~ Francesco Civitano~ Stage Coach Robber

In an earlier post I talked about the repeating name of Francesco in our family. Today I want to write about Francesco Civitano son of Vitobino Luigi and Isabella Elisabetta D’Amico who most deservedly warrants a closer look. He was an extremely interesting character and the ‘father’ of many of our immigrating ancestors. One of the major splits in the tree are from this Francesco’s 2 sons Vitobino Luigi b. 1860 and brother Vincenzo b. 1868. Before returning to this Francesco; of note, these 2 brothers married 2 sisters: Vitobino Luigi married Angelina Marvulli and Vincenzo married Nicoletta Marvulli. 

Francesco was born the 23 Sept 1834. He was baptized in the Parish Church of Grumo on 25 Sept 1834. His official birth was reported to the Mayor of the time; Michele Garzilli by his father Vito Luigi. Witnesses at his birth were Rocco Umbrino and Vito Vincenzo Sardone. * look closely at the last page of the document it has Vito Luigi’s signature –

Birth Certificate - Francesco Civitano (1834) p.2

1st and 3rd page

Francesco’s birth certificate

On the 19th of February 1860 Francesco married Giuditta Maria Sportelli b. 2 Nov 1839 in Acquaviva delle Fonti, in Bari,  daughter of Vincenzo Sportelli and Beatrice Constantina Michele Racano.  

Marriage Certificate - Francesco

Marriage Certificate - Francesco -2

As I have already mentioned Francesco and Giuditta had 2 sons Vitobino Luigi and Vincenzo, they also had daughters Rosabetta Isabella b. 14 Feb 1864 d. 7 Sept 1864. She  survived about 7 months old. She was followed by the birth of a 2nd daughter named Isabella b. 21 July 1865  d. 9 Sept 1947 Grumo Appula. Isabella married a man named Michele Sollecito.

Francesco was a peasant farmer as most of our Grumo ancestors seem to have been. He had married Giuditta (at age 26) in 1860.  Son Vitobino Luigi was born in that year, followed by the 2 daughters and then Vincenzo, their last child in 1868. I repeat this information to set the stage for what is to come. Times had been hard for farmers, I don’t know if that led father Francesco to break the law or if Francesco might have just been bad.  I like to believe that the times were so tough that he resorted to crime to support his family. In any case he robbed a stage coach out of desperation for money. He did not get away with it and by August 30 1873, at the age of 39,  Francesco was found guilty of stage coach robbery, with aggravated assault with serious injury and sentenced to 18 years at forced hard labor at Bagno Penal facility of Civitavecchia.

My family line follows Francesco’s son Vincenzo. Vincenzo was just 5 years old when his father was sentenced to prison. Many of our descendants here in America follow the line of brother Vitobino Luigi. At the time their father was sentenced Vitobino Luigi was 13 years old, quite old enough to have had a total understanding of what had happened.  I can’t even imagine what Giuditta was going through. The question again comes up for me, what was the living arrangements like? Was there communal living arrangements of Civitano families working the land?  Who and how did Giuditta support herself and her family?

The situation gets worse, while serving 18 years at hard labor, at the age of 45, on the 20th April 1879, 6 years into his sentence, Francesco had taken ill and was transported to the infirmary. On the 17th April, 3 days later he died. According to the document he was certified dead by Dr Tommaso Alessanari and given last rites by Chaplin Luigi Palagi who I believe was the director of the prison.

Death Certificate - Francesco Civitano (1879) p.1Death Certificate - Francesco Civitano (1879) p.2

Death Certificate - Francesco Civitano (1879) p.3

I initially began researching Francesco in 2008 when I met via the net a man, who I mentioned in a beginning post by the name of Frank Dattolico. He was instrumental in helping locate many records and got myself and yes cousin Peter Marino aka Sherlock Holmes started on the journey. In 2 of my correspondences with Frank. I asked him how he got his information on what happened to Francesco and he wrote (Feb 2008)

Hello Sharon, I found the document on film number 1692719 it’s with the 1876 death records but it is in the supplement section. The Supple# is No 5. The document is all in long hand. I’ve been trying to translate the whole document but page two the ink is kinded of light and is hard to read. I translated page one which it states that the Town official of Grumo received an extract of the death of Francesco Civitano from the Director of the Civitavecchia Prison, which I learned is a prison for forced labor about 44 miles from Rome. The present day City of Civitavecchia is a big Cruise Ship port. * 1876 transposed for 1879 in a following email to me a few days later

Sharon me and a friend of mine who was born in Italy translated page 2 of Francesco Civitano death record and a summary of it, is as follows:
     Let it become known that the deceased  Civitano, Francis, son of  the late Vito Luigi, forty two years of age born in Grumo and resided in Grumo, profession peasant farmer, on August 30,  1873 was found guilty of aggravated assault with serious injury and was sentenced to 18 years at forced labor at a Prison in Civitavecchia. On April 17, 1876 he was sent to the infirmary. At 1:00 AM  April 20, 1879 he died. He was certified dead by Dr. Tommaso Alessanari and given last rites by Chaplin Luigi Palagi and present was the Director of the Prison. 
I hope this helps you out. Ciao Frank Dattolico
As I was looking over the death record for this blog post I was wishing I could read Italian.  Even if I could I am not sure I could even decipher it. I did pick out the words Bagno Penale number of times and with google translate Bagno – bathroom. A google search of Bagno Penale brought up the article below that I found fascinating and wanted to share it with you.


MONDAY 07 August 2017 – Updated at 19:53 (article translated) 

The “criminal bath” of Civitavecchia


CIVITAVECCHIA – In the northern outskirts of Civitavecchia there is a monumental complex characterized by a large and massive wall that represents one of the most impressive historic buildings of the city and, paradoxically, one of the least known ones. This is the so-called “sanitary bathroom”, the prison structure of Via Tarquinia, named after the “Victim of the Duchess” Giuseppe Passerini, who was transferred to history as one of the earliest penitentiaries in the United Kingdom in 2013.

In fact, the name “sanitary bath” was inherited from the old warehouses of the dock where we know that from the early seventeenth century in the harbor town were convicted. Often the premises of the docks were located below the sea level, where the water was filtered and moisture was perpetually reigning and perhaps that is why such detention facilities were designated with the names of “criminal baths”, “floating baths” or “Prison mouillées”. In the ancient bath of the dock we know that there was a small cemetery and a “spacious hospital” built in 1658, where the cleanliness was the highest and where, at the center of the cameron, stood an altar for the celebration of religious functions. However, in response to the new emerging prison demands in the mid-nineteenth century, along with the intensification of maritime traffic, the dock space became increasingly inadequate as a detention facility and a new penitentiary was necessary.

Thus, in the “Prato del Turco” (the current Via Tarquinia) site, the new “criminal bath” was constructed thanks to the direct interest of Pope Pius IX who in 1864 entrusted the Pro Minister for Weapons, Mgr. De Merode. The project worked on Ing. Navona and then Captain Pinto, while an artillery company (later constituted in genius body) was involved in the execution. On October 26, 1868, during his last visit to Civitavecchia, Pius IX wanted to visit the ongoing work that was completed by 1870. The structure, starry form, consisted originally of two environments: the first was destined To accommodate 120 guards, the second 250 convicted with 20 penalty cells reserved for prisoners of “vicious conduct”. Inside the prison there was a hospital that could receive more than 120 detainees, various premises destined for various functions (offices, reception rooms, accommodation rooms, etc.) and, in particular, a chapel on an octagonal basis , In the shape of a semisphere shell, in the middle of which was the altar for the celebration of religious functions to which the “servants of the penance” could be assisted.

The imposing walls of the prison structure were guarded at the four corners by expert rifles. The Penitentiary in Civitavecchia will be one of the most important in the history of the national prison system, renowned for hosting the great majority of political prisoners convicted by the Special Tribunal from 1932 to 1943 during the second half of the fascist twenty years. Defense of the state.After the Second World War, the first “Institute for the Treatment of Young Adults” was created in the jail, a state-of-the-art facility in Italy for the detention mode for people aged 18 to 18 And 22 years old.

Returned to a detention center for detainees of any age, in July 1992, the facility will be temporarily disabled following the entry into service of the new prison in Borgata Aurelia, still in operation. On April 15, 1999, the Tarquinia penitentiary will be reinstated in the five historic departments of the same illustrious Italian characters: the criminal and political man Enrico Ferri, the jurist and philosopher Gian Domanico Romagnosi, the literary illuminist Cesare Beccaria, the experimental psychologist Agostino Gemelli And patriot Carlo Cattaneo. Today, the House of Reconciliation “G.Passerini “in Civitavecchia, is an advanced treatment institution with 60 detention rooms and ample spaces for educational, work, cultural, sports and religious activities, in full accordance with the most modern dictates that make a prison structure Which is respected, that of a place that equally respects the punitive and rethinking function of the detainee.

(03 Mar 2017 – 10:27 am)





2 thoughts on “~ Francesco Civitano~ Stage Coach Robber

  1. “NWPAINTEDLADY” is the best researcher ever. The Francesco Civitano that this tale revolves around was my great-grandfather whom I knew next to nothing about. As a child, family folk lore talked about a stage coach robbery, but I never knew who it was or any other details…Imagine what those times were like! No you can’t……..Thanks Sharon

    Liked by 1 person

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