THE ITALIAN BLACKSMITH
My grandfather, Stefano Dragone, apprenticed in Italy at a young age to learn the art of blacksmithing. He learned to shoe horses, make tools and practice metalworking.
When he was 18 he travelled to the United States from Bari, which is in the Puglia region of Italy. He worked for a few years and then returned to Italy to marry. He was introduced to a young lady from a neighboring town called Alberobello by a matchmaker. Alberobello is known for trulli, which are cone roofed stone huts.
The young lady’s name was Maria Calderella. Maria and Stefano were soon married and returned to America. Like many Southern Italians, they moved to Rochester, NY. Stefano and Mary, as she came to be known, were blessed with eight children, Vito, Mario, Charles, Niblia, Mary, Donato, Annetta and Francis. During World War II all five boys served their country. Two of them returned with Purple Hearts.
Stefano started his career at the Rochester Carting Company and worked shoeing horses for twenty years until mechanical trucks replaced the wagons. He then worked for himself, travelling to farms and barns with a lit forge and anvil on a wagon behind his horse. The story goes that the horse would know to stop at every bar on the way to the farms and back.
His clients included the Genesee Brewing Company and their twelve horse team. Stefano became good friends with the brewery owner on his visits to the horse farm.
When farrier work became even harder to find, Stefano took a municipal job making tools, fences and metal railings for the city.
Stefano made his own wine and grape crushing was an annual family event. He had a wine cellar in his basement with several old oak barrels up until the end of his life. My memories of him almost always included a juice glass of wine in front of him.
Stefano passed away in 1970. Cory never met him, but I can’t help but compare these two men that learned their craft at a young age. They were born 90 years apart but share a true artisan tradition.
Steve Dragone Owner