For years, I assumed Lucia Terranova’s first marriage ended with her husband’s murder in 1903.

Lucia Terranova is the oldest of the Terranova children, the half-sister of New York City boss of bosses Giuseppe Morello. She was born in Corleone in 1876. At sixteen, she emigrated with her parents and younger siblings to New York City. 

The financial panic of 1893 put the family in dire straits. Unable to find work, Giuseppe scouted in Louisiana among their extended kin and associates from Corleone. On this trip, he likely brokered Lucia’s marriage to a young man from a Mafia family, Antonino Saltaformaggio. Lucia married him shortly after turning eighteen.

For years, I assumed Lucia Terranova’s first marriage ended with her husband’s murder in 1903. Then I saw this census record.

The 1900 census, taken in June, shows Lucia living with her parents and unmarried siblings in New York City, and working as a cigar maker. FamilySearch has them indexed as the “Tresanobe” family, and Lucia as “Lizzie” — but Warner, Santino, and Van ‘t Riet found them, and gave the sheet number in their 2014 article in Informer (p. 45). This is definitely Lucia Terranova’s family.

This document is a considerable update on her life. Lucia Terranova married Saltaformaggio in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, on 3 February 1894, Mike Dash wrote in his book, The First Family, citing private information from the family (2009, pp. 113-114). Cynthia, a descendant of Santo Calamia and Teresa Saltaformaggio wrote on an Ancestry message board in 2001, looking for members of Lucia’s family. She gave the same date and place of the marriage, at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, and adds they had one child named Serafino, who was known as “Joe Fino.” (Warner et al cite this message board post in their article as evidence of Lucia’s first marriage.) Teresa is Antonino Saltaformaggio’s sister. 

Santo Calamia was a gangster in New Orleans and an associate of Giuseppe Morello’s. Santo and Teresa, called “Tessie,” married in 1901. He led a bloody assault on the Luciano brothers in their grocery/saloon in the summer of 1902 on behalf of the mafioso Francesco Genova. While Calamia was in jail awaiting trial, his brother-in-law Antonino Saltaformaggio was a frequent visitor. (Calamia, in turn, visited Morello when he was imprisoned in Atlanta.)

I conversed by email with Cynthia and her brother, Ken, in 2019. They said Joe Fino was born around 1900, that Lucia’s second family with Vincenzo Salemi had no idea she’d been married once before, and that a Salemi granddaughter they’d spoken with thought Lucia might have had a daughter named Jennie while the family was living in Texas.

The document Ken sent as evidence of Joe Fino’s existence is a Social Security application for Joe Feno, born on the first day of 1901 in New Orleans to Tony Feno and “Rose Bazline,” which is not “Lucia Terranova,” even if you squint. Joe died in 1980. I haven’t been able to find him in census records from his childhood under either name, Serafino Saltaformaggio or Joseph Fino (or “Feno”) so I don’t know who raised him. When he registered for the draft for the first World War, he named Vincent Balznie, who might be related to Rose. Searches for either of them have not turned up any results so far.

Lucia appears in the census as a single woman with no children, living with her parents and siblings. She and her sister, Salvatrice, worked as cigar makers. If the reportage that Antonino left a wife and infant son in Louisiana at his death in April 1903 is correct, Lucia returned to her husband sometime after the census and they had a child. Based on Joe Feno’s self-report, he was born either two months after the census was taken, or six. (His draft card and Social Security application do not give the same date of birth.) If Joe was two or three years old, he might still have been called an infant in the newspaper.

If the documents point to the right age for Lucia’s son, she was pregnant when the census was taken. I can imagine her returning to her family (despite the long journey) to give birth to her first child. She was a young woman with no close, female blood relations in Louisiana. But would she have gone to her family and then worked in a factory while pregnant? This seems unlikely. Joe Feno’s draft card doesn’t specify a place of birth, but his Social Security application says he was born in New Orleans.

Before seeing the 1900 census, I’d assumed Lucia rejoined her family after her husband’s death, and left her son with the Saltaformaggios in New Orleans. I suppose she might have left and rejoined her husband, or been erroneously reported in the 1900 census, but neither seems as likely as that she left him in Louisiana sometime between their marriage in February 1894 and the 1900 census in June. 

Within a year after her marriage, Lucia’s parents and siblings moved on to Bryan, Texas, where they fell ill with malaria. They moved back to New York early in 1897. It seems probable that of all the times Lucia might have rejoined her family, it would be on their way out of the South. As for the rumor that she had a daughter named Jennie while living in Texas, this doesn’t match up with the fact that she was married to Antonino Saltaformaggio at the time. By the traditions of both their families, a daughter should have been named Caterina, after Antonino’s mother. If the child’s father didn’t claim her, she would have been named after Lucia’s mother. I’ve seen Jennie as a nickname for Giovanna and even for Vincenza, but not for Angelina.

We don’t know for sure, but it’s been theorized that Saltaformaggio was killed in retaliation for Santo Calamia’s attack on the Luciano brothers. Coincidentally, Saltaformaggio was killed the same month as Benedetto Madonia, the “Barrel Murder” victim of Morello’s counterfeiting gang, in New York City. If Saltaformaggio was having marital problems with the sister of the most powerful mafioso in the entire United States, that could have shortened his life, too.

As for Joe Feno, what if Antonino Saltaformaggio was his father, and “Rose Bazline” was a woman he lived with in the years after Lucia left him: the unnamed wife from the newspapers? The scenarios in which Lucia leaves Antonino and then returns seem less probable than one in which she remains with her family in New York. 

The man she would marry next, Vincenzo Salemi, was a member of her brothers’ gang. Dash’s account of the double in-law marriage between the Morello-Terranova and Salemi families differs from the story the records tell. Giuseppe Morello, a widower since 1898, had a child out of wedlock in 1901. This prompted his mother to search for an appropriate wife for him. Dash says Marietta, Giuseppe’s sister, was dispatched to Corleone to bring back the Salemi sister Giuseppe had chosen from a couple of photos. With them came Vincenzo, their brother.

According to a 1910 emigration record, Vincenzo Salemi first arrived in New York City in 1901. I haven’t yet found a record for Vincenzo’s arrival before his marriage in New York. Five months after her husband’s murder, Lucia Terranova appears on the Sardegna, coming back from Sicily with her older half-sister Marietta, Marietta’s young daughter, and both Salemi sisters. The Salemis say they’re joining their cousin Sebastiano Di Palermo, a known Morello gangster, at the same address where the Terranova family lives. Vincenzo is not on this voyage. And Sebastiano Di Palermo is not a cousin of the Salemi sisters.

It would seem that Giuseppe did not pre-select his bride, since both sisters made the voyage. Nicolena’s older sister, Francesca, returned to Corleone and married in 1905.

Lucia and Vincenzo married right after Christmas in 1903, the same month in which Nicolena married Giuseppe. Lucia and Vincenzo’s marriage record indicates this was a first marriage for them both. They had six children together before Vincenzo was killed in a gang war in 1923.

Sources

Babin II, D. (2015, April 28). Bumped off on the bayou: the macaroni wars. Retrieved 2 February 2019 from https://louisianamafia.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/bumped-off-on-the-bayou-the-macaroni-wars/  

Critchley, D. (2009). The origin of organized crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891-1931. Routledge.

Dash, M. (2009). The first family: Terror, extortion, revenge, murder, and the birth of the American Mafia. Random House.

Manifest of the Konigin Luise. (1910, October 22). “New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T3-YGKT?cc=1368704&wc=4XBX-3J7%3A1600412417 : 26 January 2018), Roll 1588, vol 3499-3501, 3 Nov 1910 > image 788 of 1303; citing NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Manifest of the Sardegna. (1903, September 23). “New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-G16T-KLP?cc=1368704&wc=4FMB-7NB%3A1600272377 : 26 January 2018), Roll 396, vol 718-719, 22 Sep 1903-23 Sep 1903 > image 578 of 683; citing NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Marriage of Vincenzo Salemi and Lucia Terranova. (1904). Certificate no. 249. NYC DORIS website. Retrieved 29 March 2022 from https://a860-historicalvitalrecords.nyc.gov/view/4571088  

The Murdered Italian Found at Whitecastle. (1903, May 7). Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA).

Terranova household. (1900, June 12). Lines 52-59. “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6S7W-S88?cc=1325221&wc=9B7R-HZG%3A1030551901%2C1035804001%2C1036212201 : 5 August 2014), New York > New York County > ED 907 Borough of Manhattan, Election District 21 New York City Ward 32 > image 56 of 92; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Warner, R., Santino, A., and Van ‘t Riet, L. (2014, May). The early New York mafia: an alternative theory. Informer Journal. Pp. 4+. 

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