My Paternal Great Grandfather in a Texas Shootout?

For me, the rumor started with a conversation in the early 90’s about my paternal ancestors, all Italian from my paternal grandfather on back.  The story I heard that day was that my Great Grandfather, Domenico Caruso (born circa 1849) somehow ended up in Texas where he was involved in a shootout after which he rushed home to Sicily.  I know, this is a funny story considering the reputation of Sicily for violence, so I’ve like to retell this tidbit from my ancestors stories, whether it is actually true or not, always starting with, “The mythology of my Italian ancestors includes a story about my great grandfather getting himself into a shootout in Texas…”

Recently I have discovered an interesting tie to this story.  My cousin, also a descendant of Domenico received from his father, Domenico’s grandson, a gun that was supposedly passed down from Domenico.  This cousin belonged on a shooting team in high school and has always been fascinated by guns.  I would trust any gun with this man because he knows how to handle them better than anyone else I’ve known.

Gun passed down to John Caruso from Domenico Caruso

My cousin writes about this Iver Johnson hand gun:

“The serial number stamped on the bottom of the trigger guard is 46998.  At the bottom of the grip frame there is some patent information.  I can’t read all of it because that latter part is scratched out.  However, the first part reads “…June.16.96 Aug.25….”  Since this is a Second Model Safety Automatic Hammerless (note the safety lever on the face of the trigger), it was apparently made between 1897 and 1908.”

That can give some idea of when our great grandfather purchased the revolver.  It is interesting to speculate that he purchased it in Texas as a form of protection, though maybe not wisely?  My cousin notes, “Even with the most careful aiming and trigger control…the only way you could hit the side of a barn with it is from inside the barn.”

He also noted that a similar gun was used by a so-called anarchist to assassinate President William McKinley on September 6, 1901, after which Theodore Roosevelt became president.  Of course this change in power was to the dismay of conservative Republicans who had put him on the ticket to win the election in 1900, because he had much more progressive ideas than they shared.

I believe he was born in 1849 and may have immigrated to the U.S. with his son Luigi “Louis” Caruso in 1886, leaving again in 1893 (see below, first column about whether he had ever been in the U.S.A. previously).  If this were true then he did not leave the U.S.A. in 1893 after being in Texas with the Ivers Johnson gun which he could only have purchased after 1897.

Capture-Pass N Crew list.Ellis Island New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.  SOURCE: Year: 1898; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 0022; Line: 25; Page Number: 31.

The record above showed Domenico returning to the U.S.A. in 1898 with plans to go back to live with Luigi Caruso in New York (second column that provides destination).  None of this could be correct – I could have the wrong Domenico, though the birth date of around 1849 (possibly February 1, 1949) and father Pasquale (my 2nd great grandfather), which is information that I originally obtained from my Aunt Gilda Caruso in the 1990’s when I spoke to her, gives some credence to this information, but not much assurance.

Did Domenico Caruso leave Luigi’s home in NYC around the age of 50 circa 1899 to go to Texas?  Did he buy this Ivers Johnson revolver there for protection, and then, as the result of some experience, possibly a gun fight, did he go again back to Sicily for one last time to die there.  I have no record of his death in the U.S.A., so I assume those records are in Sicily.

Lots of questions to answer about Domenico, though maybe I have the right person and with wife Cira Farace, and parents Pasquale Caruso and Maria LoPresti.  In 23andMe I have many DNA relationships on my Italian side, but tracing them back to these ancestors has not been possible so far.

So I continue to work on this interesting story about one of my Italian ancestors.

Author: T.P. Caruso

Retired from a healthcare and biomedical research career and now enjoying connections with anyone interested in history, geneology, healthcare, leadership or consciousness.

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