Born: March 17, 1879
Died: November 23, 1954
He was born Michele Arcangelo Lamonaca on March 17, 1879 in the village of Forenza, Italy. Forenza is located in the Potenza Province of the Basilicata Region in Southern Italy.
|Mike Lamonica (driving) and friend|
He was born to Antonio Lamonaca and Christina Fiore. (Note the spelling of the name “Lamonaca”. It was not until the 1960’s did the family have confirmation of this).
I believe his father must have died shortly after his birth. We know that his mother married Raffale Angelo Pierro and on July 16, 1883 gave birth to his half brother Vito Ralph Pierro. This couple had another child, Antonio Pierro on March 1, 1895.There are little details of the early years of life in and around Forenza, Italy. We do know that these were difficult times with the area recovering from some deadly earthquakes. By 1896, just 17 years old, he was a member of the Italian military. Some of his military papers were passed down over the years, thus we can document this period of his life. He rose to the status of the “Reggimento Bersaglieri”; a sharp shooter for the Royal Italian Army.
On May 5, 1900, while still a member of the military, He married Mary Michelle Iaquiele of Potenza, Italy. She was the daughter of Biaggio Iaquiele and Antonetta Colabello. He continued to serve in the Royal Italian Army for the next several years as we can document significant dates in his military papers; where he was active until about 1902.
In 1903 with his young wife pregnant, he made the same decision many young Italian men were making at the time. Lamonica decided to try his luck by going to America. In those days, trips were undertaken with the intention of returning home with money. Once back, they used their earnings to buy some land or a home. It was often necessary to make more than one trip to obtain enough money to complete their transactions.
So on March 4, 1903 he boarded the SS Nored America with a load of others, many form Forenza and they sailed to Ellis Island, New York and 14 days later, they landed on American soil.
While Mike was trying to settle into the new country, his wife Mary gave birth to a daughter Grace Marie Lamonica on September 12, 1903. Having landed a job in the Steubenville, Ohio area, Mike sent for his wife and daughter Grace to join him in the new country, and they arrived on February 15, 1907.
Just a year later, on February 17, 1908, Mary gave birth to the couples’ only son Donato Antonio Lamonica. Shortly after this event, the couple travelled back to Italy. This was fairly common for the day, as many Italians returned home with some savings to help the rest of the family.
Once again, with his wife pregnant with child number three, Lamonica headed for Naples, Italy. On January 7, 1909 he boarded the SS Duca Delgi Abruzzi, arriving in New York on January 19, 1909.
He went back to work in Steubenville as a barber. His wife left in Forenza, Italy where she welcomed Christina Marie Lamonica on March 19, 1909.
On April 5, 1912, Lamonica received his Naturalization papers in Jefferson County, Ohio. The Lamonica family was living at 301 North Seventh Street in Steubenville, Ohio at the time. According to the papers, Grace, 9, and Dan, 4, were living in Steubenville while the youngest, Christina was in Forenza with her mother.
Lamonica continued to work as a barber and made himself a popular figure among the Italian community. At some point, the two children returned to Italy and by 1918, Lamonica was once again living by himself in Steubenville while his wife and three kids were back to their comfortable surroundings of Forenza, Italy.
In September of 1918 he was required to register for the draft as the United States was in the midst of World War I. We know that he was still making his living as a barber and he was living at 229 Sixth Street, Steubenville, Ohio.
A newspaper article appeared on the front page of the November 26, 1918 edition of the Steubenville Herald Star. The headlines read “Local Boy Reported Dead Writes to his Relatives”.
Two weeks prior, Lamonica received an official War Department telegram informing him that Private Antonio Pierro had been killed in action. Pierro, Lamonica’s half-brother, was a member of Company K, 47th US Infantry. His letter said he was in good health despite reporting three hard weeks of fighting in France.
Able to set roots in the Steubenville community, Mike sent for his family. We know that his wife and three children left Naples, Italy on September 14, 1920. Mary along with daughter Grace, 17, son Dan, 12, and daughter Christina, 11, once again made the trip through Ellis Island, NY, this time aboard the SS Thomas.
The record manifest from the ship lists her mother and sister Grace’s occupation as “spinner”. It also lists their final destination as Weirton, West Virginia. As a sidebar, we find Mike Lamonica listed in the 1920 US Census in Hancock County (Weirton).
The “Roaring Twenties” was just that in Steubenville, Ohio. The area was full of crime and corruption. The newspaper reports are filled with shootings, stabbings, murders and a host of other not so nice activates.
Consider the following newspaper report from September, 1921. “Tony Ridgleo and his father Dominic Ridgleo were arrested last night and placed under peace bond by justice Downer at the instance of Mike Lamonica, of Weirton, who alleges that the two men threatened to kill him, one menacing him with a gun and the other with an axe. A gambling debt was the cause of the trouble, officials say.”
In 1922, daughter Grace married Vito Giovanni Gallo and on September 15, 1922 Lamonica became a grandfather as Grace gave birth to son Dominic A. Gallo.
In July of 1922 Lamonica filed for divorce from his wife Mary. The newspaper article states that Lamonica be granted custody of the children. It is unknown what action was taken as most of his grandchildren remember the couple being together for the majority of their lives until death.
He became a grandfather again on March 18, 1924 when daughter Grace gave birth to daughter Mary Gallo.
In September of 1924, Lamonica posted bail for a local woman – Gustina Laurina – who was arrested and charged with bigamy. The $1,000 bond was furnished by Lamonica.
On June 27, 1925 daughter Grace gave birth two her second son – Mike.
In June of 1926 fellow Italian immigrant and friend Nick Fiore, 48, was shot and killed on North Seventh Street. A pool hall owner, Fiore was murdered in what the newspaper describe as the work of “blackhanders”. It was the 12th killing in the past three months for Jefferson County, Ohio.
Fiore left three children – James, Mary and Angelo. Just two weeks later, Lamonica was appointed by the courts, as the children’s legal guardian.
In 1928 son Dan, who had followed in his father’s steps and became a barber, married Mary Lupinetti. Also, later that year on November 18, 1928 the couple gave Mike Lamonica another grand child when Mary Louise Lamonica was born.
|Mary Michele Iaquiele Lamonica|
By 1930, Lamonica, wife and daughter Christina were living on Maryland Avenue in Steubenville, Ohio. According to the US Census, he was listed as a barber.
On June 28, 1934 his daughter Christina married John “Chico” Ciccolella. Just one year later, Christina gave birth to her first child, Antonetta.
|Tony Pierro (drinking) and |
his step brother Mike Lamonica
During the 1930’s Lamonica continued to thrive in his barber and beauty shop business. By 1935 Lamonica was summonsed to court along with the three former children he was given guardianship – James, Mary and Angelo Fiore. The father of the children, Nick Fiore, owed a debt to the local bank on some property he had mortgaged.
The rough life continued on the streets of Steubenville as reported in April of 1936. Lamonica suffered a severe knife wound on the right ear. According to a police report, Lamonica filed charges against Frank Cardora for the incident,
Lamonica was also in the news again, this time for posting $3,000 bond for Charles Stewart. Lamonica and friend Forrest W. Muster put up property they owned as bond.
He continued to serve as a barber and some time in the early 1940s moved his operation to Follansbee. As with most men of the time, he was required to register when WWII rolled around. On his 1942 draft card, he lists his barber shop on Main Street, Follansbee.
On June 29, 1950 his wife of 50 years, Mary died and was buried in Steubenville, Ohio at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
|Head stone of Mike and Mary Lamonica from Mt. Calvary Cemetery|
Four years later on November 23, 1954 Mike Lamonica passed away and was buried next to his wife in the Mount Calvary Cemetery. He was survived by three children and 13 grandchildren.