A Few Fascinating People I've Researched
Giuseppe "Joseph" Amerena
Born Giuseppe Amerena in 1852 to parents, Prospero Amerena and Maria Cancella, in Viggiano, Italy, “Joseph” arrived on the shores of Boston, MA, violin in hand. He survived a catastrophic earthquake at the age of 5 then reemerged as a musician upon his arrival in Boston in 1870. We might assume he was traveling with the historically notable young musicians of Viggiano. The picture (L) shows us his love of music, and of magic! "Joseph", would later welcome his parents and siblings to his new homeland. While traveling in Nova Scotia, he met and married Catherine Murdock in 1880, they settled in East Boston, Massachusetts that same year, where they would raise their family. "Joseph" continued performing in local orchestras until his death in 1920.
Born in the port city Castellammere, in Sicily, in 1917, Anna charted a course for her new life. She set out alone on the ship, Patria, bound for New York, though she was only 15 years old and unable to read or write. She longed to be reunited with her elder sister, who was already settled in New York City. Like so many young immigrants of that era, Anna inflated her age to immigration officials at Ellis Island. Upon arrival in the frigid February of 1917, after a long sea journey, Anna was immediately admitted to the Ellis Island Hospital where she stayed a week before being released to her sister’s care. Anna would go on to marry Vincenzo Amato and relocate to the North Shore just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She would raise 3 sons and 3 daughters in Medford, Massachusetts finally achieving her dream of citizenship in 1945. At her naturalization ceremony, she was able to sign her own name to the document; no small achievement for this brave soul.
Nellie Brock Nabers
Nellie’s story of resiliency comes to light through the research of a Durham historic home. In February, 1920, at the age of 16, Nellie nearly lost her arm in an explosion inside Five Points Auto as she walked home from school. A stack of schoolbooks she carried saved her life, and two surgeries allowed Nellie to keep her arm, though it’s use would be limited for her lifetime. A sizeable settlement made it possible for this teenage girl to purchase her own home in the newly constructed Club Acres, and the court case became one of the most significant and hard-fought damage suits in U.S. history for the time. Interestingly, Nellie was in the last graduating class of Trinity College in 1924, the year it would become known as Duke University. Nellie went on to marry and become a school teacher in the Durham school system, living in her Club Acres home until 1964.
Meet Wyatt Bradford, a 19th century racial renegade, who had a circuitous path to power and prestige in the post-Civil War south. Considered a “radical” Republican in Oxford, NC, post-Civil War newspapers reported his inability to secure government jobs due to his allegiance with the African American community. As a white gentleman in the late 1800’s, Wyatt’s liberal politics, supporting African American rights, was not well regarded or tolerated in his hometown. Losing his 100 gallon copper distillery to government seizure, followed by a house fire a few years later, drove Wyatt to relocate his family to Henderson. Ironically, nearby Henderson embraced Wyatt, making him one of the city’s first police chiefs, securing the government position that eluded him in his birthplace of Oxford. He and his family remained in Henderson until his death in 1922.