Josie Muro in 1929.
Josie Muro was the daughter of Nicola and Letizia (nee Scotti) Muro. She was born in 1909 in Agropoli and came to the United States with her mother in 1912. Her father came a few years earlier in order to secure work and a place to live. The family settled in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania.
Josie came up to Brooklyn, NY sometime between 1928 and 1929. My Mom told me of the events leading up to it in a general way but without too many details. As a child, Uncle Sammy learned of a similar version of the story.
The information obtained from our reviews of the 1920 Federal Census in Wilmerding and the 1925 New York State Census entries for Brooklyn, NY helped fill in the spaces that existed in our knowledge regarding the story of Josie’s coming to Brooklyn. We shared what we knew. Then using the factual evidence from the Census records created a time line that provides us with a framework to better understand events that were in place before, during and after Josie’s move to Brooklyn.
Mom’s version of the story
Grandma Josie always had the regional accent of her hometown of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania. She never lost it even though she lived in Brooklyn, NY from the age of 19 onwards. I asked my Mom what brought my Grandmother up to Brooklyn in the first place. At the age of 6 I was eager to learn more about the town she left behind.
Mom told me that Josie had to come up to Brooklyn because there weren’t any jobs in Wilmerding. There were more jobs for skilled sewing machine operators in Brooklyn, Mom said. Then she segued into a long explanation of why New York City is one of the fashion centers of the world. She told me all about the showrooms in Manhattan and the small garment making factories owned by contractors in Brooklyn. That satisfied me for a little while but I had a nagging feeling that wasn’t the whole story.
So I asked again a few months later.
This time Mom added that Josie had to leave town not only to get a job, but to get away from a very sad development in her life. She was engaged to a young man named Ernest who jilted her at the altar. To get away from the sad memories and gossip, Josie went far away from Wilmerding.
Uncle Sammy’s version of the story
Josie Muro in 1929 by P.S. 187. This school was across the street from the house where her Aunt Elisa and Uncle Vincenzo lived.
The version Uncle Sammy’s knows is more complete and follows a more logical sequence than the one I heard from my Mom. Her version zig-zagged from one thing to another. I think she did this to distract me so I wouldn’t embarrass her with telling my Grandmother that I knew the whole story. After all, I was just 6 years old and given to asking a lot of questions. Uncle Sammy heard the story this way:
*A young man was interested in Josie. At some point he proposed marriage and they were engaged.
*Nick was worried since the family failed to learn enough about his background. So Nick asked his co-workers at Westinghouse Air Brake Company if they had any information on this man.
*A co-worker told Nick that this young man was engaged to another woman from the other side of Wilmerding. Nick went home alarmed and told his wife Rose.
*The other woman’s parents came to talk to Nick and Rose. They said that this man proposed to their daughter first. They wanted to stop the situation from going any further so as to avoid gossip. They asked Nick and Rose to convince Josie to break up with him.
*The other woman’s parents promised to make sure nobody they knew of would speak ill of Josie because they would deny any gossip put before them.
*When Josie knew about the entire situation she realized she had to get away from Wilmerding. To remain there would invite gossip and scorn. It would also eliminate her chances of making a good marriage.
*Nick and Rose sent Josie sent up to Brooklyn to get a job and make a new life.
Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, November 7, 2015
This is the Timeline of Events which we created using the details from the family stories and the factual evidence from the census records. We think it provides a good backstory to what we didn’t know. It also fills in some details that were never shared such as which relative may have provided Josie with a place to stay.
Letizia dies when Josie is 11 1/2 years old.
Nick marries Rose late 1921-early 1922.
Rose needs Josie’s help with the children and housework.
As the oldest child she is expected to help and set a good example.
Rose begins to have children with Nicola. The family increases.
Josie has more work.
She is expected to do well at school and complete 8th grade graduation.
Josie’s Aunt Elisa and Uncle Vincenzo move to Brooklyn from Wilmerding.
Somewhere in this time the Josie meets Ernest.
Ernest proposed to another woman first and then to Josie.
Nick finds out. Nick, Rose and the parents of the other woman discuss the situation.
To avoid gossip and disgrace, Josie is sent to Brooklyn.
Josie is living with her Aunt Elisa and Uncle Vincenzo in Brooklyn, NY.
She buys fashionable clothes and has a studio portrait taken as the photos in this posting show.
Relatives or paesanos introduce her to Sabato Serrapede who proposes marriage sometime between late 1929 and early 1930.
In order to understand how Josie and Sabato got together we will introduce our readers to his sister Filomena. Filomena Serrapede D’Agosto was very special to her brother Sabato. He loved her and looked up to her. She and her husband Giuseppe D’Agosto played an important part in getting Sabato here to the U.S. The next series of postings will begin by introducing Giuseppe and the D’Agosto family. They, too, came from Agropoli. Since Giuseppe died young, Uncle Sammy never learned much about him. The discoveries we made through our research enriched our understanding of the lives of the D’Agosto family in the United States.