Thanks so much for the great response to this blog!
A special thank you to those who have passed it on to others. We are heading quickly to amazing page visits to this blog! Welcome to folks from all over the country and other countries as well, including Lisbon!!

The "Village", as it was called, is located in the northwest corner of the city of Taunton, Massachusetts U.S.A. It covers about 1 square mile with the center being School Street. A large portion of the Village population was Portuguese when I was growing up.

This blog covers a lot of the history of the Village, much to do with my years as a child there: 1940 through the late 1950's. I do have many wonderful photos and information prior to that that and will share those as well. Always looking for MORE PHOTOS AND MORE STORIES TO TELL.

If you would like to send photos or share a memory of growing up in the Village
e-mail me at
feel free to comment on the posts. Directions are on the right side of the blog posts. Jump in, the water is fine and it is easy!!!

I will be posting photographs but not identifying individuals unless I have permission or they are a matter of public record. It you wish to give me permission, please let me know.

I am looking for any and all photos of the Village...

Please note: the way blogs work is that the latest post is first. It you would like to start from the beginning of the blog, check out the post labels on the right of the blog and go from there. Thanks.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


This post was written with the invaluable help of Arlene Gouveia.  I thank her again for the picture she paints of  School Street Village life all those years ago.

Once settled in the Village, as we have often written, our grandparents created a melting pot of their own, melding people from the Azores, Madeira and from the mainland into a coherent and supportive community.  In essence, another kind of village.  As generations came along, the kinship they wove supported each of us as we lived our every special childhoods.

Immigrants landing in New Bedford, MA in 1912
source: Portuguese Spinner: An American Story
Stories of History, Culture and Life....Southeastern New England

There was a significant Madeiran presence in the Village as well as from Sao Miguel, largest of the Azorean islands. The minority of people were from Flores, Pico, Graciosa and Corvo, the smaller  islands.  This changed when, around 1957, there were terrible earthquakes in Fayal, some of them lasting months at a time.  The U.S. at that time had a quota system which limited immigrants from Portugal and the Islands.  Thanks to then Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy  and  Senator John Pastore (Rhode Island) Congress passed a special exemption: The Azorean Refugee Immigration Act of 1958  which allowed more Azoreans to immigrate. A wave of immigrants took advantage of this, especially from the Island of Santa Maria.  Nearby Stoughton  for a time had only Madeira folk, after the quota was lifted they welcomed Azoreans from Pico and Graciosa.  Arlene tells us that many of the Madeira people worked at the Talbot Wool Combing Mill in Norton which processed wool and produced lanolin. Some of the Madeira immigrants started their own grocery stores in the Village and other small businesses which we spoke of earlier in this blog.

A charming bit of this history was that all of the bakers in the Village, were without exception, from the Continent.  Many of the Azoreans would have loved to farm, but had to settle for their large backyards. These did feed their families, as well as somewhat satisfy their love of the land.
 New Bedford boasted many immigrants from Madeira, Fall River Sao Miguel.
 Arlene also related that women from the same Village would often gather to bake their bread.

There was a brickyard in the Village, on Longmeadow Road. Both my grandfathers worked there for a time.  Later, my Paternal Grandfather would go on to his business and real estate career at which he seems to have excelled.

Creating a life: of faith, of culture, of mutual support, the Village folk coalesced.  They formed music groups such as the Taunton City Band, they formed credit unions, a Portuguese American Civic Club.
They organized their Church so that it flourished with many types of religious as well as recreational activities.  And all the while, they assimilated, digging new and nourishing deep roots.  There is so much more to this story, but little space and time to tell it.

                                                I leave it up to you to wander where you will.

This subject has been dear to me.  I am like a thirsty soul always wanting more of who we are and who came before us.  It is encouraging to know that you all are just  as thirsty.

The Village has, of course, changed in composition over the years.  Immigration patterns evolved.
When mills and factories closed, immigration from all of Portugal more often went to New Jersey where a large Portuguese population exists today. A rising standard of living in Portugal, also slowed the migratory flow.

St. Anthony's is still very much an immigrant Church with at least two weekly masses in the Portuguese language.  I still enjoy going there when I am in town, not just hearing the language but all of the echoes which surround me.


                    Next:    Back from the history trail to more anecdotes of living in the Village.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What They Found ...Part I

Because there are so  many excellent historical and pictorial sources on the Internet for all of the  I will not dwell on them her.  Historia dos Acores  is just one.

Our forebears, as we have said, were hard workers.  The above photograph  from the site mentioned is an example of what Azorean and Madeira life was like for many of them in the early 1900's.  Preparing to come to America was a dream for something better, something more.

The labor situations that immigrants found when they came to this country is a fascinating, albeit troubling, part of the nation's history.  This was brought home to me as I worked on my maternal grandparent's story and because of that I feel it is important  to talk about it here.  It gives us new respect for the work ethics of our elders who paved the way for us, a way much easier than theirs.  Though many of them worked as entrepreneurs in the Village, they often had to supplement income by working elsewhere.

They brought their industriousness to their new lives. For many of them, life would continue to be difficult, but with more reward. Arlene Gouveia's father-in-law came to the Village and purchased a large piece of land on upper School St. He  grew crops including purple and white  grape vines, fruit trees, and raised goats and a few pigs.  A lot of folks who raised pigs called him when it was time.  A vegetarian now, I prefer not to remember that...  He was from Madeira,  part of a goodly amount of Madeira folk who settled in the Village.

Many of the Azoreans were factory or mill  workers, that would have included my maternal grandparents Isobel and Manuel Motta. She was employed at a shoe leather dying factory in Bristol, R.I.,  the Old Columbia Mill in East Taunton, The Berry Rag Shop.  The latter was  located at the bottom of Arlington St. in the Village and she worked there with her mother Anna (I notice this building still is located at the same place as it was when I was a child gazing at all those bales and bales of colorful rags).,  She also worked at the Cohen Mills in Taunton as a cotton threader winder, and finally at the Plymouth Cordage Co. in Plymouth which manufactured rope. ( Note: Plymouth Cordage Co. has a fascinating history if you are interested and a museum in Plymouth,MA). Most of the manufacturing work took place within a bubbling stew of toxic conditions that often took a toll of the health of many of the workers.

My maternal grandfather, Manuel Motta, worked for Glenwood Range in Taunton.  He was employed as a stove worker.  At that time Glenwood used quartz dust and the ventilation was very poor.  My grandfather contracted silicosis (Black Lung) which led to tuberculosis. Another worker from the Village also contracted the condition.  It would be fatal for my grandfather at a young age.  The Glenwood  situation prompted Massachusetts to form the Division of Occupational Labor and Workforce Development.  One of the first in the nation.

The picture below is a very precious photograph.  
Taken in the early 1900's, it is of a  group of young women working in a 
Fall River, MA weaving mill and includes my husband's maternal grandmother. She is 5th in from the right peeking over another worker's shoulder. An immigrant from Canada,
not only did she work in the mills, she also went on to bear 14 living children.

   My grandmother Isobel said that the mill work paid $14.66 a month for six days a week of 11 hour working days. This would have been usually inhaling flax, cotton and hemp as as it flew all around them.  Heavy metals were also used in many situations such as dying.  Brockton tanneries left polluted ground which even today is problematic.  Brockton was a center of shoe manufacturing in those times. In Norton, there was the Talbot Wool Company which processed wool and
produced lanolin. In the late 1800's there was the Whittenton Cotton Textile factory, which once boasted 1,600 looms.  The Whittenton buildings still stand and are on the National Historic Register.
You may recall that the suspense movie, Shutter Island, was filmed there not long ago.

In the United States 39% of pregnant women immigrants worked in the mills.  The infant mortality rate for them was 200 per 1,000 live births,
 twice the national average.

Coming here was chasing a dream, it also had its costs.


          Next:  last post in the Origins series: the composition of the Village population, then and now.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dreamtime in Sao Miguel

Look at this Flickr photo from the Internet.  Doesn't it make you think of Middle Earth in the Hobbit or a landscape out of Lord of the Rings?  Breathtaking beauty with a touch of the mystic. This is from the island of Sao Miguel, Azores,  but I know not the location. I can only say that it is a place from where dreams must come.  This was where my grandmother dreamed of a new life.  
No wonder their hearts always missed it...

photo by Eduardo Manchon:Internet.

Sao Miquel is about 800 miles from the Portuguese mainland, and the largest of the Azorean islands, part of the eastern group made up of it and Santa Maria.  Sao Miguel is 40 miles north of her nearest neighbor island Santa Maria.  The total land mass of all of the Azorean islands: the Eastern, the  Central made up of Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pica and Faiil, and the western group of Flores and 
Corvo is 908 square miles.

 To get a better grasp on its size: this is smaller than the state of Rhode Island which is approx. 1,000 sq miles, or the size of Yosemite National Park in the U.S. 
or the Houston Bus system in Texas...

Virtually no flat land exists on these islands.  The coastal cliffs rise several hundred feet.  Lower coastlines provide coves for harbors (and pirates).  The waters are deep offshore, nearly one to two miles deep in some places.  Due to their  volcanic composition, there have been horrific earthquakes over the centuries,  There are seasonal cyclones and sometimes drought caused by the dust fallouts from winds from the African sahara.  Herein lies the secret of why dreams of leaving for another
 world came to pass.

You can read about the Azores, each one, on the Internet so I will not dwell on the subject long.
There are some interesting facts, though, to consider.

One is that because of the location of these islands, smack in the middle of the Atlantic, there has been considerable scientific genetic interest. If you are interested in pursuing this go to
There is a veritable genetic soup in the Azores: in bloodlines and in cultures.

Around the year 1400 many Flemish people came to the Azores and played an important role in the development of Azorean culture.  Flemish windmills and ox carts are still seen on the islands and many Azoreans have light hair and complexion as well as blue eyes.  

The genetic study cited above indicate that there is a large Middle Eastern component in bloodlines, not surprising since the Moors dominated the Azores, Madeira and Portugal for so long. Also, components of French, Sri Lanken, Bosnian, Herzogovnian and European,  Too complicated, you may fall asleep reading that study but the point has been made.

My grandmother. Isobel Bento Correia came from Aqua da Alto in Sao Miquel.  She was fair skinned with light brown hair as was my mother and Uncle.  As you can see from this Internet photo, it is a village hugging the coastline.

This is my maternal great-grandmother Anna Jesus D' Oliveira Bento Correia 
who was born in Aqua d'Alto in 1862.  It is the only photo of a great grandparent that we possess.
 She was made a widow at a young age and brought up her family of ten children there. Not all lived to adulthood.  Most of them left for the Unites States and Bermuda when they could. Only two remaained in Aqua d'Alto,  At the age of 60 she immigrated to the United States to join
her daughters in the Taunton area.  One of those daughters, herself a young widow, would remarry and settle right next to Jigger's variety in the Village.

My maternal great grandmother Anna  died at the age of 87.  Here is hoping we inherited those genes.

photo from our family archives

Life was harsh for the mostly poor folk of the Island, despite the beauty that surrounded them.
Isobel, my grandmother, spoke of a strict but loving household.  She helped the family by
picking beans and grapes for $.30 an hour and helped with the children at home.

Many have remarked on the hard working character of the Azoreans when they come to the U.S.  Their pride of place seen in their well kept homes and yards, their ambition and willingness to assimilate into the wider culture into which they inserted themselves and their families.  Hardship builds character and this applies to these Islanders.  Facing earthquakes, drought and cyclone they learned the hard way.

My great grandmother left two sons in Aqua d'Alto,
One of them opened a bar which, we think, is still there.
Anyone ever been there?

Photo from Gilbert

I spoke of the Bermuda connection.  As part of a sort of tenant farmer arrangement, those leaving from the Azores often resettled on the beautiful island of Bermuda, off the coast of the United States.
This happened with some of my maternal relatives. They eventually married, owned their
 properties raising their own families who in turn would either stay or resettle themselves.
Indeed, at least one of them has elected to return to the Island of Sao Miguel.
Circles upon circles.

Sao Miguel is surely no longer the Island it was in 1915 when my
Grandmother Isobel  came to America.

Although ....this is a photo titled Milk Delivery in Aqua d'Alto
taken by cousin Gilbert in 1993.

Next: the diaspora and what they found,
resettling in the School Street Village.
We come full circle, too.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Tribute to Found Cousins

In the Portuguese language women cousins are called Prima, men: Primo.  Growing up I recall that my paternal Grandmother Delphina had a special Prima from New Bedford.  Can you believe that I never knew her name, though I remember her so well in my mind ?  When they came to visit, or we went to visit them, she was simply 'Prima from New Bedford'....and we know who it meant!

Some years ago while doing extensive research for my maternal Grandmother Isobel's life story (Searching for Isobel) I was connected with her nephew, a Primo in Canada I had never known.  Another cousin of my Mom's from whom I was trying to elicit information all of a sudden said, "Call Primo Gilbert in Canada, he has done a lot of family research! "  Imagine, we had never known of each other's existence!

I love this photo of Gilbert, informal and laughing.  He has since passed on but it is a great blessing that we - he and his wonderful wife Claire - were able to connect families.  Through Gilbert I learned of Aqua d'Alto in Sao Miguel in the Azores where my Grandmother Isobel and her family were from, and also of her siblings some of whom settled in Bermuda.  I will never forget when we had our first teary phone call and all the emails and phone calls that followed.

Ask me again why researching one's family is so important!  Finding Primo Gilbert and his wonderful family was a very special gift I will always treasure.

Gilbert and his wife, Claire, went to Aqua d'Alto and met more of our family there.
What better and more fitting way to introduce 
the Azores than to introduce you to my Primo Gilbert.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Goodbye to Madeira

The charms of Madeira brought interesting people to Madeira.  Winston Churchill loved the Island and took his rest there.  It inspired him to take up watercolors. You can see that this would have been in the late 40's and perhaps later.  The development which has recently 
exploded on the Island was not yet prevelant.

George Bernard Shaw learned to tango in Madiera....

Sir Winston at his easel.

Madeira folk in the Village were very close.  When I did my genealogical research, I found out that they were rather a minority versus Azoreans in New England.  Yet, somehow they found their way to Taunton and their closeness did not diminish.  The New Bedford Madeira festival of the Blessed Sacrament is the largests festa in the world!!    Often Madeira folk from 
New Bedford would come to visit and vice versa.  Sadly we have not kept up with them.

This website will tell you more about the New Bedford festa which takes place annually in August, upcoming will be its 99th year.

Madeira today is a cosmopolitan resort spot for Europeans and Americans as well.  It is to be hoped that the charms of my home island are not lost.....

I leave you with a YouTube video of the New Year's firework's display: the largest in the world
taking place each year in the Funchal harbor. It was recognized in 2006 by the Guiness World Records. There are usually many cruise ships in the harbor
for just this event.  Another dream on my bucket list....
Anyone know the history of these fireworks?  When they first began?

Enjoy this astounding display!

and one  more video...this music is somehow already imbedded in my memories.

shared on You Tube by somehow from Bristol, RI.  Thank you whoever you are.

Next: The Azores.....

I am hoping that more viewers will share their photos.  
Several readers have just returned from there.
 I will gladly pop them in as we go.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Sorry to have been away from my post, so to speak. I am back again with this new post which will talk about  Funchal, capital of Madeira. We continue the Origins of the People of the School Street village.

Funchal is where my maternal Grandfather, Manuel Motta was born.  I am noticing more and more that international readers are visiting this blog.  Manuel is but a shadow in our history.  No photographs exist of him, and only what my grandmother Isobel told us in a recorded interview helps us to know him.   Perhaps: someone is out there with some information about him and our family on that side.  I hit so many dead ends in my research that I need to jump start again.  What I do know puts a personal side to our description of this beautiful city.

Manuel was born  in Funchal in the parish and village of Santa Maria  Major on October 15, 1895 to Antonio and Maria C. da Motta.   This is a venerable church in the baroque architectural style that is also called Igreja de Sao Tiago Minor. It also had other names , as over the centuries it was rededicated when the need arose.  Here my grandfather, his parents and theirs and on into the past were baptized, confirmed, often married and in my grandfather's case had their funeral masses.  As an aside, land being so rocky and limited, burials took place only temporarily when cremation then took place and common sites were used.  For this reason there are few memorial name stones in Madeira.  This is a problem for those seeking genealogical knowledge as, of course, cemeteries are a large source of information,  In all of Madeira, there are only a few "cemeteries".  More to come as more photographs and input come in from our readers.

 My grandfather's paternal grandparents were Maria de Conceicoa and Manuel da Motta. Maternal grandparents were Helena de Jesus and Francisco Fernandes. This information was gleaned from two fragile letters that my mother kept from Maria and Manuel written in 1940 and 1941. This allowed us to get his birth certificate and. much later, his death certificate.

Manuel had at least two siblings that we know from one of those letters.  A brother, Jose, who was in South Africa, a common destination for Madeirenses.  We know from my mother that a sister named Carolina or Carlotta cared for my grandfather in Madeira when he was dying.

We must assume that my grandfather immigrated to the U.S. prior to 1915 which was when he met my grandmother Isobel in Bristol and they were married.  Isobel wrote that an uncle (was it maternal or paternal? ) introduced them in the shoe factory where they both worked in that town.

Manuel clearly loved his little family.  He, and they often, visited Madeira and he went there in his final illness. He died in his early thirties.  That little family found only tragedy in America.  Their little son died at 18 months of age.  Their daughter, my mother, spent her childhood from the ages of 9 1/2 to 18 in a Boston orphanage after my grandmother became seriously ill.

Funchal is a beautiful seaside city.  I can see why my grandfather so loved it. I was fortunate enough to find these photos on madeira,webcam. com which tell us what the city was like when he was born and probably for most of his life.

Today, from a website
I found these great old photos.  Taken from an 1880 publication
"Views of Madeira" it contains 18 clear old photos of that time.

Here are just a few.

The first is taken in front of the Grande Hotel in Monte where the toboggan rides still originate.
The gardens in front of the old entrance to the hotel are famous today, according to the author of the site.  These fellows chose the sled ride down be accomplished with bullocks instead
of strong young men.

        Below is another photo from that time of the Cathedral in Funchal built between 1493 and 1514.

More to come about Funchal....and hopefully, more from all of you reading the posts.  
Thanks in advance.