Chapter One

 

     Father and son stood on the dock in Naples, Italy watching as the huge ocean liner Prinzess Irene stood against the pier, her hawsers kept the ship tied tight to the cleats fore and aft.

     The Prinzess Irene was built in 1900 by A/G Vulcan Shipyards, Stettin, Germany. It was rated at 10,881 tons and carried 2,354 passengers: 268 in first class; 132 in second class; and 1,954 in third class.

     It was the morning of the 24th of May in 1906 and the ship which stood in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius was ready to make her way to the United States and the Port of New York.  41-year old Domenico Carrocci and his oldest son Pietro had third class passage booked for the three week trip to the U.S. that departed that very day. The two shared a small cabin deep in the bowels of the largest ship the 17-year old Pietro had ever seen. They were excited about their upcoming adventure, but they were also thinking of home and family as they made their way on board.

    Home is Caulonia, Reggio Calabria, a town of about 3500 people in the toe of the Italian peninsula. When asked later in life, Pietro always said he came from Reggio Calabria. There are three principal cities in Calabria: Reggio in the far south, Catanzaro in the center and Cosenza in the     northern part of the province. Most people identified with the principal city nearest their town.

    According to historians, the town of Caulonia was first settled by the Greeks in about 722 B.C., shortly after the city of Rome itself was founded. It is located about 10 to 15 kilometers inland from the Ionian Coast and is at an altitude of about one thousand feet above sea level. The Greeks founded mountain villages in those days to avoid pirates attacking from the sea. The area of Italy that is now called Calabria was first called Bruttium. It was part of Magna Graecia and was originally inhabited by the Brutii, whose chief town was Cosenza, and by the Lucani. The Romans conquered the area in the third century B.C. The Carthiginian general Hannibal fought a battle against the Romans at Caulonia in 209 B.C. The Carthiginians took the town, which was later besieged by Roman soldiers stationed in Sicily. Hannibal attacked the Romans, forcing them to surrender. The name of province, which is about 238 kilometers long, was changed to Calabria in the fourth or fifth century A. D.

    The terrain where the main town is located has steep hills that are covered with heavy growth. The climate is right for olive trees and grape vines, both of which were introduced into the area by the Greeks. Now chestnut and pine trees also line the roads in the area. The countryside is dotted with small plots of cultivated gardens and vineyards. Many families have small plots of land where they grow their own food. The climate is hot and humid in the summer and cool and humid in the winter.

    The mountain town is called Caulonia Superiore because it is the center of the local area. There are several small villages surrounding the main town, including Caulonia di Marina, which is located  on the Ionian coast, San Nicola, Ursini, Strano, Crochi, Cufo, Foca, Piraralli, and Campoli. All official business for the area is done in the town hall of Commune di Caulonia.

    The family that Domenico Carrocci left behind was his 36-year old wife, Fortunata Lopresti Carrocci, 14-year old son Francesco, 12-year old daughter Maria, nine-year old son Ilario, and one-year old twins Antonio and Rosaria. Also, Fortunata was pregnant with daughter Angela, who would be born while Domenico and Pietro were on their way to the United States.

Above is Domenico in a composite picture with three of his sons: Antonio on the left; Pietro next; and Ilario to Domenicoís left.

    The trip to the United States took them about three weeks. One can just imagine the thrill they must have felt sailing into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the very first time. The part of Italy they left was depressed; men had a difficult time finding work and supporting their families. Migration records show that hundreds of men relocated to the United States, Australia, and other countries through the years. Domenico Carrocci was no different in that regard. He was looking for a better life for himself and his family. He, like millions of others from all over Europe and Asia, thought that going to the U.S. would achieve that goal.

    The sail from Naples, Italy out into the Mediterranean Sea, through the Straits of Gibraltar and across the Atlantic Ocean to the Port of New York must have been uneventful. Pietro never mentioned the trip whenever he talked about coming to America. They arrived at Ellis Island on June 14, 1906.

   

         The immigration officials at Ellis Island are famous for getting the information about the immigrants almost right. The above entries show that Domenico and Pietro lived in Caccionia, Italy when in fact they came from Caulonia. Close enough for government work. There are some in the family who think that Ilario (1896-1949) came to America at the same time, but there is no record of him in either the immigration files or on the passenger manifest for June 14, 1906. Obviously, he came later. But there they were, Domenico Carrocci and his 17-year old son Pietro, finally in the United States and ready to start making a new life. Neither could speak English. Pietro said that he had only three years of schooling as he grew up in Caulonia.

    No one knows if there was a sponsoring group or individual who helped bring Domenico and Pietro to the U.S. Some immigrants had sponsors to help them assimilate. Pietro never said much about those early days, except that he worked in the coal mines and he hated it. I was able to find him in the 1910 Census in McDowell County, West Virginia. He was listed as a member of the Patsy Parillo household. Pietroís occupation was listed as a miner. The town of Welch is located in McDowell County, which is in the heart of the West Virginia coal country. It could be that one or two of the coal mining companies helped Domenico and Pietro come to America. They did such things at the time to get a cheap labor supply. I have not been able to find Domenico in the 1910 Census, having no idea where to look. I do know that he, too, worked as a miner.

Here is an early picture of Domenico Carrocci. Very little is known about him other than his parents were Pietro Carrocci, born June 5, 1828, and Anna Rosa Lupis, who was born about 1830. The records at the Caulonia Superiore town hall donít mention when the two were married. They do, however, list the earlier Pietro Carrocciís parents. They are Ilario, who was born around 1800 and his wife was Teresa Murdocco, also born around 1800. This is as far back as the records go. There were two people who helped me research the Carrocci family while I was in Italy.

    They are Maria Roccisano, who works in the Caulonia Superiore town hall and Domenico Carrocci, who must be a distant relative. The names of his family ancestors do not show up among any of our family names. This Carrocci lives in San Nicola, and at the time was a member of the Caulonia Superiore town council.

    I asked about church records, but was told the church had burned and all the early records were lost. All the names and dates are contained in the genealogy reports in the addendum to the Carrocci Family History as the Descendants of Ilario Carrocci. I never did get to the cemetery where the Carroccis are buried when I visited Caulonia in 1985, so I have no idea if there are engraved grave stones with additional information. Maybe one of these days Iíll be able to go back and update names and dates.

 

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