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 two patriarchal blessings given to Giuseppe – his lineage being through Manasseh interestingly enough as pronounced through a blessing given in the “City of Joseph” in 1845. Then there is his mission call from the first presidency, signed by each member including Brigham Young – all in their original hand. Particularly intriguing is the photograph of Giuseppe and Eleanor with their three boys – about 10 years earlier than the daguerreotype that was the earliest photo I had previously seen. Finally, how interesting to peruse the correspondence of Giuseppe from is second mission to Italy – he left in 1876 at the age of 60. I was amazed to finally see his awkward signature, in his own hand at the bottom of letters clearly dictated to and written by someone else.
At the time, I did not know whether Jim Toronto was aware of this collection and as he was serving a mission in Italy did not have an opportunity to share this with him until after his return in 2010. During a brief visit to BYU in the fall of 2010, he and I met and I described the collection. We planned to arrange a time to visit with Susan to see if we could view the documents ourselves. During Christmas holiday, I was able to make arrangements with Susan Toronto, who graciously agreed to let us visit her home and inspect the documents. My recollection is that we met at her home on December 29. We were invited down to the basement of the home and introduced to a trunk and a couple of boxes, filled with photos, letters, albums and other documents. As we asked questions about family and events, Susan called her sister Ruth, who lived nearby, to join us as Ruth was a repository of additional family knowledge and history. We spent several hours with them looking over photos, handling letters, sifting through correspondence and identifying items of particular interest. As we concluded, Jim identified an older paper with seals and stamps on it. He opened it up to reveal a large travel document that was identified as the document that Giuseppe used as he traveled to Italy on one of his missions, with visas and travel permits of the various city states that comprised what is now Italy.
I thought it particularly meaningful that we were bridging of two lines of Giuseppe’s families through the efforts of Angela’s efforts to reach out to us and the kindness of Susan and Ruth Toronto in permitting us to share in the documentary heritage that they have maintained.