “Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003,” database on-line, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 Apr 2011), Marriage Intentions of Giuseppe Damato and Angela Previte; citing the Boston Globe, 24 August 1888. 

[4] “Massachusetts, Marriages, 1841-1915,” digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 1 September 2014), Giuseppe Damato and Angela Previti, 2 September 1888, page 148; citing Boston, Massachusetts, State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1415225.

[5]Ad “Joseph Damato Merchant Tailor,” Florida Times-Union, 17 October 1888, p. 3, col. 6; digital images,  NewspaperCat (http://ufdc.ufl.edu : accessed 1 September 2014),  Florida Digital Newspaper Library.

[6]John Damato baptism, 1 September 1889, [no.] 1564, Church of the Immaculate Conception (Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida); embossed photocopy of baptism record from unidentified register, supplied 23 September 2009 by Immaculate Conception Parish. Also received in same mailing, Luigi Damato baptism, 3 December 1893, [no.] 1856.

[7]Larry Hannan, “Death of Neptune Beach Man Ends 100 Years of Family Service at Post Office,” The Florida Times-Union, 8 January 2011, Web edition cached (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:xuds4tHGW9oJ:jacksonville.com/news/metro/2011-01-08/story/death-neptune-beach-man-ends-100-years-family-service-post-office+&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us : accessed 1 September 2014).

[8]Florida. Supreme Court, Florida Reports, Volume 44 (Tallahassee, Fla. : I.B. Hilson, 1904), Reese v. Damato, pages 683- 702; digital image, GoogleBooks (http://books.google.com : accessed 1 September 2014).

[9]T. Frederick Davis, History of Jacksonville, Florida and Vicinity, 1513 to 1924 ( Florida Historical Society, 1925), 224a; digital image, ( http://digitool.fcla.edu/  : accessed 1 September 2014).

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Langone and Prevete in Boston

I just watched the movie “No God, No Master” about the Italian anarchist movement in Boston. Being the inquisitive person that I am, I looked up Sacco and Vanzetti on Wikipedia and noted something of particular interest to me. “At Langone Funeral Home in Boston North End, more than 10,000 mourners viewed Sacco and Vanzetti in open caskets over two days.”[1]

The name “Langone” associated with funerals rang a bell. I was pretty sure he was the undertaker for one of my ancestors. So I got out the death certificates to have a look and, sure enough, I was right. Joseph A. Langone was the undertaker for my gr-gr-great grandmother, Angela Tuzzo Prevete, in 1901.  See the death certificate below.

Death Certificate - Angela Tuzzo Prevete - 1901 - cropped with citation

A couple of other Boston undertakers for my ancestors included A. A. Badaracco and Michael J. Porcello.  If anyone knows about these funeral homes or undertakers, I’d like to hear from you.

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[1] Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org), “Sacco and Vanzetti,” modified 16:06, 8 August 2014.

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In Consideration of the Love I Have

Sarah Lanier Dell Fletcher passed away, according to her headstone, on 31 July 1894. She is buried with her husband, John Almarine Fletcher, in Pleasant Grove Cemetery in what is now Dixie County, Florida. She was a minister’s wife and, twenty years before her death, deeded property for the use of a church. The terms of the deed, I believe, reveal her heart. Below is an image of the deed with the transcription following it.

Lafayette County, Florida, Deeds, C:81, Sarah L. Fletcher to Methodist Episcopal Church South, 23 October 1894; Clerk of Circuit Court, Mayo; digital image received in email from Betty Mikell, 18 August 2013.

Lafayette County, Florida, Deeds, C:81, Sarah L. Fletcher to Methodist Episcopal Church South, 23 October 1875; Clerk of Circuit Court, Mayo; digital image received in email from Betty Mikell, 18 August 2013.

State of Florida           §          Know all men by these presents

County of Lafayette   §          that I Sarah L Fletcher for and in

Consideration of the love I have

For the cause of church and from an earnest desire to promote his heritage on Earth do give and grant and by these presents convey unto Charles Dell Fletcher John J. Gornto John L Fletcher Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church South and to their successors in office for the use and benefit of said Church The following described lands

To wit: The North West quarter of the North East quarter of Section fifteen Township Eight South of Range Thirteen east containing (39 92/100) Thirty nine Ninety two one hundredths acres Lying & being in the County of & State aforesaid In trust that said premises shall be used kept & maintained and disposed as a place of Divine Worship

for the use of the Ministry and membership of the afore said church also as a place of Residence for the preacher who may from time to time be appointed to said place in the mission or circuit subject to the discipline [?] & ministerial appointments of said Church or from time to time authorized and declared by the General Conference of said church and the annual conference within whos [sic] bounds the said premises are situated and that said Trustees to have and to hold the property aforesaid for the use aforesaid free from the Claimes [sic] of myself my heirs my executors or administrators and from the claims of all others whomsoever

In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand

and seal this the Twenty first day of August eighteen

hundred and Seventy four

In Presents of Witnesses         §    Sarah L. Fletcher  (seal)

M M Michan                          §

N C Singletary                       §

Emma D. Michan                   §

Recorded the above deed on the 23rd day of October

A.D. 1875                              Howell Hawkins

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Only a Headstone to Mark Her Death

Laura Lee Fletcher passed away from this earth, but the exact date has yet to be documented other than the headstone which states her death occurred on 24 July 1924. She is buried in O’Brien Cemetery in Suwannee County, Florida, with her husband, James Ball Fletcher. The mystery of her death date stems from the fact that a search of the records of all the counties in Florida for the entire year of 1924 did not reveal a death certificate on record. If you ever wondered what happens when you order a death certificate that cannot be found, look at the image below.

Death "certificate" for Laura Lee Fletcher

Death “certificate” for Laura Lee Fletcher

I really know nothing about this great grandmother except that her oldest granddaughter (my aunt) looked very much like her. An obituary request to the Suwannee (Florida) Valley Genealogy Society yielded no results. I can see that a road trip is going to be necessary to scour newspapers of the time and place to hopefully find out more about this lady. You can see her photo and memorial (#16943146) at Findagrave.

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Minerva’s Last Years

She became a widow in 1909 when her husband unexpectedly died at their home in Coalton, Jackson County, Ohio. Her son, Miles, a bachelor, still lived at home. The following year the two of them moved to Saginaw, Michigan, to live with her oldest daughter and family, according to the 1910 census. When the family moved to Florida around 1914, she did not accompany them.

In the 1920 census, Minerva (Abrams) Bennett can be found in two censuses in Ohio. On 2 January 1920, she was enumerated with her son Miles in Coalton, Jackson County, Ohio. On 3 January 1920, she was living with her granddaughter, Fern Johnson, and her family in Trimble, Athens County, Ohio, but Miles was not listed.

The next time I located Minerva, my second great grandmother, was at her death on 5 July 1922 when she was living in Trimble, Athens County, Ohio.  The informant on her death certificate was E. E. Johnson, her grandson-in-law. Apparently, during her last days she suffered from uterine cancer, and the cause of her death was uremia (kidney failure) which she had for a little over two months. A photo of her, as well as images of her marriage and death certificates can be seen at Findagrave (Memorial #41564459) or by searching for Minerva Abrams Bennett. If you read my last post, Died on the 4th of July, you’ll notice that she died 52 years and one day after her mother, Nancy (Bridgeman) Abrams.

The following two images from her widow’s pension file document Minerva’s death date.

Drop Report, 9 Sep 1922, Minerva Bennett, widow's pension application no. 930678, certificate no. 693999; service of Philander Bennett (Pvt., Co. B &H, 56th Ohio Vol. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of  Veteran Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Drop Report, 9 Sep 1922, Minerva Bennett, widow’s pension application no. 930678, certificate no. 693999; service of Philander Bennett (Pvt., Co. B &H, 56th Ohio Vol. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veteran Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Envelope returned to Department of the Interior, postmarked 3 Sep 1922, Minerva Bennett, widow's pension application no. 930678, certificate no. 693999; service of Philander Bennett (Pvt., Co. B &H, 56th Ohio Vol. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of  Veteran Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Envelope returned to Department of the Interior, postmarked 3 Sep 1922, Minerva Bennett, widow’s pension application no. 930678, certificate no. 693999; service of Philander Bennett (Pvt., Co. B &H, 56th Ohio Vol. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veteran Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

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Died on the 4th of July

My third great grandmother shares something in common with the second and third presidents of the United States. They all died on July 4th.  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson actually died on the same day – the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – in 1826. Nancy (Bridgeman) Abrams Canter died in 1870 in Jackson County, Ohio, well before the days of mandatory death certificates.

In my genealogy research I have found an interesting document attesting to her death date. This was a sworn affidavit by her daughter and son-in-law, Minerva and Philander Bennett, on behalf of Minerva’s younger siblings’ pursuit of their father’s pension for his service in the Civil War. Here is an image of the affidavit with the transcription beside it.

Affidavit of Philander and Minerva Bennett in Pension file #370556 of Samuel Abrams.

Affidavit of Philander and Minerva Bennett in Pension file #370556 of Samuel Abrams.

 

 

“We were neighbors at the time and were present at the funeral and are able from personal knowledge to testify that Nancy, the wife of Samuel Abrams, above named, died in Jackson Co. Ohio, on the 4th of July 1870. We remember the date by a good memory and that it was on the “Fourth” of July and the year by the circumstance that we have a child born the previous year, 1869.”[i]

 

 

Have a Happy “Fourth.”

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[i] General Affidavit, 5 Nov 1891, Philander Bennett and Minerva Bennett, minors pension application no. 270031, certificate no. 370556; service of Samuel Abrams (Pvt., Co. H, 191st Ohio Vol. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of  Veteran Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

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William Shakespeare and My Grandfather

What do my grandfather and William Shakespeare have in common?  You might think that a strange question, but it is a legitimate one. They both died on their birthdays. The 19th of June was also Father’s Day in 1938. There was probably no celebration taking place in the home of John Anthony Damato, Sr. on that day. Forty-nine years earlier, Joseph and Angelina Damato were certainly celebrating the birth of their first child in Jacksonville, Florida. Having native Italian parents, John was baptized at the Immaculate Conception Church by Father William Kenny on 1 September 1889. This was the priest who was to later become Bishop Kenny for whom the Catholic high school in Jacksonville was named; several of my Damato cousins attended this school.

John Damato baptism record-1889-cropped

John Damato baptism record-1889-Immaculate Conception Church – Jacksonville, Florida

Even after the Great Fire of 1901 in which their home was destroyed, my grandfather had a real attachment to the city of Jacksonville for some reason. His father moved the family to Boston so his brother-in-law, who was a physician, could treat him for cancer.  After his father’s death in Boston in 1906, John wanted to return to Jacksonville, so he ran away. He sent a postcard of the skyline of Jacksonville to his mother and brother in Boston. In the message on the postcard (which my father saw as a young adult), he stated that Jacksonville was where he was born and was his home and he planned to live there. He also told his mother that if they would come back to Jacksonville to live, he would provide for both of them. His mother responded positively to the invitation and, according to the 1908 Jacksonville city directory, the three of them were reunited. My grandfather kept his word to his mother and, to my grandmother’s credit, she carried out my grandfather’s promise after his death. John followed in his father’s footsteps as a tailor and, after some less than positive business partnerships, eventually owned his own business. Some of his customers were the city fire department and local theaters. In this day of mass produced clothing, it’s hard to realize that at one time uniforms were handmade by a tailor and fitted for the individuals who would wear them. Up until the 1970s, theaters employed ushers who would assist moviegoers to their seats, settle complaints, and enforce theater rules and courtesies; they wore uniforms to easily identify them. My daddy tells that because my grandfather made the uniforms for the theaters, he would often receive free movie tickets for the family. My daddy usually sat between his parents when they went to the theater. But on one occasion, their seats included one next to the wall where they let my daddy sit so my grandparents could sit together. At some point during the evening, there would be a drawing for $100 cash based on a particular seat in the theater. Wouldn’t you know that on this night, the prize went to the seat my daddy was sitting in, but he was ineligible to receive the prize because of his age.

Week of Nov 1 1937 - Fire Dept

John Damato Ledger Book for week of November 1, 1937. Note Palace Theater and City Jacksonville Fire Department entries.

John was not only skillful with his hands as a tailor, but also in several other ways. I had noticed a lapel pin he was wearing in one photograph in particular and wondered exactly what it was. I zoomed in and it appeared to be scissors and a square. I thought it must have something to do with being a tailor, but I wondered if it represented a tailor’s guild or association. After a lot of searching online, I couldn’t find anything that seemed reasonable. About two years ago, my cousin gave me a tailor’s box that had belonged to my grandfather with priceless items inside that my grandmother had saved. Among the memorabilia was a square piece of thick cardboard with this very design of the lapel pin. I suppose it was his logo, and now I believe the lapel pin was an original design by my grandfather. John Damato- hanging pendantDesign for Lapel Pin             My daddy has a bookshelf his father made from wooden spools thread had once been wound on – a resource from his trade. My sister has a wooden trunk he made for my grandmother. I believe my own daddy’s skill in woodworking was probably inherited from my grandfather. John Damato trunk - front-cropped for blog According to my daddy and his two older brothers, their father was only about 5’4” tall but strong and stocky with a deep, rich baritone voice. My daddy remembers on Sundays his father would sit in bed shaving with an electric shaver while singing “Old Man River.” He appeared in local minstrel shows as one of the end men who made jokes with the interlocutor. When he wasn’t performing, he made costumes for the shows. His community and social involvement included membership in the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Jr Chamber of Commerce pin - frontJr Chamber of Commerce pin - back       IOOF card NOTE: In order to do justice to my grandfather, I will finish his story in a later post.

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