Civic Institutions: Public Services

Public Order and Safety

Since ancient times, public order has been maintained by a corps of Urban Police, under the command of a Major, as explained in council resolution number 54 of August 24, 1863. in the countryside there was a National Noble Police force, also commanded by a Major, who had a barracks in the small church of Oratorio of the Holiest Sacrament, a small church for which the town abrogated rights of ownership. This Corps provided good service, it was dissolved in 1881, the date that the town recalled and reconsigned the 477 rifles that said Police held as their equipment. A Rural Police Corps on horseback was also instituted, organized, equipped, armed and furnished with uniforms, its appearance signaled a new period in the dealing with rural life.

At that time, in Sicily, there was a corps of mounted police who had their own station in Poggioreale. The town still took advantage of the services of the District Squadin whose constitution it had actively participated.

This the operations of this police service were directed and performed by the 34th Division Royal Infantry under the command of Captain Mascialetti and under the orders of General Medici. Later, the mobile operations Column appeared, under the orders of Major Pescara Pajola and of Captain Giordano, two competent men. After these men the duty was assumed by a local squadron.

The esteemed Arm of the Royal Carabinieri had a station in the community of Gibellina. In Poggioreale the first station was established in the year 1863 by order of the Royal Government, an order communicated by the Vice-Prefect of Alcamo.

For this installation, there was a Maresciallo of the Army, and by agreement, the community furnished the lodgings and equipped the barracks. The presence of the Army barracks in Poggioreale lasted for seven years and then the soldiers were withdrawn. The nearest barracks can now be found in Gibellina.

Unfortunately, the lack of an army presence lasted a decade, and the town experienced many days of anxiousness and trepidation. the criminal element became rampant, in full daylight and in public places there were frequent thefts, robberies, homicides, attempted homicides, kidnappings, which constrained the populace in the evening to bolt their doors, worriedly locking themselves in. Arrogant brigandage dominated, doling out pillaging, menace and grief, the criminal bands were armed and secure as a regularly organized militia. The station of Gibellina was insufficient for the protection of the territory of Poggioreale; the soldiers were not in a strong enough number for the vastness of the territory and, in addition, Gibellina was 8 km. away from Poggioreale, and the latter community could only be reached only by a difficult trail. Poggioreale provided for its own security as best it could, asking insistently for help and often two royal guards came on horseback.

In 1874 Carabinieri patrols from Camporeale resided in Poggioreale; there were light cavalrymen from Alcamo, and Bersaglieri from Corleone. In 1876 the 3rd platoon of Bersaglieri was in residence, in 1877 there were frequent arrivals of Carabinieri and of Bersaglieri coining from Gibellina. From 1874 to 1881, a detachment of troops under the command of a Lieutenant was present but the crimes were frequent and were carried out with unprecedented audacity. I’ll give two specific examples that are truly amazing. On December 25, 1871, around midnight, Brigadier Mora Patrizio and Adjunct Carabiniere Matta Sebastiano dragged to the Gibellina jail the notorious brigand Femminella, captured in the Poggiorealese countryside. That night, on the street in Gibellina, one shot brought a brigadier to the ground. The Carabiniere, recovering immediately from the surprise, stopped Femminella and opened fire against the criminal assailants. Unfortunately, this left him exposed to fire coming from both sides of the street.

Motta went through 13 cartridges, shot down the brigand’s brother and put the other assailants to flight, succeeding thus in bringing the detainee to Gibellina, securing him in the district jail. Another episode: the assault, in the middle of the town, at the house of the Cangialosi, on the afternoon of January 13, 1874, on the part of a band composed of 20 members, with the feared brigand Giacolone Francesco as their leader. Many people bravely gave the alarm, and the assault was disrupted and the leaders of the attack, hounded and identified, were locked away in jail with strict sentences. Subsequently, community of Poggioreale voted that Carabiniere Motta and Commandant Stanislao Emanuele of the squad that operated in the assault on the Cangialosi receive special commendations.

The Royal Government carried out the most efficacious work to eliminate brigandage, so much so that the community felt the duty to vote, in counsel resolution number 5 of May 16, 1877, a hearty congratulations for the renewed security and peace given to the depressed and disheartened community.

For some time the community had asked the Royal government for the re-institution of the Carabinieri station. The council resolutions of December 27, 1871 and September 24, 1871 affirmed that as long as there was a Carabinieri station in Poggioreale, the statistics of crimes committed were zero.

Having finally established the Army station in town, it remained there uninterruptedly, having been received with appreciation and enthusiasm and ever-increasing trust and respect. Reading council resolution number 2 of January 22, 1866, one can clearly see how the community was filled with emotion over the future transfer of brigadier Giuseppe Clerici, commandant of this station, who had won the general esteem for his commendable behavior. To re-confirm the spirit of discipline and the admirable comportment of the soldiers of the Meritorious Army here in Poggioreale, one remembers the generous sacrifice, in the course of duty, of the brave Carabinieri Giovanni Aghemo, a piemontese, and Salvatore Conti, of Lentini, Sicily, who both fell during a conflict. The first on March 25, 1896 and the second on April 15, 1914. At their solemn funerals the community gave the most heartfelt proof of sorrow and of admiration, a tangible sign of the faith and the esteem that the Carabiniere here merits.

The station reappeared in the town furnished with mounted Carabinieri, under the command of a Brigadier, though a dependent of the Gibellina Section.

For years a Maresciallo held the command, a dependent of the lieutenancy of Alcamo and of the Group of Trapani.

The barracks were not established on federal property and therefore were not perhaps given number of rooms that the importance of the service and the dignity of the Army merit.

However, they are housed in a prime location which is very central and has a good view. It is good to realize that in comparison with the memories of years past, we have lived for years a relatively tranquil life, now we can breathe easier. This community lives securely in its own territory: normalcy of life enjoys ample guarantees and the Authorities are not troubled in their watch of public order. This is material and civil progress more than anything else. It may be said that our small town has improved since then.

The town’s appearance today is very different because of the public works that have been undertaken: a sewer system, a running water system, a communications network and the creation of public streets, a fish market, the restoration and furnishing of the town hall, of the new Elementary School Building, the attractive installation of the Town Library.

We can be grateful for so much progress and we can hope that progress will continue to be made. We must remember that progress is in works, but civilization is in souls: the one united with the other, will allow a true civil progress, of mind, heart and body.

Postal Service – Telegraph – Telephone

The postal service has a long history; until 1860 mail was carried by a messenger on foot who transported correspondence to Palermo. The first post office that was near to Poggioreale was installed in the community of Santa Ninfa. This was certainly inconvenient in terms of distance, and the community of Poggioreale repeatedly requested that the Office be here in town. The years passed, and since the beginning the only concession to the town was to have tire mail picked up daily.

But the town insisted and was able, as noted by the resolution of May 19, 1877, to obtain from the Administration of Trapani an agreement, and finally Poggioreale was joined to the district office in Salaparuta.

The Office in Poggioreale, with the qualification of Postal Office Second Class, was established in the year 1883 (deliberations of September 7 and September 10, 1883) and from that year on, the transport of letters to the Station of Gallitello began.

The service was carried out by a mail-coach that also took passengers, leaving daily from Poggioreale at 4:00, and after passing through Salaparuta and Gibellina, arrived at the railway station at 8:00 in order to meet the trains coming from Trapani and from Palermo.

It returned to Poggioreale at 13:00. Once train service began at the rail station at Salaparuta on the Castelvetrano-Corleone-Palermo line, the service dropped off passengers at Salaparuta.

Talk of a telegraph service began here in Poggioreale in 1873, according to several council resolutions. The first resolution, of March 26, 1874, established a consortium among the three Communities of tire District with the institution of a 3rd class telegraph Office in the former Monastery of the Capuchins of Salaparata. It was a first step, but the town continued to insist on having an office here, which finally happened in 1881, when it was installed in the Town hall. On September 21, 1884 the Town deliberated its transfer into the piazzetta Gesu and Maria. After 1929, the Telegraph Office was consolidated with the postal office, located in Via Umberto 1, in a spacious room, and in a very convenient centralized location.

The Telephone Office began operations on July 22, 1951, and was located on Via Umberto 1, right across from the Postal-Telegraph office.

Notary

Since the death of the last acting Notary, Cavalier Giuseppe Scardino, Poggioreale lost the right to the Notarial seat it had enjoyed since 1863. This seat has been suppressed, as noted in the community deliberation of June 12, 1905, on the proposal of the Royal Agent of the King who decided it was not worth having since there were so few people living in Poggioreale (3,218 inhabitants). The notary had processed more than 120 documents, all according to protocol. The seat moved to Salaparuta, from where it was transferred to Gibellina.

Banking Service

There is a representative of the Bank of Sicily, not permanently, but weekly. Given, however that the granary commerce, the principle source of income from the agriculture work of the community, is significant, a Branch of the Bank should be established here, rather than a mere weekly stop. This would prevent the constant movement of people constrained to go to adjacent communities in order to carry out their banking transactions.

Buslines

An adequate and commodious bus service connects the town of Poggioreale with Trapani, the provincial capital, and also with Palermo, capital of the Island of Sicily, as well as the two important centers of Castelvetrano and Alcamo. On these daily service lines, the traveler has the convenience of stops in the communities of Salaparuta, Gibellina, the district seat, Partanna, where the General Registrar’s office is located, Salemi, seat of the Catasto, Santa Ninfa, Santa Margherita, Montevago, Camporeale, San Cipirrello, San Giuseppe, Pioppo, and Monreale.

For Palermo there are three daily round trips. The first such service began following the institution by counsel resolution number 22 dated December 1, 1946. Thus, the difficulty of traveling for business or health reasons was resolved. This ease of travel induces and encourages frequent contacts with the urban environment, and is also a sign of progress.

In this year, 1956, the Courier passed over the town of Poggioreale with its direct Sciacca-Palermo service. It does not provide service to Poggioreale, since a service for Palermo is established here, it would have been beneficial to provide the service for Sciacca, where Poggioreale has important contacts, especially in the time of year when many Poggiorealesi go there to take advantage of the health baths. Such a service would not compete with the other bus lines, none of which services Sciacca; I say: we should offer exclusive rights just for tire city of Sciacca, which would be very beneficial for Poggioreale.

To get to the train station of Salaparuta, at around 3,500 kilometers, there is a passenger sendee, morning and afternoon, to take advantage of the Diesel-powered trains for Castelvetrano city, or the branch line connecting to Palermo and Trapani, which also provides freight service. This service is carried out by motorcar.

Sanitation System

The first time that the Town officially dealt with the sanitation problem appears in the counsel deliberation number 6 of January 14, 1877, and the first to deal with the task was Dottor Vincenzo Scardino who is still famous for his solicitousness, coupled with gentility.

From the above date the service has continued uninterrupted and the town has been sufficiently serviced.

Currently, this important service is in the hands of Dottor Cavaliere Giovanni Salvaggio, who carries out his duties with zeal, competence, and generous honesty. It is the Ambulatory hospital that responds to the greatest needs of the population. He is invested with the title of Town Sanitary Official.

Obstetrics

This Town has always been concerned with promoting healthy births, which is clear in reading the council resolutions as well as tire rates of birth, and the work done in favor of births. Actually, obstetric practice began in the resolutions made in the town hall of May 25, 1876 and April 21, 1877. Since then the work has never stopped.

Town Veterinary Service

The town veterinary service was slow to appear. It was first considered on November 6, 1871, upon the recommendation of the Vice-Prefect of the Minister of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce, who realized the timeliness, and also the necessity, of the services of a Veterinarian in the primarily agricultural community of Poggioreale, be it for the cleanliness of meat, fish, milk, etc., or for the prevention and cure of disease in horses and livestock. The Administration denied this need. Returning to the subject, on the insistence of the Vice-Prefect (Note number 3911, August 2, 1876), a second refusal was deliberated. But their inconceivably crass ignorance was revealed in council resolution number 164 of September 19, 1876, where the resolute refusal carried this motivation:

“…the ferriers of the Community, for their long practice and experience of the trade, who care for, “as well as Veterinarians,” îthe illnesses of the animals (sic!). It was called a trade; they could have at least used the word art, recalling the title “the medical arts” used in the first century before Christ by Aulo Cornelio Celso, celebrated medical doctor and scientist, called the “Latin Hippocrates” and tire “Cicero of Medicine” for his famous Tract, of which we only have volume VI and XIII extant.

Those good deliberators should have, I believe, listened to the words of Dante:

…o silly creatures, what offends you is so much ignorance.

Later, the Community held a local veterinary service in a consortium with the Community of Salaparuta. For about 5 years now, Poggioreale has had a regular veterinary service of its own.

The town has begun to understand its importance, the efficacy of hygiene that is derived from it and it is no longer unwilling and suspicious in the preventative cures that are necessary, in a primarily agricultural town, where animals are so important.

The ruinous consequences in the midst of large and small livestock caused by diseases such as farcy, glanders (bacillus mallei), anthrax, hoof and mouth disease, rabies, etc., which have been substantially mitigated or eliminated due to scientific practice. Science is wealth, as Carlo Cattaneo said it so well.

Street lamps

In former times, on dark winter nights torches were used on our streets. Oil lamps were promoted with the council resolution number 13, of May 12, 1873, with 10 lamps distributed in the main Via and in the Piazza Elimo.

After November of 1901, acetylene gas lamps were used. Since November 1929, electric lamps replaced them, so that the town is sufficiently illuminated.

Slaughter house

In the past the butchers used their own shops for slaughtering; but a council resolution-number 52 of August 16, 1863‚ prohibited their butchering in the same location where meat was sold to the public; and since then a rustic building on the outskirts of town has served as the slaughter-house (aciditiiri); but the Town, in the interest of hygiene and cleanliness, as well as complying to public health laws, with resolution of October 20, 1932 called for the establishment of a slaughterhouse that, completed on September 9, 1937, provided the town with a stable, well kept facility. It is found in the west side of town on the road to Camporeale.

Fish Market

Fish Market

There is also a public fish market, established this year, 1955. it is attractive and fully equipped the fish market is located in the center of town at the Largo Castello.

The Fair

Poggioreale also has its own fair. In the past, it was held on the day of the Dead, and it was therefore called the “Fair of the Dead.” It has been discontinued for some years. Resolutions number 17 of May 9, 1948 and number 10 of March 6, 1949, reset the date of the fair to August 24-25 of each year.

It is so welcome in this community and it has been truly successful, not only as a commercial enterprise and town celebration, but also as a religious occasion commemorated in the Chiesetta of the Pious Works with a special offering in honor of the Immaculate Virgin, to whom the little church is dedicated.

The livestock fair takes place in the Santa Rosalia neighborhood, at the gates of town; the general merchandise fair is held in the piazza Vittorio Veneto, on Via Umberto 1 and in Piazza Elimo.

It would be even more convenient and very practical to have a public watering trough located near the livestock fair.

Cemetery

Until the end of August, 1875, the dead were buried in tire church. The Monastery of the Capuchins had a right and proper sepulcher in a large room flanking the north side of the church. In the Matrice, the churches of the Purgatorio, of Gesu and Maria and of the Adoration, the dead were buried in the chamber under the floor of the nave. That year, that the town Counsel decided to create a town cemetery (counsel resolution number 85, July 10, 1875), the first burial in this new cemetery took place on September 1, 1875.

Resolutions number 98 and 100 of October 11, 1875, established a mortuary service and, in 1876, provided for and named a groundskeeper or Cappellano. The cemetery’ was located in the Madonna del Carmelo neighborhood, to the north-east of Poggioreale, and was called this because the cemetery chapel was dedicated to the Madonna del Carmelo.

In the years 1879-1902, the construction of a new cemetery was voted for, since space in the existing one was becoming extremely limited, construction work was contracted for and planned, and dragged on until the beginning of 1908, so that the new cemetery, that is that now in use on the west side of town at 300 meters, was inaugurated and sanctified on September 4, 1908.

This year, 1955, it has been renovated. However, it is now necessary to enlarge it since space is again becoming limited.

In the Cemetery chapel altar there is a stone on which a rough portrait of the Madonna del Carmelo is displayed. It was placed there in 1908, when the chapel was opened; it was brought there from the old cemetery, for which it had been sculpted. It may not be great art, but her image has traditionally been dear to this people, who venerate the Madonna del Carmelo and remember her as the protector of the Souls in Purgatory. In the old cemetery, she was celebrated on Wednesdays by the Confraternity of devotees.

In the current Cemetery the presence of a Cappellano is needed to celebrate, at least monthly, the Holy Mass and to impart a benediction on each of the newly interred, according to the Roman Ritual.

The sacred and solitary place Religion, without whose presence it is too much to gaze upon the horror of the tomb.

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]