Faces of Freeport’s immigrant past


Part one of two

The Freeport Historical Society celebrated Immigrant Heritage Month in June by featuring some of the people from Freeport’s history who were born outside the United States and their accomplishments.

Louis Appleton (Russia) (1890-1985) founded the Appleton Hardware Company in Freeport in 1922.  He was born in Slutsk, Russia.  Appleton had been a resident of Freeport since 1915. In 1933, Appleton was elected president of Congregation B’nai Israel.  In 1942, he was the treasurer of the Freeport Chamber of Commerce.

Harry Barasch (Austria) (1877-1937) was a prominent merchant as well as a charter member and first president of the Freeport Chamber of Commerce. Born in Austria, Barasch came to America around 1897.  He was an organizer of Temple B’nai Israel and served as its president for many years. Barasch was also one of the original organizers of Playland Park, an amusement park located in Freeport.  Barasch’s Department Store was located at 65 South Main Street.

Frederick Blankenhorn (Germany) (circa 1837 to 1892) owned a barbershop and store in Freeport during the 1880s.  Blankenhorn was born in Germany.  In 1862, he enlisted in Company B, Massachusetts 1st and served as a private with heavy artillery.  

Mario E. Blanco (Cuba) (1931-2003) was the owner of Mario of Freeport, a hair salon originally located at 93 South Main Street, later at 76 West Merrick Road, and finally at 65 South Main Street.  Born in Cuba, Blanco was naturalized as United States citizen in 1954.

Eugene A. Canalizo (US/Guatemala/Mexico) (1886-1953) was a three-term commodore of the South Shore Yacht Club.  Though he was born in San Francisco, Canalizo grew up on a plantation in Guatemala. In 1925, he elected president of the New York Coffee and Cocoa Exchange in Manhattan.  He moved to Mexico in 1947.  Canalizo’s grandfather, Valentine Canalizo, was the 13th President of Mexico.

Luigi Cancellieri (Italy) (circa 1895-1959) played first clarinet for the Metropolitan Opera for thirty years.  Born in Rome, Italy, Cancellieri came to the United States in 1924.  He lived on South Grove Street (now Guy Lombardo Avenue) along with his wife, Maria, and their son Rudolph.

Patricia D. Collins (Canada) (1921-2002) was a pioneering lawyer and judge who was active in Freeport politics and civic affairs. She was born in Montreal, Canada.  In 1997, St. John’s University awarded Collins an honorary doctorate.  Collins was a licensed New York State realtor and insurance broker. Before entering the legal profession, she worked for the insurance firm Nolan and Glacken.

Patrick J. Conway (Ireland) (1860-1932) was the founder of the Irish-American Athletic Association in the late 1890’s and served as president of the IAAC for 27 years. Under Conway’s leadership during the 1908 Olympic Games in London, the United States won 13 of the 23 track and field events. Eight of the 13 medals were awarded to IAAC members including the gold medal for the marathon. Born in Limerick, Ireland, Conway lived in Freeport for eight years before his death. 

Alan C. Cruickshank (Scotland) (circa 1860-1933) was born in Scotland and came to the United States in the 1880s.  He was responsible for the placement of one of the first electric signs in New York City in 1896 on the Union Square Hotel.  Later, he worked on the first animated electric sign in Brooklyn.  After his retirement, Cruickshank moved to Freeport in 1921 and lived in the South Shore Apartments on Rose Street.  He died in 1933.  His son John served as mayor of Freeport in 1926.

Isaac DaSilva (England) (circa 1855-1919) was a pioneering businessman in Freeport. Born in England, he came to the United States at the age of five and moved to Freeport in 1880.  He started a business at the age of 15 in Sayville, NY.  In 1919, DaSilva incorporated his businesses under the name “DaSilva 5, 10 and 25c Store Corporation.” He had two stores in Freeport and one each in Rockville Centre, Huntington, and Oyster Bay.

Arthur Deagon (Canada) (circa 1873-1927) was a Canadian actor and singer who claimed to have sung in a church choir, and studied singing in Rochester, NY. He also worked in the lumber camps and mines of Michigan, and as a professional wrestler before launching his career as “The Cowboy Singer” at age 20.  He was a founding member of the L.I.G.H.T.S. Club.

Desire Defrere (Belgium) (1888-1964) was a Belgium-born stage director and former baritone of the Metropolitan Opera Company.  Defrere died at the age of 76 at his Freeport home, which was located at 65 West Second Street.

Agnes Earon (Scotland) (1882-1971) was a supporter of women’s suffrage and was the first woman elected to the Freeport School Board in 1918. After women were granted the right to vote in New York, Earon served as chairwoman of a meeting at the Freeport Club to educate women about politics; she also helped women register to vote in their first village election in 1918.

Antonio (Tony) Elar (Italy) established a hotel/tavern at 159 East Merrick Road.  His son Peter was the chief of the Freeport Police Department from 1940 to 1965.  His grandson, Anthony, became police chief in 1969.