Dear Great Grandfather Francesco: In 1904 you welcomed your fifth child into the world. Were you able to enjoy watching little Edith grow up during her first year without the worries of life in New York City’s Fourth Ward lurking in the background each day?
By now your older daughters Bettina and Mary were old enough to go to school. I have tried to find maps of the Fourth Ward that show the location of Catholic and Public Schools in the area but have not located any just yet. Whether the school was close or distant I think it must have worried you each day when they left the apartment and went out into the streets.
Your son Alphonso, who was now two years old would, when he married and became a father himself, insist that his children go to school together with the neighbor’s children. Usually they would be accompanied by one or two of the mothers of the children in the group. I like to think that you would have insisted on your children being accompanied by their friends when they went to school, too.
Unlike your brothers Joseph and Rosario you did not move away from the Fourth Ward after Antonina’s death. Instead it is almost as if you were even more determined to stay in the community where the family grocery stores and macaroni manufacturing facility were. You had made an investment in the community and were now drawing a livelihood from it. You were not going to let fear rule your life.
The Torregrossa macaroni manufacturing business got another good write-up in New York’s 1903 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor. Were you the President of the company? What roles did your brothers Joseph and Rosario have within the company?
It seems to me that even in the early stages of our branch of the Torregrossa family’s life in the United States, a pattern of success in business alternated with loss and sadness in the family life.
In 1905 your third daughter Angelina developed bronchitis on June 1st, 1905. She was attended by Dr. Bardini of 47 Catherine Street for 24 days before passing away at 2:00 a.m. on June 24th, 1905. Angelina was just 6 years old and I think she did not have the strength to fight an attack of bronchitis. There are a few of your Great-Grandchildren who also have respiratory weaknesses. I should now, I’ve suffered attacks of acute bronchitis from time to time and it is debilitating for an adult. A child will find it even more difficult to fight off the coughing and the congestion.
I do not believe that the tenement where you lived made life easy. How you all kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer must have presented many difficulties. I’ve seen illustrations from period newspapers that show how tenement dwellers would hold rooftop gatherings or congregate on their stoops or street corners after sunset during the summer months. Even the babies and little children were outdoors late at night to escape the stifling heat of the tenement apartments. Some people even slept on the fire escapes.
I have the record of Angelina’s death, including the information that her burial was handled by the firm of Charles Bacigalupo & sons at 26 1/2 Mulberry Street. She was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York on the same day she passed away.
I think of Angelina often each day. I have set up a memorial for her at FindAGrave. But due to some oversight on the part of cemetery management, no record can be located for the exact plot where your little angel was buried in June of 1905.
Although I cannot place flowers at Angelina’s resting place, I have added her name to my prayer list and I hope that she is with you and Great Grandmother Caterina in that place of infinite love, peace and light which I as your Great Granddaughter call our true home.
We will all be together again, one day.
I remain proud of what you accomplished and closer to you as I learn about the losses and sufferings you went through which are in some ways familiar to me.
Your Great Granddaughter,
EmilyAnn Frances May
P.S. Frances is my confirmation name. My Dad, Frank, was so pleased when I chose that name. I didn’t know it was the feminine version of your name. But now that I know more about you, I am so happy I chose it and now use it as part of my name.
1900 Federal Census
1902 Manhattan City Directory
1910 Federal Census
Death Certificate for Angelina Torregrossa
Phone calls to Calvary Cemetery
FindAGrave Memorial for Angelina Torregrossa