Lampasona Family History

(written by J.J. Lampson)

This is some background information on my Grandmother and Grandfather Lampson gathered by my second cousin, Linda Cangelosi Fritz. Grandpa Lampson was born Giovanni Lampasona in Salemi, Sicilia about 1872. His parents were Antonio & Rosaria Russo Lampasona. Grandma Lampson was born Maria de Corte in Poggioreale, Sicilia about 1882. Her parents were Giuliano de Corte and Dorothea Martorano. They were married in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1899. Grandpa Lampson was born Giovanni (John) Lampasona around 1872 in a simple stone building outside the town of Salemi, about 40 miles southwest of Palermo, Sicilia. Giovanni was one of the first, if not the first, of the eight boys and two girls born to Rosario Russo and Antonio Lampasona. The family lived on a small country “estate” called Terragialla, consisting of about 10 acres of fertile land and a large, centuries old stone stucco farmhouse. Terragialla is still enjoyed today by Grandpa’s nieces and nephews, who tend a few rabbits and chickens, raise artichokes, onions, olives, cherries, oranges, beans, tomatoes, melons and nespole, occasionally bake in the wood oven, and enjoy the sunshine, just as Grandpa’s family did over a century ago. When Giovanni was a young man, he left Salemi with two of his brothers, Salvatorre (Sam) and Michele (Mike), to immigrate to the United States. Some say he left to avoid compulsory military service; others say he had already served and was restless to try something different. For whatever the reason, he left he left his parents, brothers Antonio, Giuseppe, Pietro, Gaspare and Baldassare, and sisters Mariana and Lucia, and a life of growing wheat and making olive oil, and his share of the family home and land, for the U. S. A. The brothers entered at New Orleans and worked the sugar cane fields in Louisiana. Then Sam and Mike came to Texas, settling around Hearne and Giovanni stayed behind. By remaining in New Orleans, Grandpa allowed fate the opportunity to introduce him to his future bride, the beautiful (and young, about age 15) Maria de Corte, who also had only recently immigrated from Sicilia. Grandma Lampson was born around 1882 in the little town of Poggioreale, just down the road from Salemi. Many Poggiorealese, including the Cangelosi’s and Accurso’s immigrated to New Orleans and then to the Brazos River area of Texas, settling in and around Bryan and Hearne, where they remain today (1995). In the mid 1890’s, Maria’s parents, Dorothea Martarano and Giuliano de Corte, decided to come to the United States for three years, probably to work and save money, and then return to Sicilia. They packed up a few belongings and their children Maria and Francesco for the two-week boat trip from Palermo to New Orleans. Accompanying them was Guiliano’s brother Michele (Mike) who also intended to stay only a few years, and ended up settling in Waco. None of them ever returned to Sicilia. Like many other immigrants, they worked hard in the Louisiana sugar cane fields, probably enjoying for the first time in their lives, some measure of economic success. They lived within the community of other Italian and Sicilian immigrants and continued to follow the old ways, observing Santa Lucia and San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) holidays, eating pasta daily, and closely supervising their children, particularly daughter Maria. Maria was so attractive that she began having marriage proposals at age 13. Actually, it was her father who received the proposals since Maria was not allowed to speak to strange men. Her parents rejected all the proposals until Maria reached the marriage age of 15. Then the De Cortes were approached by the parents of a young man who claimed to have the extraordinary sum of $700 in cash. The custom at that time was for the parents of the girl to set up for themselves a time period in which they would accept or reject the proposal. So Dorothea and Giuliano told the man’s parents to come back in a week. Actually, they had already decided that the young man would make a suitable (i.e. wealthy) husband. Maria, however, had other ideas. She did not like the guy and said so in no uncertain terms. This was unheard of behavior, since Sicilian girls had virtually no say in the matter of who they would marry – the matter was settled between her parents and the young man and his parents. None-the-less, strong willed Maria said she would throw herself down the well before she would marry this man. Then she ran off and hid out for an entire day. Dorothea and Giuliano searched high and low for her but could not find her. At the end of the day, when Maria returned, they were upset at her rebellious behavior but convinced that she was quite serious about her position on this proposed marriage, so they told the man’s parents that they would not consent. Some time thereafter, the handsome Giovanni Lampasona from the neaby home town of Salemi appeared at the de Corte home. Since his parents were not available, he made his “pitch” himself. Maria let it be known that she definitely wanted to marry him, so her parents, skeptical about this man who left his family behind in Sicilia, but concerned that their daughter was approaching age 17 (and practically an old maid), gave their consent.. Another version of this story was that Grandma’s parents were not very impressed with Grandpa when he came to ask for her hand, and wanted to reject his proposal, but that Grandma was so smitten with him and that he was the suitor that she threatened to throw herself down the well over if she did not marry Giovanni, and so her parents consented to the marriage. In any case, both stories confirm Grandma’s strong will which she demonstrated early in life. The marriage took place in New Orleans in a Catholic Church. The bride was 17, the groom 27. The expenses were divided between the bride’s family and the groom, with the bride providing the trousseau and the groom paying for some furniture and the reception. Grandpa also paid for the bride’s dress, which was orchid in color and cost the sum of $35. Following Sicilian tradition, the wedding was on Saturday morning, followed by a feast at the bride’s home, and celebration continuing through Sunday night. Soon after the wedding, Grandma and Grandpa and her family left New Orleans for Texas, where they spent time in Brazos County. In 1900 they moved to Bryan, where their first child, Rosa, was born on November l, 1900, All Saints Day. In keeping with Sicilian tradition, the first daughter was named after the father’s mother, Rosaria. Their second child, a son, was named after Grandpa’s father, Antonio (Tony). In all, 13 children were born to them in a span of 20 years. They followed the traditional naming system throughout, naming their second daughter, Dorothea, after Grandma’s mother, their second son after Grandma’s father, Giuliano (Julius), their next son after Grandpa’s oldest brother, Giuseppe (Joe), the next daughter after Grandpa’s oldest sister, Mariana (Mary Ann), the next son after Grandma’s only brother, Francesco (Frank), and so on. Dorothea died at the age of about eight of pneumonia, before the birt of Aunt Adeline. To honor the dead child, and in keeping with the Sicilian naming system, the next daughter was named Dorothea, name which “Adelene” apparently abandoned as soon as possible. Twin boys were born in 1917 and although they seemed healthy enough, they both died at about two months of age. Some say that they were never officially named because they had not been baptized; Uncle Sam Lampson said they were called Sam and Mike, and that he is named Sam after the deceased twin. The thirteenth child, Lena, was the only one of Grandma’s babies delivered by a doctor. Lena died in the 1920’s at the age of four or six, probably of an infection or some sort of blood poisoning that would be easily curable by antibiotics today.