|i nostri pellegrini|
From "The Book of Abruzzo"
"Only those who have experienced such hardships can understand what it means to leave one's family and one's village; not to meet one's friends in the square for a chat, no longer to walk along the streets where every stone was familiar, not to climb up narrow alleys with their well-known steps, not to see the distant outline of the mountain which seemed to be there to protect from outside danger, no longer to smell the heady scents of the meadows, nor to be caressed by the sea air; such was the sacrifice. Only the emigrant knows how many times he wanted to throw it all in and return to Abruzzo. In the evening when, filled with sadness, he gazed at the setting sun perhaps it was only the thought of the life of hardship that would await him that gave him the strength to go on and the will to remain."
Raffaele was the first son of Ilario Buccella and the oldest brother of Domenico. He may have been the first of our pilgrims to set foot on American soil, although definitive proof has not been found. Unfortunately the record keeping at the very beginning of the century lacked the higher level of detail that was seen on passenger lists only a few years later. We know he made a trip to the U.S. with Domenico on February 27, 1909 and on the ship manifest he indicated that he had been in the U.S. once previously from 1902-1904. There is no reason to doubt this, but as mentioned before no record of the previous voyage has been found. We also know that Raffaele had a very strong personality, as most first-born sons do. He was the head of the family in Italy after the death of his father and it would not be surprising if, in fact, he was the first to make the bold step of going to the New World. However, it is curious that the second Buccella to apparently land in America, Zopito in 1903, does not list his first cousin Raffaele as the relative he is going to join there. This doesn't mean Raffaele wasn't already in America or that Zopito wasn't in fact going to join him, but it was far more common for brothers, cousins and men from the same town to list their closest relative in America on the ship manifest. Italian immigrants, like other ethnic groups, arrived in the U.S. by a process called chain migration, in which immigrants already living in America acted as personal labor agents and told their family and friends when and where jobs were available. If Raffaele was indeed the first to arrive, he must have already had someone there from Loreto Aprutino to pave the way. Without a record of the voyage, it is impossible to say. As for the voyage in 1909 with Domenico, he indicates the name and address of the relative he is going to join as cousin Gaetano Buccella.... Box 120, Alleghany, New York.
Zopitantonio Buccella appears to be the second member of the family to arrive in America. Born in Loreto Aprutino on October 10, 1880 he was the first cousin of Domenico, Raffaele, Giuseppe and Franco. His father Antonio and Domenico's father Ilario married the sisters Filomena and Mariantonia Core from Penne. Both families lived together in the old house at Contrada Collecera, and the children of both families grew up more like siblings than cousins. Unlike Raffaele's initial voyage the preceding year, there is a paper trail to follow in this case, but it is not 100% conclusive. There is a Zopito Buccella, 22, from Loreto Aprutino whose name appears on the passenger list of the S.S. Neustria arriving in the Port of New York on April 2, 1903. However, there is a chance that it was another Zopito Buccella. The name Zopito was very common in Loreto Aprutino (and Penne) at that time. The church was concerned that the name of the patron saint San Zopito was fading from the community, and for a time offered monetary incentives for families who used it to name their children. Although San Zopito was obviously male, the church recognized a variety of names for boys as well as girls. Most commonly, the name given to the child was simply Zopito. But there were many other variations including Zopitantonio and even Annazopita. In any event, it is highly probable that this was our Zopito. First, the age matches his exactly. There was one other Zopito Buccella from Loreto born during that time period. However, he was born on March 11, 1882 which would have made him 21, not 22, at the time of the voyage. In addition, our Zopito made two subsequent voyages to America which can be documented, so it would not be far-fetched to assume he made a previous trip. The first was in 1921 with his first cousin Domenico. The second was in 1930, after he apparently established residence for a time in Yonkers, New York. And finally, on the passenger list from his second voyage in 1921 he states that he had been to the U.S. once before from 1903-1907 in Pennsylvania, which was his destination on the Neustria passenger list from 1903. Although we can't prove with certainty that the Zopito arriving on the Neustria that day was ours, it is highly probable it was him.
If Raffaele and Zopito were the first two ancestors to arrive, then we can definitely say that Poppy was the third. By the time of his first voyage in 1906, ship manifests had become much more sophisticated making it possible to identify passengers with much greater certainty. On March 22, 1906 he arrived at the Port of New York aboard the Konig Albert. He was traveling with his brother-in-law Domenico D'Angelo who had married his sister Maria in 1903. He states that he is joining his brother Zopito in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania. Domenico D'Angelo states the same, though he identifies Zopito as his brother-in-law. The problem is that Domenico and Zopito were not brothers, but first cousins. There are a number of minor inconsistencies like this on many of the passenger lists. Keep in mind that these are secondary, unofficial records that relied solely on the responses given by the passengers. Who knows what the nuances of immigration law were at that time? Perhaps it was necessary to tell the occasional "white lie" in order to enter and re-enter the country as foreign nationals. This trip is probably the most significant because it represents the first definitive arrival of coccià storta in America. And more importantly for us, Domenico was the first member of our American branch of the family to arrive. He also seems to have been the most intent on making the United States his new home, since he made three additional voyages to the United States, beginning in 1909 with his brother Raffaele. During his second stint in America, he would work for two years and then return to Italy in 1911 to marry Maria Nicola Mariotti. He would remain for ten years until the third trip with his cousin Zopito in 1921; at which time he began the process of gaining U.S. citizenship. Marriage, childbirth and, of course, World War I all intervened and likely interrupted his plans to return to America sooner. Although we can never know for sure, what would he have done differently if World War I never happened? Would he have remained in Loreto Aprutino? Did post-war Italy make America an even more attractive alternative? It was probably a combination of the opportunity that existed in America and a dissatisfaction with the Italian political situation of the time that made up his mind. Whatever the circumstances, he made his brave decision and, together with Maria and his son Guerino, departed Naples for America aboard the Colombo on February 19, 1924.
Although four years older than Domenico, Giuseppe followed his younger brother to America. His first confirmed arrival was exactly one year after Domenico on March 22, 1907 aboard the Konigen Luise. The passenger list states that he had not been to the United States before. His destination was Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania to join his brother Domenico who, if the information on his passenger list from the previous year was accurate, was already there with their brother-in-law Domenico D'Angelo and cousin Zopito. Gaetano Buccella, Giuseppe's cousin and Zopito's real brother, joined them three months later. This period of 1907-1908 seems to be the occasion of the greatest number of relatives all living and working in the same place at the same time. It is difficult to know for sure what kind of work they did, but it is likely they were manual laborers, performing either construction or agricultural work as most Italians did. Further research on what was being constructed in Johnsonburg at that time might shed some light. Also it was common for immigrants to work during the spring and summer months and then return to Italy when the weather went bad and the jobs dried up. Since Giuseppe was married in Loreto on May 19, 1909 he probably returned from America sometime during the fall of 1908. He did not return to the U.S. until 1912 and, instead of returning to Western Pennsylvania, landed in Philadelphia. He may have worked his way back to the area though, since he was joined by Franco one year later who indicated Allegheny, New York as his destination. Today, Giuseppe's daughter Giuditta and son Zopito are still alive, and the legacy of his closeness with his brother Franco continues through their descendants.
Out of all the brothers and cousins, the least is known about Gaetano. The younger brother of Zopito, he was born at 21 Contrada Collecera on June 9, 1887. He made one trip to the United States arriving on June 15, 1907 to meet his brother Zopito and cousins Domenico, Giuseppe and Domenico D'Angelo in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania. It is possible that all of them returned to Italy in 1908, but Gaetano may have still been in Western New York when Raffaele and Domenico arrived in February of 1909. Apparently, this would be his only trip to the U.S. Like everyone else but Domenico, he would choose to carve out a life in Loreto Aprutino. Their family, like that of his uncle Ilario, had suffered their share of tragedy as well. While Ilario and Mariantonio lost three children in infancy, including twin boys, the family of Antonio and Filomena lost three sons all before the age of two. A son Emidio was born three weeks before Poppy on March 18, 1883. He died 15 months later. Liberato was born June 3, 1885 and lived only 14 months. And a second Emidio, born December 13, 1889, died at 21 months. As is true in many cultures, the giving of names in Italy was, and is, a way of keeping the memories of loved ones alive. Most commonly the oldest son was named after his paternal grandfather, the second after his maternal grandfather. The same was true of daughters, with the first being named after the maternal grandmother and so on. Of course, this wasn't strictly adhered to and is not as common today, but the legacy remains. It was also common for families to name children after a recently departed family member. So the second Emidio mentioned above was probably named after the first. Likewise Franco Buccella's daughter Levina was named after the first Levina, who was Domenico and Maria Mariotti's first born and who died at the age of 13 months. Franco later had a son named Ettore who died at the age of 19 in 1944. Consequently, his other son Ilario named his first son Ettore. This practice of naming a child after someone who had recently died was another way to perpetuate family tradition, and will continue to do so well into the future.
Franco was the youngest of the four brothers and, by the time he arrived in the U.S., the Buccella family had been in America on and off for at least a decade. He made his only trip in 1913, arriving aboard the S.S. Ancona on June 11th. The ship manifest states that he intended to join his brother Giuseppe in Alleghany, New York, where members of the family had been since as early as 1907. It is difficult to know exactly who was there in 1913. We know Domenico was not, for he had returned to Italy to be married in 1911 and his first child, Levina, was born in March of 1913. Also, according to his military records, he was on active duty on and off throughout that period and, in fact, World War I would keep Domenico in Italy until 1921. Meanwhile, Raffaele's wife had given birth to their second son Zopitantonio on August 23, 1912 which means Raffaele had been there the previous winter. And since there is no record of a trip to the U.S. by Raffaele after that time, chances are he was back in Loreto Aprutino for good. As for Zopito, according to a passenger list in 1921, he had left the U.S. in 1907. And Gaetano may have left with the others in 1908, although Raffale and Domenico both identify him in 1909 as the relative they are joining in America. Chi lo sa? Who can know for sure? If Giuseppe and Franco were the only ones there at the time, I wonder where they lived and worked? I wonder if they ever ventured into Olean, and if they ever had a beer together at the Hickey Tavern? Joking aside, whenever I am in Loreto Aprutino drinking caffelatte in the morning with Ilario and his wife Bambina in their modest little kitchen, it amazes me to think that over one hundred years ago his father lived in my hometown and gazed upon the same hills, the same land and the same Allegheny River.
Of all of our early pilgrims, Maria Mariotti perhaps sacrificed the most. Her husband Domenico, and his brothers and cousins, all determined for themselves whether they would remain in the New World or return to their lives in Loreto Aprutino. And for young Guerino, who had probably never been too far from Loreto, it must have seemed like a grand adventure to take a three week boat ride. But Maria did not leave of her own accord. She had to give up the home and family she had always known to accompany her husband and son to America. It is doubtful that she ever wanted to leave. The journey to America was very difficult for her physically, and she never really learned the English language or became a U.S. citizen. She must have longed for the familiarity of Loreto and Penne many times. Her experience on the trip to America made her hesitant to travel via any means, and she never returned to Italy. And there can be no doubt that her family in Penne shared her sense of loss. Born in Penne August 3, 1886 to Zopito Mariotti and Mattia DiCamilla, she was the fourth of five sisters including Antonietta (b.1881), Filomena (1882), Tommasina (1885) and Teresa (1887). There was also an elder Filomena who was born in 1880 but died in infancy. In addition, the sisters had a younger brother Antonio Mariotti (1891) who had four sons; the youngest of whom, Vittorio Mariotti, now resides in the original house in Penne. The oldest was Zopito Mariotti who emigrated to Montreal, Quebec many years ago and passed away in 1999. There are also twin brothers Remo and Romulo, who left Penne for Montreal and Brussels, Belgium respectively. Incidentally, it was not uncommon in Italy for twin boys to be named Remo and Romulo after the mythical founders of Rome; the infant twins Remus and Romulus, who were found abandoned on the banks of the ancient River Tiber by a she-wolf who nursed them back to health. Per mia bisnonna, avrei voluto tanto averti potuto conoscerti.
Although Guerino Buccella was only a boy of nine when he arrived, he must be included in our list of pilgrims. He not only represents the final native link with our ancestral homeland, but the first link to the ways of the New World. While his mother tongue was Italian, or more specifically the Abruzzese dialect, he would quickly become fluent in English. He embraced the spirit of his new country, performing at a high level both scholastically and athletically. Like his father, he possessed ambitions for something bigger and better, and refused to relent until they were realized. Although he was native to Italy, he would become the first true American in the family, taking an American wife and giving his children anglicized names. While both he and his parents had one foot in Italy and one in America, his were more firmly planted here.There can be no doubt that he always remembered Loreto Aprutino and the aunts, uncles and cousins who shaped his childhood. He must have witnessed the festa and procession of San Zopito many times, and attended mass at Santa Maria in Piano, San Pietro and San Francesco, gazing at the exact same walls, paintings and statues that we still see today. And of course, he always remembered the ancient Castello Chiola on the high street in Loreto which gave him the inspiration for the Castle Restaurant many years later. Like Domenico before him, his dreams were accompanied by a tough courage and willingness to face risk, and his self-reliance and work ethic insured his success. Like so many Italians of his generation, his de stiny was to bridge both worlds, Old and New, providing us with perhaps the most important link in the chain of events leading up to our modern-day lives. We, his benefactors, could not be who we are without his risk and sacrifice and he, like all of our early pilgrims, will always deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. Ti ringraziamo tanto Guerino.