Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bertù ‘d Tzunìn: ur cowboy ‘d Prati Proia

Though the Giusvallini that settled in the Wilmington, Delaware area around the turn of the 20th century represent the largest group of immigrants from Giusvalla to settle in one place in the United States, there were certainly others who sought their fortunes in other places throughout the country. The Pizzorno family settled in the Buffalo, New York area, there were a handful of Baccino, Perrone and Rabellino immigrants who went to San Francisco, the descendants of Silvio Baccino went to the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania .... just to name a few. The experiences of these Giusvallini immigrants surely differed greatly from our gang of ancestors who worked for the DuPont family in the powder mills or went into the mushroom business.

Perhaps no experience could have been more different than that of Bartolomeo “Bertù” Carlo Zunino. Bertù first came to the United States in 1907. Like most of his friends from back home, he arrived through Ellis Island. However where most went directly to “Henry Clay Factory, Wilmington, Delaware,” Bertù “went west.” In those days, the desert towns in White Pine County, Nevada offered two means of livelihood: ranching or copper mining. What attracted Bertù to the Wild West remains a mystery, but local records reveal the names of several Italians, so perhaps word of opportunity in that part of the U.S. had come to the Giusvalla area and the romantic notion of the cowboy lifestyle appealed to young Bertù? Certainly many a young giusvallino had gone to South America in pursuit of a similar lifestyle as a gaucho. What is known for a fact is that Bertù went to Nevada and worked for a local rancher named William N. McGill on the Cleveland Ranch in Spring Valley, which at the time was the largest and most successful cattle ranch in the area. Bertù became a real life cowboy, tending the cattle on the vast Cleveland Ranch on horseback. In 1915, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen and later that year returned to Italy for a few years to care for his aging father. When Bertù returned to the U.S. in 1920, he went back to Spring Valley and with the small inheritance he received from his father, he was able to invest as a partner in his own ranch.

During the 1920s, Bertù and his friend Antonio Persico operated a small cattle ranch just outside of Spring Valley. Bertù must have been a solitary man, he never married and spent the remainder of his years quietly tending cattle on his patch of desert among the vast Nevada wilderness. The cowboy from località Prati Proia died on his little ranch during the 1940s and was laid to rest in the dusty ground that was once roamed by the native Shoshone, old cowpokes, Mormon settlers and stagecoach drivers ....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Matteo Letters.

This article is for all of our readers out there who not only share in our Giusvallin background, but in our pack-rat-type tendencies as well…

In January of this year, I needed to go out to our shed in the back yard for some necessary cleanup and reorganization. This shed came to our home around 1999-2000, and over the years it has amassed quite a variety of different, shall I say, “inventory”.

A couple of years back, my mother provided me with a large stack of old family photos, many of which at the time did not have corresponding names to go with the faces. With the help of Frank Rosaio and his family, almost every single photo was miraculously identified. Some of those photos even exist in the archives of this website today. The reason I am making reference to this event is because at the same time those photos were forwarded to me, it was also explained to me that there were other family relics still stored “somewhere” (and in my family, ‘somewhere’ is a pretty big place). Among those relics were supposed letters that my Aunt Theresa (Tortarolo) Angelone had received from friends and family over the years, all of the way up until her death in 1983.

Returning back to my shed-cleaning experience, the event prompted me to have to move quite a few items around, and also throw some things away. The necessity of having to do these various tasks forced me to have to move some things around which had not been touched in quite some time. Some of the items in that shed were most likely even brought in around the timeframe of 1999-2000, put down in what was to be a “temporary” location at that particular moment, and now here, 11-12 years later, they are just being touched once again..

As I moved the various boxes, tools, and other miscellany around, a box made of white cardboard managed to fall, which I had not remembered touching or even bumping to make it do so. As I approached the box, I noticed that the side that was facing me was the bottom of the box, and its contents had spilled onto the floor behind an old sewing machine. I was somewhat frustrated when it happened, as my job at that point in the shed was to be cleaning up, and this box spilling over just added to the “cleaning up” part of my work out there. I sighed and leaned over the sewing machine to see just how much extra work I was in for. When I looked down, I noticed what appeared to be a small stack of envelopes, white with red and blue borders all of the way around them. They were basically all face-down, and although I could see some writing on them, it wasn’t clear enough for me to see the details of the writing. It only took me a second, however, to realize that the stack of letters, lying on the floor of this dirty old shed, were no doubt letters sent to someone in my family from Europe. As I bent down and picked them up, I immediately started to see names on the backs of them like BAGNUS, GIORDANO, BROCCOLI, and one that really jumped out at me: TORTAROLO. The names I was seeing corresponded to the return addresses on the back, and as I flipped over the envelopes, they all read: “Theresa Angelone”, “Mrs. Theresa Angelone”, “Arthur and Theresa Angelone”. I just stood there, speechless. The missing letters my mother had told me about had just surfaced.
I began opening the letters right there in the shed, and was so astonished by what I was seeing. There were so many different types of formats: handwritten on regular paper, handwritten on decorative letter paper, handwritten on tissue-like paper, typed on regular paper, there were so many different features to all of them. Some had the same type of handwriting from the start of a letter to its end, some had different types of handwriting all found within the same letter, it was such an incredible moment. As I looked over all of the letters and started to put them in some type of organized fashion (even if they’d been organized in the box, they certainly didn’t stay that way once they’d hit the floor), one name really started to jump out at me. One letter, after another, after another, the backs read TORTAROLO, MATTEO e ENRICHETTA.

For our readers who are not already aware, it is the lineage of the Tortarolo family that makes Frank and I part of the same family. When Theresa’s parents, Valentino and Luigia, both died from the flu of 1918, Theresa came to live with my Salvo family, and her 2 siblings, Egidio and Josephine, went to live with Frank’s family. Theresa went on to marry Arthur Angelone, and to be honest, it wasn’t until I was much older that I’d learn more about her Tortarolo lineage, and, more specifically, its connection to my own family history.

The “Matteo letters” (as Frank and I came to call them while translating them) highlight events and family information from the period of 1962 to 1970 (the image that accompanies this post is from a letter that came from Matteo in 1976; however, only the envelope remains). They not only contain general correspondence between Theresa and her family back in Italy, but they also provide amazing details regarding ‘known’ family members, as well as relatives yet to be identified in the family tree as well! The letters were truly an invaluable find.

So, for those of you who find yourself saving various pieces of documentation without being able to justify to yourself why you are doing it: maybe it’s because God is asking you to put them aside for someone else….