Emigration from Mortale

How villagers began to move away from the region

It was in the 1880s that some of the Mortalese decided to move away from the area in search of prosperity.  It is said that the first to leave was Pacifico Forte, who like many of the other contadini worked hard but decided to brave a journey which would take him through Europe and right up to Scotland.  The reason for venturing so far north is unclear, but it is likely that he met someone en route who suggested that Scotland was the best place to head for.  Once established there, he set up a shop selling confectionery and tobacco, before meeting a chef from Dundee who taught him how to make ice cream.  He opened a cafe and sent for other Fortes to come from Mortale to help him run the business.

Pacifico Forte was the great grandson of Andrea Onorio Forte and was
born in Mortale on 23rd April 1857.  He was in his 20s when he took that
brave decision to leave the mountains and we know that he became a
successful cafe owner in Scotland.  Sadly however, after returning to
Mortale, he sustained fatal injuries on 4th January 1926 falling out of an
olive tree half way down la via antica, the old road which connected Mortale
with the valley.  His brother, Camillo Forte (father of Consalvo, Isolina,
Amedeo, Pace and Elena) erected this cross in memory of his brother and
the engraved message can still be seen by the fateful olive tree to this day. 
It translates as:  "This cross
has been put up by Camillo Forte in memory of his brother Pacifico, who was tragically taken by a fatal fall from an olive tree whilst picking fruit on 4th January 1926".

There were definite oportunities in Scotland and, as the years went by, more and more of the men followed Pacifico's lead.  Some walked all the way and others went by more conventional means.  Spare money was sent home, the Visocchi debt was eventually settled, and gradually wives and children began to set out on the long journey to join their husbands wherever they were.

Many of the Mortalese ventured as far as the United States of America, setting off by rail from Roccasecca station and making their way to Naples.  Here they would board ships bound for America, a journey which, at the time, would often take weeks on relatively primitive vessels slowly making their way across the Atlantic towards New York.  Once there, they would disembark at Ellis Island, stay in boarding houses and seek out other Italians who had also braved this long journey into the unknown.  Many returned, but several stayed and settled in areas such as Pittsburgh, Boston and New York itself.

Records for many of these journeys still exist and the names of many Mortalese appear on ship manifests in the Ellis Island records.  On the 11th May, 1895, a group from the village arrived in Ellis Islan on SS Bothnia having left Naples two weeks earlier, sailing via Gibraltar.  The ship and the relevant page from the manifest are shown below.





Passengers from Mortale included my grandfather, Alfonso (age 15, later father of Giovanni, Aquilino, Annino, Carmine, Teresa and Mariannina), Rocco Forte (age 15, later father of Anna, Michael, Charles and Giulio), his father Carmine Forte (age 42), Salvatore Forte (age 56, father of Francesco, Alessandra, Don Crescenzo, Maria Carolina, Domenica and Donato), Crescenzo Forte (age 16, later father of Giuseppe, Margherita and Elena, his father Antonio Forte (age 51).  All travelled to Philadelphia but few stayed for long.

My grandfather, Alfonso, returned to America some years later in 1907 to visit his older brother Vincenzo in Pittsburgh.  This time just he and Crescenzo Forte travelled on board SS Königen Luise, leaving Naples on 31st May and arriving in New York exactly a fortnight later on 14th June 1907.  Alfonso was soon to return but Crescenzo settled in the New York area for many years.  The ship and the first page of the manifest are shown below.



Over the years some families moved to America, some went to Ireland, France and Belgium, but the majority went to Scotland initially before migrating to other parts of the British Isles.  They tended to start out as musicians or ice cream sellers, and then cafe owners, but whatever they ended up doing, they always worked hard and gradually began to establish themselves.

© 2010 Paul Forte

Memorial to Pacifico Forte

SS Bothnia

SS Bothnia ship manifest

SS Königen Luis ship manifest

SS Königen Luis

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