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New York Folklore Quarterly, Vol. XXIX, No. 1, March 1973

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NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XXIX, No. 1, March, 1973

THE ITALIANS CAME UP WATERTOWN WAY
by Lydia Q. Pietropaoli

THERE ARE NO OTHER PEOPLE who can boast outstanding firsts so far as the early story of the New World is concerned as the Italians. The discoveries of Cristoforo Colombo — Columbus — in 1492 and Giovanni Cabotto — Cabot — in 1497 and Amerigo Vespucci’s — Vespucius — giving of his name to the North and South American continents mark not on!y the alpha of the white man’s influence in the Western Hemisphere. Owing to the accomplishments of these Italian-born navigators the way was open for the multitudes of Europeans destined to be Americans.

York State is among the several places in our country that proudly acknowledge the Italian contributions that formed their stories. In the year 1524, Giovanni de Verrazano discovered New York Bay. The prime settlers to arrive in 1624 where Albany now stands consisted mainly of several French-speaking Italian families. Of this group the next year to Cathelyn Trico was born the first white child in the state — Sara Rapelje.

Nearly two centuries elapsed following their historic landing before the Italian factor was apparent up Watertown way. Whether they existed in north-western York State prior to the 19th Century using surnames they or their progenitors adopted when residing in the countries of western Europe or the Anglicized names of North America, is not known. Therefore it is established that the first person of Italian lineage arrived in the upper Black River Valley in 1818, approximately two decades afater the region was opened by Caucasians. Disguised as the Count de Survilliers he was in fact Joseph Bonaparte, King of Naples and Spain, and eldest brother of Napoleon I. His main home stood at Natural Bridge located north-east of Watertown, Jefferson County. By 1830 the wealthy Corsican disposed of his upstate holdings of over 26,000 acres and departed for Europe....


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