Fifty-eight-year-old Ralls County native Susan Tutt Holdsworth was hopelessly suffering from inflammatory rheumatism in the spring of 1915, when a glimmer of hope appeared upon the horizon.
Living in Paris, Mo., and married to broom-maker James P. Holdsworth, she learned of a miracle worker from Hannibal, Mo.: a fruit salesman by the name of John Fusco.
She had been suffering from rheumatism for six years, and could barely walk across the floor unassisted.
"What do I have to lose?" she wondered, as she made plans to travel to Hannibal in order to consult with the miracle worker.
Fusco, armed with a handful of Italian copper coins ranging in size from a penny to a half dollar, was utilizing the power vested in him to help those seeking relief from chronic ailments.
The Hunnewell Graphic of March 26, 1915, reported: "Mrs. Holdsworth was in Hannibal eight days and took six treatments. She has had rheumatism for six years and for the past three years has been unable to use one knee at all. In less than ten minutes after the coins had been applied the first time, she was able to walk across the floor; and she has been gradually improving since. Fusco told Mrs. Holdsworth that in a month she would be entirely free from rheumatism."
The newspaper article went on to describe Mrs. Holdsworth’s recovery: She was able to take her rugs to the front porch and shake them out by herself.
While touting the news of Mrs. Holdsworth’s relief from pain, the newspaper stopped short of endorsing Fusco’s miracle powers: "Fusco makes no pretentions of being a doctor or having any supernatural power except that being the seventh son of a seventh son."
Fusco had grown wealthy by selling produce, the newspaper reported, and his status as a miracle worker was only in his customers’ best interest: "He never makes any charges but is welling to accept a gift when a cure is affected."
Mrs. Holdsworth’s treatment achieved astonishing results, and captured the interest of others in Northeast Missouri.
The following reports came from area newspapers during 1915 and 1916:
Robert Stone of Paris, who had been a sufferer from rheumatism for several years, made plans to visit Fusco after hearing of Mrs. Holdsworth’s recovery.
C.H. Blair of Clarence reported that his wife was much improved after receiving treatment from Fusco. He said feeling had returned to his wife’s limbs.
Mrs. Bol Chinn of Clarence was a patient, and Mr. and Mrs. George Chinn reported that she was much improved.
The Shelbina Torchlight noted that Mrs. Robert Ryars, Mrs. C.S. Barr, J.P. Moore and wife, Mrs. C.W. Smith and son, Rowian, Mrs. James Hagan and J.W. Minick were taking treatment from John Fusco for rheumatism and stomach trouble.
Mrs. D.S. Sharp of Quincy, Ill., sought Fusco’s miracle treatment in December 1915.
The following June, J.H. Pippinger of Clarence went to Hannibal for treatment.
John Fusco emigrated from Italy in 1882, and a decade later was working as a salesman for Quattrocchi Brothers produce distributors. By the turn of the century, he had established his own business, selling fruits and candies, at 703 Broadway. For a number of years he lived upstairs over the store with his wife, Rosa, and their children.
Sometime prior to 1923, the Fuscos moved around the corner to a Prairie-style house still standing at 116 South Seventh Street in Hannibal, which is reminiscent of the Frank Lloyd Wright style of architecture popular when it was constructed: The early 1900s. Included in the Central Park Historic District, the house is known by the name of its early owner, John Fusco.
John Fusco was married to Mary Rose Quattrocchi, daughter of Joseph Quattrocchi of Italy. Their daughter, Mary Fusco, was born circa 1896. She married Michael James Canella, born circa 1893. He served with the infantry, 3 Iowa, during World War I. U.S. Army, earning the rank of 1st Lieutenant, Infantry 52 Pioneer Inf. He enlisted on Nov. 27, 1917, and was honorably discharged Feb. 16, 1918.
The Canella family had three children, Joe, who was born in July 1915, and died Sept. 4, 1918; Rose M. Canella (Manjoine) and John M. Canella.
The Fusco and Canella families would live together in Hannibal throughout their lives, first above the store at 703 Broadway, and later at 116 South Seventh. John Fusco and Michael Canella also worked together, first in produce, and then the grocery business. Ultimately, Michael Canella operated a tavern in the family’s building at 703 Broadway.
John Fusco’s wife, Rose, died Nov. 24, 1940, in Hannibal. She lived in the United States for 50 years. John Fusco died three years later, on June 4, 1943. Both are buried at Holy Family Cemetery in Hannibal.
Their daughter, Mary Rose Fusco Canella, died in April 1944. Her husband, Michael J. Canella died March 8, 1958, at the age of 66. They are both buried at Holy Family Cemetery.
The Canellas’ two surviving children included:
Dr. John M. Canella, a physician, who served a term as Hannibal’s city physician following his discharge from the military after serving during World War II. He and his family made their home in the Fusco house at 116 South Seventh. He purchased the old Osterhout property at 3254 St. Mary’s Avenue, tore down the historic farm house and used some of the materials to build a new house. Dr. Canella died at the age of 44 in September 1965, leaving a wife, Jacqueline, and five children.
Rosemary Canella Manjoine died in May 2009, and is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Muscatine, Iowa.
In some sort of twist of fate or irony, noted musician Johnny Rivers recorded one of his legendary hits, "Seventh Son," the same year that John Fusco, a long-time Hannibal resident and self-professed "Seventh son of a seventh son," died.
The year was 1958.
Wikipedia describes the status of the "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" as one with "special powers (that) are inborn, inherited simply by virtue of his birth order; in others the powers are granted to him by God or the gods because of his birth order."
Mary Lou Montgomery is a writer, speaker and researcher with a specialty in history. She is the former editor of the Courier-Post.