First, let me say that it’s February 6th and I’ve only missed one day of writing in the Family History Writing Challenge. More importantly, I have truly written for the 30 minutes each day devoted to the task. I have not let myself get distracted by doing research or chasing bright shiny objects (two of my favorite distractions.)
But there are 55 hours in a weekend. Even if you take away 30 for doing things like sleeping, eating and cleaning house, you still have 25 hours for research and writing. I spent about four hours on Sunday pouring over enumeration district maps from the National Archives that are on line through Family Search. It’s a bit of a tedious process and frustrating when I learned at the end of the process that the maps for Dunbar – the town not the Township – were not there.
But instead of what I DIDN’T find – let’s focus on the positive. I spent a good amount of time reviewing the deeds and anything I could find about the lawsuits involving the properties. First let me give a huge shout out to Dominic Renzi – our oldest living relative who remembers life with Custode! There is nothing like first-hand information to corroborate your theories. Dominic provided important information to help me focus in on the location of the various properties I was researching.
So despite a lot of wheeling and dealing that made it look like many properties were changing hands, the real estate holdings of “Andy George” and Custode George essentially boiled down to three properties in Dunbar. The property Custode lived in – located at 128 Connellsville Avenue, the house that Philomena and Anthony Galand and their three sons lived in that was up the hill behind Custode’s house, and the property that I believe was the store that Andy and Custode ran from 1904 to 1912, which was located across Connellsville Avenue from Custode’s house. (Maybe — see comments below this post.)
On the map below, the red dot is Custode’s house, the blue dot is Aunt Phil’s house and the yellow triangle marks the spot that I believe was the location of the store. (Aunt Phil’s might actually be on the other side of Hayes Street which may not have been a street in 1912.) This theory only holds water if “back in the day” (circa 1910) what is now known as Highland Avenue was known as 4th Street.
I won’t bore you with the dates of the various transactions but from about 1907, when Custode and Adriano bought their first property, which I call the Fourth Street Property, until February 1912 when Andy “made” Custode sign all the properties over to him (and paid her $3,500 for them) the various transfers between the two of them only involved three properties: the Fourth Street property – aka the store (yellow); Custode’s house, at the corner of Connellsville Street and Highland Avenue (red), and Aunt Phil’s house (blue).
My theory is that what is now known as Highland Street used to be 4th Street – okay actually that is Rick’s discovery from studying the maps (thanks Rick!) and that property was probably the store. It was also the only property of the three that Custode did not end up with at the end of the lawsuits.
This theory fits with Dominic’s recollection which I’ve copied below:
One day talking to William (Bill ) Galand sitting on the wall facing Connellsville Street, Bill said, “Do you see that building,” which was across Connellsville Street from where we were sitting, “it used to belong to our grandmother.”
Only half of the building was left and I think it was brick, but a mixed color brick, not red or brown. It looked like there might have been a fire, or maybe it was being torn down, but it was facing Connellsville Street on the left corner across from Grandma George’s house. It might still be there.
Sadly – it is not still there. But it makes sense that the properties that Andy and Custode George owned were close together. I’ve yet to find a map of Dunbar that identifies a 4th Street (even though there is more than one 1st, 2nd, and 3rd street in different locations) so I like Rick’s idea that Highland Avenue used to be 4th Street.
So now for the surprise ending – at least for the properties. After all was said and done with the lawsuits, which included:
- Pasquale’s case to collect on a $3,000 debt from Andy George (his brother) decided by a court in New Castle in May 1912.
- Custode’s case that Pasquale’s claim was bogus and that Andy did not owe Pasquale anything, filed in Uniontown in June 1912.
- Andy George’s bankruptcy case, in which William L. Gans was appointed as a bankruptcy trustee on January 31, 1913 ….
. . . Custode got to keep the properties shown with the red and blue dots on the map above and the bankruptcy trustee got to sell the store – aka the Fourth Street property, which is shown in yellow on the map above – at a public auction, which took place on March 27, 1915.
The winning bid, at a price of $720 was none other than (drumroll please . . . )
What the heck??!!! Clearly Pasquale was invested enough in the process to go to Dunbar (a good 2 hour drive from New Castle today but I’m sure he took the train) to bid on the property that his brother used to own. I might also add, that Pasquale made a trip to Italy in the summer of 1914 to get his second wife, and Rick and I assume, to see his brother “Andy” and fill him in on all that was going on in PA. Of course by the time of Pasquale’s visit in 1914, Andy had already married his third wife and probably had no intention of returning to the US. (or did he????)
Sooo . .. were they all in cahoots to defraud Andy’s creditors or were Custode and Pasquale at odds with each other (my assumption.) If so, what a burr in her side to have Pasquale owning the property that used to be her livelihood and source of income – the store – ACROSS THE STREET from her. (And we wonder why she was bitter.)
Which is why Rick and I need another trip – SOON – to the courthouse in Uniontown, PA to see how long Pasquale owned that property and who he sold it to.
Oh yes, and there’s that small matter of the lot in New Haven that Custode bought in her own name March 1912. It wasn’t mentioned in the lawsuits and it wasn’t mentioned in her will, so presumably she sold it at some point before she died. Probably, she rented it out as a source of income. It may not have even had a house on it because she only paid $150 for it and the other lots in Dunbar that she and Andy bought ranged in price from $900 to $1,300.
Of course, I like to think that Custode kept it as her “love shack” where she and Jimmy Versace went when she wanted to get away from her nine children and have a little fun- but that’s the fictional version of this tale – colored by a bit too much romanticism – but maybe …
Come on – can’t the girl have a little fun?!?
PS – I should probably stop with the Jimmy Versace stories – I actually don’t think there was anything going on between them. I think that Francis, her last child, was born sometime between September 1912 and June 1913 (I still haven’t found his birth date – he’s more of a mystery than Custode) and I think he was Andy’s child.