Members of Dickenson County Historical Society dedicate much of their spare time researching and archiving the history of our county. Usually as we work on one subject, other subjects of interest arise.
While doing research to write the recent article about the closing of the Riverside Grocery, some of our members had questions about the life of John “Pop” Molinary, how he immigrated to the United States, and why he happened to come to Dickenson County, Virginia. Others had questions about the bakery and oven at Trammel. Still other members had questions about the Sandy Ridge Tunnel. These questions led us to do more research and that research will be the subject of this and other articles in the future.
This week, Historical Society member, Dennis Reedy, delved further into the genealogy and immigration of Gaetano (Guy) Laneve, aka John “Pop” Molinary. Using information from obituaries and some documentation from Ancestry.com, Reedy wrote the following:
Gaetano (Guy) Laneve was born in Cerisano, in the State of Cosenza, Province of Calabria, Italy on Sept. 8, 1879. He immigrated to the United States from Italy in March 1899 via Ellis Island in New York. The ship he came over on was the Augusta Victoria. He traveled in steerage class, which was the cheapest passenger rate offered, for a fare of approximately $28.
He went from New York to Thomas, West Virginia, where his uncle, Frank Molinari, had a store. Gaetano worked on a railroad construction crew for about two months and then went to Cumberland, Maryland. His brother, Louie, and another uncle were working there. He got a job working on the section for the B&O Railroad and worked there for about two months. He then went to Parsons, West Virginia, where his uncle, Vincent Molinari, had a store.
It was while working in this store that people began calling him John Molinari. The name stuck, and over the years, the spelling was changed from Molinari to Molinary. He had his name legally changed to Gaetano Molinary in 1944. (We will call him John from here on out.)
John worked in a paper mill at Parsons for three years for seven dollars a week. In early 1903, he bought out his Uncle Vincent’s store, which also contained a bakery.
In October 1903, John went back to Italy, where he married Caroline Vitorion Jan. 8, 1904. They came back to Parsons, West Virginia in March 1904. His brother, Louie, operated the store while John was back in Italy.
John sold the store in 1906 and came to Clinchport in Scott County, Virginia, where Louie was now a foreman on the CC&O Railway, which was then under construction. John built a store in Erwin, Tennessee in 1907, which his brother-in-law, Pasquale Vitori, ran until John sold it in 1909. In March 1909, John came to St. Paul, Virginia and built a store there.
In 1910, he bought a bakery at Boody, which was about a mile outside St. Paul toward Dante. He also bought the water works in St. Paul from a man named Branco. In 1911, John had a store in Cedar Bluff, which he kept for about a year while a spur line of the N&W Railway was being built. At the same time, he had a pool room at Carbo, where the CC&O Railway was building a spur to access the Clinchfield Coal Corporation’s new coal mines at Wilder.
In 1912, he built a store and bakery at Trammel. Bricks for the bakery were hauled from Dante across Trammel Gap by wagon. The road was so rough and steep that only 150 bricks could be hauled at a time. This was while the railroad tunnel was being bored through Sandy Ridge. John’s brother-in-law, Pasquale “Patsy” Vitori, was in charge of the bakery, and they furnished bread for the construction crews working on the tunnel and the railroad. The last spike was driven near the bakery on Feb. 9, 1915.
From 1917 to 1920, John and a man named Pool had a wagon mine in Ack Gose Hollow near St. Paul, where they did pretty good. In 1920, they opened a mine in nearby Hardy Hollow, but went broke in this one. In 1921, John built the building that was later occupied by Lay’s Hardware in St. Paul. In 1923, he bought a house in St. Paul that belonged to the local dentist, Dr. Greear, and moved into it in 1924. He moved his store from the site of the Exxon Service Station to the hardware building in 1924. He was forced into bankruptcy in 1933 as a result of the Great Depression, losing his store, home — everything.
He came to Riverside in 1936 and went into the store business there — a new beginning in a new location — in the Riverside Grocery. Most people remember Mr. Molinary as being called “Pop” Molinary when he was at Riverside, a name he was affectionately known by in his later years.
A few years ago, the writer searched unsuccessfully for the old bake oven at Trammel. He was told it sat near the old Trammel School, and when the road was widened several years ago what remained of it was destroyed.
Gaetano Laneve (John “Pop” Molinary) was married to Caroline Vitori (April 6, 1887–Nov. 9, 1940) on Jan. 8, 1904, in Cerisano, Calabria, Italy. They came to the U.S. from Italy in March 1904. The couple had eight children:
(1) Samuel F. (Nov. 24, 1905–June 7, 1933) was born in Parsons, West Virginia.
(2) Francis Dominic “Domer” (Jan. 30, 1907–Jan. 16, 1994) was born in Clinchport. He married Pauline ?. Their children were: Therese, Sam, Frank and Robert. Domer graduated from St. Paul High School and the College of William and Mary. He taught school at Dwina and Virginia City in Wise County for nine years. He had the Treasure Box store at Riverside from about 1938 to 1946 and also had a store in St. Paul by the same name. Domer and Pauline were members of St. Therese Catholic Church in St. Paul. They operated Molinary’s in St. Paul, which included a store, soda fountain, and bus terminal, for 52 years. Pauline is still living at the age of 93.
(3) Victor Vincent I “Vic” (April 8 or 26, 1909–Feb. 16, 1999) was born in St. Paul, as was the remaining five children, but lived most of his life in Clintwood. Like his nephew and namesake, he was called “Miggs” during his youth. He was officer in charge of the C. C. Camp (Civilian Conservation Corps) in Clintwood. Vic enlisted for service in the U.S. Army during World War II on Jan. 9, 1941, advancing to the rank of Second Lieutenant and became an instructor in explosives. An explosives device accidentally detonated resulting in the loss of his right arm. He was co-founder of the Clintwood Cable Company, a life member of Kiwanis International, and a member of Clintwood Methodist Church. Vic married first Eva Mullins Remines (Nov. 5, 1909–July 23, 1973). After the death of his first wife, Vic married Effie Baker Farmer (March 25, 1922–on Sept. 8, 1982. Effie is still living in Clintwood. Vic had no children.
(4) Sophia Virginia (March 30, 1912–May 30, 1991) married John Robert Jones Jr. (June 6, 1919–Oct. 15, 2005). They had two children: Johnny and Vickie.
(5) Joseph Ernest “Ern” (Nov. 17, 1914–Nov. 13, 1989) married Lois Spivey (June 25, 1923–Oct. 29, 2003) on Jan. 8, 1950. Ern enlisted in the Army during WWII on Jan. 12, 1942. He was an Aviation Cadet and glider pilot. Ern lived in Clintwood, where he operated a grocery store on Main Street for 30 years. His brother Fred also had a part in the store. Ern was a member and past president (1971) of the Clintwood Kiwanis Club and a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clintwood. Ern and Lois had three daughters: Jo, Jan and Jenny.
(6) Emma (Nov. 13, 1916–Jan. 24, 1998) married George Vance (Oct. 22, 1914–Nov. 3, 2005). They lived in Metairie, Louisiana, near New Orleans. They had three children: William G. “Bill,” George Pat, and Mary.
(7) John Fredrick “Fred” (Sept. 2, 1919–Dec. 2, 1992) married Virginia Dare “Ginny” Rose (Dec. 12, 1921–June 20, 2009). Fred graduated from St. Paul High School in 1937 and worked in the Riverside Grocery at Riverside until 1974. He then worked in the post office in St. Paul for several years until his retirement. The store the Molinary family had in St. Paul was at one time located where the post office now is. Fred and Virginia were members of St. Therese Catholic Church in St. Paul. Fred enlisted in service during WWII on Aug. 29, 1942, at Richmond. He trained as a radio mechanic in the Army Air Force and qualified with the M1 30 caliber carbine rifle. Fred was transferred to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater on Jan. 17, 1945, where he was in the Air Offensive of Japan and the Western Pacific. He was awarded the American Theater Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Campaign Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, and the Good Conduct Medal. Fred departed for the U.S. on Nov. 2, 1945, and was discharged at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Nov. 24, 1945. Fred and Virginia had six sons: Victor Vincent II “Vic,” William Patrick “Pete,” Joseph Michael “Mike,” James R. “Jim,” John L., and Fredrick Mark.
(8) James William “Jim” (Jan. 13, 1922–Sept. 17, 1944) enlisted in service on Dec. 4, 1942, and was a Private First Class (PFC) in the Army. Jim was transferred overseas in April 1943 with the 26th Infantry, 1st Division, which spearheaded the invasion of Normandy and Sicily on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He was killed in France and was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously.
John “Pop” Molinary passed away on Aug. 11, 1966.
Anyone who has corrections, or additions, to any of our articles is encouraged to contact the Historical Society at 276-926-6355 or email@example.com. One can also visit the Historical Society Facebook page. For those wishing to do research at the Historical Society office, please call ahead, as we are staffed strictly by volunteers. An appointment may also be made.