Written by Teresa Arant Compton. One in a collection by Allen Bachoroski, Local Historical Writer and author of “Tales Along the Highway of Legends”
One of my earliest memories as a small child was being tucked into bed down on the farm. I remember well the hand-stitched wool comforter, heavy and warm. The farm of which I speak belonged to my Grandfather and Grandmother, Frank and Teresa Salerno.
Frank came to the United States when he was eight years old, in 1890, with his parents and sister, Mary. They were from San Fili, Cosenza, Italy. Frank’s parents were Antonio and Guissipina Marina Salerno. They bought approximately forty acres of land two miles northeast of Trinidad in the area known as El Moro. They also owned fifty acres across from the Old El Moro School, and other property in the city of Trinidad. Antonio and Guissipina built a two-room adobe home, whose stout walls were to infold family, friends, and strangers. The original house was eventually expanded into seven rooms, and still stand today. With fortitude and hard work, the Salernos produced vegetables, and later sugar beets, wheat, and hay with abundance. Frank was a truck farmer, traveling to Gulnare, Ludlow, and other mining towns. He farmed the fields with draft horses, raised pigs, chikens, rabbits, and dairy cows. With only a few purchases being made in town, the Salernos were entirely self-sufficient.
When Papa was twenty-one years old, he sent for Teresa Chickens Onofrio, his pre-arranged wife-to-be. Teresa was the eldest daughter of Pasquale and Beatrice Onofrio of Cosenza, Italy. Pasquale worked in South America as a construction laborer, and would return to Italy every few years. Their other children were Antonio and Rafaella. Teresa and Frank were married at Holy Trinity Church in Trinidad shortly after her arrival. Nana used to tell me stories of her long ship voyage, the sighting of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the torturous and frightening train ride from New York to Trinidad. I used t o ask her to show me what was in her trunk, and she would. I beheld durable linens, delicate handmade tatting and lace…. her trunk was… as splendid as Macy’s Christmas windows!
Visits to the farm were, for me, a veritable delight. From eating foods prepared on the coal stove to dusting Nana’s pictures, I was made to feel special. Nana had quite an impressive collection of family photos! Frank and Teresa had ten children: Josephine, Congetta, Tony, Helen, Mary, Emily, Frank, Carrie, Pasquale, and Beatrice. Congetta died at four years of age. Mary died from measles at the age of seven. As Nana would say, “Each one more precious than the other”.
Deeply religious, Nana and Papa reared their children with a great sense of pride, instilling in them honesty and honor. They encouraged the value of work and education. My Grandparents’ life appeared to have been one of transparent reality: work, laughter, sorrow. It was a simple life yet, somehow better than today’s complex lifestyle. To me, their essence was magical.
Solid morality, unfaltering faith, resolute love, and intrepid strength are the riches of their legacy.
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