Last update 6.Feb.2001 18:30 ET
(Family C)The descendants of Pietro Graffagnino (1837-1934) were contributed by Joseph A. Graffagnino of Brooklyn, NY. The connection of this family to the Don Alerio family is, at this point, something of an assumption, based on research provided by Joel P. Graffagnino of Kenner, LA.
Pietro's wife, according to information obtained from Sac. Graffagnino in Salaparuta, was Rosa DiSimone, while the information supplied by Joseph in Brooklyn indicates that his great grandmother's maiden name was Chappia. Both sources, however, appear to agree on the number and names of Pietro's children, The answer may be as simple as Pietro having been married twice, or maybe we are looking at two entirely different Pietros. Stay tuned.
According to our Family C sources in Brooklyn, however, Pietro was a first cousin to Pietro Graffagnino of Family A who brought his family to New Orleans from Salaparuta (i.e. my own great grandfather). Further research is in progress and may result in moving the entire "family" to another branch of the tree.
Stephan DeRosa, first son of Katherine Graffagnino and Nicholas DeRosa, was a New York City police officer. He is said to have shot Dutch Schultz' #1 bodyguard during an arrest of the famous mobster during the 1930's.
Francesco (Frank) Graffagnino, son of Pietro Graffagnino and Rosa DiSimone (Family C), was a Brooklyn, NY, shoemaker from Avenue M.
Anthony J. Fiducia [Family H] was the husband of Rose Graffagnino [Family C]. Anthony's mother was a Graffagnino of one of the New Orleans Graffagnino families. Anthony's cousin, Anthony Graffagnino of New Orleans, is said to be an attorney connected to the New Orleans Saints.
The following account comes from Father Baldassare Graffagnino. It was written by him in October, 1989, and describes events surrounding the life of Caterina Garacci, the second wife of Antonino Graffagnino:
Antonino Graffagnino, son of Gioacchino Graffagnino and Caterina Culmone, the first of 10 children, was born in Salaparuta on October 17, 1783, and died there on April 24, 1820. On November 4, 1808 he married Francesca Sancetta, who bore him a daughter, Caterina Maria, on May 24, 1809. Francesca died less than 4 years later. Left a widower with a three-year-old child, Antonino married again on September 13, 1812, to Caterina Garacci, daughter of Vincenzo Garacci and Maria Palumbo. His new wife was the sister of Antonia Garacci, who would be the future wife of his younger brother Rosario. [Editor's note: Rosario and Antonia are the author Baldassare's great-great grandparents.]
Antonino and Caterina had three children, in addition to his first daughter, Caterina Maria. They would name their three children Maria, Gioacchino, a first Vincenzo, who died, and subsequently a second Vincenzo, who survived.
Antonino Graffagnino was a laborer, or, more precisely, a tanner of hides, like his ancestors since Don Alerio Graffagnino, who was a native of Alba (Cuneo), and the one who had brought the craft of tanning to Salaparuta. All Graffagninos, in fact, were either tanners, butchers, or cobblers - professions respected still to this day.
When Antonino died on April 21, 1820, his wife Caterina found herself with their 3 young orphan children and Caterina Maria, her now 13-year old step-daughter from Antonino's first marriage, plus the business of the tannery, originally the "Cunsaria", a name which survives to this day.
Who was working there, who was managing the tannery during her husband's illness and following his death? Perhaps one of his brothers, or some brother-in-law, or perhaps even Alfio Musmeci, born in 1799, then just twenty years old.
It is easy to believe that the advice of the family, which in those times decided marriages, considering all the circumstances, would advise the widow Caterina Garacci, born July 16, 1788, then 34 years old, with her own three children and Caterina Maria, to marry the young worker, Alfio Musmeci, born in 1799, then 23 years old. The young man had proven himself, after two years, capable of running the tannery, of working diligently, and knowing how to love a wife and children, a man whom she knew and had already come to love.
This family was surely unusual, with such a significant difference in age between the young husband, Alfio, 23, and his wife, Caterina, 34, with three children of her own and a 13 year old step-daughter, who, after two deaths and remarriages, had lost both of her real parents, but who was accepted and loved as were all the other members of the family.
Caterina Maria was raised to womanhood by this remarkable family, and, eleven years later, on November 10, 1833, would herself marry Pietro Mangogna, with whom she would begin another generation.
The harmony was perfect, in fact unusual. The second son of Caterina Garacci and Antonino Graffagnino, the stepson of Magistro Alfio Musmeci, Vincenzo, was married on November 1, 1836, to Maria Avvocato, and to his children he gave the names of Antonino to the first, Caterina to the second, Rosario to the third, and Alfio to the fourth, a gesture of great respect for his mother's second husband, his step father, who had raised him and brought him up.
Caterina Maria Graffagnino would have only three sons, as was the custom at that time, but I suppose that, if she had had a fourth son, she would have named him Alfio Mangogna.
How many examples of love, of self denial, of harmony, of hardship, of respect, come to us from these simple events, events that they perhaps did not even consider to record by hand or by machine!
Salaparuta, October 23, 1989
[Editor's note: I confess my skills as a translator are not that great, but I'm working on it. The original text, in Italian, which I received from the story's author, Baldassare Graffagnino, appears below. I would love to get a more accurate translation!!]
GRAFFAGNINO ANTONINO, di Gioacchino e Culmone Caterina, primo da 10 figli, nasce a Salaparuta il 17/10/1783 e vi muore il 21/4/1820. In data 4/11/1808 sposa SANCETTA FRANCESCA, dalle quale nasce il 24/5/1809 una bambina, Caterina Maria.
Rimasto vedevo e con una bambina di 3 anni, ANTONINO GRAFFAGNINO passa a seconde nozze, il 13/9/1812, con GARACCI CATERINA, di Vincenzo e di Palumbo Maria, sorella della futura cognata ANTONINA, che sposerà il fratello ROSARIO.
De ANTONINO e GARACCI CATERINA nascono, e si aggiungono all CATERINA, MARIA, GIOACCHINO, in primo Vincenzo, che muore, e quindi un secondo VINCENZO, che sopravvive.
GRAFFAGNINO ANTONINO era un lavoratore, più esattamente un conciatore di pelle, come i suoi parenti fin da quel' Don Alerio, che, oriundo da Alba (Cuneo), portà a Salaparuta la industria della conciatura del pellame; tutti Graffagnino, infatti erano o conciatori, o macellai o calzolai, professioni rispettate ancora oggi.
Morto ANTONINO GRAFFAGNINO il 21/4/1820, la moglie si viene a trovare con i suoi tre figli orfani, ancora bambini, e con la industria della conceria, nella contrada Conceria, ed esattamente, alla sorgente Cunsaria, nome conservato a tutt' oggi. Chi vi lavorava, chi gestiva l'industria durante la malattia e dopo la morte del marito? Probabilmente qualche fratello dell' estinto, qualche cognato, se non addirittura quel l'ALFIO MUSMECI, nato nel 1799, e quindi ventenne, e capace di lavorare e di dirigere l'azienda.
È facile pensare che il consiglio di famiglia, che a qui tempi decideva i matrimoni, ben considerando tutte le circostanze, abbia consigliato che la vedova CATERINA GARACCI, nata il 16/7/1788, di 34 anni con i suoi tre figli e con Caterina, figlia non sua, ma del marito, sposasse il giovane operaio, ALFIO MUSMECI, nato nel 1799, e quindi di 23 anni, ma capace di reggere la conceria, ove lavorava, e sapere amare moglie e bambini, che conosceva e già amava.
La famiglia è certamente singolare: una bella differenza di età tra marito (23 anni) e moglia (34), tre bambini della moglie più una bambina di 13 anni, CATERINA GRAFFAGNINO, che ai due sposi non viene proprio niente, ma che viene accettata ed amata come tutti gli altri membri della famiglia, che viene regolarmente cresciuta e sposata il 10/11/1833 con MANGOGNA PIETRO, con il quale continua un' altra generazione.
L'armonia è perfetta, anzi singolare. Il secondo figlio di CATERINA GARACCI e GRAFFAGNINO ANTONINO, "figliastro" di Magistro ALFIO MUSMECI, sposa 1/11/1836 Avvocato Maria, e ai suoi figli mette il nome di Antonino al primo, Caterina alla seconda, Rosario al terzo, ALFIO al quarto, in segno di grande rispetto verso il marito si sua madre, che lo ha allevato e fatto crescere. CATERINA GRAFFAGNINO ebbe sole tre figli maschi e dovrete rispettare il diritto di precedenza del tempo, ma suppongo che, se avesso avuto un quarto figlio maschio, si sarebbe chiamato ALFIO MANGOGNA.
Quanti esempi di amore, di abnegazione, di armonia, di parsimonia, di rispetto non ci viene da questi semplici operai, che forse non sapevano neppure scrivere a mano oltre che a macchina!
Salaparuta, 23 Ottobre 1989
(10.Aug.1997) With the addition of the Graffagnino family from Texas (Family F - see following Note 7) comes a minor discrepancy over the family patriarch. I have until now listed the most senior Graffagnino as Don Alerio Graffagnino, born 1620, although some of my earlier information from Father Baldassare Graffagnino has indicated that Don Alerio's birth date was 1655.
The information which I have received from Joseph A. Graffagnino in Port Neches, TX, shows Pietro Graffagnino, born 1620, at the top of the tree, with a single son, Antonino Graffagnino, born 1655.
At that point, however, our data (all of which originates from Father Baldassare in Salaparuta) converges without any problem, with Magistro Pietro Graffagnino, born 1685, being the common forefather of all subsequent generations.
I have elected, therefore, for the time being, to compromise the point and to show Pietro, born 1620, at the top of the tree, with a single son, Don Alerio, next in line, followed Magistro Pietro for the third generation. Further research, i.e. word from Salaparuta, should eventually resolve the issue.
(13.Aug.1997) Word from Salaparuta has arrived - at least indirectly. I have received copies of fifty pages of charts prepared by Father Graffagnino in Salaparuta from church records, sent to me by Cousin Joel in New Orleans. Although there are some apparent discrepancies in Father Graffagnino's data, it appears that there is indeed an unknown paternal source at the top of the family tree, born in 1620, who is the father of Don Alerio Graffagnino. The individual is not named, however, and I have chosen to insert this mystery Graffagnino into my chart as "Papa" Graffagnino - with apologies to the Pope, and to my own Grandfather, who was known as "Papa Graff" to those of us in his immediately family. (See Note 8 below for my favorite story about Papa Graff.)
Editor: The following narrative comes from Joseph A. Graffagnino (see Family Tree) of Port Neches, TX, describing the trail of his branch of the family from Salaparuta to Texas.
GRAFFAGNINO - ROCCAFORTE
Gioacchino Graffagnino was born in Salaparuta, Sicily, on January 20, 1881, to Antonino Graffagnino (born 1857) and his wife, Francesca Lombardo. In 1892, Gioacchino arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana, together with his parents, his brothers, Carmelo, Stefano, and his sister, Nicolina.
The Graffagninos settled in Patterson, Louisiana, where two additional children, Antonino and Francesca were born. The elder Graffagninos opened a grocery store in Patterson, where all the children worked. In approximately 1902, Gioacchino would meet and marry Rosa Roccaforte.
Rosa Roccaforte was born in Salaparuta, Sicily, on November 2, 1884. In 1899, at the young age of 15, Rosa, leaving her parents and sisters behind, joined her brothers, Sebastian and Francesco, on a journey to America. They entered through EIlis Island, New York, and settled in Wisconsin. Since it was too cold for them in Wisconsin, they traveled to New Orleans; then to Patterson, Louisiana.
After Gioacchino and Rosa married, they resided in Patterson for a while. Gioacchino worked at the sawmill and on sugar cane plantations, performing any type of labor to provide for his growing family. They migrated through Louisiana, and arrived in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1914.
They would have nine living children: Frances, Tony, Frank, Rose Marie, Pete, Buster Percy, Steve, Lily and Pauline. Two other children died.
After arriving in Port Arthur, Gioacchino opened a grocery store at 1801 10th Street. All the children were expected to work in the store. Gioacchino later obtained a job at Texaco lsland, from which he would eventually retire. He enjoyed gardening and making wine. He was a quiet but stern man. He died April 28, 1951.
Rosa was warm and loving. She would dance around the house with her broom as a partner. She was an excellent cook and baker. Her homemade Italian bread and bread pudding, were unbeatable! She also enjoyed crocheting. Rosa died February 5, 1957.
Both Rosa and Gioacchino became U. S. citizens. Of their nine children, one daughter, Pauline Brown, survives today. Although they had 17 grandchildren, there is today only one great grandson, Derek, son of Joseph A. Graffagnino, to carry on the Gioacchino Graffagnino lineage.
Editor: This story was written by my father, Dr. Peter Carl Graffagnino, about 20 years ago. It is an excerpt from an editorial column in the Muscogee County (Georgia) Medical Journal in a column called the "Doctor's Lounge". My Dad was the editor of that journal at the time, and "The Doctor's Lounge" was his soap box. The story was written sixteen years after the sudden death of his own father by heart attack, ending a remarkable and eventful life of 76 years.
My father always wanted to be a doctor. Seventy years ago, when he first applied for admission at Tulane, he was turned down. His basic problems then were... he lacked all of the academic qualifications for admission. But by a combination of ambition, persistence, and a chance, he accomplished the impossible. In 1912, he graduated at the top of his class from the school which had originally turned him down.
Dad was born in 1886 in a small village in the center of western Sicily. He was the youngest of seven children, and he was brought to this country at the age of six. His only recollection of his native island was the three day trip with his mother and sister in a donkey-pulled, two-wheeled cart over the mountain roads to Palermo, the seaport where they boarded the ship (steerage class) for the long ocean crossing to New Orleans.
In 1900, when he was fourteen, his father died, and he had to leave the Live Oak grammar school and find work to help support the family. He hadn't quite finished sixth grade then. He worked for the next eight years doing a little bit of everything - opening oysters, tending bar, hauling wood, ice, and coal, baking bread, cleaning stables, delivering papers. For two years, when he was eighteen and nineteen and working as a part-time clerk in Hansell's Book Store, he attended night classes at the old Soule Business College and earned a certificate there. His ambition was to go to medical school, and he saved his money and borrowed from his sisters toward that end. At the age of twenty-one, he applied to Tulane. He was refused because he lacked a grammar school, a high school.,and a college education. He went back to work and saved more money.
He had heard that a new medical school would be opening in Louisville. So in the fall of 1908, he took off alone for Kentucky. It was the time of the Flexner Report, and medical schools all over the country were in a state of change. In Louisville, four medical schools were being organized and consolidated into one institution. He presented a couple of letters and his business school "diploma" to his registrar and was told he'd be notified within a few days about acceptance.
He didn't wait to hear. He moved into a boarding house, bought textbooks, and went to classes the next day. Fortunately, in the confusion of reorganization, his papers were misplaced. A couple of months later, when the registrar's office got around to notifying him that he wasn't eligible for admission, he had already won the Freshman Chemistry Prize and was leading his class. The school didn't have the heart to turn him out.
He returned to New Orleans at the end of his freshman year. This time, applying as an honor transfer, he was accepted into the sophomore year at Tulane. He made the Stars and Bars chapter of the AOA, graduated with honors, and began a two year internship at Charity Hospital in 1912. Then he went out into private practice. His sisters and older brother were very proud of him; they always referred to him as "the Doctor".
In 1918, he was commissioned by the Army, but before he could be inducted, the influenza epidemic struck and he became seriously ill. After a long convalescence, Dr. Sam Clark, then Professor of Gynecology at Tulane, urged him to return to Charity Hospital for more surgical training. He was there from 1920 through 1924, the last two years as Chief House Surgeon. He performed the first successful open heart surgery in New Orleans in 1923; later he wrote the first American paper on epidural anesthesia. In 1925, he joined Dr. Clark in private practice, and also as an Assistant Professor of Gynecology on Clark's Tulane staff. In 1931, when the LSU medical school opened on Charity Hospital grounds, he became the Professor of Gynecology in the new school, and remained as head of the joint department there until he retired twenty-five years later.
His was a success story in the old Horatio Alger tradition; (he had all of the Alger books in his library). The poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks who overcame all obstacles and made his way to the top.