Sant Angelo dei Lombardi is a town in Avellino. It was from this town that Vincenzo Petito along with his 18-year-old daughter, Carolina, and 16-year-old son, Gaetano, would begin the long journey to America.
What drove Vincenzo, then 41 years old, to make this journey is a matter of conjecture. No stories have been passed down explaining or even hinting at why he was willing to move his family to a country whose language he could neither speak nor understand. In addition, the move necessitated separating his family for a time as his wife, Maria, and their two young daughters, Concetta and Angela Rosa, would remain in Sant Angelo until Vincenzo and the two older children were somewhat established in America. No doubt, there were stories circulating in Sant Angelo about how much opportunity there was in America and how well other paisanos were doing there, but the San Angelese were as well known for their boastfulness as were the Calabrese for their stubbornness. Vincenzo was unlikely to have been swayed by such stories. More than likely, the decision to go to America wasn t so much a result of what America promised, but rather of what Italy denied. Sant Angelo was mostl! y a community of peasant farmers, and when bad weather in the 1880s devastated crop production many in the town no longer had a means for supporting their families. This very well may have been the case with the Petito family. In any event, on or about April 17, 1891, Vincenzo, Carolina, and Gaetano traveled to Naples where they boarded the SS Brittania. On May 1, 1891 they arrived in New York City.
In 1883, construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was completed. The bridge joined lower Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn. Among other things, the bridge facilitated the establishment of an Italian-American community in downtown Brooklyn. Prior to the bridge s construction, most Italian immigrants settled a short distance from the Battery, their point of disembarkation, along Mott, Mulberry, and Elizabeth Streets. As that community became overcrowded, they moved uptown in Manhattan to East 106th Street. Now they began to settle in downtown Brooklyn. Gaetano and his two children found a place on Tillary Street and Canton (later changed to St Edwards) Street, a few blocks from the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
This area of downtown Brooklyn ran north-south from the Navy Yard to Dekalb
Avenue and east-west from Hudson Avenue to Washington Park. It was largely
an Irish and German neighborhood prior to 1890 when the Italians began
moving in. In the next thirty years, Italian immigrants would pour into
the area making it Brooklyn s largest Italian community. The neighborhood
with all its inherent dangers must have seemed safe enough because within
five months, Vincenzo sent for his wife, Maria, and daughters Concetta
and Angela Rosa. They arrived in New York on October 30, 1891. Also traveling
with them was a Francesco Sepe, 16 years old, apparently a relative of
Maria whose maiden name was also Sepe. All four proceeded to the apartment
in the Tillary-Canton Street area. Maria appears to have gotten to America
just in time because in three weeks her eldest daughter, Carolina, would
On November 22, 1891 in a church located at 35 President Street in Brooklyn,
Carolina Petito of 56 Canton Street, daughter of Vincenzo Petito and Maria
Sepe, married Amato Castellano of 56 Canton Street, son of R. Castellano
and Rosaria Chuisano. Witnesses were Pasquale Cardone and Trena deLiberato.
The bride was 18 years old and the groom was 20. The marriage would prove
very advantageous to Carolina s brother, Gaetano, who years later would
become a business partner of Carolina s husband in a bar, Castellano and
Petty Liquors, located at 179 Navy Street. The best man at the wedding,
Pasquale Cardone, may also have played an important role in the formation
of the business.
If you would like to write to Dan Cappiello use the form below.