If you asked me where moonshine originated, I’d say the mountains of North Carolina. And truth be told, I have two jars of it in my freezer right now – gifts from two different people. But here’s a fun diversion from my Giorgio family research to share a story about moonshine.
When Rick and I met Dominic Renzi at his home in Brick, New Jersey in March 2016, I typed furiously as he recalled many stories of his time in Connellsville, PA. His family had a farm on Limestone Hill. Dominic and his brother Gene are connected to the George family because their father married Lena George on September 5th 1939, just four months after their mother died.
Dominic’s father Nick Renzi was born in Italy but came to Pennsylvania as a young boy. Nick’s father was already here when he sent for his wife and two children to join him in the early 1900s.
Nick’s father Dominic and his brother Joseph were stonemasons from Italy. In the Italian naming tradition, Nick’s first son was named after his father. Sadly, Nick’s father and uncle died in 1918, victims of the influenza epidemic. Here’s a picture of Nick as child with his father Dominic (on the left) and his uncle, Louis Renzi.
So here’s a story – just as I typed it last March as Dominic shared what he knew about his grandfather Dominic.
The Renzi farm was in Dunbar Township on Limestone Hill. My grandfather was into moonshine, which he also had been in Italy when he lived in the northern section near Switzerland. The family was pretty well off. They built a smaller house near the farm house and there was a tunnel that ran between the two houses. When they first moved to Dunbar Township they had pigs on the farm. They built a slaughter house nearby, which would mask the smell of the moonshine operations.
Fast forward to this news from the Connellsville Courier in May 1929, a few months before Dominic was born.
In case you can’t read the names in the article, the two men arrested during the raid were Samuel Joseph and Carmello Strullia. The reason I think this might be the first Dominic Renzi’s still is because the article describes it as being unique because it was constructed entirely of wood. Here’s the continuation of the article.
I love it when family recollections are borne out in the press. And have I mentioned that there’s nothing like reading old newspapers to get your mind off the divisions that exist in our country today and the unending stream of political rants that seem to pervade every aspect of our lives?
So yes – it is bit of a diversion from Custode’s story but it is so much fun to get an idea of what life was like in the community and I couldn’t resist sharing an article that I think Dominic Renzi would really enjoy about what became of his grandfather’s still.