Giuseppe’s letter to his son Joseph Brigham at West Point Academy.

Joseph Brigham Toronto

In June 1875, both Giuseppe and his first wife, Eleanor, wrote letters to their first son, Joseph Brigham, who had just enrolled at West Point Academy to prepare for a career as an Army officer. This was a prestigious appointment and a high honor: only one person was nominated annually from each state for such an appointment, and the nomination had to be approved by both the governor of the state/territory, and the president of the United States. To turn down this nomination, or to accept it and then drop out of the Academy, would be considered very bad form, and a blight on the reputation of the state or territory that nominated the prospective cadet. So there was considerable pressure for Joseph Brigham to accept the appointment, which he did reluctantly, probably out of a sense of loyalty to his father, Giuseppe, who was a close associate of the governor and president of the LDS church, Brigham Young. Having made the long trek back East, and after barely a week at West Point, Joseph Brigham realized he had made a mistake, and expressed a desire to return home to pursue an academic career. He apparently hated the military mindset and lifestyle, and expressed his desire to leave the Academy. Giuseppe responded to his son’s dilemma with this letter in which he expresses his point of view and offers some fatherly counsel.

This letter is significant for at least two reasons:

1. It was always assumed that Giuseppe was illiterate, in both Italian and English, because he went to work as a merchant seaman at a young age and had no opportunity for formal education. This assumption seemed reasonable in view of the fact that we had no correspondence or diaries written in his own hand. Now, with this letter, we know that Giuseppe had managed over the years to acquire some rudimentary skill in both spoken and written English. The spelling and syntax reflect his struggle to express himself in the language of his adopted country, and though no doubt self-conscious about his lack of fluency, felt compelled to write a personal letter in his own hand (rather than using a scribe) at a time when his son desperately needed to feel his parents’ love and support.

2. In the letter, we gain deeper understanding of Giuseppe’s character and life experiences. He obviously cares deeply for his son and expresses his support for Joseph Brigham whether he leaves or stays at the Academy. Those must have been reassuring words to a son who found himself in an embarrassing predicament. We learn of Giuseppe’s feelings of loneliness and homesickness after leaving home in Palermo to help support his family. Although he felt like returning home, he tried to do what Heavenly Father would have him do, and sought His guidance. Giuseppe expresses his confidence that the Lord will guide his son just as he was guided during difficult times as a young man. Above all, he wanted his son to know that his parents loved and supported him, come what may, and that they would help him return home and start a new life if that was his desire. The picture that emerges from the letter is one of a faithful, tender-hearted father who was deeply interested in securing the well-being of his children, and who continued throughout his life to provide support to his own parents and brothers and sisters in Sicily.

The epilogue to this story is that Joseph Brigham did indeed return to Utah and enrolled at the University of Deseret. He was a brilliant student who upon graduation was immediately offered a faculty position to teach both mathematics and languages. He had a distinguished academic career, including service for many years as Vice-President of the university which by then had been re-named the University of Utah.

A full transcript together with images of the three page letter follow below: Continue reading

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A Letter from Giuseppe in Italy to his Son, Joseph Brigham

Palermo the 31st March 1876
My dear son
After a passage of 21 days with the railways, at last by
the mail steamer I arrived here on the 11th inst.

Having nothing further to tell you at present,
may God bless you, your mother and brothers
and all the family and friends, by sending
my loves to you all
I remain
Your father
Joseph Taranto
P.S. This is the seventh letter I write you
Joseph Toronto

Full size images and complete transcript of the four page letter follow below the break.

by Jim Toronto

Each month we plan to upload a new and fascinating item on this website that will add to our understanding of the Joseph Toronto family. We begin with a letter from Giuseppe, written in 1876 from Palermo, Sicily during his second mission, to his oldest son Joseph Brigham in Salt Lake City. The letter is in English, obviously dictated to a scribe who writes in a beautiful hand, but retaining the syntax and vocabulary of Giuseppe’s rather broken English. I have transcribed the letter for ease of reading, retaining the original spelling, grammar, and punctuation and adding a few footnotes for clarification. The transcribed text can be found at the end of this post. It is interesting to note how the spelling of the name “Taranto” was in a state of flux, as we see both “Taranto” and “Toronto” in the signatures at the letter’s conclusion. Giuseppe is obviously anxious to unite both his Italian and his American families, as evident in his very Sicilian attitude about matchmaking between his sons in Salt Lake City and his nieces in Palermo. There are other important insights into Giuseppe’s life, times, and character that emerge from a careful reading of this document.

A brief explanation about the provenance of this letter and other new items that we will be sharing Continue reading

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Coming Soon to this Site – Treasure Trove of Historical Documents

by Steve Toronto

Approximately three and half years ago, I received a CD from Angela Haight (great granddaughter of Giuseppe and his first wife Eleanor) that contained digitized photographs of a treasure trove of documents that she had discovered were kept in an old trunk in the basement of her Uncle John Toronto’s home on Douglas Street in Salt Lake City. Uncle John was the eldest surviving male descendant of Giuseppe (a grandson through Giuseppe’s first wife Eleanor). Uncle John had passed away and his daughter Susan (Angela’s cousin) had moved into the home. When Angela learned about the trunk and its contents she realized the value of the photographs and documents and asked permission of Susan to have a professional photograph and digitize the materials in the trunk. She completed this in 2008 and compiled the photos and documents onto a CD, a copy of which she gave to me.

When I reviewed the CD I began to understand as well what a remarkable collection of documents this was. I had seen copies of some of the documents in the Giuseppe history Jim Toronto had authored but these seemed to be both the originals of those and more. It was remarkable to be able to read the Continue reading

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The Wallace Toronto Foundation

I’ve recently become aware of the Wallace Toronto Foundation. Wally, as he was known, was the Mission President of the Czeckoslovakia Mission for more than 32 years, up until his death in 1967. The Wallace Toronto Foundation’s website is located here. Its Facebook page with over 180 members is located here. Wally’s wife Martha wrote an autobiography, “A Cherry Tree Behind the Iron Curtain” (hence the cherry tree in the logo of the foundation, above) of their experiences in Czeckoslovakia, and afterwards, which you can find on our website here.

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Lamont Toronto in the April 2011 Ensign?

J. Reuben Clark and Wallace F. Toronto

I recently received a call from a friend alerting me that they saw a photo of my dad, Lamont Toronto, in the new April Ensign. Not finding it online, I checked my print copy at home and immediately saw a photo of my dad’s brother Uncle Wally on the “Contents” page. Thinking that dad might also be somewhere in that same article I looked it up. But no, it was the same photo with a caption mis-identifying Wally as Lamont. Although dad was the President of the Canadian Mission in the ’60s, Wally was also the President of the Czechoslovakia mission for 32 years up until his death in 1967. You can read all about Wally here in his wife’s autobiography also posted on our website here. Continue reading

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Histories and Biographies Now Posted.

During a recent gathering of the legacy officers of this organization, (Jim, John & Carolyn, and Joe Toronto who’ve been in place since the 1980’s) it was agreed to try to re-energize the organization, establish a website and start posting as much history and genealogy as we can. That process has now begun with the establishment of this website. It is still very much in embryo and it’s form, format and organization will likely change greatly as we continue to add material.

As a starting point, a core group of eight histories and biographies have now been posted including Giuseppe Taranto, Alma Elizabeth Felt, Albert and Etta Toronto and Martha Anderson Toronto together with a couple of other articles and some photos. These can all be found here and from the Biographies and Histories menu link above.

As material is added, we hope to add menu links for other geneology, history, source documents, and perhaps even a family tree of descendants and relatives. Wish us luck. We hope to make this site interesting and compelling. You will find the material posted thus far is utterly fascinating. Please don’t forget to post comments and give feedback when you browse or read our material. And don’t forget to share and bring others here too!

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Rome, Italy Temple Groundbreaking

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Rome, Italy Temple was held on October 23, 2010.

President Thomas S. Monson presided over the groundbreaking ceremony here for the Rome Italy Temple, imparted words of direction and love before offering a prayer of thanksgiving and dedication on the temple project. With a temple coming, the blessings of eternal family can soon be secured inside Italy, a country rich with Church history and significance. “With regard to the temple which will be built upon this site, it means everything to Latter-day Saints,” said President Monson during his remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony. “It unites families here and in eternity.

“Pres. Monson also noted that the ancient apostles Peter and Paul were missionaries in Italy and that approximately eighteen hundred years later, in 1850, Elder Lorenzo Snow and two companions, Elder Stenhouse and Elder Toronto [Giuseppe], traveled to the valleys of the Piedmont Mountains in northern Italy to begin missionary efforts in this dispensation.” Giuseppe was the first Italian and the first Catholic to join the Restored Church.

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Giuseppe Efisio Taranto

What follows here is the Biography of Giuseppe Efisio Taranto commonly known as Joseph Toronto. He was an Italian sailor who ran a small business in Boston harbor selling supplies to ships. It was here that he met the Mormon missionaries as they travelled to Britain and he quickly became converted to the Restored Church. He is the first Italian and the first Catholic to join the Church. He later travelled to Nauvoo and gave $2,600 in gold coin, everything he had, to Brigham Young to finish the construction of the Nauvoo temple. This story was recounted in a three part series in The Friend in the 2009 Jan. – Mar. editions and is reproduced on this website here. Giuseppe then travelled west with the Saints and was called by Brigham Young to serve a mission with Lorenzo Snow to open the land of Italy for the restoration of the Gospel. The following biography is quite comprehensive and was written in 1983 by great grandson James Toronto. Giuseppe was an amazing man and his stories are equally amazing so read on… Continue reading

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Website Header Photo

Your webmaster is seeking input and candidates for great header photos for this website. Since I’m a sucker for sunsets, I’m proposing one of these below. The first three are a Mediterranean sunset taken on Dec. 18, 2010 from a beach just outside of Taranto Italy.

This one happens to be my favorite so until I hear otherwise from someone, this will be the header. Besides, my wife concurs. She likes the rays of sunlight descending. Plus, it was taken in Taranto Italy, home of our forebears.

Here are a few others of mine, this one taken from Continue reading

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Welcome to the new website of the Joseph Toronto Foundation. Check back here for news and updates to family histories and geneology. As always, when you visit, please leave comments and feedback. Usually your comments are the only reward bloggers receive.

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