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 ....

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