All of those parts and pieces you see laying on the ground there belonged to a fellow named Francesco Manzello, age 33 of Brooklyn. Francesco was a member of a group called “The Black Hand” (or Mano Nera in Italian). The Black Hand was an extortion racket run by immigrant Sicilian and Italian gangsters in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Kansas City… and they were quite active in Rochester as well.
Their game was simple. They would send threatening notes to local merchants (and other well-to-do individuals) demanding money and threatening pain, death or destruction of property if the money was not turned over. These crude notes were printed with black hands, daggers, or other menacing symbols.
On October 30, 1911, (about 9am Monday morning) a barrel containing Francesco’s body was discovered in a gully along old Webster State Road by 18 year old Frank C. Smith. The boy was out checking animal traps he had set in the area some time earlier. That’s the coroner in the photo above, ready with his basket to transport the remains.
One newspaper article was fairly detailed with regard to how Francesco was mutilated and stuffed into the barrel. Let’s give it a read:
Webster State Road must have changed names since 1911, and I’m unable to find it on old maps. But according to newspaper reports, the barrel landed on the north side of the road, about 200 yards from the Rochester and Sodus Bay trolly powerhouse on the edge of Irondequoit Bay… and the young boy reportedly ran to the home of A.D. Brown after making the gruesome discovery. So from that information I’m guessing we’re talking about this general area , just east of where Bazil Restaurant is today.
Anyway, back to our poor friend Francesco… Who wanted this guy dead? Well, he had recently been released from Auburn state prison (about six months earlier) after doing two and a half years for attempted extortion. Upon his release Francesco went back home to Brooklyn, but he soon returned to Rochester and got a job working for Sam Ollis, also known as “The Banana King” of the Public Market.
Francesco didn’t last long working for the Banana King. After being let go for “failing to attend to business” he is said to have opened his own business—also at the Public Market—selling lettuce. But had Francesco really left behind his life of crime to sell lettuce? Police had their suspicions.
Somewhere along the line, police received tips from people who saw a banana wagon driving along the same road where Francesco’s body was found. The witnesses claimed to see an object standing upright in the back of the wagon – possibly the whiskey barrel inside which Francesco’s body was stuffed?
That tip led detectives back to the Banana King and his son-in-law, Joseph Galbo. Low and behold, there’s the banana wagon behind Joseph’s establishment at the Public Market. Also found were similar wine/whiskey barrels, and burlap chicken feed sacks. It is here that police believe Francesco was attacked and dismembered. The wagon is actually owned by Joseph’s brother, Dominico Galbo. Joseph and Dominico are both arrested.
Now why would Dominico and Joseph Galbo want to kill Francesco in such a way? It turns out the Banana King’s nephew, Antonio Ollis, had been murdered earlier in the year. Police theorized that Francesco may have had something to do with that murder, and was killed in revenge.
Joseph and Dominico were eventually indicted, but only Dominico was prosecuted. The District Attorney’s case against Joseph was weaker than it was against Dominico. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years to life at Auburn state prison. But after serving 4 years, the State Court of Appeals granted him a new trial. The higher court did not believe that Dominico could have carried out the murder of a man the size of Francesco Manzello. Why not? Because Dominico had two wooden legs!
This article seems to indicate that the D.A. dropped the charges after that, and Dominico was never retried.
Unfortunately, my newspaper trail runs cold, so I’m not sure if anyone else was ever charged with the murder.
And this is the same corner today…
Tags: Banana King, Black Hand (Mano Nero), Empire Blvd, Italian Mafia, mafia, mob, murder, Rochester, Rochester and Sodus Bay Railway, Rochester NY, Rochester Public Market, Webster State Road
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