The Scalpone Story


This all began in Contursi (SA), Italy, with a man named Salvatore Scalpone. Born probably about 1780/85, he married Donata Pirchio in 1809. They had two (or possibly more) sons in the early part of the nineteenth century: Francesco (B.1819) and Nicola (B. 1821).

Nicola fathered Alfonso (B. 1853), from whom the New York line descended. Francesco fathered Lorenzo (B. 1846) and Vito Antonio (B. 1847).

Contursi today has a population of a little over 3,000 contursani. It’s a little town, not very charming, unfortunately, high on a hill about 60 miles inland from Naples. No one with the Scalpone name lives there now.  Its claim to fame is its sulphur baths, recorded as far back as a 1900 Baedeker tourist guide. In those days, the railway from Naples to Brindisi let you off fairly close but on the plain near the river Sele. From there you had to take a “diligence”–a sort of stagecoach,which met the train and wended its way north, up the hill.

Click here for a brief history of Contursi and some modern-day photos.

There are two branches of Scalpones in the U. S. and one in Italy. Let’s call one American branch the New York group, the other the Chicago group, based on their starting point in this country. The Italian branch we’ll call the Romans, since Rome is now their home.  Although there has apparently been no contact among the groups until recently, it is clear that they are closely related: in fact, it’s pretty certain that every person bearing the Scalpone name is some kind of close cousin to every other.

On the family tree, there are 408 names, all Scalpones or spouses or their descendants.

It is not too early in this narrative to point out that there must be numerous other blood relations out there, descendants of females who took their husbands’ names and are now extremely difficult to trace.

Vito Antonio’s Family

Let’s first consider Vito Antonio, one of Francesco’s sons and a grandson of founder Salvatore. We have no record of any of Vito’s descendants turning up in the U. S. He had four children, Ermalinda, Giulia, Orazio, and Carmella, between the years 1876 and 1886.  Apparently they all remained in Italy and although there are most likely numerous descendants of Vito, it seems that none with the Scalpone name survive in either the U. S.  or  Contursi. Guglielmo and his father Antonio have been very helpful in the reconstruction of the early days of the Scalpones in Contursi

Lorenzo’s Family

Lorenzo was Vito Antonio’s elder brother. He too remained in Italy.  He fathered two daughters, Cesaria and Maria Grazia, and a son, Angelo Raffaele (B. 1873). In 1895 Angelo married Erminia di Nobile, who fathered Guglielmo (B.), who in turn fathered Antonio (B. 1927).  Antonio was born in Contursi, as was his wife Adele (B. 1935). They lived in Rome (Anontio died in 2013)   and had three children, Raffaele (B. 1964); Guglielmo (B. 1966); and Rosangela (B. 1968).

The Scalpone family of Rome (l to r): Raffaele, the elder son (his wife Patrizia is obscured to his left); Antonio and Adele (father and mother); visitors Frank Scalpone and Don Jesuele; Guglielmo, the younger son; Rosangela, the daughter, with her husband  Salvatore Fuscaldi

Salvatore and His Son Antonio: the Chicago Group

So far we have been unable to place Salvatore (B. 1850-1855) with certainty on the tree, but it is most likely that he was another son of either Francesco or Nicola. We know that he was from Contursi, married Angela Tonsole, and had five children: Antonio (B. 1881), Francesco (B. 1882), Maria Olivia di Vita B. 1883), Maria Grazia (B. 1885), and Concetta (B. 1888). Salvatore seems to have remained in Italy, and we have no record
of Francesco’s activities. Just as with Vito’s daughters, it is almost impossible  to trace the girls’ descendants.

But Antonio eventually came to the U. S., arriving at Ellis Island in 1903. Before he did, he married a woman whose name is unknown to us or his American descendants, and had a daughter, similarly unknown. In 1903, Ellis Island records show his arrival in the United States. Then, in 1906/7 (he was 29 years old) he went back to Italy and remarried– almost certainly because of the death of his first wife, divorce being unknown in that time and place. His new bride was Candida Cozzi, born 1881 in Senerchia, about seven miles north of Contursi, an even smaller town higher up the mountain. Today, Senerchia has a population of 1100, and is even less prepossessing than Contursi. There are no Scalpones there, either. But there are Cozzis.

Note: Considerable research has been and is being done on the Cozzi’s by a Cozzi descendant who happens to be a professional genealogist: Denise Wells. Anything you know that would add to Denise’s research on the Cozzi’s would be welcomed by her at: dawells@aol.com or at countycavan@aol.com.

The first two children of Antonio and Candida died at birth. Four other children survived: Salvatore (B. 1912), Joseph (B. 1914), Letizia (B. 1917), and Gerald (B. 1925). Salvatore married Ruth Novi (B. 1911) but had no children. Joseph married Estelle Hlavaty (1917-1980) and had two children, Richard and Charles. Letizia died at the age of 8. Gerald (Jerry), born in 1925, continues to thrive and is now the patriarch of the Chicago group.

Mark Scalpone, Candy & Gregg Fenske, Fran and Charles (Chuck) Scalpone

Jerry married Frances Rossi (B. 1928) in 1946, and they have three children: Gerald II, Candice, and Mark. Two of the three children each had three children of their own, and two of these children in their turn have a total of five children. I count 30 living members of this Chicago group, still centered around the Great Lakes with one or two exceptions.

Alfonso and the New York group

Alfonso Scalpone, son of Nicola and nephew of Francesco, was like them born in Contursi, in 1853. He married Carmela Manzione in the early 1870’s. Carmela is said to have been born in France, although the Manzione name still survives in Contursi.

They had four children in Contursi: Nicola (B. 1875), Rachaele (Katie) (B. 1877), Salvatore (B. 1880), and Raffaela (Rose) (B. 1886) [Bear in mind that the uneven gaps between children are not necessarily explained by fits of abstinence on the part of the father; infant death was very common in that place and time.] In 1884 a terrible cholera epidemic had hit the Naples area, making living even more precarious than usual. Anyway, in 1887, Alfonso decided to emigrate to New York. Once there, they had three more children: Joseph (B. 1888), Adalena (Lena) (B. 1891), and Filomina (Minnie) (B. 1893).

Photo Break

The Lower East Side: Alfonso and Carmela found a place to live on Baxter Street, on New York’s notorious Lower East Side, just a block from better-known Mulberry Street. The Italian migrants became the large majority in that area during the last decades of the century, and the section earned the name Little Italy. A century or so ago, the Irish and Italians, Eastern Europeans, and even some Germans were not unversally considered white. “In the minds of many Americans…at the time, the post-1890 immigrants were probably as foreign as ‘Hispanics’ are today, as in some degree ‘nonwhite.’”–Nathan Glazer, professor emeritus of sociology at Harvard.

Today, most of the Italians have re-located and Chinatown has enlarged to take over the area. Here are a few pictures from the Little Italy period (for many more, see www.authentichistory.com/images/postcivilwar/ jacob_riis/contents/html). The photos are from Jacob Riis’s famous How the Other Half Lives (1890).

Hester Street, Lower East Side

Room in tenement

Baxter Street alley. Alfonso’s family lived on this street. In 2007,
New York’s first automated parking garage opened on Baxter Street.

To continue:

Salvatore married Felicine Fosco in 1909, but the young couple were murdered in 1910. When she died, Felicine was pregnant with what would have been their first child.

The other six children all married and bore children of their own; and today we count about 140 blood descendants in this group:

Nick had seven children, one of whom, Salvatore, lives on in Springfield, Massachusetts. Katie, the next, had five children. Rose had two children, Ralph and Mildred. Joseph had five children, one of whom, Francis (Frank, that’s your friendly co-compiler) lives on in Antioch, California. Lena had two children. And Minnie had three chidren, the last of whom, Rose (born in 1913), died in 2008 in Eugene, Oregon.

At this point, the tree becomes so crowded that it is unproductive to describe in narrative form. All the information we have, however, is detailed in the tree that follows and on individual pages.

Photo Break

Descendants of Nicolo’s son Ralph, these cousins assembled in 1980:
bottom row, Laura, Lisa (holding Travis), top row, Dennis Jr., Bonnie
(holding Nicole), and Scott.

At Sal Scalpone’s 90th birthday party (2003): (top) Ronnie Scaglione, Dennis Scalpone,
Phyllis Scalpone Ascione, Sal Scalpone, & Joe Scaglione; (bottom) Dennis’s wife Pat, Neil Ascione,
and Ronnie’s wife Christa.

From about 1924, a group of the New York Scalpones: (top row) Emma Sica; her mother Rachaele (Katie) S.; one unknown; Charles De Socio; Filomena (Minnie) S. Forziati, Elinor Mingalone S., Charles Sica. (Middle row) Raffaela (Rose) S. Yandoli; her son Ralph; Ida Sica; Mamie Sica; and Joseph S. (Children) Edna S. (?) behind Rose’s knee; one unknown; Carmella (Millie) Yandoli; Helen Sica; Rose Forziati; Joe Dave S.; and Ernest Forziati.

From the mid-50’s, a Jesuele/Yandoli gathering from the New York line: top row, Mildred Yandoli Bender,
Lena Scalpone Jesuele, Connie Young Jesuele, Rose Scalpone Yandoli; bottom row, Joan Jesuele Angley,
Nancy Jesuele Hazelgrove, Ann Schmalz Jesuele, Leonard Jesuele I.