My grandfather Clifford McArdle (1916-1943) died young in a tragic accident. He was quite a character though! (and he came from a family of unique individuals) My grandfather McArdle lost his mother young (at 6) and was raised by his father (who was trick shooter, moonshiner, and all around character – if I remember the story correctly Elmer McArdle was even friends with Buffalo Bill Cody). He drowned in 1943 when my mother was only three while swimming at Ellsworth Park.
Most of the stories I’ve heard about him involve his ‘wild’ young days… plus one that involves him sitting in a creek with a high fever ‘rowing his little canoe’ while his sister Hattie Jane was caring for them.
Most of the stories include antics that my grandfather did with his brothers that were everything from dangerous to illegal. Stories include everything from running moonshine, with Clifford driving a decoy car to my uncles burning down a barn. My Uncle Frank chose to go to the military for that one and my Uncle Ralph went to jail. Ralph was released when they found he had TB. He passed away shortly after being released. Stories even include them breaking my grandfather out of the little jail in Belgiumtown Illinois that isn’t there anymore – they pulled the side off from what I remember.
The stories are like things you would hear as tall tales. Clifford McArdle even took a guitar and billy club from a policeman’s car one evening…. Hard to believe it’s true, but I’ve actually seen the guitar and billy club. I have no idea where they are now, but at the time they were being passed down through the family.
Another story included my grandfather going to a dentist during the depression and not paying. He had given a false name and knew the dentist wouldn’t find him. – I wonder how that worked since it’s such a small town you would think everyone knew each other!
Stories from growing up included my great grandfather Elmer expecting the boys to learn to shoot – setting up a small hoop and a bell and expecting them to shoot through the hoop and ring the bell. My grandfather and his brothers would also run around in my great grandfather’s house and reset all his clocks – he was determined to have lots of clocks, all set to the same time). They devoted a lot of time to pulling off pranks.
My grandfather died in 1943 when swimming at Ellsworth park by one of the spillways. The story I had always heard was that he was swimming with my mother and brought her to the shore and sat her down before venturing out into the river again. He was on the spillway when someone opened the gates on the dam upriver. The undertow from the spillway held him underwater for several days before finally releasing him. His hair was a bright red color and finally made it easy to find his body stuck in the trees with the sun shining on his hair.
My great grandmother came to the US by ship in the early 1900s. My great grandfather was sent over first to find work and then my great grandmother followed within a couple years with three girls. I can’t even imagine how difficult that journey was! I’ve visited Ellis Island and I know how difficult it is to even travel domestically for a few hours with a small child. At that time there was also the fear of illness causing entry to the US to be denied, quarantine upon reaching the US, not to mention the language barrier!
My great grandmother was an amazing women that I never got to meet… my mother tells stories about asking her if she would like to go back to Italy to visit and her always answering it’s “too far”. She did receive citizenship, but even that was delayed. My g-grandfather had applied and was in process when he passed away of the flu in 1918 (He was a coal miner). My g-grandmother would have received citizenship based on his. Yet because of that, she stayed in the US after, always afraid she would be sent back. After coming to the US she went on to have several more children – losing two, one that came to the US with her (Theresa, same name as my grandmother and Francine). My grandmother was the last of the children, and was born shortly before my g-grandfather died of the flu – leading me to believe there may have been more if not for his untimely death.
My great grandmother did keep in touch with family, but contact was lost when she passed away. I was hoping to get back in touch and so a few years ago I wrote to all the Negris in the town she was from.
Il mio nome e’ Karla Andrew. Abito a Bowling Green, Kentucky STATI UNITI. Mio bisnonne si chiamavano Caterina Maria Negi, e’ nato a Locana ed emigrato negli Stati Uniti nel 1905. Vorrei mettermi in contatto con qualche mio parente ancora residente a Locana.
Non saprei dire se sono imparentato con qualcuno che port ail cognomen Negri residente a Locana. Mi rivolgo a chiunque porti il cognomen Negri ed abbia lo stesso nome di battesimo di mio bisnonne. Mio bisnonne e’ nato il 17 Nov 1874.
Qualora Lei ritenga che possiamo essere imparentati, Le sarei grato se vorra rispondere a questa lettera. Nel caso, invece, che fosse dell’avviso che non fossimo imparentati ma dovesse conoscere qualcuno che si chiama Negri che possa essere imparentato con me Le sarei grato se vorra’ consegnare questa lettera a quella persona.
Voglia gradire I miei sinceri saluti.
The town was very small and so there weren’t many to write to. I was very excited to get a reply and now try to keep in touch! Right around the same time, my husband put me in touch with someone that was familiar with the area that my great grandmother was from and they were able to translate letters that my family still had that she had kept! Both my mother and I hope to one day visit!
Locana, April 10th, 1951
Very dear godmother, Today it is with great pleasure that I reply to your
letter, in which I read that you are all in good health. We are all [in good
health] too, thanking the Lord. This winter was very sad for all of us,
specially for the elderly people. I thought a lot of you, who are a bit old
too. I wondered how my godmother is doing, since many elderly people died here,
even some of our relatives. I told you already of the Casetti[s] in the letter
I wrote to your son-in-law Firmino. Take care of you and try to shelter you
from the cold, and also do not worry about us; here we work and have fair
meals, we are not starving. I thank you of your dear present. May the Lord to
repay you. Should you need anything from us, let us know. I will immediately do
it. Meantime, I wish you and all your family good health and luck. Many kisses
to you all and to your son-in-law Firmino. I think he should have already
received the letter I sent him. Take care and best wishes from all of us and my
wife. Yours godson Battista Gianotti
Locana, October 8, 1951
Very dear godmother,
with great pleasure I reply to your dear letter, where I read that you are all
in good health as we all are, thanking the Lord. Dear godmother, you asked me a
pair of earrings but I do not know how to send them to you. I am afraid someone
could steal them on the way, and you will not receive them. Well, let me know
in your next letter how you would like them, big or small gold earrings? I will
then think of a way to send them to you. If someone steals them n the way, oh
well… I thank you with all my heart of the present you sent me. May the Lord
repay you. I should now say goodbye to you and your dear family with all my
heart. Say best wishes to your son-in-law Firmino and his family. Tell your
daughter to be strong. It was destiny’s will. This [eartly] world is only a
passage. Best wishes and kisses to everybody. Best wishes from my wife. Stay
well. Yours, forever, godson Battista Gianotti
LOcana, March 12th 2952
Very dear godmother and family, Today, with this letter I want to give you news
of our health. We are all well, although I am suffering a bit because of a pain
to my shoulder. I suffer from arthritis, and I could not sleep at all for
several nights. I do not know if [the cause] is that I walked in the rain, or
this winter is very cold and windy, or I am getting old and sicker. Anyway, I
reply with all my heart to your letter, that I [just] received. I am glad to
hear that you were in good health. May the Lord to keep it for a long time, we
wish you this very much. I heard that it was very cold there. Here too, it was
always windy but we had snow only once, just a little. Let’s hope that nice
weather will come soon. Meantime, I thank you for your present. May the Lord
pay you back. Receive many wishes and kisses from all of us, and best regards
to all your dear family and to your son-in-law Firmino and his family. Receive
best regards from my wife. Dear godmother, take shelther from the cold and get
lots of kisses. Yours godson Battista Gianotti
Locana, May 14, 1952
Very dear grandmother and family, Today I reply with all my heart to your
letter I received, where I read that you are all in good health, though you too
have some minor pain to an arm and leg. I am very sorry you suffer. I know how
painful is, but I hope the warm weather will help you to recover a bit. Despite
this, the health is very good, as it seems is good for all of you too. Dear
godmother, I heard some time ago at the radio that vthere in Illinois you hade
floodings with a lot of damage. I immediately thought of you. Let’s hope with
all our heart that you did not suffer any damage. Meantime, I thank you of your
present. You always worry about me. May the Lord repay you with a lot of good
luck. Receive best regards from all of us and many kisses to you and all your
family. Best regards from my wife and best regards to your son-in-law Firmino.
Yours, forever, godson Battista Gianotti
Locana, December 13th 1952,
Very dear godmother, After a long time I did not hear from you, today I thought
to write you forst of all to give you news of us. We are all in good health, as
we hope you and all your family are too, my dear godmother. I often think of
you, who are already old, how were you doing this year, were you well? I hope
you did, always. This fall I had a strong back pain, I had to rest a while.
Then I found from a friend of my some American [incomprehensible]. I put it on
my back and the pain went immediately away, and now I feel no pain, I am
healed. I hope that also all your family is in perfect health, and your
son-in-law Firmino too. I have nothing left to say, so I send my regards with
all my heart. Best wishes of merry Christmas and happy new year to all of you.
And you, dear godmother, take care of you and receive lots of kisses. Yours,
forever, godson Battista Gianotti.
Locana, August 14th 1954
Very dear godmother and family,
today I have to give you very bad news. My daughter gave birth to two twin
daughters on June 4th. The delivery went well, but then after a few days she
had a strong pain to her stomach. We thought we were going to lose her. She
always had high fever. The doctor then cut one of her breast. The fever went
away and the babies are well. This was not enough… On July 24th a tragedy
occurred to us, we will never recover from it. Our son who had a job at
Ceresole went fishing early in the morning. He slipped in the water and died
suddenly. You can imagine what sorrow for us when we got the news. He was our
only son, he was a pretty boy, tall and strong, 25 years old. He would have
married this fall. His fiancee was a good girl. He was our pride. Now instead
we only despair. We cannot be well anymore. We raised a son till he was 25
years old and now we cannot see him anymore. You understand, all the
neighborood is grieving. Everybody knew him and he was good to everybody. At
his funeral in Locana nobody remembers having seen so many people. But for us
this is not important. We lost our son, and we always grieve and think of him.
We send you his memento. The picture is not so good though. Receive lots of
kisses and kisses too to your son-in-law Firmino. Yours godson Battista
Locana, April 15 1955
Very dear godmother and family,
it is with great pleasure that I reply to your letter, which I received some
time ago. I am sorry for the delay in replying to you. After we lost our son
Battista, we have no peace of mind left. We lost all interest in things, we do
not want to work anymore and do anything. Losing a 25 years old son chokes us
with pain, and as time goes by our life becomes harder and I hope this letter
will find you all in good health, as we all are, the children too are well.
Receive our best regards and lots of kisses to all you all. Best regards to
your son-in-law Firmino and his family. Take care of you dear godmother. Yours,
forever, godson Battista Gianotti thanking very much of your […] that you
always do for me.
Locana, June 6th 1956,
Very dear godmother and family,
today I come with these few words to tell you that I received news of you in
the past days. I did not get news of you since last year. I read in your letter
that you wrote me after I sent you the picture of the kids, and that you
enclosed a present with the letter. We never received it. I do not know what
happened, I even asked the post office. Never mind, we were all happy to
receive news of you, and that you all are in good health, as now we also are.
This winter was very bad, specially February, it was the coldest [February]
since many years. Many people were sick with a bad flu, specially the elderly
and the children. Many elderly died, and we thought a lot of you, who are old.
Tare care of you, dear godmother, because you and aunt Francesca of Santo are
the only survivor of the Negri family; nobody else is left. We wish you and all
your family good health, and best wishes to your son-in-law Firmino and his
family. Yours, forever, godson Battista Gianotti. Many kisses to all of you.
Locana, December 7th, 1956
Very dear godmother and family,
today I received your letter. We were very happy to hear that you are in good
health, as we all are here. Dear godmother, last time you wrote I immediately
replied. I also wrote that at that time Antonio Pezzetti, uncle Celetto of
Castigne’s son [Note: the spelling could be different, I can’t really decipher]
had just passed away, he was only 64. He has a throat cancer, ie a cancer in
his neck. We are very sad. Still we cannot convince ourselves this tragedy
really happened. We are almost alone here, [our?] daughter stays here just a
little, she has to go home because her son-in-law works in Torino. So we are
very sad, it would be better to be dead than to live this way, sometime we wish
not being alive. I would like to let you know that the mother of Bocia, whom
Marietta of Tonio got, [the meaning could be “whom Marietta of Tonio married”
or “whom Marietta of Tonio adopted”], Felicina is 100 years old and she is
still in good health. Okay, dear godmother, take care of you. Happy holidays
and happy new year to you and your dear family. Best wishes to your son-in-law
Firmino and his family. Many kisses to all of you, and happy holidays. We wish
you all the best with all our heart. Yours, forever, godson Battista Gianotti.
Locana, January 9th, 1957
Very dear godmother and family, first of all I want to write you these few
lines to give you news of us. We are all well, as we hope you also are. I want
also to tell you that some time ago I received a certified letter from you, and
I immediately replied. I think you received it. Anyway, I want to write again
[that letter] to have news of you. Now we have some time to write you. Here it
snowed, about 35 centimeters, but it is not so cold. Anyway, this is winter so,
dear godmother, take shelter from the cold because elderly people are more
affected than us. We wich you with all our heart a happy new year to all of
you, adults and children, young and old. Take care of your health. Best wishes
and kisses to all your family and your son-in-law Firmino and his family.
Yours, forever, godson Battista Gianotti. Take care, I will look forward to a
Locana, February 18, 1957
Very dear godmother, we thank you with all my heart for your letter, which we
received some days ago. We were very happy to hear that you all are in good
health, as we all are right now. I should tell you that it was not necessary
you troubled to write. It is sufficient you write me from time to time to give
me some news. You are in my heart because there are few Negri[s] left. Here
[only] Felicina is left, she is in good health and she still works like she
were young, and my wife’s aunt, Ciesca di Santo. Now I want to tell you that in
the family of your uncle Michele, who had three sons, one of them married
cousin Mariella. They now live in Castellamonte and they are not doing so well.
He had much sorrow too. He lost two daughters, one was 25 years old and was not
married. She was a pretty girl. The other was 24, she was married and had a
daughter. [Her daughter] is now with her mom. Her husband was taken prisoner in
Russia in 1945 and nobody heard from him since. Now our cousin is living with
her son and her grand-daughter. Uncle Michele had other two sons. One died. He
was married and had a daughter, who was also married with two children. I have
nothing left to say than to thank you and your family very much with all my
heart. If it would cost only 30,000 lire, I would very much come to see you and
all my relatives there, and I would stay some time with you. But it is too far
away. We will see in the other world, if it is true what people say. Take care
of you and try to pass next year in good health. Receive lots of kisses from
us, and best regards and kisses to you all and to your son-in-law Firmino and
his family. Yours, forever, godson Battista Gianotti. Take care.
Locana, January 4th 1958
Very dear godmother and family,
yesterday I received your letter. We were very happy to receive your news. I
could not resist and I really wanted to write to your son-in-law Firmino to
have news of you. In our family we wondered many times why my godmother does
not write anymore, is she ill, or what else did happen? I do not know anything
of her. But finally we were very happy to receive news of you and that you are
in good health. At your age, may the Lord to keep you in good health. You are
like Felicina here, who is still in a very good health. I would like to let you
know that on November 23rd we got the news that [Ghetto or Chetto] di Santo
passed away in America. He was only 64, but it was a long time he was
paraplegic. I read in your letter that you had flu this fall. The flu was
everywhere. I also had flu this fall, and my family members have it too. Now
they are all sick, my wife and daughter, and specially the kids. The doctor
came three times. I hope they will recover. We were very surprised that you
have many things in your yard. We have little here. Now I should thank you of
your present. May the Lord pay all of you back with good health and luck. I
wish you and your family a happy new year and lots of kisses from us, both to
you and your family. Best wishes to your son-in-law Firmino and his family. And
you, dear godmother, take care of you. Despite your age, it seems to me that
you are well. Yours, forever, godson Battista Gianotti, wishing you all the
best with all my heart, [I hope] to get a reply.
Locana, February 19, 1958
Very dear grandmother and family, Today I would like to all my heart to give
you news of us. We are very well, as we hope you all are. I read in your letter
that your son was ill after going hunting We thought that he sweated a lot and
got pneumonia or some other fever. We hope he recovered by now. Once my good
[…] also got sick. He sweated a lot and drank cold water. He got a strong
pneumonia and thought he would die. So tell your sons to be careful because
getting sick is very quick matter, but it takes a lot of time to recover. You
asked me of my brothers. They are all here with me and they are in good health
and are well off. The two younger ones work at the electric company and are
well off. The elder is also well and all his three sons are already married.
One is a tailor, another is a driver [not sure] and the daughter married a very
nice guy who is also a driver [not sure]. They have a hotel and grocery shop.
The youngest also lost a 16 years old son because of tiphoid fever. But they
also have another son, who is now 12 years old, a daughter who is already
married, and a third son, who has two married daughters and a 16 years old son
who lives with him. Her daughter married in Castellamonte with a guy who was
living in the Pezzetti farm of Castigne, our relatives, and she has two sons,
one of whom has already been drafted and the other is younger. They are well
off.. [All the above is very confused] The important matter is to be in good
health and have your family close to yourself. This is the best thing. One does
not starve, it is OK even if one eats only grits. Rather, when you miss a dear
person, nothing is really well. It seems OK for some time, some other day one
falls into despair. But we should be patient… I have nothing left to say than
goodbye with all my heart and thank you very much of your present. You always
worry about us. Best regards to your son-in-law Firmino and his family and lots
of kisses from all of us to you, dear godmother, and all your family. Best
regards from all my relatives and Felicina. Take care.
Locana, April 14, 1958
Very dear grandmother and family,
I am going to reply to your letter, which I received some time ago. I am sorry
if I reply with delay. We were very happy to hear news of you, that you were in
good health and your son recovered well too. May the Lord give us good health.
We’re in a harsh world, let’s hope at least for good health. We are also in
very good health and were happy to hear that your sons work as carpenters. It
is a good job. They will not have to go underground [in a mine]. My dear son
loved to be a carpenter, although he did not learn it [as an apprentice], but
now he is no more. that’s life. Now I’d like to let you know that yesterday
and today it snowed a lot. There is 70 centimeters of snow on the plain.
Nobody remembers such a snow fall in this season, mid-April. It snowed a lot
everywhere, even in France and Switzerland, even on the sea coast. I have
nothing let to say than to thank you of your present. You always worry about
us. We wish you good health and luck. Receive our best wishes and kisses. Best
regards to your son-in-law Firmino and his family. Take care of you, dear
godmother, shelther yourself from the bad weather, you and all your family.
Yours, forever, godson Battista Gianotti and family. Take care.
Locana, December 1, 1959
Dear godmother and family,
today I come to you all my heart to give you news of us and also to have news
of you. I wrote you a letter some time ago but I do not know if you received
it. As I did not get any reply from you I write again the news I had written in
my previous letter concerning (our) health, which is not so good. I had pain in
my knee and my wife had pain in her thigh. We do not know if it is because we
are aging or what it can be, but it is likely that the cause is the humidity,
as the doctor told us. We have to suffer and be patient. And you, dear
godmother, let us know how you are doing, you who are much older than us. And
let us know how your family is doing, we talk of your family as it were ours. I
would also tell you that this year it rained so much that we didn’t need to
water the fields. In the last 3 or 4 days it rained and snowed, the weather has
been awful. If it were summer, the weather would cause much damage to us. Now,
I have nothing left to say than send my regards with all my heart, and lots of
kisses to you, my godmother, and all your family. And best wishes to your
son-in-law. Firmino and his family. Your godson Battista Gianotti Be all well.