So About those Properties in Dunbar

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Custode’s case that Pasquale’s claim was bogus and that Andy did not owe Pasquale anything, filed in Uniontown in June 1912.
  3. 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.






7 thoughts on “So About those Properties in Dunbar

  1. I remember my father pointing “the store” out to us when we went to visit Grandma George. It wasn’t directly across the street from her house but probably a block or two away. It was a two story wood building with a large porch. It looked empty and my dad seemed very nostalgic showing it to us.


    • Good information – thanks Lainie. That would put the store closer to the main business part of Dunbar which makes sense. It is also possible that some of the named streets that are on the map today weren’t there in 1912 so there was more space between 3rd Street and 4th Street.
      Unfortunately the address of 128 Connellsville doesn’t show up on the census reports until 1940 so it’s hard to hone in on exactly where she lived. In the 1910 census no street name is given and in 1920 and 1930 census reports Connellsville Street, without an address is listed.
      I would imagine the boys worked in the store.
      From the court testimony it sounds like Custode stopped working in the store in August 1912 but I suppose she may have continued working there at a later date.


      • God bless you & Rick for this incredible family history you are unfolding.
        The New Haven to which you refer is now the west side of Connellsville where I
        Lived. Not sure when C’ville annexed it.
        When Grandma died, her house was given to Aunt Lena. She then sold it for a rediculously cheap amt. maybe you can check on that when you come up. Let us know & we will be help in any way you need.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I love hearing everyone’s ideas about this. It also occurred to me that Adriano and Custode might not have owned the building that the store was in. This would be one explanation that would reconcile the building that Bill Galand pointed out to Dominic Renzi and the two story wooden structure that Joe pointed out to his daughters as the store.
        One thing is for sure – you can’t really appreciate what a booming town Dunbar was from the late 1800s to maybe 1920 from what is there today. It had two railroad stations, several banks, two hotels (the Dunbar House owned by Antonio Bufano who was the translator in Grandma’s lawsuit) and several grocery stores, dry good stores and a fruit store owned by Frank Bell – whose real name was Guiseppi Cuperaggi. More about him later today.


      • Carole
        How long did it take for you to get from your house to Grandma George’s house and how often did you go? How did she get along with your mother? Any thoughts on whether or not she wanted her sons to marry “American” girls, since it seems they all did – with the exception of Nick who married someone with Iacobucci connections so that may have had something to do with it.
        I have it in my mind that she wanted the boys to assimilate and be successful. When I research some of the Italian men of prominence in the community that she may have looked up to (i.e. Anthony Bufano – who was the interpreter in her court case and quite a successful businessman in Dunbar before he moved to NYC in the 1930s) they seemed to have married American women.
        Of course, your mother was an immigrant too right? But from England.
        Would love to hear more about any interactions you remember between Custode and your mother.


  2. I like the way you are giving us the story of your research in first person. No fiction here!! Priscilla

    On Mon, Feb 6, 2017 at 11:19 PM, Trovando Famiglia wrote:

    > kakingsbury posted: “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” >


  3. As I remember, Grandma’s house and Aunt Phil’s house were connected by each other’s back yard … Grandma lived on Connellsville Street and Aunt Phil’s address was High Street … High Street was on the side of Grandma’s house … like she lived on the corner of Connellsville St. and High St. … and there was a garden in each back yard, so that the gardens became one … I was only there one time that I remember and I am trusting my memory on this one … I also remember that High St. was an up-hill drive …


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