Saving Italian Stories

Saturday the Fenton History Center is having the “Slice of History Pizza Challenge” at the Fenton Mansion from 1-3 p.m. We are asking any members of the Italian community in the area who are coming to bring along stories and photographs from their family that they are willing to share by having their pictures scanned for the collection at the Fenton History Center. We hope to arrange the stories to record them at a later time. At a later time we plan to include our other immigrant communities to capture the immigrant experiences and their traditions and heritage.

The first Italian family to settle in Jamestown was the Botinni family. Two brothers, Louis and Antonio, arrived in 1887. They came from Santa Maria Del Taro, Parma, Italy. Louis returned to Italy and came back to Jamestown in 1892. His oldest son, Anthony, was born in Jamestown in 1892. In 1900, Louis had a store at 106 E. Second St., where, according to the city directory, he sold candy and other confections and tobacco. Later the family had a grocery store in Brooklyn Square for many years. Joe Meli was another early Italian settler in Jamestown. He was a barber.

In the 1900 Federal Census there were 15 people recorded as having been born in Italy living in Jamestown. This included Louis and Longasette E. Bottini, Joe Meli, Joe and Rosa Cascia, Antonino and Teresa Mansimo, Saveria and Caterina Roselli, Frank and Myrose Bellizio, James and Emma Tascano with Festor Artulet and Frank Daniels. The spelling here is as it was in the census. By the 1910 census there were 920 people born in Italy living in Jamestown. Included in that number were the ones from the 1900 census except Frank and Myrose Bellizio, James and Emma Tascano, Artulet and Daniels unless they were hiding under a much different spelling.

Except for Louis Bottini, the store keeper and Joe Meli, the barber, all the others from 1900 that stayed in Jamestown were musicians and their wives. In 1910, Philip Crucilla started a loosely organized group of musicians who wanted to play for the fun of it. This became the Imperial Band which continued to play until 1940. About 1927, the Jamestown Concert Band was formed from other local bands and members of the Imperial Band joined too. Music was an important part of life within the Italian community. The band played for festivals, funerals, church celebrations and played at Allen Park, Celoron Park and on the Chautauqua Lake steamers. Many members and their sons and daughters went on to careers in music. Carl Messina started an accordion studio in 1938 and many children learned to play the accordion. The Triscari family provided a number of professional musicians.

There are many more parts to consider in gathering a history of a community. We hope that our residents will help us capture the traditions, heritage and family stories of all who have made Jamestown their home.