The Toppa Family Reunion

The family tree - 18ft wide using the smallest legible font

The family tree – 18ft wide using the smallest legible font25-Jul-2009 11:47, SONY DSC-H1, 4.0, 6.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 64

Everyone sitting down for lunch

Everyone sitting down for lunch25-Jul-2009 12:58, SONY DSC-H1, 4.0, 6.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 64

The Toppa family elders

The Toppa family elders25-Jul-2009 15:24, SONY DSC-H1, 3.2, 6.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 64

Most of the Toppas from my generation

Most of the Toppas from my generation25-Jul-2009 15:35, SONY DSC-H1, 4.0, 6.0mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 64

Terry Toppa (my father) - 1956, 17 years old

Terry Toppa (my father) – 1956, 17 years old

My grandfather, Steven Toppa, bottom right

My grandfather, Steven Toppa, bottom right25-Jul-2009 12:40, SONY DSC-H1, 3.5, 6.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 64


More pictures in the Toppa Family Reunion album.

About 300 people came to the Toppa family reunion on Saturday. They were mostly “Newport” Toppas (descended from my great-grandfather), along with a smattering of “Middletown” Toppas (descended from his brother, my great-great uncle). The Toppa brothers came to the US in the early 1900s from Lettomanoppello, Italy. My father told me a story his father told him, that there was also a 3rd brother who went to New Jersey and killed someone there, so he went back to Italy before he got caught. I also found a mention of a sister in some documents that I have, but I don’t know where she went. Their name was actually Toppi, and it’s recorded correctly in their records from Ellis Island. But after they came to Newport the name changed to Toppa. According to another story my father heard, my great-grandfather’s last name was misspelled as Toppa on his first paycheck (he was a mason, and helped build Thames St and other roads in Newport). Rather than risk making trouble with the boss, he didn’t say anything about it, and the name stuck (that doesn’t explain his brother making the same name change though). Apparently we have distant Toppi relatives in Maine and New Jersey. My great-grandfather had 8 children and his brother had 11, getting the generational powers of multiplication off to a good start. My guess is that there are two or three times as many relatives as came to the reunion, as not all the Newport Toppas came, and only a few Middletown Toppas were there.

The reunion was held at Kempenaar’s Clambake Club – the same venue that was used for the last reunion in 1970. They provided good food and drink, a tire swing and toys for the kids, horseshoes and volleyball. I brought an 18ft wide print out of the family tree (using the smallest legible font I could) and a Many Meanings of Toppa (PDF) display. Someone put together a great video of family pictures going back 100 years, several people pinned up old pictures for everyone to see, and the Maher’s Brothers (also Toppas) band played for us. There were several relatives I never met before who did a lot of work on the family tree at, so it was fun to meet them in person and hear their stories. My favorite was a story about my great-great uncle. Apparently he was a bootlegger during Prohibition. He had an elaborately hidden room in his shop with three 2-story high stills inside. His family also had a bakery they used as a front, so they could buy yeast and hops without raising suspicions with law enforcement.

I guess I found it inspiring, because I did something I’ve never done before – I had a beer (actually two) with lunch. It was my first time drinking at noon. Plenty of others joined me, although I don’t think it was such a new experience for them… The reunion lastest about 5 hours, and a good time was had by all.

3 thoughts on “The Toppa Family Reunion

  • The Toppi who have “killed somone” was Giovanni Toppi my great grandfather.
    I’m Eugenio Toppi, and I live in Lettomanoppello.
    My father is Rocco Toppi the sun of Mario Giovanni Toppi, the sun of Giovanni Toppi, brother of Giustino (Agostino) Toppi who have married Falconilla Di Matteo. The parents of Giustino and Giovanni was Antonio Toppi and Raffaela Pecchia.
    Ciao Parè!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • I came by your site by accident and found it quite interesting. I knew that Toppas were actually Toppi’s and someone (Michael Toppi from Connecticut) once told me that all Toppi’s were related. He actually keeps a log of all the ones he comes across. My father came to Toronto Canada in 1963 to marry my mother who came here in 1962. His parents were Antonio Toppi and Adelia DiBiase. As you know every family has a “nickname” to distinguish themselves from other Toppi’s and my Fathers was known as Parodi. My father married Assunta Ferrante of the same town and her parents were Camilla D’Alfonse and Pasquale Ferrante.
      I would love to find out more information. If you have a link that would be great.
      Thank you

  • I am one of the youngest toppas that I am aware of (21) and I am a middletown/newport toppa. My father is steve and my grandfather is nicholas toppa. I never got to meet him, but have heard many great stories, I’m so glad to have come across this page as it has given proof to the stories I’ve been told about our family bootlegging. Very interesting! What a rich history we have, I would love to learn more, but I don’t really know the best way to do so. :/

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