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Pacentro in the 19th Century

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

In 1837, a world-wide cholera pandemic devastated the village of Pacentro. This story and another from the 19th-century were found within the many records uncovered while researching the genealogy of the village of Pacentro. Both demonstrate the difficult life of villagers during the 19th century...

The Cholera Epidemic of 1837

During the 1837 cholera epidemic in Pacentro, there were 189 deaths, with the greatest concentration (N = 92) occurring from July through September. Father Pasquale Galterio provided an annotated entry in the church registry showing that the cholera epidemic began on 17 July 1837 and lasted until 17 September 1837. According to this account, 178 men, women and children died as a result of the cholera epidemic. The first spike in deaths was noted in July, when 17 villagers succumbed to the disease. This modest spike followed significant peaks in August (N = 41) and September (N = 34) (Di Cesare, A., 1986, "Un Mese in Pacentro," p. 135).

Among the victims of the 1837 cholera epidemic was Maria Donata Tollis, the 35-year-old widow of Giuseppe Pasquale “Peppe” Cercone and the mother of 13-month old Anna Giuseppa Cercone and 3-year-old Giustino Cercone. Three days after Maria Donata’s death on August 13th, another victim succumbed, her infant daughter Anna Giuseppa. Of the seven children born to Maria Donata Tollis and Giuseppe Cercone, none survived beyond the age of six years, including their orphaned son, Giustino, who died in 1839 at age five. Arcangelo “Vincenzo” Cianferra (age 40) and his wife, Maria Emanuela Tollis (age 40), the sister of Maria Donata, respectfully succumbed on 2 September 1837 and 5 September 1837, leaving three children as orphans. The 72-year-old village priest, Father Giuseppe Galterio, succumbed to the effects of cholera and was buried on 29 August 1837.

Women and Childbearing

In March of 1834, Brigida Carmina Caraccia, a filatrice (spinner) from Strada Rua Cacchiarella, married Donato Giuseppe (Marinaccia) Cercone, a muratore (bricklayer) from Strada Della Rava. Their first child was born in March of 1835, another child was born in 1836, two children were born in 1837 (one in January and one in October!!), then the remaining 13 children were born between 1839 and 1861 (i.e, 1839, 1841, 1842, 1844, 1846, 1848, 1850, 1851, 1853, 1854, 1856, 1858, and 1861). Eight of the 17 died as infants or young children, which wasn't unusual given the difficult living conditions with overcrowding, poor sanitation, and poor diets. Is it any wonder that this poor woman died on 10 May 1862, which was only 8-months after the birth of her 17th child! The following year on 24 Sept 1863, Donato remarried and lived approximately 10-more years. He and his second wife had no children, but she had the task of raising the younger children of Brigida.

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