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Electric City Immigrants: Italians and Poles of Schenectady, N.Y., 1880-1930
Chapter 4: Protestant Evangelism

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[This information is from pp. 129-184 of Electric City Immigrants: Italians and Poles of Schenectady, N.Y., 1880-1930 by Dr. Robert R. Pascucci (State University of New York at Albany, Department of History, 1984). It is copyrighted by Dr. Pascucci and reproduced here with his permission. It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 325.24 PAS.]

On February 13, 1904 Protestant evangelism among the Italian immigrants of Schenectady was inaugurated. The session (governing body) of the First Presbyterian Church unanimously approved a resolution that provided for the establishment of a city mission to be called the "Third Ward Settlement." The resolution was the culmination of discussions that had begun the preceding fall when the young men and women of the Christian Endeavor Society expressed a desire to perform "some practical Christian work." On the advice of the pastor, it was decided to do "something" for the rapidly expanding Italian community, then numbering approximately 1,500 adults and 1,200 children. (1)

Justification for the proposed proselytism was based on the assumption that the Catholic Church had failed to "reach" the newcomers. Although "nominally a Catholic people," few were thought to be attending Catholic services. Responsibility for this situation, according to Protestant observers lay with both the Italian immigrants who were considered largely apathetic to religion, and the "Romanist" Church which seemed grossly indifferent to their spiritual welfare. (2) By contrast, the Poles, having had their own parish and Polish pastor since 1892, attracted little Protestant attention. Though both communities originated during the 1880s and Polish population growth rivaled that of the Italians, an Italian national church, St. Anthony's, was not organized until 1902. (3) Italians had been relegated to the basement quarters of the Irish-supported St. John's where they received the sacraments from a priest whose English was as incomprehensible to the immigrants as their Italian was to him. (4) With the founding of St. Anthony's the city's two thousand Italians seemed to be no better served. The "new" church was a decaying former Presbyterian chapel on Park Place that seated but 162 people. While claiming the Italian colony as his special preserve, the pastor, "a fool," soon "lost what little grip" he had on the immigrants. Thus, to optimistic Protestants, a great opportunity to do "frontier work" existed. (5)

Anxious to "promptly launch the work," the session appointed ten people, all active members of the Christian Endeavor Society and the Sunday school, to serve as an executive board with authority to develop and administer the mission, subject to the general supervision of the session. Elected chairman was George A. Brebner, a twenty-nine year old engineer in the employ of the General Electric Company. Later assuming the position of Sunday school superintendent as well, Brebner, a man of "untiring energy," became noted for his "rare faculty of inspiring the confidence of the Italians and of securing helpers for the work." His accidental death in 1907 was considered a severe loss. (6)

Due largely to a lack of sufficient funds to establish permanent and adequate quarters, the mission conducted its activities at many locations during the first thirteen years, a time of "pioneer work." Located not far from the First Presbyterian Church, the Front Street area, which contained the city's largest Italian neighborhood, was initially served and given priority throughout the period. Here a mission "station" was opened in April 1904 at 228 Front Street. From there the mission was moved to another flat at 5 River Street, but finding the rooms "small, drab and unsanitary," it remained for only a year. After a few months' stay at the German Temple on College Street (the former Lillian Hoffman Mission House), 218 Park Street was secured. Use of the whole building was given rent-free on condition that the interest on the mortgage be paid. Though not situated as close to the Front Street community as the other centers had been, this site proved the most suitable and was occupied until 1920. (7)

In an effort to "meet the Italians wherever they could be found," stations had been opened in other areas of Italian settlement. Expansion of the mission work began as early as April 1905 with the renting of the Villa Road Chapel located close to the Weaver Street neighborhood, a populous immigrant area adjacent to the General Electric Company and containing the city's most notorious red light district. Two years later the site was abandoned, however, in favor of a less expensive flat in the nearby Strong Street neighborhood where the "Italians seemed to be more intelligent than the average." Experiencing financial difficulties in supporting this mission as well as the one on River Street, the mission board terminated the former the following year (1908) despite its success in "getting some hold on the people as families." A period of retrenchment ended in 1910 when premises were offered on a limited basis without charge. Through the use of the city-supported Rescue Gospel Mission Hall (Centre Street) and the homes of Italian converts (Strong Street and Cutler Street), work was not only resumed in the Weaver Street and Strong Street neighborhoods, but also expanded into the rapidly growing Mt. Pleasant area. Here activities were soon transferred from the home of Nicholas Diodati on Cutler Street to the Mt. Pleasant Reformed Church which provided not only better accommodations but volunteer workers as well. By 1913, however, the efforts within these three sections of the city had been discontinued. (8)

To "reach the foreign element for their betterment," or, as later more specifically defined, to obtain the "spiritual, moral and mental uplift of the Italian element of the city," the methods and aims of both the religious mission and social settlement were adopted. However, "preaching the pure Gospel to a people who ignored its true fundamental principles" was the primary goal, and activities of a social, cultural and educational nature were subordinated. Actually, the secondary programs were designed to make broad "contacts" among the Italian population with the hope of a later introduction to the religious aspects of the mission. (9)

Since none of the volunteer workers spoke Italian, the work naturally began among the children of the immigrants. It was soon found that a most successful avenue to them was the operation of clubs. Among the girls, no activity proved more popular than the sewing class. Not only did it seem to fill a "real need" by giving them a "start on a useful life equipment," but also it provided the girls with many happy times. Sewing schools were conducted at various times in each area served by the mission, except the Strong Street district, where adequate room was never possessed. Attendance averaged about eighty until the closing of the Villa Road Chapel in 1907. Thereafter, it was generally half that number. Christmas and graduation parties, of course, drew the highest attendance, when not infrequently "strangers" were discovered. Even those who had not attended regularly were, nevertheless, thought to have been "influenced." After learning the basic stitches of hand sewing, the girls advanced to making aprons and skirts. The "little tots" who trailed their older sisters were organized into kindergarten classes. Requiring "endless patience" they were kept busy with colored yarn and sewing cards. Other than an occasional distribution of New Testaments, there appeared no direct attempt at religious indoctrination. Rather, the volunteers tried to provide "moral uplift" through personal example. (10)

Other club work provided for girls was far less fruitful. Cooking classes were tried, but lasted only two years (1904-1906). Despite Superintendent Esther G. Ely's claim that "patience and good judgement conquered," and that the school "closed under perfect control," the bevy of young culinary novices who were often a "trial" must have dampened the enthusiasm of the volunteers. One club was formed in late 1908 to attract girls not otherwise involved in mission activities. They were free to do anything that interested them: "play games, sing songs, write letters, study arithmetic, etc." Drawing only a half dozen girls, it was closed after ten weeks. (11)

Less success was achieved in the club work for boys. The clubs "for amusement only" became disorderly and were replaced, with better results, by those offering classes in carpentry, drafting and simple scientific experimentation. The problem of finding men to take charge of "six or eight toughs" for one night a week remained insurmountable, however, and these clubs were dropped after three years' operation (1904-1907). Not very receptive to moral suasion, the closest the boys came to uplifting themselves was, perhaps, when the "joinery club" constructed a pulpit. (12)

The evangelization of the children was regarded as the key to the solution of the "Italian problem" and the instrument "most productive of results" was the Sunday school. Two were in operation until 1909, three in 1910, and one to the end of the early mission period in 1917. The most successful schools were those conducted in the Front Street neighborhood and on Strong Street where the number of students on occasion taxed to the limit the small rooms available as well as the "energy resources of the teachers." The annual average attendance, however, varied widely from a high of sixty-four in 1907 to a low of ten in 1914. Unlike the clubs, the Sunday schools were held year-round. Attendance varied inversely to the rise and fall of the thermometer; during the summer the Sunday school rooms were almost deserted. Such irregular attendance, coupled with continual unruly behavior, convinced the Sunday school superintendents that broader contacts were needed. The teachers were urged to establish "personal ties" with the "scholars" outside of school and "between Sundays." (13)

Before the end of the first year of work it became evident that in order to influence the adults, an Italian-speaking evangelist was needed. Accordingly, thirty-six-year-old (Sicilian-born) Frank DiGiacomo was hired, arriving with his wife, Mary, in January 1905. Though not an ordained minister, he was highly recommended by his mentor, the well-known Reverend Stefano L. Testa of the Brooklyn City Mission. DiGiacomo, it was said, possessed in "zeal and perseverance" what he lacked in training and education. (14)

Before long, however, DiGiacomo began reporting considerable difficulty in attracting individuals to the gospel services. Schenectady's Italians were "very far from the light of the Gospel." It was necessary to battle not only religious indifference, but also strong hostility to Protestantism based on what the missionary claimed to be wild misconceptions. To Italians, Protestants were "infidels.' Italian priests reportedly warned departing parishioners that America abounded with "Protestant devils" who would attempt to destroy their faith. Many gave DiGiacomo wide berth, declaring that he did not like "the Virgin Mary and the Saints." Others were confused and genuinely surprised that he "spoke very good about Jesus." Naturally, DiGiacomo became less anxious to identify himself as a Protestant. As a result, some Italians attended several gospel meetings before realizing their true nature. A few became immediately suspicious upon noticing the lack of a crucifix in the prayer room. A solution to DiGiacomo's problem was offered by the enterprising saloonkeeper, Louis Faraone: for a per capita fee, Faraone would "round up" a weekly congregation. (15) Perhaps as little encouragement came from the Reverend Testa, who visited Schenectady several times. (16) Describing Italians as largely clannish, ignorant and superstitious, the prominent missionary added that it was "difficult for new ideas of civilization and religion to penetrate or make any headway among them." (17)

DiGiacomo's many generous and charitable acts created a more favorable personal image and seemed to mitigate the antipathy of the Italian community toward Protestants. He visited with leading Italian families in an attempt to generate further "good will" among the immigrants. Third Ward politician "Steve" Montanaro purchased a Bible but refused to attend gospel meetings. Mrs. Stephen Abba, whose husband was the president of a mutual-benefit society, treasured the French language Bible presented to her by DiGiacomo, but feared excommunication by reading it. Not wishing to "upset her mother," Mrs. Albert Lenta, "a banker's wife," also declined to attend mission activities. Even though Mrs. Peter Dente, the wife of a Third Ward politician, had withdrawn her daughters from the Sunday school upon learning that it was Protestant, the missionary resolved to continue calling on her for she remained "friendly." With Mrs. DiMarco, DiGiacomo held several "important discussions," but he reported that "I not sold with Mr. DiMarco." The banker-barber Pasquale DiMarco was treasurer and trustee of St. Anthony's Church! (18)

Using a variety of methods, DiGiacomo conducted a vigorous evangelical campaign to expose the immigrants to his Christian message. The most effective were tent and street-corner meetings; the latter, on occasion, attracted 150-200 curious onlookers. With the use of a lantern slide projector, a "stereopticon," borrowed from the Salvation Army, DiGiacomo gave illustrated talks on the life of Christ, which the crowds seemed to enjoy. Not as successful were his attempts to lead them in the singing of hymns. At the conclusion of these sessions, the evangelist invited the audience to attend the regular Sunday and weekday services; he and his assistants then passed among them selling Bibles, distributing New Testaments, religious newspapers and gospel tracts. The number of people who subsequently attended services as a result of the "open-air meetings" was disappointingly small. (19) Producing slightly better results was the time consuming door-to-door evangelizing. Braving considerable denunciation, DiGiacomo persisted until he completed two or three home visits daily. Upon gaining entrance, he asked to pray and read the Bible, while with the "better class" of Italians a discussion of "religious subjects" was initiated. The indefatigable missionary even found time to proselytize in South Schenectady, Albany, Amsterdam and, on occasion, Brooklyn. (20)

Continued efforts gradually met with a measure of success. Rarely, however, did it occur as easily as one incident reported by DiGiacomo:

I seen a man that used profane language. I told him it is not good. He said it is true, it is a folly to use profane language. He bought a New Testament.

The few members of DiGiacomo's "Violet Cross League" against profanity were identified by their violet-cross badges, costing twenty cents apiece. More significant than the regeneration of Mr. Cretarelo and Mr. Simboli who "have not drunk beer for 42-43 days," was the conversion of several individuals who later offered their homes for prayer meetings. The use of the residences of Dominick DiMatteo, Dominic Falzaroni and Nicholas Diodati made it possible to extend the work into Manhattan Street, Strong Street and Mt. Pleasant, rapidly growing areas located at some distance from the mission centers. In 1911, DiGiacomo reported with considerable pride that two of his young converts were attending Protestant colleges. DiGiacomo, however, considered the conversion of Louis Faraone, who once offered to sell converts, his most significant victory. The saloonkeeper became a "devoted helper." (21)

Since almost all Italians were considered at least nominal Catholics, DiGiacomo's evangelization among the whole Italian community, naturally, evoked the wrath of St. Anthony's pastor, Reverend Giovanni Bencivenga. The priest often blessed homes that DiGiacomo had visited and questioned the inhabitants to determine whether they had resisted the temptations of the "devil." In the halls of the city hospital, Bencivenga warned the missionary to stay clear of his sick parishioners. Parents of children who attended the Protestant Sunday schools were verbally chastised. The threat of excommunication was employed against the editor of Schenectady's Italian-language newspaper who persisted in printing articles written by DiGiacomo. On occasion, more unusual pressure was applied. One young man who had been attending gospel services received admonishing letters from his former pastor in Italy. (22)

Nonreligious activities were organized for Italian adults as well as for the children in order to provide another "avenue of approach" and to establish new "points of contact." The adult program, however, was more limited and less successful. Attended by men only, the two activities that were organized shared a basic educational content. From the beginning of the mission work in 1904, education classes were conducted by male volunteers from the First Church. The teaching of English was emphasized, but some time was also devoted to arithmetic and geography. Though often more than fifty men registered, attendance rarely exceeded ten per session. After working at manual labor ten to eleven hours daily, six days a week, probably few possessed the determination or energy to endure the two or three weekly classes held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. There was such a poor response during these seasons that classes were discontinued and, since public night schools existed, the mission board considered terminating the program. In 1909 an Italian-American Instruction Club was formed to introduce "something of a social and civic element into the work." It was hoped that this organization would act as a social center and help foster "group consciousness." Generally numbering about twenty men, the membership met monthly from late fall to early spring to hear talks delivered in Italian on such varied "topics of interest" as Garibaldi, personal hygiene, first aid, geography, electricity and magnetism. Lectures on American history and government were also given in order to "implant a love for the ideals of our American civilization." One meeting in 1910 featured a slide lecture that consisted of

views illustrating their homeland, embarking for America, Ellis Island, New York, up the Hudson stopping at the places of interest to Albany, Troy, Schenectady, to Syracuse with its salt industry, to Tonawanda with its lumber, Buffalo with its grain, and so on through our country, and its varied interests, closing with a beautiful picture of the American flag, at which time we all arose and sang "America" in Italian and English.

The club's roster of speakers included DiGiacomo; Arnaldo Samorini, a physician; D. M. Carswell, board member; and George Kellogg, professor of Latin at Union College. (23)

After seven years of work, DiGiacomo left Schenectady in April 1912 to accept a similar position in Lockport, New York. The mission at that time was conducting preaching services at two locations, three Sunday schools, one sewing school, a men's club, and a night school. Except for a preaching service and a Sunday school at Dominic Falzaroni's house on Strong Street, and a Sunday school at the Mount Pleasant Reformed Church, these activities were held at the rented Park Place center in the Front Street neighborhood. During DiGiacomo's ministry, fifty-five Italian adults were converted and accepted after oral examination as members of the First Church. Over 250 "adherents" were also claimed, a generous estimate that included all those, children and adults, who attended, no matter how infrequently, the activities of the mission. The cost of the work had been aporoximately $1,100 per year. DiGiacomo's salary ($690) and rent (approximately $150) were the principal annual expenditures. Although the leadership seemed to be generally satisfied with the results of DiGiacomo's "pioneering work," they were disappointed that the evangelist failed to inspire and organize First Church volunteers in the adult religious work. Since few of the First Church people spoke Italian and most of the Italians spoke little English, including DiGiacomo himself, this development should have been expected. (24)

A successor to DiGiacomo was not found until December 1912, when the board engaged Nicola Conte, an ordained minister from Watertown, New York. During the long interim, preaching services and house calls had been continued with the help of lay workers from the First Church and visiting Italian colporteurs and ministers supplied by the New York Synod. Arturo DiPietro, editor of the Presbyterian weekly, L'Araldo (The Herald), was among those who offered their aid. Both colporteurs who visited the city reported "a hearty welcome in the homes of their countrymen and a good sale of Bibles and religious literature." Despite these efforts, Conte found that the active membership of the congregation had dwindled to nineteen. (25)

The new minister favorably impressed the mission board by adding eleven new church members and by doubling the average annual contributions during his first year of work. He also reopened the Park Place Sunday School which had been closed shortly after DiGiacomo's departure because of the "Romish priest's threats" to the children that if they continued attending the "Protestant School" he would "fix them." Only a half dozen children, however, frequented the revived school. Few were courageous enough to defy Father Bencivenga who maintained a watch from the steps of his church, located just a half block away from the center. The year 1913 also witnessed the creation of the first women's organization, the Women's Aid Society. Presided over by Mrs. Conte, the group devoted itself to the distribution of relief to the needy. The most significant event of that year, however, was the receipt of $500 from the synod. It was expected that this grant, which would be available annually, would place the mission on a more secure financial basis and help widen its "sphere of influence." (26)

But the latter goal went unrealized during the following three and a half years. In fact, the results of these years brought little encouragement, and the role of the mission actually decreased. (27) Activities were discontinued in both Mt. Pleasant and Strong Street, leaving 218 Park Place the only station. (28) The year 1914 saw no increase in the Sunday school attendance at Park Place. It was later contended that this situation resulted not only from Father Bencivenga's continued opposition, but also from Conte's sole use of Italian in teaching the school when almost "all successful Italian pastors," reportedly, agreed that the "right language" to be used was English. (29) Nevertheless, the school did grow slowly, and when Conte finally switched to English in 1916, attendance, ironically, declined temporarily. Educational classes and the Italian-American Instruction Club disappeared during these years. The loss of the former was regretted since the schools had been useful in "interesting people in the religious services." But in view of the city's extensive adult education program, there seemed to be little need for continuing their own classes. Finally, as a result of Conte's insistence in 1915 that the sewing classes be restricted to girls belonging to families connected with the mission, enrollment dropped sharply. Thereupon, the women volunteers, "used to a throng," became discouraged and resigned. The next year (1916-1917), for the first time since the mission began, there was no sewing school. (30)

The moral fervor that accompanied America's entry into World War I found its counterpart in an intensified crusade to convert Italian immigrants to Protestantism. The Presbyterian Church, which "set the standards for all other denominations in the field of Italian evangelization," allotted large sums of money to help create new missions and to enlarge existing ones. (31) The various denominational boards of home missions prepared books, pamphlets and other "helps" for those interested in Italian work. Reverend Mangano, however, cautioned that:

Care must be exercised in selecting Italian records for a phonograph to select only well-known airs, or operas, or to ask the assistance of a reliable Italian, as the words of street songs are sometimes objectionable. (32)

Preparatory to launching a more "aggressive work," it was recommended that comprehensive studies of existing conditions be undertaken in order to determine the most effective "program of service." (33)

By 1917 the Schenectady mission effort had "reached a low ebb" and "things did not look too encouraging." The session of the First Church, desiring to add "some elements of effectiveness," sought the advice of the New York Synod. Its superintendent, Reverend U. L. Mackey, a former Schenectady minister, accordingly dispatched Reverend H. S. Huntington to conduct a "complete study of the Italian situation;" upon the findings of this survey, the superintendent would make recommendations. (34)

Compared to model programs for organized religious work among Italians, Schenectady's efforts were judged severely wanting. (35) Its activities, Huntington observed, consisted only of a Sunday school, a Sunday preaching service, a weekday prayer service, and irregular meetings of the Women's Aid Society, "a rather curious organization whose only activity has consisted of its members giving ten cents per month… for relief work of one sort or another." He further noted that:

The reports of the Mission for the last twelve months show no lectures, no out-door meetings, no men's clubs, no discussion clubs, no women's organizations, no children's meetings, no boys' clubs, no girls' clubs, no cooking classes, no vacation Bible schools, no young peoples' meetings. The only service out of the beaten track was the funeral of one of the Sunday school boys, — 'which funeral,' we read in the report, 'was very edifying.' (36)

After the arrival of Conte (1912), there began a gradual separation of the mission from the First Church, resulting in the desertion of all American volunteers, once numbering as many as forty, and a consequent loss of programs. Huntington claimed that the missionary's uncooperative attitude and, perhaps, conscious design were largely responsible for this rift. Because of this situation, Conte was able to assume almost complete control of the mission. Although "above the average in scholarship and preaching ability," the evangelist was regarded as a tactless and "bullheaded" man who produced the impression that his main interest was in the financial recompense of the work. Conte's vituperative attacks on the Catholic Church, which often included a "recounting of the immorality of Romish priests," repelled Americans and Italians alike. (37) No improvement of the work could be effected, Huntington contended, until a "direct connection" between the First Church and the mission was reestablished. The Italian,"like the Chinese or Japanese," he added, needed "much counsel and guidance in Protestant work." Until the Schenectady immigrant "ceased to be an Italian and became an American," Huntington cautioned, he would require "far more contact with Americans of the finest type." (38)

Superintendent Mackey added various observations and recommendations of his own to the completed report before sending it to the session of the First Church. Certain that "a large field in Schenectady for Italian Evangelization" existed, Mackey urged that "under no circumstances should work be given up." Among Schenectady's 9,000 Italian adults and children, Huntington had estimated that only 3,000 were Roman Catholics, "supposing that each church attendant represented three loyal Romanists — a generous estimate." The bulk of active Italian Catholics were communicants of St. Anthony's, whose new and energetic pastor, Father Michael Bianco, "an attractive, indeed an engaging man," quickly "built up" the congregation. On the Sunday that Huntington visited St. Anthony's, the church was packed at each of the four masses. The total attendance was placed at 700. In addition, there were 200-300 children at the Sunday school. Among those Italians who lived at some distance from the Italian church, Huntington reported that possibly 200-300 attended "other Romanist churches," particularly St. Thomas' in Mt. Pleasant and St. Columba's in the Strong Street area.

Despite Huntington's statement that "the Italians of Schenectady are not a disorderly element," Mackey further justified continued proselytism in the city by declaring that:

Competent Italian authorities agree that the first generation of Italian-Americans are not a serious menace to the state. The second generation of Italian-Americans, unevangelized, are a serious menace and a growing one. (39)

One such "Italian authority," Frederick H. Wright, who was Superintendent of Italian Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, warned that Italians must be spiritually awakened "and be absorbed into our national life, otherwise we shall find breakers ahead." This danger to America, Wright explained, existed not only because the Italian immigrants were "fast becoming an ungodly people," but also because:

The Latin, Roman Catholic standard of ethics is as unlike the Anglo-Saxon Protestant type as light from darkness. The Jesuitical concept that the ends justify the means has permeated the life of the Italian. He is unconsciously tainted by it. (40)

According to Catholic critics, a motive of self-defense explained these efforts to convert Italians. Protestant "soul-chasers" feared that the continuous stream of Catholic immigrants would overcome the numerical superiority of Protestantism at least in the largest American cities. (41)

Mackey advised that a serious effort to evangelize the Italians of Schenectady necessitated a complete reorganization of the work. The mission board desperately needed revitalization. Holding practically no meetings since 1914, the "thoroughly disorganized" board had allowed Conte "to take the bit in his teeth and run away with the Mission." The board must administer and take active interest in the affairs of the Italian work. Among its membership, Mackey recommended, there should be at least one person who understands Italian in order to establish a bond between the Italians and the First Church. Considered imperative by the superintendent was "a change of missionary." The new person had to be someone capable of cooperating with both the board and volunteer workers; the latter were regarded as indispensable and must be recruited anew. Energetic pastoral work would also be required. Conte's was "very meager," having "no out-reach beyond the few families of his own membership." Mackey also hoped that Conte's replacement would make use of the "imaginative faculty" of the Italian who "loves singing, color, motion and symbol." (42) Mackey suggested the development of a musical program to help satisfy these "hungers" in a "normal and beautiful way." One Italian Catholic church, Mackey recalled, "considerably strengthened its Romanist hold" after forming a band and choral classes. To further expand the effectiveness of the mission, Mackey recommended the employment of a deaconess who would add "not only the feminine touch, reaching into the home life, but [would prove] more dependable than the volunteer worker." (43)

Superintendent Mackey realized that the projected evangelical work was actually greater than the First Church could accomplish alone. Of the estimated 6,000 unchurched Italians, including 1,600 children of Sunday school age, the mission then "touched directly" only 108, a figure that included thirty-nine church members and twenty-four Sunday school students. Mackey advocated the cooperation of all the "like-minded evangelical churches of the city," those currently "idle" as well as the ones already involved in Italian work. Why not, as in Middletown, New York, "approach the Italian through one Mission channel," Mackey asked? (44) Such a program, he added would avoid "perpetuating among Italians denominational differences," which tend to drive their "enthusiasm through pipes so small that the friction almost destroys the enthusiasm." Mackey concluded that if this coordination could not be brought about, then there should be at least a joint effort of the Presbyterian churches (First, State Street, and Union) and the United Presbyterian Church. (45)

The First Presbyterian Church had not been alone in answering the "Macedonian call of the Italians." Huntington reported that a half dozen other Protestant churches as well as the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. were reaching the Italians somewhat. Altogether the Protestants contacted some 500 Italians, including 125 Sunday school students. The extent of the "contact" for many, however, consisted of no more than attendance at a club. (46)

Encouraged by the synod's interest and promised cooperation, the session of the First Presbyterian Church, using Huntington's report as a guide, provided for the complete renovation of its program of Italian evangelism. Accordingly, the session reorganized the Third Ward Settlement Board (renamed the Italian Mission Board), which held its first meeting in July (1917). Robert E. Rugen, a General Electric Company personnel manager and former mission Sunday school teacher, was elected chairman. Included among the membership were four men who had ably served on the old mission board. One of these, Jesse L. Patton, an active member of the board since its inception in 1904, would complete forty-five years of service on the mission board. Ex-officio members included Superintendent Mackey and Reverend Charles B. F. Pease, representing the New York Synod and Albany Presbytery, respectively. Although Mackey's many duties allowed him to attend the monthly meetings only infrequently, he, nevertheless, corresponded regularly with Rugen, offering helpful information and guidance. Later in the year the board was expanded by the addition of representatives from the State Street Presbyterian Church and the Union Presbyterian Church. It was hoped that these churches, formerly uninvolved in Italian work, would become important sources of volunteer workers and, perhaps, financial aid as well. The Italian congregation was also invited to appoint representatives to sit on the board. Allotted three seats, the Italians chose Donato Mastrianni, Alfred Licciardello, and Carmine Fiore. Besides developing lay responsibility, it was anticipated that their presence would produce a better understanding ("a bond") between the mission leadership and the immigrants, and thus eliminate the isolation of the two groups — a condition that had resulted from their mutual dependence on the Italian missionary. In 1921 a final enlargement of the board occurred with the addition of a representative from the county Christian Endeavor Union (Presbyterian). Assuming the Italian work recently given up by the United Presbyterians in the Manhattan Street area, the Union financed and operated a short-lived settlement house at 1 Clarendon Street. (47)

The board favored opening its membership to other Protestant churches in order to gain the broadest support possible, but no such additions occurred. Although the mission remained a Presbyterian affair, volunteer workers were obtained from non-Presbyterian churches. (48)

The Methodists, who were then directing the only other Italian work in the city, preferred to continue their mission as a separate entity, to "go it alone." Experiencing success in the Strong Street neighborhood where the Methodist Italian Church, St. Timothy's, would be built in 1924, they proposed to the Presbyterians that a "dead-line" be drawn and observed. Rugen agreed to observe the Methodist sphere of influence, but was convinced that a denominational approach to Italian evangelism would create only confusion and conflict among the immigrant converts. Angered by the failure to organize a "united front," Rugen warned the Methodists:

Be assured that we haven't the slightest intention of absorbing your work unless you make the initial move. (49)

The development and implementation of an improved evangelical program proceeded gradually. Committees were formed; conferences were held with visiting Italian "experts"; and Italian missions in New York City and elsewhere were studied. In use by the Presbyterians since 1909, the Lillian Hoffman Mission building was refurbished, and a deaconess, Mrs. Anna M. MacDonald, was engaged (March 1918) to direct a broad range of religious, social and educational activities. A second settlement house was opened the next year (1919) at 212 Front Street. Because of its poor condition, however, this building was vacated in 1920 and another was obtained in the Front Street area. Here (7 Jefferson Street), four rooms on the first floor and two on the third were rented for thirty-five dollars per month. (50)

The New York Synod greatly stimulated the work by substantially augmenting its financial support. Satisfied with the progress of the Schenectady mission, as well as convinced that it possessed a potential for significant growth, the synod, beginning in 1920, increased the sum of its annual grant to $6,750. (51) In accordance with an agreement with the synod, the First Church enlarged its own annual contribution to $1,850. Adding to these figures, miscellaneous receipts and donations of Italian communicants, the yearly budget totaled almost $10,000, an amount eight times as large as the pre-1917 annual budget. Also in 1920, Superintendent Mackey secured from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church a special $25,000 grant for the purchase of what was once the United People's Church property (church, chapel and manse) on Jay Street. Thereupon, the settlement house on Park Place was closed and its activities were transferred to the Jay Street church, renamed Chiesa di San Salvatore. (52)

In September, 1920, the mission board rented for forty dollars per month a whole building, containing ten small rooms, at 711 Cutler Street. The opening of this new center marked the resumption of serious work in Mt. Pleasant which had been neglected since 1913 when the Sunday school conducted by the Presbyterians at the Mt. Pleasant Reformed Church was closed. Within a twenty-one month period, the mission thus grew to include a church on Jay Street and two "neighborhood" or "community" houses, one in the Front Street section and the other in Mt. Pleasant. (53)

From 1920 to 1921, the Presbyterian mission enjoyed a popularity among the Italians of Schenectady that would not be surpassed in the years to come. With the aid of fifty volunteers, recruited from seventeen local churches, the mission offered more than a dozen social, educational and religious activities. (54) Of course, the non-religious clubs and classes for children attracted the greatest numbers. Each of these activities, however, now included "a religious service." Though boys and girls were generally separated, both attended the "music school" conducted by "Professor" Iovinella for weekly band and choral rehearsals. Teenaged boys and girls belonged to the drama club (thirty-five members) and the Christian Endeavor Society (fifty members) which, like the music school, met in the chapel next to the church on Jay Street. The Christian Endeavor Society, it was hoped, would offer the young people not only social companionship but also the necessary training to assume leadership positions in the church. For girls only, there were junior and senior Girl Scout troops and clubs that featured sewing: the Sunshine Club (for girls six to eight), the Dorcas Club (for girls of nine), and the Priscilla Club (for girls ten and older). During the 1919-1920 season there was a total of 120 in the girls' clubs conducted at the Front Street settlement house. For the boys, there was a scout troop and a craftwork club at each of the two settlement houses. Because of the continued difficulty in obtaining volunteers to direct these activities, fewer than fifty boys could be accommodated. Keenly disappointed, the mission leadership often pleaded for the assistance of "strong, clean, honest, Christian young men with enthusiasm, initiative, forcefulness and a love for boys." According to Deaconess Jean Butler, the Italian boys were sorely in need of Christian guidance:

Walk through Front Street, Weaver Street, Jay Street, Foster Avenue, Cutler Street, or Congress Street any hour of the day and up to ten or eleven o'clock at night and no further demonstration is needed of the opportunity and responsibility, not to say, problem and even menace of the Italian boy. Besides usual boys sports he is too often seen indulging in crapshooting, pitching or matching pennies, or other gambling games, swearing, smoking or assembling with others of his own age or older to listen to or tell obscene stories. What an opportunity and responsibility for the Christian people of Schenectady! (55)

The primary agency for providing religious instruction to the Italian children remained the Sunday school. Schools were in operation at the church on Jay Street and at both settlement houses. The total enrollment of the three was 175, and the average attendance 129 (1920-21). Supplementing the work of the Sunday school was the vacation Bible school, first introduced during the summer of 1918. Although the average attendance at the 1918 Daily Vacation Bible School was only twenty-five, there were one hundred plus at each of the next two, following improvements in location, staffing, resources, and parental attitude. (56) Expenditures for the school leaped from $11.85 in 1918 to $535 in 1920 (from $.47 per pupil to $3.69). This school of four to six weeks duration brought the children "under religious influence for as many hours as they ordinarily get during an entire year of Sunday school sessions." The unbroken instruction was considered "more effective than fifty sessions separated by six days of secular interests." Furthermore, the Daily Vacation Bible School generated far less parental "suspicion" than the Sunday school by providing recreation and "useful" instruction" as well as religious training. A typical Bible school schedule included:

The Presbyterians were disappointed that despite the popularity of both the Bible and Sunday schools, few children were "led into and held by the church." Once "the children reached the age of confirmation in the Catholic Church," the Protestants lost them. Some Italian children reportedly attended both Presbyterian and Catholic Sunday schools. The one at the Jay Street church was considered particularly attractive for it showed lantern slides. (58) The congregation of San Salvatore's consisted largely of young bachelors and married men; the wives, "at least nominally," adhered to the Catholic Church. To remedy this situation, it appeared necessary to evangelize or at least secure the interest and cooperation of the parents, especially the mothers who had "direct and absolute control of the children." The most effective method of winning the mothers, it was recommended, was to send a deaconess into the homes, particularly an Italian one or at least one who spoke Italian. (59)

Her visits tend first of all to break down prejudice and to establish a friendly relationship between the mother and the deaconess. This paves the way for the securing of children for clubs, and for the securing of mothers for clubs as well, and finally will result, we hope and pray, in securing of both for Sunday School and church attendance. And the final goal, of course, is the winning of the whole family to Christ.

The deaconess, however, was cautioned to avoid "militant opposition to their [religious] beliefs ingrained in their beings through centuries of superstition, ignorance and false teaching." In late 1920, the mission attempted to interest the Italian women in such activities as a mother's club, education classes, and a course in "domestic science and hygiene." The response, however, was small. (60)

Despite the generally held conviction that it was essential to discharge Nicola Conte in order to achieve a truly successful evangelical program in Schenectady, his departure was delayed for a year and a half. Initially, the board planned to allow Conte to remain until the expiration of his contract (November 1917), which would permit an unhurried search for a suitable replacement. On the recommendation of the synod's Board of Home Missions, the position was offered that September to a Mr. Spoviero who, however, would not be available until his graduation from Auburn Theological Seminary the following spring. Since a more effective and expanded mission program was still largely in the planning stage at this time, the arrangement was considered acceptable. Nevertheless, it was only with great reluctance that the board offered Conte an extension. To the disappointment of everyone except perhaps Nicola Conte, Spoviero announced in March that he had accepted another position. Hoping to be reinstated, Conte outlined his work of the preceding year, claiming that his performance was more than satisfactory; someone had merely "mis-stated" him and his work, he argued. Though unsuccessful, Conte was again continued on a monthly basis until a replacement was finally found in November (1918). (61)

The acquisition of Ottavio B. Neyroz, the former pastor of the successful Middletown mission, made the year and a half delay in ousting Conte seem to the board a small price to pay. Ironically, Huntington had used Neyroz's exemplary performance in Middletown as a yardstick to measure the deficiencies of Nicola Conte. The new missionary quickly became a noted figure within Schenectady's Italian community. Though decidedly unhandsome, "Professor" Neyroz (of Italian-South Slavic descent) impressed the immigrants by his uncommon height, self-assurance and eloquence. Because he spoke "elegant" Italian, Neyroz was often called upon to address Italian civic and social functions. At some of these gatherings, he was even found seated next to Father Bianco. (62)

A most energetic evangelist, Neyroz proselytized in all the Italian sections of the city: Front Street, Manhattan Street, Weaver Street, Mt. Pleasant and even the Strong Street preserve of the Methodists. Besides conducting regular church services at San Salvatore's and preaching weekly at the settlement houses, he distributed religious literature, held prayer meetings and street-corner meetings and made an average two thousand house calls annually. By contrast, Conte had made only four hundred visits a year. Neyroz also found time to preach in Albany, Troy and Amsterdam as well as teach Americanization classes sponsored by the General Electric Company. In an effort to further acquaint the Italian community with the work and gospel message of the Protestant mission, Neyroz founded a bilingual, multigraphed newspaper, La Fiaccola (The Torchlight). In addition to articles summarizing mission activities, the three-paged, bi-weekly paper contained discussions of religious subjects and comments on leading topics of the day "from a Christian viewpoint." Neyroz also established a social organization (Vittorio Veneto Club) and a Bible class for Italian men; the popularity of the latter prompted Father Bianco to introduce similar instruction. The zealous missionary even attempted to evangelize Italians still in the homeland! According to their place of birth, converts were grouped into three "evangelistic clubs" (Fondi, Alvignano and Abruzzi) for the purpose of spreading the "truth" by mail to friends and relatives. (63)

The Italian minister, however, discovered that conversions were not easily made in Schenectady. He reported:

I would rather have a colony of 50,000 Italians strict roman catholics than the Colony that we have here of 12,000 of wich 11,800 are indifferents to Christ and the Church although proclaiming themselves roman catholics. [sic]

Nevertheless, by the early spring of 1921, Neyroz had built a congregation of 104 active church members, 33 inactive, and 71 individuals on the catechetical list. (64)

But just a half-year later, Neyroz was dismissed, and the mission seemed on the verge of collapse. Relations between Neyroz and the board had never been amicable. With little subtlety, the minister often hinted that the Presbyterians were niggardly in their support of the mission. [While] Neyroz believed that the greatest need of the immigrants was religion, he was convinced that the mission should be interested in the total welfare of the foreigner. He dared suggest to the board that it report to the health department the many "unscrupulous landlords" who rented such "pig pens" to the Italians. More disturbing to the board were the minister's abusive denunciations of the Catholic clergy in the city, and especially his financial irresponsibility; the persistence of the latter resulted in his being placed on probation (June 1921). Neyroz took to the pulpit and press to answer his "critics" and to hurl intemperate countercharges, despite warnings that he confine himself to the "preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ." Though Reverend A. J. Dean, who had been sent by the synod to study the situation, recommended that the pastor be dismissed immediately, the board hesitated. Provoked by the minister's participation in the election campaign that fall, the board finally decided to oust him. Neyroz had formed an Italian political club in order to support the local Democratic ticket, particularly the candidate for supervisor of the Third Ward (James S. Matarrazzo) who was chairman of the "board of directors" of San Salvatore's Church. Following a speech that Neyroz made on the behalf of the candidacy of Mayor George R. Lunn (former Socialist but current Democrat), the board demanded that the minister resign. (65)

Virtually the entire congregation of San Salvatore's withdrew in protest and announced their intention to form a new church. The Italians were incensed that the mission board had not only failed to consult them but had also totally disregarded their wishes as expressed in their overwhelming vote of confidence in the Italian missionary. And when the Italian members of the mission board requested a list of specific charges, they were told only that Neyroz was "unable to put to good advantage his good qualities." Outraged, the Italians declared that they were being treated like "waps"! [sic] Following a conference with "their friend," Reverend George Boys (pastor of St. Paul's Episcopal Church), the defectors announced that a new church to be known as Chiesa di San Pietro would be organized under the auspices of the Episcopal diocese of Albany. Although there existed "little denominational comity" between Episcopalians and other Protestants, Superintendent Mackey felt obligated to furnish Bishop Nelson with the "particulars" on Neyroz, including the recently uncovered information that the missionary had been dismissed by the Lutherans, Methodists and Congregationalists before his Middletown assignment. Bishop Nelson, however, believed that an Episcopal mission church would achieve great success among the Italians because of the similarity between Episcopalian and Catholic liturgy. And as for Neyroz, Nelson was sure he could "make something of him." (66)

After temporarily meeting for services in the Sons of Italy hall, the congregation of the Italian Episcopal church, numbering 120 men and 24 women, obtained a building at 433 Liberty Street, the upper flat of which was occupied by their "lay preacher" (Neyroz) and his family. But Chiesa di San Pietro existed for less than two years. The Episcopalians, who never became very enthusiastic about the endeavor, had provided scant financial support. (67) Before leaving the city, Neyroz appealed to the Presbyterians for help in finding another missionary position:

I have a good responsible position. I am well treated, but still the soul is thirsty and hungry for Him. I have tried to forget Church and Gospel, but I could not find peace in the world.

Considering all the problems and embarrassment that the former missionary caused the Presbyterians, it is understandable that they did nothing for their "slippery friend." Besides refusing to resign voluntarily and delaying for months his departure from the manse of the Church of San Salvatore, Neyroz threatened to sue for a year's salary ($2,100). To avoid further "nasty notoriety," the board offered $262.50 which Neyroz accepted. (68)

Few of the former Presbyterian-Episcopalian Italians returned to the Church of San Salvatore. Most either became indifferent or, in the case of twenty-five, joined the Pentecostals, including the one-time president of San Salvatore's Christian Endeavor Society, Sam Riggi, who was elected an "assistant pastor" of the Pentecostal church, Assemblia Christiana. (69)

Meanwhile, the Presbyterians "persevered." The mission board hired Frank B. Gigliotti to minister to the remaining Italian congregation, then numbering only twenty-five adults. Not yet thirty, Gigliotti had led a rather unusual and colorful life before coming to Schenectady. When eight years old he left Calabria with his widowed mother and settled in a small Pennsylvania town. Following the death of his mother four years later, the twelve-year-old Gigliotti traveled west as an assistant to a hypnotist who abandoned him in South Dakota. Hopping freight trains, he made his way to Wyoming where he lived with Cheyenne Indians. The dark-skinned Gigliotti reportedly passed himself off as a Pawnee. A few years later he began a career as a jockey, racing horses in China, Japan, Hawaii, Mexico, the Philippines, Cuba and throughout the United States and Canada. While in Edmonton, Canada, he passed a street corner where an evangelist was preaching. Gigliotti "paused to listen, became converted and abandoned his past life and his past associations at once." Returning to Pennsylvania, he worked in a steel mill and studied at night in the evening schools. Following his graduation, he attended a Bible school in New York City. The world war came and Gigliotti enlisted in the army. He was wounded, and spent thirteen months recuperating in a military hospital at St. Nazaire where he often preached to the other patients. Returning to New York, he "began working among the gangsters of the east side." On one occasion, Gigliotti claimed that he "fought 26 gangsters single-handed, after which 24 of them were converted and became good churchmen." If even half of Gigliotti's story was true, it was clear that the Presbyterians had hired another strong-willed, independent evangelist. (70)

Because of "the disturbances of some recent years," the Presbyterians felt it wise to "make haste slowly." They adopted the policy of holding and training the Italian church members instead of attempting to secure large numbers of new constituents. Less affected by the departure of Neyroz and his fellow "opportunists," the work with the young people continued to be strongly emphasized, but steady growth was expected rather than "unusual advances." Gigliotti supposedly "produced truly amazing results" in his work with teenaged boys; he personally organized a gymnastic club, a bowling team, a band (the Garibaldi Band) and a social club (the Guiseppe Mazzini Club). (71) However, the introduction of a comprehensive religious and social program in St. Anthony's new church hall caused the attendance to decrease at the Jefferson Street house. And since greater competition could be expected once Father Bianco's new church was completed, the Presbyterians closed the settlement house and transferred its activities to the Jay Street church. But as was expected, little improvement occurred, for Chiesa di San Salvatore was located in downtown Schenectady, and not in an Italian neighborhood, or far enough away from St. Anthony's. Special attention was thereupon given to the remaining settlement house on Cutler Street in Mt. Pleasant. Second only to the Front Street neighborhood in Italian population, but containing no Italian Catholic church, Mt. Pleasant became "the heart" of the Presbyterian work. (72)

When Gigliotti arrived in 1921, he was licensed but not yet ordained, and thus was not permitted to baptize or distribute communion. To silence Neyroz and his followers who were capitalizing on this deficiency, Gigliotti was ordained the following spring. Designed to impress the Italian community, the ceremony was conducted at San Salvatore's and featured an address by Dr. Agide Pirazzini, dean of the New York Biblical Seminary and future father-in-law of Gigliotti. Since the new minister did not possess "one-tenth"of the necessary preparation for ordination, the mission board required him to study two hours daily and visit regularly with the pastor of the First Church, who would "quiz" Gigliotti on his readings as well as help him with his sermons. (73)

Gigliotti, however, defaulted on his promise to adhere to this schedule of religious education. His inability to keep free of debt further annoyed his Presbyterian sponsors who also found it necessary to reprimand him for neglecting religious duties in favor of fraternal organizations, politics and other "outside interests." Claiming that it was impossible to work with the Italian missionary, deaconesses Butler and Hawley resigned. These Christian ladies had characterized Gigliotti as "rotten at heart," deceitful, untruthful, and "Biblically ignorant." He, in turn, described their work as "rotten" and accused them of bribing Italians into the settlement houses with old clothes. To the mortification of the mission board, but to the delight of Neyroz and his congregation, Reverend Gigliotti was arrested and charged with third-degree assault following a melee in the press room of Il Corriere, the city's Italian-language newspaper. The "fistic battle" broke out when Gigliotti demanded a retraction of an article that contained a "violent attack" on his character. Among other accusations, the article charged the minister, "a finished hypocrite," with having lied about his religious and military background as well as having "outraged the sacred language of Dante." Eager to get rid of the troublesome minister, but fearful of creating another uproar by firing him, the mission board persuaded him, in 1924, to accept a scholarship for study at a Waldensian seminary in Rome. Following the presentation of a purse containing $150, collected from friends and members of the mission board, the synodical representative, A. J. Dean, commented:

I don't care how or where he spends it. I am only anxious to do all I can to make it easy for him to get away from Schenectady.

While studying in Italy, the dynamic Gigliotti organized a branch of the American Legion, enrolling over one thousand returned Italians who had served in the American army during World War I. The last news of the colorful evangelist received by Schenectadians indicated that he had returned to the United States, settled in Montana and become a rancher. (74)

As a replacement for Gigliotti, the board selected the Reverend Michele Frasca, a choice that was not regretted throughout his long ministry of twenty-two years. Although "somewhat conceited," Frasca was dedicated, "thoroughly honest," and unlike his predecessors, "highly educated," a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton Theological Seminary. (75)

Protestant proselytism among Italians had reached its zenith during the World War I era, and declined sharply thereafter as a result of a waning of the evangelical spirit, the drastic curtailment of Italian immigration, and increasing Catholic resistance. But throughout the height of national interest in Italian evangelization, the Schenectady mission was plagued by disorders and poor pastoral management. And when the "problem of securing the proper type of leadership was finally solved," evangelism had lost its appeal. The ministry of Michele Frasca was marked by a dwindling of the size of the synodical grant, a reduction of staff and mission programs, and an abandonment of evangelization. Efforts were directed toward securing the existing Italian congregation and transforming the mission into a financially independent, self-governing Presbyterian church. (76)

The final venture at "aggressive" evangelization occurred in Mt. Pleasant during the early years of Frasca's ministry. Encouraging progress induced the mission to lay plans for the erection of a chapel in this section. Receiving no financial aid from the synod for this project, the mission board built a two-story structure that could be easily converted to rental property in the event of failure. The activities which had been moved from the Cutler Street settlement house to a store-front building on Pleasant Street were transferred to the new chapel on Webster Street in January 1926. (77)

Angered by the number of children "snatched away," the pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel ended the Presbyterian monopoly in Mt. Pleasant by building, one year later, a combination chapel and hall just a half-block away from the new Protestant chapel. The introduction of a broad Catholic program of religious and social activities, coupled with an active campaign to discourage parents from allowing their children to frequent the Protestant Sunday school and clubs, produced a marked decline in the attendance at the Presbyterian chapel. The Catholic pastor also felt "duty bound" to return the relatively small number of actual Protestant converts, "Catholic malcontents," to the "true faith of their fathers." Gentle persuasion, however, was not among the tactics employed by Father James Matturro or his successor, Anthony S. Spina. From the pulpit of Mt. Carmel, the Protestant Italians were severely denounced and ridiculed. Couples married by the Protestant minister were told that their marriages were invalid, that they were "living in sin," and that their children were illegitimate. The Italian priests, as well as their parishioners, were also responsible for many other incidents of "harassment" and "heartless practices." The harangues of Father Spina, whose name in Italian, Frasca noted, meant thorn, reportedly incited young people to torment the Protestants. The "Cutler Street gang" broke windows in the chapel, disrupted club meetings, and attacked the Protestant boys. Only those "thoroughly converted stood the test of persecution." (78)

Even before the intensification of Catholic opposition in Mt. Pleasant, however, "forceful" evangelism in Schenectady began to ebb as a result of policies and acts of the Presbyterians themselves. Beginning in 1925 the synod reduced the size of its annual grant, gradually through the rest of the 1920s, and rapidly during the Depression: 1925 ($6,500), 1928 ($6,000), 1932 ($4,000), 1941 ($2,500). In 1946, the last year of Frasca's ministry, the budget totaled $5,200: synod ($1,700), First Church ($1,650), Italian congregation ($1,550) and Union Presbyterian Church ($300). Throughout this period the First Church, however, decreased its annual contribution only slightly. While Union Church was able to give a few hundred each year, State Street gave almost nothing and gradually withdrew from the work. (79)

During the first few years of Frasca's pastorate, most of the "purely social" activities were eliminated and membership in those that remained became restricted to individuals who attended San Salvatore's church services or Sunday school. The popularity of the vacation Bible school diminished when more religious instruction was introduced into the schedule at the expense of craft work. Once considered essential to the success of the mission work, the services of professional deaconesses were no longer desired. During 1925-1926, the mission board let go all three deaconesses. In their place, the board hired a part-time worker, Mrs. E. B. Wardell (a member of the First Church) to supervise the activities for children. (80)

In 1928, the Clerk of Sessions of the First Church reported that 282 individuals had become official church members since the founding of the mission in 1904. Of this number, 46 were current members, 7 died, 15 moved and were transferred to other Protestant churches, and 214 resigned or were dropped. In subsequent years the congregation grew primarily as a result of natural increase rather than conversion. Proselytism now involved little more than occasional visits to prospective candidates for conversion and preaching the gospel to visitors, at weddings, and at funerals. When Frasca resigned in 1946, there were 130 adult and children members. Because the name San Salvatore seemed "theologically unsound," the name had been changed in 1944 to Trinity Presbyterian Church. Under the pastorate of Frank Cherubini, Trinity finally achieved its goal of financial independence and self-government in 1956, ending its fifty-year status as a mission of the First Church. Abandoning the dilapidated Jay Street Church and the cramped quarters of the Mt. Pleasant Chapel, the congregation erected a large and modern church in the suburbs of Scotia. Except for the Italian names of one-quarter of the congregation, which now numbers about eighty-five families, one would find few clues today indicating the origin of the church. (81)

Despite a considerable expenditure of effort and money, the gains of Protestant evangelism among the Italians of Schenectady were minimal. Italian Protestants presently number fewer than 150 out of a total Italian-American population in the city of 25,000. The Protestants had been mistaken in thinking that once the immigrants were drawn into the mission centers by social and educational inducements, they would readily embrace Protestantism. Though large numbers were undoubtedly nominal Catholics, few were willing to abandon a religion so closely tied to their Italian culture and heritage. Even if the Italian Catholic churches had not adopted their own programs of Sunday schools and clubs to combat the Protestant inroads, it is doubtful that the outcome would have been much different.

Notes — Chapter 4

  1. D. M. Carswell, "History of Presbyterian Mission Work for Italians in Schenectady" (prepared by mission board member, October 25, 1920), p. 1. (Typewritten.) All mission-related primary source material is located in the archives of the First Presbyterian Church, Schenectady (hereafter cited as FPA).
  2. Ibid., pp. 5-6; H. S. Huntington, "The Italian Situation in Schenectady" (prepared by member of the New York Synod's Board of Home Missions, May 1917), p. 2, FPA.
  3. Evening Star, October 21, 1893, December 24, 1901, March 18, May 12, 1902.
  4. Interview with Amelia Ottaviano, July 27, 1983. Mrs. Ottaviano's father, Peter Dente, was an early trustee of St. Anthony's.
  5. Huntington, "Italian Situation," p. 13; Forty-Fifth Anniversary of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Schenectady, N.Y. October-November 1948, p. 5.
  6. Third Annual Report of the Third Ward Settlement House of the First Presbyterian Church, Schenectady, New York, 1907, unpaged (hereafter annual reports cited as ARTWS); Esther G. Ely to Jesse L. Patton, n.d. (letter from vice-president of mission board and head of girls' department to mission board member; Carswell, "Mission Work," pp. 1-2, FPA.
  7. Huntington, "Italian Situation," pp. 2-3; Carswell, "Mission Work," pp. 2-3; Presbyterian Italians in Schenectady in 1933, pp. 3-4, (thirtieth anniversary history of mission).
  8. Huntington, "Italian Situation," pp. 3-4; ARTWS, 1913, p. 2, FPA.
  9. Evening Star, December 26, 1905; ARTWS, 1906, p. 3; Forty-Fifth Anniversary, p. 5. In 1910 the Front Street district (First Ward) contained 1,368 foreign-born Italians, Weaver Street (Fifth Ward) — 713, Strong Street (Thirteenth Ward) — 420, and Mt. Pleasant (Ninth Ward) — 410. The city's total Italian-born population was 3,660. (U.S. Census, Thirteenth Census: 1910, Population, III, p. 260.
  10. ARTWS, 1905-1907, 1909-1913, FPA; Huntington, "Italian Situation," pp. 3-4.
  11. ARTWS, 1905-1906, 1909.
  12. Ibid., 1905-1907.
  13. Ibid., 1905-1906, 1909-1910; Carswell, "Mission Work," p. 7.
  14. ARTWS; Monthly report of Frank DiGiacomo to the Third Ward Settlement Board, January 26, 1905, (hereafter cited as DiGMR). Only DiGiacomo's monthly reports from January 1905 to October 1906 are among the records of the First Presbyterian Church; USFMC, 1910, FPA.
  15. DiGMR, February 28, March 31, April 30, May 3, November 30, 1905, April 30, July 31, 1906.
  16. ARTWS, 1905-1906, 1909. Ely to Patton.
  17. Stefano L. Testa, "Strangers from Rome in Greater New York," The Missionary Review of the World (March 1908), p. 217.
  18. DiGMR, May 31, June 30, July 31, 1905, May 31, 1906.
  19. Ibid., April 30, May 31, September 30, 1905, July 31, 1906; ARTWS, 1906-1907.
  20. DiGMR, February 28, May 31, July 31, 1905, August 31, 1906; ARTWS, 1905.
  21. DiGMR, July 31, September 30, November 30, December 31, 1905, February 28, May 31, 1906; ARTWS, 1911; Schenectady Gazette, April 18, 1912.
  22. DiGMR, March 31, April 30, May 31, 1905.
  23. ARTWS, 1905-1907, 1909-1913; Schenectady Gazette, February 24, 1912.
  24. Ely to Patton; ARTWS, 1912; Huntington, "Italian Situation," p. 3; Carswell, Presbyterian Italians, p. 3.
  25. Besides the ones who "drifted away," there were also those who had returned to Italy or moved to other cities in search of work (ARTWS, 1912-1913).
  26. Monthly report of Nicola Conte, 1913 (hereafter cited as CMR), FPA; ARTWS, 1913.
  27. One must depend largely on Huntington's 1917 report for information on Conte's ministry since most of the records are unavailable. Huntington, however, made use of these materials in preparing his study.
  28. The Sunday school on Strong Street did not resume in 1914 because of illness in the home where it had been held. Although the board expressed an interest in locating another "station" in the area, none was established (ARTWS, 1913).
  29. Huntington, "Italian Situation," p. 5; Antonio Mangano, Sons of Italy (New York: Missionary Education Movement of the United States and Canada, 1917), pp. 181-182. Mangano was a Baptist minister and director of the Italian department at Colgate Theological Seminary.
  30. Unsigned memorandum prepared by a member of the board, April 14, 1914, FPA; CMR, October, November 1915; Huntington, "Italian Situation," pp. 5-6.
  31. The Presbyterians had 107 churches or missions for Italians in 1917, claiming 4,800 members and 8,000 Sunday school pupils. "Financial support had originally come from the local churches alone, but aid was soon provided by the presbyteries, synods and the General Assembly;" Luciano J. Iorizzo and Salvatore Mondello, The Italian-Americans (New York: Twayne, 1971), pp. 187-188; William P. Shriver, Adventure in Missions (New York: Board of National Missions, 1946), p. 46 (Shriver was the Presbyterian church's director of city and immigrant work); F. Aurelio Palmieri, "Italian Protestantism in the United States," The Catholic World (May 1918), p. 182.
  32. Antonio Mangano, Sons of Italy, p. 228.
  33. William P. Shriver, At Work with the Italians (New York: Board of Home Missions, 1917), pp. 7-9.
  34. Carswell, "Mission Work," p. 2; Presbyterian Italians, p. 4.
  35. For example, see Shriver, At Work with the Italians, pp. 26-31.
  36. Huntington, "Italian Situation," pp. 4-5.
  37. Ibid., p.10; Interview with Mrs. Joseph Garofalo, July 21, 1980 (Mrs. Garofalo was personally acquainted with the Conte family).
  38. Huntington, "Italian Situation," p. 8.
  39. Huntington expressed his opinion after examining police and juvenile court records. He found that in 1916 when Italians constituted 10 percent of the city's population, they accounted for only 7 percent of those arrested (Huntington, "Italian Situation," pp. 1-2, 14).
  40. Frederick H. Wright, The Italians in America (New York: The Willet Press, 1912), p. 24; Ibid., "How to Reach Italians in America," The Missionary Review of the World (August 1917), p. 590.
  41. Palmieri, "Italian Protestantism," pp. 180-181; Salvatore Mondello, "Protestant Proselytism Among the Italians in the USA as Reported in American Magazines," Social Science (April 1966), p. 89; Ibid., "The Magazine Charities and the Italian Immigrants, 1903-1904," Journalism Quarterly (Spring 1967), p. 98.
  42. One Protestant writer claimed that "the emotional dominates" the lives of the "happy-hearted children of Italy," Wright, The Italians in America, p. 24.
  43. Huntington, "Italian Situation," pp. 12-13.
  44. For a description of the Middletown work, see U. L. Mackey, "A Venture in Co-operation," The Missionary Review of the World (August 1917), pp. 595-597.
  45. Huntington, "Italian Situation," p. 13; Forty-fifth Anniversary, p. 7.
  46. Ibid., pp. 10-12.
  47. Minutes of the Italian Mission Board, July 25, October 18, November 21, December 20, 1917 (hereafter cited as MIMB), FPA; Forty-fifth Anniversary, pp. 5, 8. Included among the 1921 Italian Mission Board were fourteen elected members including seven First Presbyterian Church representatives, three State Street Presbyterian, three Union Presbyterian, and one representing the Christian Endeavor Union. There were also six ex-officio members: four staff (one Italian evangelist and three deaconesses) and two ministers representing the New York Synod (U. L. Mackey) and the Albany Presbytery (C. B. F. Pease).
  48. Italian Mission Board, letter to session of First Presbyterian Church, October 7, 1920., FPA.
  49. R. E. Rugen, to Rev. Robert L. Thompson (pastor of First Methodist Church), January 21, 1921, FPA.
  50. MIMB, July 25, September 5, October 18, 21, 1917, April 9, 1918, January 28, 1919; R. E. Rugen, "Report on Italian Mission" (prepared for mission board), April 1, 1918, FPA; Carswell, "Mission Work," p. 3.
  51. The synod based its evaluation on a survey of the Schenectady mission performed by U. L. Mackey during the fall of 1919. MIMB, September 21, November 28, 1919; Memorandum of meeting between Albany Presbytery's Committee on Home Missions and R. E. Rugen [1919], FPA.
  52. Treasurer's Report to the Italian Mission Board, June 30, 1921. The goal of the synod was to provide "at least a $25,000 church for foreign-speaking peoples in every town of 25,000 population or less and to have an annual sum of $5,000 for each to carry on this work." For domestic missions, the New York Synod allotted yearly $3,500,000 and the whole Presbyterian Church, $22,000,000 (Union Star, April 8, 1920); Schenectady Gazette, October 29, 1920.
  53. MIMB, September 3, 1920; Italian Mission Board, Annual Report to the New York Synod, March 31, 1921, FPA (Typewritten.)
  54. Almost half of the volunteers came from non-Presbyterian churches. The churches involved and the number of workers from each were: First Presbyterian (nine), Union Presbyterian (nine), State Street Presbyterian (one), San Salvatore (six), Mt. Pleasant Reformed (four), Second Reformed (five), First Methodist (one), Church of Christ (one), Pilgrim Congregational (three), St. George's Episcopal (one), Albany Street Methodist (two), Bellevue Reformed (one), Christian Adventist (one), United Presbyterian (one), Emanuel Baptist (two), Congregational (out of town — two) ("Volunteer workers at Italian Mission, Schenectady," memo prepared by Italian Mission Board, March 25, 1921. Typewritten.)
  55. Annual Report to synod, March 31, 1921; MIMB, May 14, 1920, February 4, 1921; Jean Butler, "Opportunities for Service Among the Italians in Schenectady," September 1920, and "Work Among the Italian Young People," October 1920 (reports by Deaconess Butler to Italian Mission Board), FPA.
  56. The Bible school was held at three locations during this period including the Lillian Hoffman House (1918), the Front Street settlement house (1919), and the Jay Street Chapel (1920). Attendance at the 1920 session was not as high as had been expected because of the establishment of a similar school by Father Bianco.
  57. Monthly Report of Deaconess Butler to Italian Mission Board, July 31, 1918; MIMB, July 1, 1919; Jean Butler, "The Italian Sunday School," and "Daily Vacation Bible School" (reports to IMB from Deaconess Butler, September 1920), FPA.
  58. Ibid., Interview with Joseph Memelo, August 10, 1981.
  59. The deaconesses who worked at the mission from 1918-1921 were: Anna McDonald (3/18-10/18), Jean Butler (5/19-9/22), Bertha Latschar (spoke Italian, 9/20-11/20), Mary S. Hawley (1/21-7/22), Rose Riccobene (second generation Italian, 3/21-10/21). Through much of 1921 there were three deaconesses employed, each receiving $1,200 annual salary.
  60. Jean Butler, "The Italian Sunday School," September 1920, and "The Work of a Deaconess," October 1920. (Reports to Italian Mission Board, FPA).
  61. MIMB, July 25, September 5, September 17, 1917, April 19, October 3, 1918; Nicola Conte,"Annual Report to the Italian Mission Board," March 31, 1918, FPA (Typewritten.) A history of the mission gave failing health as the reason for Conte's resignation (Forty-fifth Anniversary, p. 7)
  62. MIMB, October 3, 1918; Presbyterian Italians, p. 5; Interview with Amelia Ottaviano, July 27, 1983. For appeals by Bianco and Neyroz for contributions to the Italian War Orphan's Fund, and Neyroz acting as toastmaster at a reception for Italian war hero, Major General Guglielmotti, see, Schenectady Gazette, January 27, 1910, April 14, October 13, 1919.
  63. MIMB, January 14, 1918, December 13, 1902, February 4, April 1, 1921; Monthly Report of O. B. Neyroz to Italian Mission Board, June 1, 1921; Report of O. B. Neyroz to Italian Mission Board, June 10, 1921, FPA.
  64. O. B. Neyroz, "The Need of the Italians" (report to Italian Mission Board), April 1, 1921, FPA.
  65. Ibid.; MIMB, June 10, October 7, 1921; R. E. Rugen to O. B. Neyroz, September 4, 1920, May 9, September 21, 1921; O. B. Neyroz to R. E. Rugen, August 4, 1921; R. E. Rugen to A. J. Dean, September 6, 1921; Italian Mission Board, "Statement to the Italian Congregation," November 13, 1921, FPA; Union Star, November 30, 1921. After being elected supervisor, Mattrazzo succeeded in having Neyroz slated for county chaplain (replacing Father Bianco) at $500 a year. The 1933 history of the mission explained that Neyroz left because of "tempermental complications" (Presbyterian Italians, p. 5).
  66. MIMB, November 7, 29, 1921; R. E. Rugen to A. J. Dean, November 15, 1921; R. E. Rugen to U. L. Mackey, January 7, 26, 1922; R. H. Nelson to R. E. Rugen, January 10, 1922; U. L. Mackey to R. E. Rugen, January 27, 1922; Knickerbocker Press, November 28-30, 1921, FPA; Union Star, November 20-30, 1921.
  67. MIMB, February 3, 1922; Schenectady Gazette, February 13, 1922. Little material is available on the brief history of St. Peter's Italian Episcopal Church. Shortly before it closed, however, the church again gained public attention when a message was found stabbed to the outdoor bulletin board with a knife, "having a vicious blade of a type seldom seen." Crudely scrawled in pencil on the back of a cardboard poster, the message read: "Beware — K.K.K." (Schenectady Gazette, March 1, 1923).
  68. O. B. Neyroz to R. E. Rugen, August 9, 1924; Leary and Fullerton (law firm representing Neyroz) to Italian Mission Board, November 9, 1921; C. B. Pease to G. C. Hollister (Italian Mission Board's lawyer), December 15, 1921, FPA.
  69. Michele Frasca, I Served Three Generations (Vestal, New York: By the author, 1922), p. 35 (pastor of San Salvatore's, 1924-1946); Interview with Mrs. Ralph J. Fatato, August 12, 1981 (Mrs. Fatato is a member of the Assemblia Christiana Church. Her parents, who were married in San Salvatore's, became Pentecostals in 1924). Thirty years later, "Big Jim" Mattrazzo, former lay officer of both Chiesa di San Salvatore and Chiesa di San Pietro, returned to Catholicism on his deathbed, and a funeral mass was subsequently said for him at St. Anthony's by Father Bianco. (Interview with Amelia Ottaviano, July 27, 1983.)
  70. Schenectady Gazette, June 2, 1922; Union Star, November 11, December 21, 1922; Record, March 22, 1929.
  71. Union Star, November 11, 1922.
  72. Annual Report of Italian Mission Board, Supervising Italian Church of San Salvatore, Schenectady, N.Y., 1922-1923 (hereafter cited as ARIMB); MIMB, November 3, 1922.
  73. R. E. Rugen to U. L. Mackey, January 7, 1922; C. B. Pease (Albany Presbytery member of Italian Mission Board) to R. E. Rugen, February 7, 1922; Schenectady Gazette, May 5, 1922.
  74. M. S. Hawley to R. E. Rugen, March 21, 1922; Memorandum of meeting between R. E. Rugen, Gigliotti and R. W. Anthony (pastor of First Presbyterian), July 18, 1922; Jean Butler to R. E. Rugen, August 23, 1922, FPA; Schenectady Gazette, December 20, 21-22, 1922; Union Star, December 21, 1922; MIMB, September 12, 1924; R. E. Rugen, Report of Committee on Italian Mission, September 17, 1924.
  75. While serving as pastor of the Church of the Evangel in Rochester (1918-1924), Frasca caused "considerable feeling" among his Italian congregation by marrying his American deaconess, Mary B. McMullin, a Bryn Mawr graduate. After the death of his wife who was fourteen years his senior, Frasca married another minister's daughter, Ruth Degen, a school teacher (biographical sketch of Frasca prepared by R. E. Rugen, 1924); Frasca, I Served Three Generations, pp. 17, 22, 48; Forty-fifth Anniversary, p. 9.
  76. Mondello, "Protestant Proselytism," pp. 54-55; Presbyterian Italians, p. 6.
  77. Frasca, I Served Three Generations, pp. 36-37; Schenectady Gazette, January 27, 1926; ARIMB, 1926, p. 2-3. In 1927 the mission reported that 4,300 Italians (adults and children) lived in Mt. Pleasant. The total Italian population in the city was 16,900: Front Street (5,800), Manhattan Street (2,200), Strong Street (2,100), and elsewhere (2,500); MIMB, September 8, 1927.
  78. Monthly Report of Michele Frasca to Italian Mission Board, October, December, 1927, January 1928, April 1929 (hereafter cited as FMR), FPA; Frasca, I Served Three Generations, pp. 43-47; Rev. A. S. Spina to Bishop E. F. Gibbons, February 2, March 19, 1934. Letters are located in the Albany Diocese Archives. Interview with Zach Dadario (former member of mission board), August 15, 1981; Concerning the pastor of St. Anthony's, Frasca wrote in his autobiography (p. 40):

    Father Bianco was a fine, understanding priest. During the twenty-two years I was in Schenectady, he never gave us any trouble.

  79. ARIMB, 1926-1928, 1931; MIMB, October 14, 1932, October 10, 1941, February 13, 1946.
  80. ARIMB, 1926-1927, 1929; "Daily Vacation Bible School Report" (unsigned report to the Italian Mission Board, July, 1926); FMR, February, September, 1926; Frasca, I Served Three Generations, p. 36.
  81. G. C. Hollister (Clerk of Sessions of First Church) to Rev. M. Frasca, December 31, 1928; Frasca, I Served Three Generations, pp. 40-47; FMR, January 1929; November 1930; MIMB, December 18, 1944; Frank Cherubini, "Memoirs of God's Dealings," 1970, pp. 43-49, FPA. (Typewritten.)

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