From the Fortress of Solitude
Fred (Fidele) Vercellino was our Great Grand Uncle. He and our Great Grandfather were brothers. He lived in Lead, South Dakota after coming to the United States from the Turin / Torino region of Northern Italy.
Today, in our digital family reunion, we want to talk about our uncle Fred and learn about the lives of our Italian ancestors living in the Lead / Deadwood area in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
We begin with the Relationship Chart.
By the late 1880's, a large number of Italians had begun to enter the community from northern Italy. The gained employment in the area mines, principally as laborers, since they seldom brought any mining skills with them.
A majority of these "sons of Sunny Italy," as the newspapers sometimes referred to them, settled appropriately, in the Sunnyhill area of Lead. Railroad and Miners Avenues were particularly noted for their large Italian populations. The Italians had the distinction of having formed one of the earliest of the ethnic societies in the city of Lead with the organization of the Cristoforo Colombo Society on March 15, 1887.
Members of the Cristoforo Colombo Society traditionally marched as a body to the picnic grounds, providing residents of Lead with a colorful spectacle. The members were usually decked out iin their blue caps adorned with the SIMSCC insignia as well as with red, white,a nd green sashes and bright badges featuring a portrait of Christopher Columbus.
In May of 1905, the Society selected a number of its most talented members and organized a band.
Within a few weeks the band had attracted the attention of the entire community for its outstanding music. The Society's band was often in attendance at the funerals of its members, solemnly leading the funeral procession to the cemetery.
Religion played an important role in the lives of Lead's Italian population and they looked to St. Patrick's Catholic Church for their spiritual guidance.
A well-attended Italian school was established at the church, holding sessions every Wed and Fri. evenings from 6:30 to 7:30 P.M. It's purpose was "the advancement of all in the use of the English language, the making of good citizens and giving all who attend instructions which will benefit."
The Italian community had its own businessmen - grocers, saloonkeepers, clothiers, shoemakers, etc - who catered to the needs of the Italian residents, and many became popular with the shoppers throughout the city.
The local Italians in general were concerned with the welfare of their compatriots, both here and abroad. In Dec. 1908 the extreme southwest of Italy and the Island of Sicily were struck by a devastating earthquake. Lead's Italian community join in the relief effort. A committee was quickly appointed by the Cristoforo Colombo Society to raise money to aid the quake victims. The photo below, is taken from the book The Flavor of Lead, An Ethnic History. Notice it lists our Vercellino family as contributors to the cause.
Proud of their heritage, the Italians observed a variety of holidays and anniversaries of importance to their former homeland. They took great care to celebrate Columbus Day.
The Italians were famed for their hospitality, and special occasions almost always called for a variety of delicious foods and an abundance of wine. Many members of the Italian community made wine in their homes in small quantities, while others, such as our Great Grand Uncle Fred Vercellino, looked at the product from a business point of view. Uncle Fred fermented his grapes in large vats and later sold his finished product at his business, the Cristoforo Columbo Saloon.
In this photo, you can see our Great Grand Uncle Fred standing at the center outside his saloon, wearing his white apron
The caption says Uncle Fred is there behind the bar of his saloon.
In the article above you'll read about the fate of the Society, enlarge for you in the photo below.
In the photo below, you'll see Great Grand Uncle Fred and our Great Grandfather John, listed as prominent and active members of the Society.