Reminiscences of

OLD NEWTOWN

By.: John Gardella
Edited By.: Jane Voiles
Amended by.: Cork Quasne


Acknowledgements:

     I want to thank the following for information and help in research: Mabel Gardella, Graham Knight, Henry Ferretta, the Placerville Times, Rose Kimble, Calla Parker, Cecilia Bartholomew, Kent Hyde, George W. Peabody, Bob McFarland, California Division of Mines and Geology, Frances Buxton of the California Room of the Oakland Public Library, Assistant Librarians at Bancroft Library. I also want to thank the people who contributed photographs to John Gardella's collection. Those not used will be made available for reference.

Jane Voiles

Cork Quasne

DEDICATION


    In memory of all the Prospectors, Miners, Adventures's, and Seekers of Fortune's who have gone before me and to those that will fallow after us.



Introduction

     At noon on an August day in 1961, we stood beside the Gardella plot in the hillside cemetery at Newtown. We paid silent tribute to the man who had been a good friend and neighbor. I thought of the boy who used to sit on John's doorstep in the evening, saying, "I'm waiting for John Gardella. I like him because he makes me laugh." To all who had been close to him, John left comforting memories of quiet mirth.
     Reluctant to leave, we looked at the familiar headstones with their long descriptive epitaphs. We looked down at the village shimmering in the noon heat. The pile of weathered wood and rock, once Enrico Brandini's wine shop, had housed barn swallows for almost a century. The stone store built in 1852 seemed to retreat under the shelter of Newtown Ridge. But the once dusty road was freshly paved.
     It was almost an affront to see street signs where we had never known the need of them. A television aerial perched on the roof of a new house at the foot of the hill. A new landscape was emerging from the ruins of the old and death seemed to strengthen the continuity.
     After his retirement as an orchardist in Camino, John Gardella began to gather material for a book about the southeast part of El Dorado County. He collected many note's and an album of pictures, but never got down to the actual writing except for the four articles published in the Placerville Times.
    It is probable that his best material died with him. Using his notes and shared family background, I have confined myself in this narrative to the Newtown material, focusing it on memories of the times when he was a boy of ten or eleven. The "I" in the narrative is the boy John. I have tried to carry out what I believe to have been his intention: to show the part, a village like Newtown played in the historic pattern of California, what made it typical and what made it unique.


CHAPTER INDEX


#1.A An Original Teacher: Introduces Pupils To Their Region

#2. How Newtown May Have Been Founded

#3. Rocco's Story: From Genoa to Newtown in the 1850s

#4. Newtown's Spy: A Pre-Civil War Incident Told by Rocco

#5. The Fire of 1872 Climaxes a Troubled Year

#6. Italian Parents: The New Newtown as "Sunny Italy":

#7. From "Traviata" to "Sweet Betsy from Pike":

#8. Italian Customs and Italian Food:

#9. Bellows, Italian Miner, Cook and Storyteller:

#10. "Keeping Vigil" Brings Variety to the Stone Store:

#11. "Open House" Forth of July in Newtown:

#12. Three Vivid Memories of Indians in Newtown:

#13. Visit to San Francisco's North Beach: "Americanization"

#14. "Miner's Pops": A humorous perspective of life from miner's point's of view.

#15. Mine's of the Newtown area:

#16. Nuggets of El Dorado County Newtown area.

#17. Once larger than Placerville, Newtown, CA died in flames.
        By.: Historian George W. Peabody and Doug Noble .

#18. Have you seen the elephant?

#19.Gabriel Werntz, Inventor Development of a Patented Unique Miners Candlestick
of Placerville, California.


Images of Old Newtown.



Newtown in the 1880's ?

Ferretta House in 1960's
John Gardella

Ferretta House 1972

Bellows Blacksmith Shop

Enrico Brandini's Cantina

Stone Store Newtown

Ferretta House 1920?
Image courtesy of the Bob and Gail Anderson
Newtown, CA Collection.

Newtown School 1880's


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1. An Original Teacher Introduces Pupils to Their Region

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     Newtown in the late 1880s was a good place for a boy to grow up in. We flew our kites and chased goats on the rolling hill to the north. We climbed the trail along the Iron Doors to the top of Newtown Ridge. In the spring, we baled fish in Weber Creek. It was illegal but we were never caught. After heavy rains, we looked for gold flakes caught in crevices and bends of Main street. On days the stage came through Newtown from Placerville, we ran to Avansino's to see Jim Blakely pull in to unhitch two horses and hitch four fresh, shiny coated ones for the uphill pull to Grizzly Flat.
     Newtown is on a winding road eight miles southeast of Placerville. It's story is typical of many of the Sierra mining towns; at first, easily accessible gold and plenty of water to mine it. The camp prospers for twenty years. Then, fire destroys it. More than half the people leave for the valley or San Francisco. Soon the shallow placers which produce gold so abundantly in the early years are panned out. Easy gold goes out of reach and the miners turn to the demanding jobs of tunneling and hydraulic mining.
     People from many countries came to Newtown. What made the place unique for me was the quality of the people.
     As I try to tell what I know about the lively town before the fire and the quiet village of my childhood that was called "Sunny Italy", I shall let some of the people of Newtown speak in their voice; Rocco who knew the old town and Bellows the later one and my Aunt Rosa who wanted to hold to Italian ways yet became as American as any Yankee. Gold was still the word most frequently heard in Newtown when I was a boy. To me it meant the metal my father worked hard to find in the tunnel he was working with his partner. When he had enough "dust" to exchange for money, he brought it to Alderson's bank in Placerville.
     I knew that Marshall discovered gold in Coloma in 1848. He died in 1885 within my lifetime. Most of the men in Newtown knew Marshall. They had drunk with him in Placerville or over at his place in Kelsey. He had been a cabinetmaker as well as a carpenter and blacksmith. A washstand which he was said to have made, was in our storeroom until my father gave it to a miner whose cabin had burned.
     I don't remember the time Marshall came to Newtown to sell his biography, the one Parsons wrote. I heard how the children lined up to shake hands with the man who discovered gold at Coloma. Marshall was not a popular man but most of the Italians liked him. He drank their sour wine for one thing, and he used the Spanish word "chispa" for nugget which is near enough to the Italian "gispa" to have given intimacy to their talk.
     The women liked the story about the pact Marshall made with his friend Tone Wintermantle. The wintermantles were an early Coloma family who ran a brewery and a hotel. Marshall and Tony promised each other to plant a rose on the grave of the one who died first. Tony died not long after the pact was made. On the Catholic cemetery at Coloma, a snag of the rose Marshall planted was still growing after fifty years.
     As a child of Italian emigrants, I heard my parents speak of the opportunities for better living in what they called the new country. To me, the United States meant a place without recognizable boundaries. California meant Sacramento or San Francisco. But El Dorado County was home and claimed my loyalty. I knew it belonged in history and that at one time it had the largest population of any of the mining counties.

     It wasn't until the teacher we called Mr. Lem came that I became fully aware of the fact that the people who made up the greatest migration the world had ever known, had all headed for this very El Dorado county in which I was living.
     Mr. Lem was young, gangling and restless. I've forgotten where he came from. As his friendly eyes darted among the children, he made us feel we were in a friendly conspiracy, a conspiracy against the routine of the three Rs. But we would learn and have fun together. His eager mind enchanted us. He was our Pied Piper and we followed him everywhere. That term we couldn't get to school early enough. Two or three times a week we were off skipping, trotting, running out of doors to learn about places or about the earth and trees.
     Mr. Lem told us stories about the gold rush. He called it "an impulse in history." Using big words and strange names, he made us see all kinds of people looking for new worlds. We could see the Roman Legions riding over Newtown Ridge and phantom Viking ships sailing over it. We didn't always understand the things he said but we felt them.
     One morning we walked two miles to Pleasant Valley carrying our lunch buckets and pieces of wrapping paper for maps. The three smallest children rode on Mr. Lem's horse. Mr. Lem asked questions as our bare feet scuffed through the dust of the familiar road. He used to say we could know a place better through the soles of our feet.
     "Why did the 49ers come looking for gold, Tom Sawyer?"
He never called the boys by their given names but by any name that popped into his head. The girls were always Miss.
     "To get rich, Mr. Lem, Sir"
     "And what's getting rich, Miss Rose?"
     "To buy anything you want, Mr. Lem, Sir,"
     Rosy answered Vaguely.

As country children satisfied with our present lot, none of us quite knew what getting rich meant.
     Mr. Lem told us about the Mormons who founded Pleasant Valley. They weren't looking for gold although some of them found a lot of it. They were looking for a place where they could worship God in their own way.
     "Here is one of their corrals," Mr. Lem said, looking at his map. We stopped in one of the oak studded meadows where we played ball on Sundays. Mr. Lem told us about the Mormon Battalion that had come to California in 1847. After it was mustered out, Brigham Young the Mormon leader, ordered the men back to Salt Lake the following year. This was the place where the ones who were returning had agreed to meet. They called it Pleasant Valley.
     "It took sixteen days that summer for the saints to gather." Mr.Lem said dreamily.
We knew he was seeing them in his mind. The Catholic children among us thinking of the pictures on our bedroom walls of St. Louis and St.John and St. Peter found this confusing but Mr. Lem made us understand that every religion could have saints.
     We located the two corrals, familiar to us as our own backyards. They had pastured the cavalard of horses, cows, oxen, and mules which followed the forty five saints and one "saintess" across the mountains and desert.
     Captain Jefferson Hunt, the Mormon leader, sent three scouts ahead to blaze the trail. When the party came to the place we know as Tragedy Springs, they found the bodies of the three scouts who had been killed by Indians.



     "What is courage, Dick Swiveller?"
     "Mr. Lem asked one of the boys."
     "To kill a grizzly all by yourself, Mr. Lem, Sir."
     "What's courage, Moby Dick?" to another boy.
     "To shoot an Indian who is running after you, Mr. Lem, Sir."
     "What's courage, Miss Emmy?"
     "To break a trail over wild new country, Mr. Lem, Sir."

Mr. Lem never gave us answers unless we wanted facts.
     We ate our lunch under the Chinese trees of heaven near the green shuttered Spencer House where dances were held. Mr. Lem told us how the Saints left for Salt Lake on July 4, 1848 in seventeen wagons with their cavalard and two cannons for protection. The following year some of them came back over the same road in the great gold rush of "49".
     "Shut your eyes and see Pleasant Valley as a tent city, men and women coming in covered wagons, on horseback, on foot, devastating the countryside with their diggings, rushing off to richer claims. But some of the Mormons like Dr. Snow stayed and they made the trampled places bloom."
     Mr. Lem tried to make us understand the youth of the 49ers. If some of them were greedy, they were also courageous and adventurous. He would leap up and cry out, "The days of our youth are the days of our glory." And whether wa understood or not, we would leap with him in body and spirit.
     Soon after the day at Pleasant Valley, we located Iowaville, a part of the holdings of Dr. Samuel Snow. He was a Mormon who had led a wagon train out of Council Bluffs across the country and down the Carson Emigrant Trail into Pleasant Valley. The doctor favored our kind of study.

He let us eat all of the windfalls we wanted from his Spitzenburgs. His hydraulic mine produced more gold than any mine in Newtown. We could have watched for hours the Monitor or Giant throw a powerful stream of water into the gravel bank. First, the "piper" kept the stream directed close to bedrock, boring in a sort of wide tunnel and then down came the bank, tons of gravel to be washed into sluices.
     Dr. Snow located Mormon Gulch for us on the north side of Weber Creek. Mormons who had worked the Gulch sent tithes in great amounts to help to build the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.
     In Dogtown, now a part of Newtown, we found the closed cabin of George Russell who had been a member of the Buffum Party, and two headstones on a knoll. At the doctor's request we kept away from his fishpond. He was the camp obstetrician and the story want that most of us who were in school at that time had been fished out of that fishpond.
     We had dredged the pond secretly many times but we always went along with the doctor's story when he was with us. Our final jaunt was an acting out of how Newtown might have been founded. It had happened only thirty five years back, yet old timers disagreed about people and places. After talking to a lot of people in Newtown and Placerville, Mr. Lem made up his own version. As actors we became a group of discontented people in Dogtown because we wanted space for permanent homes. Israel Clyde's name appeared in early records and in an old diary. Our best actor became the leader, Israel Clyde. He was said to have had a prophetic thumb and he told his followers that when his thumb began to prick, he would have found a new town.
     Our imaginary goods packed in imaginary wagons, we started out from Dogtown on the trail to Placerville. We had scarcely gotten into stride when the prophetic thumb began to prick.

Right under the Iron Doors on Newtown Ridge, it began to sting. Israel stopped.
     The story goes that he and some of the men cut a trail along the Iron Doors which are an outcropping of rock on the Ridge. At the top they saw the lift of the snowcapped Sierras and below the valley covered with pine, oak, and cedar. This would be the New Town. It was a triumphant ending to our school term. We didn't know then that Mr. Lem was leaving us to go to college near Boston. He was followed by a succession of black sateen aproned teachers and school became a chore again.



2. How Newtown May Have Been Founded

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     Israel Clyde and his party pitched canvas tent's, hauled boards from the mill at Pleasant Valley and began to build cabins, saloons and a store. Gold placers seemed as inexhaustible as the air the miners breathed. The lucky ones washed as much $1400 in gold from a single pan and fifty pans were a good day's work. Not all the pans were as rich. Water for ditches came from the North and South forks of Weber Creek. The one we heard most about in later year's was part of the 247 mile long Eureka canal, longest in the state and built at a cost of $700,000.
     It was as though Israel Clyde rubbed Aladdin's lamp the way buildings appeared. Stone masons and carpenters built general stores "our stone store was one of the first" hotels, saloons and houses. Kaler's brewery was as fine as anything in Placerville. After it burned, people remembered the two sets of pipes, one of clay and one of logs, that carried water from Clear creek. The pipes and the water got credit for the best beer in the county. Lava rocks, two feet square with surface polished smooth as the best laid cement, paved the brewery floor. Besides a wholesale business, the brewery carried on a lively local trade. Some of the handsome glazed terra cotta pitchers used to serve the beer were saved from the fire of 1872 but no one ever located them. For the miner who wanted something stronger than beer, the distillery, also on Main street, distilled a brandy whose potency was known as far as San Francisco. The Italians did justice to both brandy and beer but most of the time they patronized the five "cantinas," the wine cellars, where they could sit around tables and drink leisurely. The making and selling of liquor was big business in Newtown.

     Whenever anyone joked about this abundance of drinkeries in old Newtown in the presence of Miss Glide, an old schoolteacher, she would remind us that there had been a Newtown Sabbath School Library with almost 500 books which were available to everyone.
     She never forgot that the first editions of Hawthorne's novels were circulating at the time of the fire and were carried away by one of the two families who saved their household goods. She also reminded us that she and her friends subscribed to the English Cornhill magazine and to Harper's Monthly so we wouldn't carry the impression that Newtown was just another roistering camp.
     Miss Glide loved to tell about the house of her parents on Main street, white, two storied with double balconies and French windows. Turkey carpets covered the floors, the table was set with Chelsea china and cut glass goblets. White Lamark roses and the two toned pink Archduke Charles rose bordered the gravel walks of the garden. In spring, lilacs flowered in profusion. Miss Glide continued to romanticize about a dogwood trail "in spring, a glory of white, in autumn a riot of crimson."
     No one ever located this trail after the fire. We had it on more stable authority that apple trees grew with the speed of dock and mullen. People came from other camps to see the Sheep's Nose from Kentucky, the Pioneer Belle and Hawthornden and the Gloria Mundi that won prizes at the County Fair for there size, some bigger than a baby's head. An Englishman grew an apple he called a Carville under glass and sold the apples for a dollar apiece.
     Aunt Rosa who came to Newtown as a bride just before the fire, hated Miss Glide because she put on airs.
     Aunt Rosa came to a one room cabin without turkey carpets or Lamark roses. "I liked the little cabin," she used to tell us, "it had a red brick fireplace that looked like one in a story book.

     We hid our long tin bath tub under the board bed. The stove was in the pantry. It was all fun until your uncle brought home the nuptial bed from Sacramento. He got off a truck one evening swaggering with pride. He had hired the truck which cost him a poke of gold dust to bring this monster of a bed to Newtown. It was made of walnut. The head board was so high that we could barely stand it up in the cabin. Turtle doves and garlands were carved on the head board. A wooden cupid with a leering face perched on top. Everything had to come out of the room.
     I had to store our clothes and dishes under the bed. When anyone came to see us they sat on it because there was no room for chairs. I got so that I hated it. The fire was a terrible thing but I was glad for it for one reason. Every splinter of that bed, even the cupid, went up in smoke.
     Rocco, one of the first Italians to come to Newtown, talked with more authority about the old town than any of the other miners. When I was boy he lived in San Francisco where he owned a chain of livery stables. He came to Newtown with his grandsons in the hunting season to the cabin he had bought in the fifties. He came to the stone store every evening where he stood drinks for his friends and where he left money for old friends who were sick or in the county hospital. He spoke the Genoese dialect fluently but when boys came to her, he spoke English.

The following story and the Spy Story after were our favorites.



3. Rocco's Story from Genoa to Newtown in the 1850's.

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     I belonged to a family of carriage makers in Genoa. Our business was over a hundred years old. As soon as we were eight or nine and our grandfather who planned our lives could tell we weren't cretins, we were trained for our jobs. My brothers and my cousins and I studied at home with tutors in the morning. In the afternoon, we went to the factories and the stables to learn how to use tools and how to understand horses. 'when we were twelve, we chewed tobacco and knew all the profanities of the stable. But in the evening we were signorine. We dressed for dinner and servants waited on us.
     I was the middle son in a family of five boys so I could be spared to go to England to the uncle who ran the business in London. When I was fourteen my grandfather said I was ready. My uncle who had a houseful of daughters but no sons was married to an English woman. I lived in their house where only English was spoken. In a couple of years, I learned how an English mail coach was built and I learned to drive one. The future looked bright for me when my uncle was thrown from his horse while riding to hounds and killed instantly. My grandfather decided to sell the English business and ordered me back to Genoa.
     I had been hearing about California. A year before, a Genoese seaman I knew jumped a coal ship in San Francisco to go to the gold country. He had written back about the opportunities. My grandfather gave me a generous amount of money and told me that if I made good I could return, if I didn't I could stay in America.
     I've always said that my real education began on that boat that left New York to sail around the Horn for San Francisco. I'd been taught that the value of an education was to know a good man when I saw one. Now I had to learn to know a bad one. I learned but not without losing some of grandfather's money. It was like growing a third eye in back of my head. I sat in on a faro game and in two minutes I spotted the man I'd have to watch. I was quick on the draw. A couple of highwaymen I'd met in London showed me some tricks. There were good men on board too. That's where I met my partner. We worked together until be died.
     Newtown was about three years old when we came here in '55. We staked out a good claim and bought a cabin from a man who was moving to Diamond. Same one I'm in today. The fire of '72 didn't reach it.
     After living in old cities like Genoa and London, it was like being on another planet to live in a place where there were no old people. I remember the healthy smell of green lumber and horse piss around the cabin. Today there's the reek of billy goats.
     The road to Placerville had just been built, by Chinaman mostly. Dr. Colwell had an office over at the turn of the road. He cold set a broken bone or pull an aching tooth as well as any city doctor. Kaler was adding to his brewery. A potter was doing a good business with the clay beds on Weber Creek. As more Italians came they built stone cantinas. An Italian hates drinking at a bar.
     A young Kentuckian had this store stocked with mining gear and canned oysters. One day he went to Placerville and came back with two flutes and a book of poetry and sold them that same night. Miners had money and wanted to spend it. Those were the days we thought the gold placers would never give out. To add to our expectations, two diamonds were found in the lava capped gravel beds between the two forks of Weber Creek.
     My first gold dust went for a horse. Vane, in Pleasant Valley, was breeding Spanish mustangs to American Wheelers. Fine horses for riding. In those days the road to Placerville was as busy as Market street in San Francisco is today. People drove or rode or walked. Grizzlies and mountain lion stalked in the ravines. Deer snarled the traffic. It was all part of the excitement.
     We worked our claim for about seven hours. Then we mounted our horses for Placerville. Every day wagon trains lumbered in from the plains. Many of them were followed by bands of horses from Virginia or Kentucky. Chinamen took up the roads with their shoulder poles and baskets. We saw Negroes riding behind white masters or walking independently on their own. I heard men swear in German, French and Spanish. I never needed liquor. The whole spectacle made me drunk.
     The grandest sight for me was the Concord coach. I'd never seen anything finer on wheels than the Concords that were brought by clipper around the Horn from New Hampshire. Their heavy ash wheels must have weighed 2500 pounds each, yet they glided into town like birds. I never knew Birch who started his Pioneer Coach line between Sacramento an(] Placerville with four Mexican broncos and an old wagon. That business grew into the largest stage company in the world, right here in the youngest state in the Union. My partner knew I'd have to have one last fling with a stage and horses so he said he'd look after the mine for three months while I got a job with Stevens.
     Those three months went by like three days. I had one of the runs between Placerville and Sacramento, sixty miles. I made it in five hours. I felt like a king sitting on the box holding six reins. I knew those six horses better than my brothers in Italy. They used to say that to drive a stage you had to have hands as skilled as a surgeons to guide the reins and feet skilled as a dancer's to put on the brakes. I never had to use my silver ferruled whip except for directions.
     In those days there were giants of the road. Greatest reinsman of them all was Colonel Jared Crandall. They, used to say that his horses saluted him when he took up the reins. He drove the first coach over the Sierras to the Great Salt Lake Basin before the road was graded.
     On many winter days I would see Snowshoe Thompson swoop into town on his oak skis from Carson with the mail. A good guy. He'd do anything for people, carry flour, medicine, love letters. He even carried the dangerously sick on his back.
     "The Big Swede will take it," people used to save when they were in a hurry to get something delivered. He was a Norwegian but I always heard him called the Swede. The trouble with him was that he had no business head. He never asked for pay all the years he carried the mail. Maybe he expected the government to hand him a wad on a gold platter. Governments don't work that way. He went to Washington to see if he could get some pay but I don't think he ever got a cent. He's buried over in Genoa, Nevada.
     Transportation was still in my bones. I had to be wherever there was movement. Some of us from Newtown went to Folsom to see the first train in California pull in from Sacramento. That was in 1856. They were beginning to lay the tracks just about the time I came to Newtown. It was a great sight to see the engine with the big chimney that belched smoke like twenty houses on fire. Like the Concords, it had come around the Horn on a clipper.
    I had just come back to Placerville from a job in San Francisco when the Pony Express made its first run in 1860. 1 would have given everything I owned to have been one of the riders, but by that time I was weighing 200 pounds. I was in town the day the rider made the record run when he brought the news of President Lincoln's Inaugural. Seven days and seventeen hours from St. Jo. Ten days had been the average. God what excitement. The ponies were put out to pasture after eighteen months. That was when the telegraph line came in.
     Newtown shared in Placerville's prosperity in the Comstock boom. My partner and I owned a small dairy near Pleasant Valley a part of the time. We went to Placerville three or four times a week with butter and cheese. We could have sold ten times as much as we had. I almost got a job on the Concords that carried bullion to the Cary House but the adventure had gone out of big money. That year I bought my first livery stable in North Beach.

     Rocco was in Newtown for a few days when Mrs. Grandi found the Confederate flag. She was cleaning out a miner's cabin and found it in an old trunk. The general talk turned to the Civil War. That's when Rocco told the Spy Story.



4. Newtown's Spy a Pre Civil War Incident Told by Rocco

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     Feelings between NORTHERNERS and Southerners in the county began to be felt before the attack on Fort Sumter. In Newtown our sympathies were with the North except for a family from the deep south who began to make trouble. "I'm gonna shoot ma self a few Yankees soon," the man went around saying with his gun on his shoulder. His wife boasted that she had a Confederate flag ready to hang from her balcony as soon as the South won the first battle. After some of us threatened them with tar and feathers, they loaded their goods in a wagon and left town.
     The man we called Doc brought us a first Hand experience. He breezed into Newtown in April of 1860, same month the Pony express came to Placerville. He wore a gambler's hat and carried a carpet bag said to have been full of frilled shirts. At the hotel he told Cy the bartender, the only man to whom he ever showed any intimacy, though he was friendly to everyone, that he was a Virginian traveling for his health.
     He didn't know how long he'd be staying. As he was a teacher of penmanship, he might take a few pupils to pass the time. Cy put up a sign for him in the hotel parlor. I was sparking a girl at Fort Jim who came over to his class so I kept an eye on him. He was young, with a dashing manner women like and he went to Placerville twice a week for baths and haircuts. I was wearing red flannel shirts.
     We called him Doc for no reason I can remember. His pupils called him Professor. No one knew his name. My girl Jenny learned to write a fine Spencerian hand and make up poems she called acrostics accomplishments "I" thought she could do without.

     Doc kept his seven or eight pupils, all girls, at a respectable distance. He refused their invitations to the Saturday night dances.
     But he was seen dancing the Portland Fancy at the Carey House with the Senator's wife. The nights Doc was in town he played draw poker in the hotel's gambling room. He began by drinking Iron Fences, a potent drink made of apple Jack and Bourbon and later switched to Virginia Peach Brandy. He held his liquor and was a quiet player, breaking even most nights. Doc hired a horse and rode every day. He must have known every road and every path in Newtown, Pleasant Valley, and Fort Jim.
     Jenny's parents were building a log house at Fort Jim and I used to ride over to help them. Often I'd find Doc riding or walking around Dead Head Gulch where Steadman hydraulicked later. He would say to me he was sure there was more gold in the gulch than had been taken out.
     Doc met the Pony every time it rode into Placerville. He always received letters and he read the thin news sheets that the rider carried with him. After a couple of months Doc wasn't meeting his classes regularly. People kept seeing him on the stage to Virginia City or to Sacramento and on the river boat's to Marysville or to San Francisco.
     Men in the know who came to Newtown began to say that Doc belonged to the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secessionist organization that was said to have a big membership in the county. Others said he was a Yankee spying on Senator Crittenden who belonged to the party that wanted to secede from the Union and found a Pacific Republic on the west coast. It was known that Senator Crittenden was storing firearms in Virginia City and in Silver City where his followers were hiding them in cellars and storehouses.


     One stormy night in January 1861 two strangers rode into Newtown and came to the hotel. They sat at the table where Doc was getting ready for a game of draw poker.
     When he saw them, he got up, saying he had to go out to clear his head because the Stone Fences had, been too strong. He lit his lantern, tossed a raincoat over his shoulders and went out in the blizzard. The strangers followed him in a few minutes. I could see that Cy the bartender was restless, he would have gotten up a posse and gone out to look for Doc, but Fiood the owner was in Placerville that night and there were strangers in the saloon and gambling rooms.
     The next morning Cy found Doc's body on Cemetery Hill with a bullet through the head. Cy looked after the burial. He put a wooden marker on the grave with "Doc, January 1861" carved into it. Doc's pockets had been frisked of all papers by the man who shot him. Cy found one identification among Doc's frilled shirts, a San Francisco address. He wrote to that address telling how Doc died.

     On the eve of Decoration Day when we went up to clean the winter brush out of the cemetery, we found a marble headstone in the place of Cy's marker. It had on it what must have been Doc's real name and a fancy epitaph. No one knew when the stone had been put up. Beswick's place, the house near the cemetery, was empty that year. Barsini whose cantina; was at the foot of the hill, was drunk all that winter and didn't know what was going on. Cy had left Newtown the month before. We never found out about the headstone, but we heard a year later that Doc wasn't spying on crittenden but was one of his men and that he was hoping to hide firearms for the Army of the Pacific in Dead Head Gulch.

     There's a gravestone in the cemetery which my mother called the "mystery" stone. I called it Doc's gravestone. We cleaned it on Decoration Day and put flowers on the grave as we did on all the untended graves.



5. The Fire of 1872 Climaxes a Troubled Year

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     I was never able to get a full account of the fire that destroyed Newtown in 1872. My father was mining in Diamond Springs, my mother was still in Italy. Aunt Rosa Had been in Newtown for a short time but, except for the burning of Her bed, she never talked about the fire. From what I pieced together this is what happened.
     The year 1872 began ominously. In January Newtown had the worst storm in it's history. Two of the tallest pines in the camp fell on the cabin of Uncle Luigi's friend Adamo. They flattened the cabin to the ground and killed him instantly. Two months after the storm a severe earthquake shook the foothills. In May, a fire in the neighboring village of Hank's Exchange didn't leave a shed standing. As though nature's devastations were not enough, three murders added to the calamities. Their dates were questioned by people who loved accuracy more than melodrama, but others relished the macabre touch to the destruction.
     A school teacher was beheaded after he had buried two sacks of gold on Newtown Ridge. The murderer Had to make his getaway before he carried off the gold. It's said to be there still. At about this time, an unknown man in the stone store threw a knife with a sharp blade to the ceiling with intent to kill. The knife fell, blade down, on the neck of the victim who was bending over the card table and killed him outright. And finally, a notorious gambler beheaded a horse thief in Ringgold.
     Beheading appears to have been a favorite form of homicide that year. The gambler joined card players in the stone store that evening. (It must be said that the location tended to change wherever the story was told.)

     When the gambler's turn came to ante, he called out loudly, "I'll go you a head better" and he rolled the head of the horse thief on the table.
     The fire started in the brewery on an August evening. A high wind fanned the flames to Miller's unfinished hotel next door. Newtown had no equipment to fight a fire of this size. A bucket brigade in which everyone in the camp took part almost ran the wells dry. When the wood store went up in flames, the houses on Main street were doomed. Women got their children together, packed what they could into wheelbarrows and make-shift trailers and left for the edge of town. By morning the buildings were a heap of charred wood and ashes, except for the stone store, the hillside cabins and a couple of houses at the west end. Newtown's golden age was over. No lives were lost. Mormon families out of the fire range helped generously with food and bedding. By September, many had left for the valley or San Francisco. The others built board and batten houses of rough sugar pine. My mother, who came to Newtown about five years after the fire, said that the acrid smell of charred wood was still in the air.
     In a year or two, makeshift houses were replaced by better ones. Willows, Chinese trees of heaven, poplars and chestnut trees bordered the road again. Italians planted Catawba and Isabella cuttings from the Coloma vineyard. "Sunny Italy," the Newtown I knew, came into being.



6. Italian Parents: the New Newtown as "Sunny Italy"

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     The "Sunny Italy" period was not a dolce far niente time, a lazy time. The miners worked hard. My father and his partner held high hopes for their Golden Gulch Mines. Pop kept the patents for the mines, one signed by Benjamin Harrison In 1883, the other by Grover Cleveland in 1887, in a tin safe deposit box on the top shelf of the store room. They were the family documents. Yet my parents never thought about them as passports to riches. They were symbols of freedom from poverty and openings to a way of life that would have remained closed in Italy. I always liked to hear about the life in Italy.
     Winter, when the shoe Jack and the cobbling tools took up space in our crowded kitchen, was a good time to listen to Pop. When the weather was bad and Pop couldn't work in the mine, he cobbled shoes. My mother hated the smell of leather. She said the tannic acid got into the flavor of the food. But she never complained because she was glad to have Pop home. When he worked ten hours in the mine he was too tired to talk. While he was stitching shoes was a good time to ask questions. I pretty much knew the answers but I was always glad to hear them again. "Pop, tell us what you did on the boat the first time you came to the United States." "I ate hard ship biscuit all day". `Gallette' we called them. I guess that's what they fed the galley slaves. My brothers and I had little mallets and we chipped off pieces. At night my mother made soup out of oil, cheese and water on the stoves used by the steerage passengers. She put more gallette in that. The men were allowed a small bottle of wine a day. When we landed in New York we stayed at a place called Castle Gardens until one of my uncles came to take us to Massachusetts. We lived with him. I slept with his sons under the kitchen table. "Did you go to school ?"

     "For two years, summer and winter without vacations. It was a good thing for me because I never went to school again. "There were no houses for my father to rent in the town so we lived with the different uncles. Mr father worked hard with pick and shovel on a road job. One day my mother said she would rather go back to Italy, and starve than keep on climbing other people's stairs in America. My father had just enough money saved for our passage back. Steerage wasn't crowded and we had plenty to eat this time, bread, cheese, and salami."
     "And you didn't go back to school in Italy?" I asked enviously"
    
     Our village didn't have a school. By that time I was old enough to be apprenticed to a shoemaker my father knew in the nearest town. I lived with his family and I called him 'maestro' master. A good craftsman was respected. My first jobs were to soak leather and to keep the tools in shape. In a couple of years I was making shoes and boots and the maestro was paying me a few cents a week.
     "At this time one of the uncles in Massachusetts offered to pay my passage to New York where I could work long enough to pay my way to California. I accepted at once. We were a jolly young crowd. One of the men who was a cook brought a supply of macaroni and salt pork on board. We all paid him something so we weren't hungry as we had been when we lived on 'gallette.' We sang, we improvised Stornelli for two girl passengers who were so well guarded by their mother and aunts that we never got near them.
     "Where did you live in New York?"
     "In a tenement in the Italian quarter.
     Ten of us slept in one room. One of the fellows had a monkey, Giacomino, who kept us awake at night looking for lice in our hair work?"
     "Where did you work?"
     "We had a choice of jobs, pick and shovel, street cleaning, rag picking, shoe shining. I was lucky. My uncle got me a job stoking the ranges in the St. Nicholas Hotel. It was hot work. Sometimes we only wore a towel around our middle. One of the chefs was a wiry little Frenchman who had worked in Genoa. He gave us juicy steaks and tender roasts."
     Pop smacked his lips.
     "It didn't take long to save up enough money for a steerage, ticket on the Panama bound boats," Pop went on. "What hell holes they were. About 900 people crowed into a space meant for 300.
     "Some of the boys who came with me from Italy were on the boat. A young unfrocked priest looked after us. He spoke English and he scared some of the superstitious Irish guards into getting us fresh meat from the first class kitchen. Most of the time we ate beans and rancid pork."
     "Tell us how the ex-priest saved your life."
     "As soon as we left the boat in Panama, I came down with fever. Whenever we had to walk, Padre Franco found a mule for me. Some days I was so sick he had to strap me on and make a cover over me like an umbrella to protect me from the sun. He bought tamarind from the Indians to make tea for me. Afterwards, the fellows talked about alligators and big snakes and jungle trees, but I couldn't remember anything.
     "On the Pacific Sail to San Francisco we had fresh stuff to eat. It was a good voyage except for the storms. One fine morning we landed in San Francisco to the roar of guns which were always fired to welcome Pacific Mail passengers. Baggio was at the dock to meet us with rolls and blankets and supplies. I said good-bye to Father Franco and caught the Sacramento river boat that day."

     I knew the rest of Pop's story he went first to one of the Gardella families in Genoa, Nevada. Then he tried his luck at so many mining camps he could never remember them all. He came away from Virginia City, in the Bonanza time with less money than when he went there. He settled in Newtown shortly after the fire. My mother and Aunt Rosa knew more songs than there are days in the year. Pop was a one song man. He sang or hummed his one song while he worked at the shoe Jack. It had been written in praise of an Italian girl and Pop knew only these four lines:

     "Bella di santita tu sei Romana,
     E di richezze tu sei Genovese,
     E di pompezze tu sei Milanese,
     E di bellezza tu sei Veneziana."
    

The song says, he would explain to us, that the girl is very desirable. She is as saintly as a Roman, rich as a Genoese, stylish as a Milanese and beautiful as a Venetian.
     Pop loved marionettes. On winter nights with string and match sticks, he made for us the Comedy dell'Arte figures, Harlequin, Pantalon and Columbine. They were as familiar to us as Mother Goose characters were to the American children. Pop's supple wrist and his voice capable of many inflections placed these characters in situations of the past and present even to involving our neighbors which shocked my mother and delighted us. Pop knew about the language of gesture which is as important as speech to an Italian. He bit his finger to show he was mad, his hand to show he was very mad. To make fun of someone, he stuck out the index finger and the little finger of his right hand. This was also the sign of the evil eye, but Pop didn't know the words.

He told us a story by lifting his eyebrows, contorting his mouth and wiggling his ears.
     We were all too familiar with the sound of gnashing teeth. That came before a paddling with his slipper, which we felt at that time must have had an iron sole.
     Where Pop had forgotten about his life in the Ligurian hill village, my mother talked every day about the old stone house in Chiavari where she was born. Remembering her childhood, she hated to wake us up in the morning.
     "We were such little things," she would say, "when we staggered down the stairs at four in the morning to hold candles for my father. The wall lamps didn't give enough light in the cooperage. In the winter Nonna gave us hot milk and coffee but our hands were numb with cold. We would drop the candles sometimes, singeing my father's bushy eyebrows. We hardly felt the sting of the slaps he gave us because of the cold.
     "I was the youngest of six girls. Two boys came after me. We waited on them as if they had been little princes. I didn't know what it was to have new clothes until I bought my wedding dress to bring to California. I wore hand-me-downs from my sisters."
     A charcoal portrait of Nonna, my grandmother, hung on the bedroom wall. She had the kind of face you wanted to smile back at. Ironically, she carried a fan in her work hands. Besides raising a large family, Nonna was a midwife in her neighborhood and she laid out the dead. This nearness to lifeand death enhanced Nonna in the eyes of her daughters. They thought she was the wisest woman in the world. And Nonna had great tenderness for her girls. They were baptized with the names of saints and relatives hut she gave them special names, that meant happiness in Italian: Allegra, Gaudia, Felicita, Gioia, Giaconda, Letizia.

When five of the daughters left Italy, Nonna learned to write. We looked forward to her letters with little jokes in them to amuse the grandchildren that she would never see.
     The girls had gone to a parochial school in the morning. In the afternoon, they went to different seamstresses to learn the trade. My mother used to say she had picked up enough basting threads to reach to the Milky Way. My oldest aunt married at fifteen and received a dowry. Her parents mortgaged their small olive grove to give it to her. This left the remaining five girls "portionless."
     "didn't you fall in love?" Aunt Rosa's Fiora asked her mother when talk turned to single girls in Italy.
     "Italian men refuse to be romantic unless the girl has a dowry," Aunt Rosa answered. "After the boys serve time in the army, they go to South America or come to the United States. Our older sisters went to Argentina where Italian men were looking for Italian brides."
     My mother was a picture bride. Aunt Rosa showed her picture to Pop who was one of Uncle Louis's friends. He liked her looks and offered to pay her way to California. Aunt Rosa sent Pop's picture to my mother who thought he was quite dashing in a Prince Albert coat even if it was two sizes too big. Mother traveled second class on a French liner with a family from Chiavari who were coming to California.
     We had five meals a day on that boat," she recalled with pleasure. "I hadn't known what it meant to have a full stomach until then. We had beef a la mode. I tasted mayonnaise for the first time and croissants and petit fours. I can't imagine what they gave the first class passengers; larks' brains and nightingales' tongues. The emigrant trains were a letdown. Indians sold meat and fruit at some of the stations. We tried to cook on the big range in our coach. But even if our food was half raw we found a lot to laugh at and wonder about."

     Mother had been in someone's care until she got to Sacramento. Except for pangs of homesickness at night, the trip had been a lark. From Sacramento to Shingle Springs, this was before the train came to Placerville, she was on her own. Aunt Rosa couldn't come to Shingle but she had asked Nick, the Italian stage driver, to meet mother and bring her to Newtown. As soon as mother climbed on the stage, a spring storm blew up with thunder and lightning. Mother was the only, passenger and Nick was having trouble with one of the horses. She thought her time had come to die. If the lightning didn't strike the coach, the horses were sure to drag it over the embankment.
     My father liked to tell about the first time he saw her. "Sure, I was curious to see what my bride looked like. Rosa said I'd better keep out of sight until the next day. I hid behind the door of the stone building where I could see her get off the stage. . . ." It was still raining when the horses splashed to a stop. "Rosa and some of the women ran out. Nick opened the stage door and called out, `Ci siamo. Benvenuta. "It had rained inside the coach. A drenched little scarecrow climbed out, frightened and sobbing. As soon as she saw Rosa, she cried, I hate California. Get me back to Italy. I won't stay here for any man. She kept this up until Rosa got her in the house.
     "That night I thought seriously of rolling my blankets and hitting the trail for Nevada. But the next morning when I saw her, she had dried out. Her hair curled over her ears and her eyes twinkled. I decided to stay."
     Mother had been told not to expect a Villa Pallavicini even if this was the land of gold. She liked the rough board house Pop had bought from a family who were moving to North Beach. They left beds with painted headboards, deep-well dressers and chairs with cowhide seats.

When I was in bed with colds in my mother's room I looked at the pictures on the walls, violently colored "holy" pictures of a crucifixion, madonnas, and saints, family pictures in which all of the aunts wore roses in there hair and black ribbons around their necks with lockets attached. On the south wall a glass frame held a sheaf of wheat tied with a purple ribbon. The wheat had lain on the coffin of a cousin before burial. It was customary for Italians to keep a memento mori before them, a reminder that in the midst of life we are in death.
     When I was feverish, mother took her blue velvet missal carefully wrapped in a silk handkerchief and soothed me to sleep with the "Litany to the Virgin" which she read softly in Latin:


     "Rosa Mistica
     Turis Davidea
     Turis eburnea
     Domus aurea etc."
    


     For the days of convalescence she found a deck of tarot cards wrapped in the handkerchief. My father used to laugh and say "God and the devil together in the handkerchief." The cards which had been forbidden at some time by the church were the devil.
     Mother told me stories about what could happen when the Hangman appeared in conjunction with the green skeleton or with the four talisman cups. The devil who had horns and was sticking out a long mocking tongue looked more like a juvenile delinquent than the great evil force who could settle your doom with his pitchfork. For the final day in bed, mother read to me from her tattered copy of the "Orlando Furioso." My favorite passage was the one where Orlando goes to the moon. It was a good life inside that little house of rough, unpainted boards where the known was still clung to and the unknown anticipated.



7. From "Traviata" to Sweet Betsy from Pike"

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     Italians in the mining country had not escaped prejudice. The law passed in 1850 against the staking out of claims by Latins, was aimed at Mexicans. But it also hit French and Italian miners, evicting many of them from rich claims. In the eighties the law had been forgotten. But some of the Midwesterners who came to Newtown still saw the Italian as a perennial "monkey grinder." One afternoon in late fall after a rain, my cousin Gino and I asked Tim and Harry who had just come to Newtown from Missouri to come mushroom hunting with us. We'd have a good time showing them how to find the mushrooms in the mounds of pine needles under the manzanita bushes. When Gino told them we would have better luck if we turned our shirts inside out, they began to laugh at us and to call us "dagoes."
     "Black, superstitious dagoes," they kept shouting.
     Surprised and hurt, We left the thicket. They followed us, continuing to Jeer: "We don't want dagoes for friends. They stink of garlic." Gino tried to laugh away the Jeers with his clown trick, simulating an organ grinder and singing in a squeaky voice:
     "Grinda da monkey An make a oregano dance."
    
Tim and Harry weren't amused. They kept saying, "We're leaving Dago town" over and over. Gino andI were hurt. We had lost our friends. Our race and our town had been insulted.
     As we turned into the main road, I tried to see Newtown as a newcomer would see it. We had been proud when outsiders called it "sunny Italy."
     Malfatti, a cabinet maker from Milan, planted the great clump of Lombardy poplars near the Placerville road.

When they turned yellow as they were now, we called them gold torches. My Uncle Stephen planted the chestnut trees between the locusts and willows. On the roof of old Zeno's cabin, a coach lantern which he called his lantern of Genoa, swayed in the late afternoon breeze.


     The men were coming home from their mines. I heard the guttural Genoese dialect that sounded like the croaking of frogs mingle with the lilting Tuscan that was like the chirp of crickets. The smell of food seasoned with garlic came from most of the open doors. In our kitchen Aunt Rosa, Gino's mother was pounding cheese and basil in the marble mortar. My mother was rolling out dough for taglierini.
     We came in frowning.
     "What grumpy faces," Aunt Rosa said.
     "You know what we got for being nice to those new kids?"
     I spluttered.
     "They called us dagoes."
     My mother was all for turning the other cheek, but Aunt Rosa wasn't about to have her son and her nephew insulted by Pikes. All rude Americans were Pikes to Aunt Rosa. She knew about the gypsy like, poor whites who had lived for a couple of years in the cabins near Dead Head Gulch. They were lazy and they were troublemakers and had been driven out of the camp. "Dirty Pikes," Aunt Rosa said, banging the wooden pestle on the table. "Call them molasses eaters."
     To Aunt Rosa, molasses was a sticky, unsavory substance unfit for human consumption. The very word, to her, expressed the ultimate in insult. We had eaten molasses in the homes of our American schoolmates and found it a big improvement on the bread and olive oil we were given for snacks.


     But somehow, we felt we had to vindicate ourselves. The honor of "sunny Italy" was at stake. The next morning we met Tim and Harry with our own name calling.
     "The sooner you get away from here, the better Tim and Harry "Pikes are lazy. Pikes are troublemakers.
     "Newtown doesn't want the likes of you,"
     " Tim and Harry weren't prepared for this. They didn't want to rub our noses in the dirt any more than we wanted to rub theirs. Then Gino, who could never stay mad long, began the organ grinder act. This time, Tim and Harry joined in and shouted louder than we did. The racial war was over. Maybe Pikes weren't as bad as Aunt Rosa said.
     Aunt Rosa worked hard at informing herself about Italians in the United States.
     "If the Pikes call you `dagoes' again," she said, after she heard of the peacemaking with distrust, "tell them that the Italian artist Malaspina came to California to paint pictures long before any of their covered wagons got here. And tell them that their Abraham Lincoln begged the Italian General Garibaldi to command an army in their Civil War. If Garibaldi had come, the war would have been over in six months." Carried away by enthusiasm, she once imparted to us the dubious information that Verdi composed all of the great operas and Raphael painted all the famous Madonnas.
     On a rainy afternoon after the mushroom hunt, when my sister and my cousins and I were winding strips of cloth into balls for the rug Aunt Rosa was braiding, she talked about her plans for us.
     "The boys will go to the college at Santa Clark where the Italian priests will teach them to become lawyers. The girls will go to the convent of the Blue Nun to learn deportment."


     We didn't have lawyers in Newtown and we didn't know what a lawyer did, but it all sounded grand. Cousin Fiora said that after you learned deportment you would look like one of the girls in Peterson's Fashion Book.
     My more practical and less ambitious mother suggested that the boys go to the woodshed to saw logs and the girls stir a pot of polenta for dinner. The next afternoon cousin Fiora came from school excited about a piece in the Placerville Mountain Democrat.
     "The paper said that the prima donna Adelina Patti received two thousand dollars for one appearance in San Francisco last week!"
     "Only an Italian voice would be worth that much money," Aunt Rosa said, tossing her head in the way she did when she felt vindicated.
     "did you hear Patti in Italy, Aunt Rosa?" I asked.
     "You know we were too poor for opera. But I know her songs. I'll teach you one."
     Aunt Rosa dropped the rug she was braiding, flung a strip of red flannel around her head, snatched a goblet from the shelf and holding it high with flourish, began her favorite form "Traviata":
     "Libiam ne' lieti calici Che la bellezza infiora."
     The girls found goblets to flourish and entered into the spirit of the song. Gino and I held back. We were learning the many verses of "Sweet Betsy from Pike." Grand opera sounded sissy. From our corner we sang in low voices:
    

"Oh don't you remember sweet Betsy from Pike
     Who crossed the big mountains with her lover Ike,
     With two yokes of cattle, an old yellow dog,
     A tall Shanghai rooster and one spotted hog."
    



8. Italian Customs and Italian Food

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     In Genoa it had been customary for the ladies who lived in the great places to cook dinner for their families. It was a point of honor, no matter how many servants they had. They looped up their velvet trains, put on aprons and rolled out a ravioli crust transparent as a veil and firm as canvas. In Newtown the Italian women spent a big part of their day in the kitchen.
     For breakfast, the women and children dunked their bread in milk and coffee, but the man who was going out to a hard day's work ate ham and eggs and sausages and other hearty foods that stuck to his ribs. Miners who lived alone carried slabs od polenta, a mush made of coarse corn meal, with cheese and a bottle of wine for their lunch. The family man whose mine was within walking distance from home expected a hot lunch at noon. One of the children was excused from school to carry it to him. I brought my father a jar of minestrone, an egg and vegetable dish called a frittata, meat balls, cheese and a bottle of wine.
     For the evening meal, my mother served soup again. In winter she made polenta every other night, stirring it with a manzanita stick for an hour over a wood stove. She prepared it with melted cheese and oil, with finely chopped green cabbage, alla borghese, with rabbit, or alla contessa,, with birds. My father preferred home made pasta to the factory made macaroni, so mother rolled out dough which she cut into lasagna or taglierini or reginette and a dozen other shapes. The sauce for the pasta simmered three or four hours on the back of the stove. In summer besides cooking fresh vegetables from her garden, mother made salads from dandelion and water cress. In winter, she served the vegetable her Mormon neighbors had showed her how to can.

American food won favor slowly, except apple pie which had become an instant favorite.
     Despite her confusion of the missal and the tarot cards, my mother and the other women missed the church and its rituals. Sometimes a prist came from Placerville to offer mass at Fort Jim with the appropriate name of Cherubino conducted the funeral services when the priest couldn't come. The only wedding I remember took place before the time about which I am writing when I was about seven years old. My uncle and aunt were married by Justice Carpenter from Smithflat in the stone store. It was a gala affair. everyone in town was invited as well as friends from the surrounding camps. My uncle asked the teacher to dismiss school early so the children could come. He had ordered little tin watches filled with candy as favors for them. I remember festoons of blue and violet crepe paper, tubs of dogwood, tables of rich food with coconut and chocolate cakes brought from a Placerville bakery. Champagne corks popped and there was dancing to the music of a fiddle and an accordion. By the time I was old enough to know about Christmas, my mother was decorating trees and filling stockings. A makeshift creche was still a part of the Christmas scene. We made more of putting it together than of trimming the tree. For the Christ Child we had a swaddled China doll, Joseph and Mary had been stitched from a rag doll pattern. We made fresh shepherds each year from twigs and baked fresh animals modeled out of dough. The three Magi dominated the creche, finely carved wooden figures from Italy. We exchanged gifts of food with our American neighbors. They brought us fruit cakes and mince pies. We gave them ravioli in terra cotta casseroles which my father bought in Placerville. After Aunt Rosa moved to San Francisco, we received Christmas boxes from her with hard candies and the Italian nougat called "torrone."

She sent us toy from Rotten Jimmie's, a reputable store in North Beach, a forerunner of Woolworth's. On Easter Sunday my mother refused to roast the customary kid because it would have been an affront to our pet goat Ninetta.
     We took it for granted that hens were less sensitive and we had roast chicken with the pascal torta made of chard, cheese and eggs. On May day we ate dry figs before breakfast to make us immune from fever. On the last day of September we sampled the new wine. To test the flavor, we sharpened our palates with three kinds of cheese. Women were urged to taste the wine to pass on its quality and flavor. Many Genoese women did not drink. The men polished off one or two bottles of wine a day, children drank wine and water as soon as they were out of the cradle. My father used to say that the kiss was invented so that a husband or a lover could tell if his lady had been drinking. On All Souls day some of the women made a penitential offering by eating a meal of boiled dry horse beans.
     To celebrate birthdays was not an Italian custom. The family honored the saint for whom one had been named. Our feast day was on June 24, St. John the Baptist's day. More than the feasts, I remember the rituals we observed when I was four and fire. All the woolens were out on the clothes line on St. John's eve to catch the beneficent dew which acted as a demothing agent for the rest of the year. At dusk, we went bareheaded to the ravine across the meadow to shout the name of St. John and to hear in the echo, the wails of the repentant Herodias. And by exercising our imagination a step farther, we caught a flash in the sky of the sword that had beheaded the saint.
     At dawn on St. John's day, the elderberry flower at the peak of its healing power. The flowers had to be cut before sunrise. After they dried, they were stored to make tea for colds and infusions for bathing sore eyes.

The drug shelf in the storeroom held other bottles and jars of home remedies: dried chamomile flowers, flax seed for tea, flax seed flour for poultices. From the Italian drug store in San Francisco my father ordered manna, a sticky sweet gum scraped from ash trees and a seaweed called coralina that made the bitterest drink I have ever tasted. We sipped anisette liqueur and Fernet bitters for stomach upsets and drank by the tablespoons the tonic Ferro-China (iron and quinine). Gold stars pasted on the castor oil bottle never made it more palatable. The treatment for sore throat, after a gargle of vinegar and salt, was a sheet of newspaper folded and soaked in kerosene, then wrapped securely around the throat. The next day the paper was replaced with a slice of fat salt pork which didn't always heal the blisters.
     When measles or chicken pox broke out among the children at school, in place of the asafetida bags worn on a string by the American children, we were decked with a string of garlic kernels. As soon as we were out of sight of the house, we hid them and picked them up on our way home. Some of the Italian women wore coral earrings, brooches or necklaces to ward off the evil eye. Aunt Rosa knew a charm to cure the evil eye. She used a saucer of water, three drops of olive oil and a snip of the afflicted person's hair. The secret words she whispered had been entrusted to her by Nonna on a Christmas eve.
     Scortina, a latecomer to Newtown, worked the charm that cured babies. Milo, Newtown's early settlers brought Scortina back with him as a bride when he went to Italy for a visit. She came from one of those remote Italian villages where hats and shoes were unknown. It was said that Milo bought her a hat in New York which she innocently wore back to front all the way across the continent.

But if millinery wasn't Scortina's forte, a charm to cure babies was. When children were brought to her for healing, Scortina felt justified before a community that openly criticized her for her unsavory housekeeping.
     Worried mothers overlooked the dog lying on the blanket that covered the rising bread dough or the chicken laying an egg in the clothes basket or the smell of the pet goat that had the run of the house. Scortina rubbed the sick child's back with an embrocation of warm olive oil to which had been added scorched bits of a garment that had been worn by the child's father. Apiece of shirt was best. After this, she passed a silver coin up and down the child's back, reciting the charm in a loud, resonant voice. Roughly translated from the Genoese dialect, it want something like this:
     "Monkey's blight,
     She-goat's bane,
     Halt thy ravage
     Cease thy pain.
     Wither away
     Like the pomegranate spray
     Holy Trinity
     Release this child from its infirmity."
    

To follow up the charm, she prescribed large doses of goat's milk.



9. Bellows, Italian Miner, Cook and Storyteller

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     Bellows was a portly man with a trim beard and eloquent eyes. We called him bellows because he had been a bellows maker in Italy. It was the custom to call men by the name of their trade. My uncle was called "Miller," my father "Cobbler." Bellows didn't Have Rocco's drive or any of the Genoese aptitude for making money. The people of Newtown valued him as a man. My father loved him as a friend and admired him because he was competent. He made wine like a king's vintner and built a stone wall like a master mason. He could raise a scaffolding for a barn, trim vines, prune trees, butcher pigs. He was a better cook than any man or woman in Newtown.
     I liked Bellows because he was the best storyteller I had ever listened to. He learned to tell stories from his father who had learned from his, no one knew how far back. As far back, at least, as the time that the Venetian Marco Polo was taken prisoner by the Genoese. That was in 1298. The doors of the prison in Genoa were open to the people who could never hear enough of Marco Polo's stories of Cathay and Kublai Khan. These stories were handed down to the family by one of Bellows ancestors. I shall write about Bellows stories later. Now I want to tell about his cabin and how I helped him make minestrone one morning when the cranberry beans were ripe in his garden.
     At mid-morning with well scoured hands I ran to his cabin, which was on a grassy knoll looking toward the alders on Weber Creek. The cabin, built of rough pine boards by a Kentuckian, escaped the fire of 1872, Bees buzzed around the ripe Bose pears. A grapy, musty smell came from the open doors of the stone wine cellar hollowed from the hillside. Vintage time was near. Bellows owned the best wine making equipment for miles around.

I could see the big ferment vats, oak barrels, a wine press and a crusher. After making his own wine, Bellows made wine for three families. Wine making was a serious business for him, conducted without any foot tramping of the grapes or any merrymaking. Children were ordered to keep away. The wine Bellows made, my father said, was as good as any made in the famous valley vineyards.
     The brown, woolly dog Ballila, named for an Italian patriot, sat on the doorstep. He had developed a taste for good food and smacked his lips after sharing Bellows meals. Bellows was in his patch of garden carefully selecting basil leaves from the plants that were beginning to seed in September. With these he carried tips from the broccoli stalks, a tender chicory leaves and two zucchini taken from his screened cooler half buried in a mossy cavity between two springs. Bellows did not make the peasant minestrone we ate at our house. He had learned to make what is called "a more subtle" kind at the Villa Beliore near Genoa where he was a cook's helper one summer when he was twelve years old.
     In the cabin the old stove, whose heat Bellows regulated to any temperature he wanted with dry oak logs and sticks of scrub oak, stood on a zinc platform. Cast iron cooking pots hung on the wall near it. The other walls were bare except for a faded picture of the father who inherited more than a hundred stories and bequeathed them to his son.
     Bellows handed me the wooden cheese grater and the Parmesan cheese with which his sister in San Francisco kept him supplied. For chopping vegetables, Bellows used a knife that looked like a sword. It had come from a hotel in Virginia City and had been used by a famous chef of the Comstock days.

While we enjoyed the aroma of the garlic and the salt pork crisping in the iron skillet and the ham bone and vegetables simmering in the cauldron, Ballila made gurgling sounds and pawed the floor to show his appreciation. When the ingredients were combined, I was allowed to add the final touch, the minced basil leaves. We watched the peaked Gothic clock and counted, keeping time to its ticking. One hundred and twenty! The minestrone was ready to serve. The soup ladled into ironstone bowls, Ballila generously served. Bellows proceeded with our wine ceremony.
     "Lachryma Christi or the Est from Montefiascone?" Bellows asked, holding a decanter of his own wine. Using the names of great wines was part of our ritual.
     "The Lachryma, per favore." And Bellows poured my quota of wine into the tumbler half filled with water. We raised our glasses and gave our toast:
     "Alla grazia di Dio." "To God's bounty. We settled to the business of eating but not without what Bellows called "good talk. I had something to tell that I knew would interest him. At school, the Reverend Charles Calab Peirce had visited us. We called him the traveling preacher. Only one family in Newtown was a member of his church, the Episcopal church in Placerville, but he came to the school frequently and to any family in need of spiritual comfort. It made no difference to him under which religious banner you traveled; he never suggested that his was better than yours. Bellows was one of his admirers.
     I explained to Bellows that we were studying Whittier's "Snowbound" at school the day that the Reverend Peirce came. He told us about Whittier's life and asked us for our favorite lines.

I remembered his favorite passage and quoted it:

" Oh time and change ! with hair as gray
     As was my sire's that winter day
     How strange it seems with so much gone
     Of life and love, to still live on."
    

One of our schoolmates had died the month before. Hearing the Reverend Peirce read these lines, I realized for the first time that books had something real to do with living. I could say this to Bellows who understood because he had so many books stored in his mind.



10. "Keeping Vigil" Brings Variety to the Stone Store

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     My father and my uncle were both working their claims. At the same time they ran the stone store, from habit and as a village convenience more than a business. They stocked mining gear: picks and shovels, pans and gumboots. They carried a few household items as needles, thread, brooms and soap. Glass bins held coffee beans, macaroni in various shapes, rice from Carolina and from Italy. Canned oysters were a commodity that had moved since 1852. A brand with a bright red label covered an entire shelf.
     Old ledgers gatherings dust in a corner were some of my favorite reading.
     In 1875 the store was doing a flourishing business. Gallon tins of olive oil and flannel shirts were selling by the dozen "Coleco" (calico) sold for 8 1/2 cents a yard. My mother wondered how the 445 3/4 yards sold in March of that year were used. A neighbor showed her Peterson's "Fashion Magazine" in which directions for making an ordinary dress called for from sixteen to eighteen yards of material. A China-man, Sam Kee, bought 1500 cigars for $27.00. Now "coleco" wasn't stocked any more and only, eight or ten boxes of cigars were kept on hand. At night the miners gathered around two tables to drink and talk. They used the Italian word "vegliare," "to keep vigil" for these gatherings. On summer nights the iron doors were wide open. The men drank claret poured from demijohns that had been kept cool in the cellar. Men from other camps came to share news and to talk about the past. We listened to stories told by Amos Laird from Fort Jim who had played the trumpet in brass bands that had performed at all the hangings, the legitimate ones, that is, since the fifties. An old time pocket miner camping on Weber Creek joined the group.

He had mined with Sailor Jack and two partners in the Pinch Gut mine when it promised to be another Mt. Pleasant and he had shared the excitement in the discovery of two diamonds on the Snow property. He came every summer for about six years trying to locate the lost Goose Egg mine.
     A Miner who was still working the productive ledges of the Mt. Pleasant mine at Grizzly Flat told us about the Scotch ghost. When something good, auspicious was his word, was going to happen at Grizzly Flat, the Scotchman's ghost would be seen walking in the direction of what was once the town of Humbug. He didn't wear kilts or play a bagpipe. He wore a Scotch cap called a tam-o'-shanter, twirled a cane and sang "O, My Luv's Like a Red, Red Rose" in a tenor voice that could be heard for a mile. The Scotchman wasn't seen again when the richest deposits petered out.
     You couldn't by any stretch of the imagination associate a merry ghost with Smithflat. But, as Josh Hunter who used to walk up from the Flat in summer said, you could jolly well think up emblems for it as a horseshoe and four leafed clover. It was a lucky place except for Mormon who stopped there to water his horses and cows at the abundant springs. Smith left before gold was discovered, leaving no forwarding address, only his name to the flat. We knew that its Gray Channel and Blue Channel produced some of the richest surface gold deposits in the state. Smithflat miners were equipped with electrical machinery. Their stockholders received dividends. In Newtown stock had been sold in the Utah mine, but it folded before dividends could be paid. As Newtown's prospects diminished, Smithflat's brightened. Scarcely had the last mine car of gold bearing gravel slid into the bin than Smithflat's low hills became dotted with fruit trees and its flat land piled with lumber from a sawmill.

But we lost our resentment over Smithflat's good fortune when we went to the Fossatti House, the hotel where some of the old miners of Newtown stayed in winter. Well or sick, with or without money, they were cared for. A sense of shared well being came with the smell of beer and sawdust and meat roasting in the kitchen. Hear we forgot horseshoes and clover leaves and enjoyed the company. To get back to the stone store. I liked the Winter evenings best when the "regulars" came. Oak logs crackled in the potbellied stove. The men took off their rubber raincoats, snuffed out their lanterns and sat down to an evening of drinking aqua vitae and listening to Bellows tell stories. If I nodded while Bellows stopped to drink, all he had to do was to lean toward me and say, "Where did we leave the giant with the seven heads? and I was wide awake as morning.
     No man went to sleep listening to Bellows. He told us fables from Aesop and tales from the "Arabian Nights." He knew stories that Grimms had told, stories from the Bible and from the Italian and French romances of chivalry.
     "My father walked miles,"he would tell us, "to hear a new story or what was said to be the authentic version of an old one. We told stories every night. It was an obligation to keep them in repair because they were our family inheritance. Nothing was ever written down. My father had a capacious memory for details. We had to tell how Roland's horn sounded, what the colors were in Joseph's coat, which was eaten on the eve of the feast of St. Agnes" "My mother was in sympathy with the family passion for stories," he continued. "She had a quirk of her own". As soon as summer came she was overcome with the urge to go on a pilgrimage.

When she heard by the way of a village grapevine that a pilgrimage was in the offing, she called one of the grandmothers to take care of us, rolled a change of clothes and a sake of bread and cheese into her blanket and she was ready. Pilgrims didn't go to the cites. They walked in their bare feet to mountain shrines or grottoes that had been the scene of miraculous cures or apparitions. They climbed stone steps or ledges on their knees.
     "Sometimes my mother brought back a story to add to the family stock. I remember one about a hermit whose cave on a mountain top had become a shrine. He had the power of levitation and people used to see him floating in the air. And he worked miraculous cures in three separate places at the same time. Mother brought back stories of the adventures of the Italian Banshee that were more terrifying than those of the Irish counterpart. And she added to the mischievous capers of the Italian Poltergeist called Folletto who flew invisible over rooftops ready to upset people in houses and horses in barns." Some evenings Bellows entertained us with imitations of the many Genoese dialects, imitating the lady in the palace entertaining her friends or the fisherman on the wharf trying to sell his morning catch. He recalled saints and sinners of Genoa. The story of St. Catherine who put pebbles in her slippers when the count, her husband, insisted she dance at the court balls. The story of Branca D'Oria who killed his father-in-law. Branca's soul was already suffering in the icy depths of hell while his body with a fiend inside of it carried on business as president of the bank of Genoa. Yarns of Genoese seamen were favorites: stories of Christopher Columbus that never got into history books, stories of Leone Pancaldo who piloted Magellan on that first voyage around the World.

We walked out into the winter rain or snow, bemused or exhilarated, lifted out of ourselves as I learned later one came out of the theater after seeing a play.



11. Fourth of July in Newtown "Open House"

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     Italians in Newtown had been quick to adopt the Fourth of July as a holiday. They couldn't find a saint to attach to the day, but the word "independence" suggested freedom from the tyrant's heel which had been more than an empty phrase to them and to their ancestors. Ways of celebration differed. The year I was born I was told that a Frenchman from Pleasant Valley had come to our schoolhouse grounds to deliver an oration on Lafayette in French. No one understood a word, but he received courteous attention and a salute with cannon fire.
     I remember jumping out of bed on the Fourth of July when I was eleven. Getting into my overalls, I ran to the door to see what was happening. Red, white and blue bunting decorated porches and fences. The Newtown flag with 38 stars flapped gently in the early breeze. Blossoming birch brush foamed at the edge of the ravine. In the meadow, chicory flowers reflected the blue of the sky. The sound of popping crackers and the smell of burning punk were already in the air. Quickly I dashed water on my face. The Fourth was my favorite holiday. I liked eating and noise and friends.
     Newtown families held open house on this day. Before noon People from Fort Jim, Pleasant Valley and Smithflat would be walking or driving into our camp. Some of them brought picnic lunches to eat in the schoolhouse grounds, others depended on the hospitality of the Newtown hostesses.
     Each housewife liked to offer something different to her guests. My mother's specialty was fritto misto, a delicacy that called for various ingredients. She began to worry about the preparation in June.

Would the butcher bring her enough calves brains, would the oyster plant get too stringy, the squash flowers too dry? Would the artichokes come in time from San Francisco? "Why aren't you satisfied with head cheese and salami? Pop grumbled. "You would think the King and the Pope were coming. You didn't sleep last night because you were afraid you wouldn't have enough fresh zucchini."
     This year my mother had all the ingredients. She had just finished decorating the three heaped platters with lemon slices when two wagons drove up to the gate with people from Fort Jim. Our house was the first stop for the eight hungry ones. In less than fifteen minutes every delicate little brown fritter had disappeared. Only the lemon wedges were left. Mother hadn't even had time to put aside a sample of each kind of fritter for Pop.
     "That fritto was mighty good," belched fat Beppina as she ambled down the path. "We'll tell the others about it and you'll have lots of company."
     Nothing like this had happened before. Usually, each guest took two or three fritters. Mother crept down to the cellar for head cheese and salami to offer the next guests who kept hoping the fritto misto Beppina had talked about would appear.
     I sat on the steps with other children watching people go by. Because it had been stormy on Easter, the girls couldn't wear their new summer finery. They were wearing it today.
     The girls on the steps were waiting excitedly to see Gilda, the stately belle of Newtown who anticipated the Gibson girl. She subscribed to fashion Magazines and made her own clothes. We called her the Princess, not from malice because she was friendly to every one and she helped a sick mother look after a large family. Gilda had suitors from Placerville to Grizzly Flat. Today she was driving with one in a buggy.

The girls stood up when the buggy came in sight.
     "Look, she's wearing pink dimity," one cried in admiration.
     "I can tell it's trimmed with real Val lace.
     "That's a Chase-me-Charley" hat she has on."
     "I wish I could smell her perfume. I'll be it's Piver's White Rose."
     "I think she's going to marry that fellow, the oldest girl whispered. "I heard that she made him a pillow case."
     The gift of a pillow case was part of courtship at that time. The girl made it by hand with lace or tucks or what not. The boys were interested in the horse and buggy and wondered how thy could get a ride.
     While the housewives wearing stiffly starched white aprons received company and served food, the children between shooting firecrackers and cap pistols, were allowed to make a few visits. Wearing new overalls and a starched shirt, I started out with my friend Henry.
     Our first stop was at the stone store where the men had gathered. Some were playing boccie in the freshly sanded alley. Inside men surrounded tables covered with platters of cold chicken and ham, Gorgonzola cheese on crackers and strips of foccaccia, a flat bread topped with oil and cheese.
     Under the chestnut trees, Black Jack was singing the fifty or more verses he knew of "Old Dan Tucker" to the rattling of bones. These were two eight inch polished pieces of wood played with a flick of the wrist. Jack Perkins was the only Negro in Newtown. He came in 1849 to Mud Springs, where he worked a rich claim and paid for his freedom. Now he owned a hog ranch near Pleasant Valley. "do you think so," Pop answered. "We say Indian George in the same way.

If I were living in a place where there weren't many Italians, I'd be called Dago John, not as an insult but a way of telling me apart from another John. Black Jack was a friend of the Negro Dr. Porter who practiced in Placerville twenty years ago and was said to have only white patients."
     When Jack stopped to rest, Milo played his wheezy old accordion. He was good at extemporizing stornelli, those Tuscan love songs in which the girl is addressed as a flower: "flower of the peach," "flower of the orange," Flower of the quince." Milo had picked up some of the popular American songs. Girls walking up and down Main street on that afternoon stopped to sing the ballad about a lovesick girl in Jersey City who hangs herself for the love of a butcher boy. And they asked for the most popular song that summer which began:
     "I'd rather marry a young man with twenty cows to milk,
     Than marry an old man in a jacket lined with silk."
     To please the young fry, Milo played "Down Went McGinty," which we sang with gusto.
     While our shirts were still clean we went to see our Mormon friend, the one who had shown heavy footed Italian miners and their shy wives how to dance the quadrille and the schottische. She wore side curls and crinolines. Our mothers said they were out of style.
     "I wove the cloth for this skirt from wool shorn from my father's sheep," she said proudly. "Why should I throw it away for sleazy new goods?"
     With flowers in her curls and benign smile, she looked as much like royalty to us as the pictures of the Italian Queen Margherita.


     She gave us wedges of apple pie made from her Alexander's and a sampling of the Mormon dish known as "lumpy Dick" on little cardboard plates.
     "When we first came to Newtown, we made lumpy Dick just out of flour and water," she told us. "We made treacle for it out of beet juice because we didn't have sugar. Today we can make it with eggs and milk and put raspberry jam on it."
     "Dawson's next," Henry said, "maybe they'll have lardy cake."
     And they did. Mrs. Dawson brought us slices of the English cake made of raised dough folded three times and filled with raisins and brown sugar. We ate it out-of-doors in the garden once famous for its Archduke Charles roses. Today it was overgrown with lilac bushes and overrun with children.
     Mr. Dawson made his own wine, sour stuff that the Italians wouldn't touch. When drunk as he always was on holidays, he became homesick and kept repeating names of English counties. "Essex, Middlesex, Devon," he hiccupped, "Yorkshire, Suffolk ..." "Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont," one pert nephews mimicked. Mrs. Dawson cuffed the pert one on the ear and offered us more cake.
     We refused. Our last call was at Henry's grandmother's house. We ate the German nut cake she gave us sitting on her great feather bed that she had brought to California from Germany. While we ate she told her favorite story about the German boys who while mining on Weber Creek a mile below town, dug up a thirty-six ounce nugget. On the way to Kaler's brewery, they invited the town to celebrate with them. She added her own sequel to give the tale a moral for young ears. When they found the next big nugget they went to Sacramento, bought a bakery and became good and prosperous citizens.
     By this time we were ready for action.

It would be fun to hide picnic hampers on the schoolhouse grounds or to frighten girls with make- believe snakes. But if we were caught it meant being sent to bed and missing the fireworks. We found some of our friends and started a game of prisoner's base. As soon as it was dark we came together on the schoolhouse for the fireworks. Two of the older boys went over to the cabin near Snows to bring Newtown's only China man, See Youg to see the fireworks. Tall Ben sent the skyrockets zooming up to the stars. We kept telling each other that this year they sparkled brighter and crackled louder than the year before. The last rocket blazed triumphantly, into a resemblance of the American flag. We shouted "hurrahs" and "viva" until it dimmed to darkness.
     Good byes were shouted, lanterns lit. The big day was over. When we got home I was awake long enough to hear my mother say:
     "Everybody was at the fireworks except the Indians."
     "I heard that George led the parade in Placerville as he always does," Pop said. "Maybe, the rest of them don't feel that this is the land of the free and the home of the brave as the rest of us do."



12. Three Vivid Memories of Indians in Newtown

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     Only a few Indians were living in Newtown at the time about which I am writing. Except for Indian George and Lucinda, they kept pretty much to themselves. Indian George, who spoke better English than the rest, acted as a go between. A week before the Fourth of July celebration, he came to the stone store to tell the storekeeper that he was taking Indian Jesse to the county hospital in Placerville. For the last five years Indian Jesse, who lived at Bartram's mill, had been haunted by the ghost of his dead son Willie. It was said that Willie's ghost was trying to take his father to the happy hunting ground but his father wasn't ready to go. Running away from Willie's ghost one night, Jesse fell and broke his leg.
     George was a Maidu. He used to tell us that before the gold discovery, a tribe of Maidu's lived in Newtown. Stone mortars that they had used to pound corn were propped against trees and fences in most of our yards. When the miners came, the Indians fought to keep their homes. That's the time the white men said they had become violent. A trapper scout called Peg Leg Smith went around the county helping Indians and white men to make treaties. A treaty of sorts was made in Newtown, but after it was made most of the Indians moved away. In the 60s and 70s bands of Indians still visited their old home sites. George told us that his father came to Carshum Bowl on Texas Hill where as many as 200 braves met to perform ceremonial dances and hold cries.
     I wasn't much over four when one of the last cries was held in Newtown. We were sitting on the porch after dinner. I was leaning against my father's shoulder half asleep. Suddenly I heard dogs barking and saw a small band of Indians plodding up the dusty road.

The faces of the women who pushed the carts were daubed with pitch.
     "They must have come a long way," my mother whispered.
     "they are on their way to the meadow above Kimmer Flat to hold a cry," my father said. "That's a memorial service for their dead. Bands used to come every year when I first came to Newtown,"
     "What's in the carts?" mother asked.
     "Offerings to burn to their dead, like woven baskets and rugs and things to eat their dead liked."
     That night we saw the flames rise from the memorial fires.
    


     People who lived near the meadow heard moans and cries all through the night. It was said that the women who had pitch on their faces mourned their men by knocking their heads against trees. The next morning the Indians came by with drooping shoulders and empty carts. They tramped silently down the road toward Fort Jim. No one spoken to them and they had spoken to no one.
     Lucinda, we felt, belonged to Newtown as much as any of us. She was a hunched up little squaw with sunken cheeks and straggling hair. Lucinda and her two hundred pound husband, Indian Jim, were nomads. A frequent sight except in winter, was big Jim shambling along the road while Lucinda followed dragging a cart or shouldering the sacks that held their camp equipment. One of their favorite camp sites was the field near my friend Henry's house
    . We liked to watch Lucinda make camp. First, she made Jim comfortable under a tree and fed him jerky. Then, she made a shelter for a bed out of a piece of old canvas. For the bed she gathered pine needles, cleaning and fluffing them with her skilled, skinny hands. Two boxes held her camp goods: one was for a pan, flour, coffee, and jerky, the other for her Indian basket things. Lucinda and Jim wore all their clothes when they were on the move, shedding and adding as the weather dictated.


     Sometimes Lucinda invited us to eat flapjacks which she cooked over an open fire. She served them without butter or syrup and, more than not, ashes got into them but we ate them with relish. Lucinda :begged" from the families she knew. Once a month she walked to their back doors, held out her right hand and said, "You give." All of them gave something, old clothes, scraps of food, old pots which no one ever saw her use. My mother kept a "Lucinda box" in which she put things for her.
     Lucinda was as busy as Jim was idle. Whenever he was given a job to saw logs, she stood over him and most of the time, finished the job herself. We saw her digging soap root, cutting willow boughs for her basket making and looking for redbud to color them. She had learned to make baskets from a Pomo woman and the Pomo's were the best basket makers in the country. We used to watch Lucinda's claw like hands weave strips around the ribs of willow root. When she coiled baskets, she used a sharp bone needle to sew the strips. The baskets that Indian Gorge sold for her in Placerville, Lucinda decorated with feathers of orioles and tanagers which she hunted for hours.
     In the fall, Lucinda gathered weeds and seed pods for her cures. She was secretive about these, trying to explain to my mother that if she told what the weeds were, they would lose their healing power. When my Uncle Stephen fell from the roof he was mending and cut his arm, the cut didn't heal. He was ready to go to the doctor in Placerville when Lucinda brought a weed poultice which she folded around his arm. In two hours the swelling went down and the healing began. Aunt Rosa tried to find out what was in the poultice. She smelled tansy and yerba santa and chamomile and then gave up.


     One winter afternoon I found out why my mother and the other women in Newtown accepted Lucinda as a friend.
     "Golly, Ma," I said, "Lucinda must be a hundred years old." She had just left the house after drinking a cup of coffee, with her sack of offerings under the man's raincoat she was wearing.
     "Indian women grow old quicker than white women," my mother said. "Lucinda isn't much older than I am. She has had real trouble."
     "You are friends, aren't you? Maybe like blood sisters?" This expression was used about the friendship of Indians and white people. Everyone knew about Indian Sam Pete in Coloma who called himself the brother of James Marshall.
     "Sharing Joy and sorrow can make blood sisters," my mother said. "Lucinda had eight babies and they all died before they were a year old."
     Then she told me more of Lucinda's story.
     "You were about two years old the autumn that Lucinda carried her beautiful baby on her back in its straw cradle. The others had been little flat nosed papooses who never smiled. As long as Lucinda carried a baby on her back, she never came to the back door. She sat with us on our porches or in the grape arbors as an equal. Maternity was her passport to acceptance. And we were all glad about it.
     "We called the beautiful baby Angiolino Indiano. He had the same flat nose his brothers had, had, but his eyes sparkled. He gurgled and he smiled. When Lucinda took him out of his cradle, he flapped his little arms and came to all of us wanting to be loved. And we all loved him as though he belonged to us. "Lucinda beamed and kept saying, "You like? You like?"


     "I felt that if that baby could be kept alive through the winter, he would have a chance to live. I wanted her to let me keep him warm and well fed and sheltered. I showed her the cradle you had just outgrown, piles of clean diapers, rows of nursing bottles and the little warm gowns you had worn. She smiled, happy to know that someone wanted to care for her baby. Barbara and Angela had empty cradles and they offered to take the baby. Lucinda shook her head. I remember how proudly she walked down the path that day with Angiolino swaying and smiling in his cradle.
     "We didn't see Lucinda again until it was almost spring. Her shoulders unburdened by the cradle sagged hopelessly. She had one baby after that, a puny thing who lived only a couple of months. Life has been hard for her."
     I thought about the baby Angiolino when I went to Lucinda's campsite to eat flapjacks, the next time she camped near us. He would be playing with us I was sure, if she had let my mother take care of him that winter.

The last of my Indian stories happened before the fire.

I had heard my mother say that an Italian killed an Indian girl in cold blood and that the Italians refused to help him. She didn't know how or when it happened. Rocco told us the story one evening:
     Gigio was a bad egg from the start. When he had been in Newtown a week, he told us that he had stolen money from his parents to come to America and that he was going to steal more to pay them back. He quit mining as soon as he found out that he couldn't scoop up gold from the ground without using a pick and shovel.
     We warned old Simon that Gigio wasn't to be trusted.

But Simon had just lost his partner and he was lonely. Gigio lived in his cabin and ate his food. Twice the men in camp made up purses for Gigio so he could go to San Francisco to find work. Both times he came back broke in less than two weeks.
     This was the time that Chief Hila's sons who called themselves Pinons, came from Nevada to Graystone in the summer to tame horses. The Hila's spoke English. They had taken an English name, Smith or Wilson, I've forgotten. They were independent Indians who paid their bills and asked no favors. One of their women, Indian Sarah the Chief's sister, had been at Johnson's Ranch on Bear Creek when five members of the Donner Party came there half dead. She was skilled in the use of herbs and Indian ways of healing and nursed them back to health. She went to Sutter's Fort to nurse some of the rest of the party after they were rescued. The Hila's built tepees of cedar bark for their summer houses and staked out corrals for their horses. The women made Indian baskets. John Ringer, the unofficial Justice of the peace, used to say he wished all white men were as honest and law abiding as the Hila's.
     On Sunday afternoon some of us used to hike to Graystone to watch the Indians lasso their horses in the big corral. It was a diversion for us and the young Indians liked to show off their skill to the white man. Gigio, always on the lookout for any amusement, went with us. We had warned him to keep away from the Hila squaws, handsome women who could tame a horse almost as easily as any of their men.
     On a September evening one of the Hila men came to the stone store to buy flour and sugar. A young squaw, riding her own horse, was with him. She sat on her horse while her companion went inside to do the buying. It was a warm evening.


     I was sitting on the bench with some of the men. Gigio was one of them. I saw him try to get the girl's attention. When he failed, he walked over to her horse and talked to her in the little English he knew. The girl motioned him away. When he got close to the horse and tried to take hold of the rein, she lashed her short whip across his face. He drew a gun it was Simon's and fired two shots before we could get to him. The girl fell off her horse, dead
    . At the sound of the shot, the Pinon ran from the store. He picked up the girl's bleeding body and galloped away. We knew there would be trouble. Some of us went to warn the women and children to stay indoors. Stephen, was running the store, jumped on the nearest horse and rode to Smithflat to get John Ringer. Gigio was crawling on the ground.
     "Get your guns," he kept whimpering. "Those savages will come back to shoot me. You've got to protect me." We didn't pay any attention to him except to see that he didn't get away. Ringer came back with Stephen at the same time that the Chief's eight sons arrived. They sat upright on their horses, mouths tightly pressed, eyes blazing. A mad Indian is an ugly sight. Anything could happen. The Hila's could set fire to the camp, torture our women or shoot us all. Except for Simon's gun, we had only a few hunting rifles among us. There was a moon that night. No lights were lit anywhere. I remember the chill in the air, although the day had been oppressively hot.
     Ringer and Hila's oldest son got off their horses and greeted each other
    . After a parley had gone on for an hour, a shot rent the air. One of the Hila's, perhaps the one who had picked up the dead girl's body, shot and killed Gigio who had been worming his way to the edge of the crowd. Again all hell could have broken loose.

Ringer said it was a truce. After a week of anxiety during which we were even afraid to draw a deep breath, Ringer went to Graystone alone and made peace. We didn't go back to our everyday life until we heard that the Pinons had broken camp. The young chief sent word to Ringer that he and his people were going back to Nevada. They never came back to Graystone. I think we escaped with our lives because Chief Hila's sons were men of honor and Justice Ringer was a persuasive one.



13. Visit to San Francisco's North Beach "Americanization"

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     Word came one fall that many of our friends were gravely ill. My parents decided to make one of their duty visits. Usually they took my sister Marie with them. She was as engaging little girl who was a good traveler and never got train sick as I did. This time I was to go. I watched my mother pack the big portmanteau in which she had carried her wedding dress from Genoa.
     "You will have to wear clothes like a city boy," she said, as she folded shirts and underwear. I had worn only overalls all summer.
     "try on the suit we bought for you last year," she said frowning. "It looks small. You can't have grown that much."
     The pants legs had enough hem for lengthening, the sleeves would have to stay two inches above my wrist. I didn't care vary much but when I saw the round straw hat with the elastic band under the chin to hold it on, I balked.
     "I won't wear it," I sulked. "It makes me look like a girl."
     "You'll wear it," my mother said in a voice I knew I could not argue with. "Perhaps you won't get train sick this time. We will ride on the ferry boat and the cable car and we will see Aunt Rosa."
     The prospect brightened. I climbed on the stage next morning full od anticipation. After almost two days of travel during which I was train sick and I didn't lose my hat although I tried to, I followed my parents at dusk to the ferryboat at Oakland Pier.
     "What's that smell. Pop?" I asked, sniffing happily.
     "It must be tar and wet rope and brine," Pop answered vaguely.
     Inside the boat musicians were playing "Sweet Marie" on a harp and two violins.
     "That's Gilda's song," I cried out, happy to have recognized it. "And look at all the little stars!" I called out as the street lights began to appear at a distance on the San Francisco streets.
     I wounded how my parents could talk so quietly. I longed for my friends or my dog, for someone with whom to share the new sights and smells and sounds. I fell asleep and was dragged off the boat and on to the horse drawn car bound for North Beach The piercing jangle of the bell woke me as the car stopped to let passengers off in front of an ice cream parlor. I saw people sitting around tables eating saucers of ice cream and I heard a woman singing Aunt Rosa's song, :Libiam conlieti calici." We would be coming hear, I thought happily and went to sleep again.
     I couldn't remember coming to Aunt Rosa's house in August Alley. I woke up next morning on a cot in my cousin Gino's room. He had already gone. A one eared cat sat on the window sill looking into the strip of garden in which boxes of herbs grew together with cinnamon pinks.
    . Sounds from out of doors crashed into the room. I heard the pounding of horses' hoofs on cobblestones and the creak of truck wheels. The unfamiliar peal of church bell seemed to shatter my ears. Along the alley, children screamed and dogs barked. I put my head under the blankets again but hunger and curiosity got me out of bed.
     Used to a water pail near the kitchen sink and the outhouse, I was puzzled by the plumbing. I coped with it and with the nine pieces of clothing neatly piled on a chair. I met the family, smiling and hungry, with a rim of train soot inside my ears. Aunt Rosa and Uncle Luigi ran a small grocery shop across from the Plaza. As I dunked my Italian bread into a bowl of milk and coffee, smells of cheese, dried mushrooms and dried codfish drifted in from the shop. What surprised me was the big barrel of molasses. This was my first discovery that Aunt Rosa was going over to American ways.
     While Uncle Luigi worked for five hours in a macaroni factory, Aunt Rosa tended shop. When he returned she went to her sewing machine in a corner of the kitchen. Beside the machine were two boxes of boys pants, cut out and waiting to be stitched. Before the Garment Workers Union outlawed this practice of "sweat shop" labor, Aunt Rosa and many of her neighbors took in "piece work" from a North Beach garment factory to add to their income.
     Life at Aunt Rosa's moved at a different tempo from that of the long days in Newtown. When thirteen year old Fiora got home from school, she changed into an old dress and did the washing, ironing and whatever needed doing in the house before she started the evening meal, always a large one.
     "When will Gino come home?" I asked, hoping for some hours of play in the Plaza. "He works in the chocolate factory after school and gets home just before dinner," Fiora said. I wondered when my cousins played. I was puzzled at how quickly they had grown up. They never spoke of play and never seemed to miss it. Fiora sang all of the time she worked.
     On Sunday morning Gino chopped enough wood for the week and cleaned the shed. In the afternoon he went to Fisherman's Wharf with his friends or to watch the men play at a boccie court. Fiora went to early, mass in the church across the Plaza and the rest of the morning she worked in the kitchen making soup and scallopinis, and taking great care with her pasta sauce. To make a good sauce was the test of an Italian cook.
     On Sunday mornings the shop was busy.

Customers tapered off in the afternoon when Aunt Rosa and Fiora, wearing their Sunday dresses and lace mitts, climbed Telegraph Hill to visit friends. They took me with them while my parents visited the sick. I loved the impact and smell of the wind. I could have watched the four masted schooners and the ferry boats on the bay for hours.
     "Look at the goats scrambling up the hill," Aunt Rosa said laughing. "The one with the red ribbon around its neck belongs to our friend Carlotta."
     No one thought of putting ribbons around the necks of Newtown goats.
     One afternoon we went to a wedding party. A crowd of people milled around people milled around parlor and kitchen and cellar, eating heartily if not daintily from ravioli platters and dishes heaped with Italian ham and pickled mushrooms. Wine flowed from bottles and barrels. Children stuffed their the pockets with the sugar-coated almonds that were known as "wedding candies." Bemused by the sun and wind and good food, I was still ready for more adventure.
     "Could we go to the ice cream parlor, Aunt Rosa?" I asked, "the one where they sing the Traviata song."
     "No, Batto," she answered, using her special name for me to soften the blow of disappointment. "I'll buy ice cream to eat at home."
     "You see, Batto," she tried to explain, "people go to ice cream parlors as families. It's not right for only a part of the family to go. When Uncle Luigi takes a few hours off, he plays boccie. A girl can go with the man whom she is engaged. When Fiora is engaged and goes with her fiance, she can take you."
     That seemed a long time to wait. I remembered how Aunt loved songs from the operas, and hear they were sung almost at her doorstep and she wouldn't go.

She had changed, just like with the molasses.
     One day my father took me to a shoe store owned by a man who had mined at Newtown.
     "Give the boy a pair of shoes with good thick soles and big enough so he can grow into the them," my father ordered. Walking over the cobblestones with new shoes, I felt as though a hive of bees had been let loose inside of them. "Can't I go barefoot?" I begged. "I see boys in the alley without shoes."
     "Your country feet aren't used to wooden walks and cobblestones. You'd get blood poisoning," my mother said, using the voice I couldn't argue with.
     Gino had told me about Chinatown, its funny smells and singsong talk.
     "Don't go near Chinatown," Pop warned me. "You'll be Shanghaied."
     "What's Shanghai?" I asked.
     "The Chinamen put you in a dungeon inside a boat and when you get to China you're sold as a slave."
     With the shoes hurting my feet the way they did, I didn't need warning. Some evenings when I dragged my feet home from visits to the sick at the end of a long day, I wondered if being a slave in China could be any worse.
     Aunt Rosa hated idleness. She gave me a broom to sweep the wooden walk, a thankless, job because the wind blew the cinders and papers right back. In the shop I wiped the drawer of the coffee grinder and kept the molasses keg from getting sticky. One morning when my uncle was hosing out the store after a scrubbing of brown soap and sal soda, Aunt Rosa gave me a nickel to buy roasted chestnuts from the street vendor at the corner and told me to eat them in the Plaza. I liked the Plaza. The willows made me feel at home.

The stretch of lawn was a new sight. Someday I would build a Plaza in Newtown. As I munched the hot chestnuts, I watched old ladies in black shawls going to church. I saw skipping children carrying long, unwrapped loaves of bread under their arms, men shouting and gesticulating with their hands, yet all in the friendliest way.
     My sense of well being didn't last long. Gino had told me about the gangs. The ones he knew about were all Irish or all Italian. I saw a gang walking toward me, eight or nine boys about my age in enviable bare feet. They spotted me with a whoop and cry, snatched the bags of chestnuts out of my hand, grabbed my hat and sat on it. "A basso il Micco. Down with the Mick."
     "The Shanty Mick's crawling with lice."
     "Punch him in his belly full of spuds."
     "Let's take his big old shoes off and throw them in the pond."
     Just then one shouted, "Cheez it, the cop."
     And they streaked into an alley.
     It was a new experience for me to be taken for a Mick by one of my own kind. I felt flattered and betrayed at the same time. I punched the hat into shape, wishing they had thrown it into the pond, and walked back to Aunt Rosa's.
     All of this time my mother and Pop visited diligently. "Why don't you go to a wedding on Telegraph Hill or some place where you can laugh?" I asked my mother.
     "That's not what we came for," she answered shortly.
     Mother bought gifts for the sick, restoratives" she called them, bags of oranges, packets of ladyfingers, sacks of biscotti. Pop brought old cronies bottles of aqua vitae.

Unless it was a serious illness, I was taken along. I didn't go into sickroom's, but waited in kitchens that smelled pungently of garlic or on back porches that smelled dismally of drains. I never saw children. Someone usually handed me a piece of spinach torta or a slice of panettone which I ate slowly to make time go faster.
     We visited "Baggio," a nickname which means "toad," toward the end of our stay. Baggio was Pop's partner in Newtown for five years. He came to North Beach when he had barely enough money to buy into a shoe shine stand. Now he was known as one of the rich "Eyetalians." He owned two saloons, two barber shops and many buildings from which he received high rents.
     When Mother saw his house with satin glass panels on the doors and a silver knocker, she wanted to go to the back entrance. Pop lifted the shining knocker with confidence. A woman in black wearing a small white apron came to the door. "Whom do you wish to see?" she asked, without cordiality. We saw that she was not impressed with our appearance. My father hesitated because he had forgotten Baggio's real name. My mother came to the rescue and said "Mr. Fazzio," in a small voice. We were shown into a room darkened by red curtains. My feet sank into the pile of the thick carpet, a sensation I hadn't known before. Just as I was beginning to make out the outlines of two statues in the dark room, Baggio's wife came in. He had married her in San Francisco. She was as unfriendly as her maid. She took my parents to the sickroom and me to a side porch where I tried to make friends with a sullen Skye-terrier.
     I was beginning to hope for something special in the way of refreshments, but nothing came. In about fifteen minuets my parents joined me and the uncordial maid showed us to the door. The visit had not been a success.

Because oranges or even a bottle of aqua vitae wouldn't have been right to take to Baggio, Pop found in the little tobacco sack of nuggets that he carried with him, a leaf shaped one that had come from a claimthat he and Baggio had worked together. Baggio accepted it with indifference. He was fretful and inattentive all through the visit.
     My parents were silent as they waited on a windy corner for the horse car to take us back to Aunt Rosa's. Inside the car, they began to talk.
     "See what money has done to him," Pop said. "Many times we shared our last dollar. Now, he appeared suspicious as if I was going to ask him for a loan."
     Mother remembered Baggio's jokes and his ready laughter. "It's his sickness," she said, trying to comfort Pop.
     On the last afternoon of our stay in North Beach, my parents went to see a friend in a hospital. I sat with Aunt Rosa in the strip of garden winding basting threads on a spool. Aunt Rosa sat near the cinnamon pinks mending socks. I talked easily with Aunt Rosa. She showed me the affection she dared not show her own children because it might interfere with her discipline. I had something to say to her and I came right to the point.
     "Aunt Rosa, you must come back to Newtown with us. All the people who came to San Francisco are sick or dying. Come back while you are still well." Aunt Rosa smiled, warmed by my concern.
     "But don't you see, Batto? there is no future in Newtown. Today gold is only in the tunnels. Your poor father is breaking his back to reach it. We want him to come to North Beach. Here he can open a shoe repair shop and make money."
     Money hadn't had much of a place in my life. I had a cigar box with dimes and nickels in it, but I hadn't thought about what to do with them.
     "We are happy without money," I blurted. "My father looks sad now because he sees so many sick people. He's not that way at home." "But what is going to happen to you while you are growing up?"
     "I go to school," I said, "and I play."
     I thought longingly of the cool water in Weber Creek, the leaf and needle covered path on Newtown Ridge and bare feet to enjoy them.
     "We are saving money to buy our own house," Aunt Rosa confided. "You must own your own property in America. Then we will set up Gino in business, in a bigger store than this one."
     Aunt Rosa said nothing about the big college at Santa Clara where Gino was to become a lawyer, or the Convent of the Blue Nuns for Fiora.
     "When Fiora is a little older, she will marry Martin, the blacksmith's son. She's a good housekeeper already." Aunt Rosa was becoming Americanized but still believed in marriages made by parents.
     "But the Convent of the Blue Nuns, Aunt Rosa?" I whispered, almost in tears. I didn't want Fiora deprived of the lessons in deportment that would help her to find a rich husband; Martin wasn't any better than the boys in Newtown.
     "There are no Blue Nuns here, Batto. We are bringing up Fiora to marry a man in her own station. She will do better by her children. That is how it works in America."
     Aunt Rosa sighed. She had not known this when she was making the extravagant plans for us.
     "When Gino is in business you can be his partner," she said.
     "No, Aunt Rosa," I said positively. "I am going to live around Newtown and plant apple trees. I'll sell the apples to the stores and to the bakers who make pies."
     "But you will always be a country boy, a paesano. In the city you can have everything. Look at Baggio."
     "Pop says he is going to die and that the city has made him mean and unfriendly. The city changes people."
     In a rush of feeling, I said, "And you don't laugh or put flowers in your hair as you did in Newtown."
     Aunt Rosa snapped a cinnamon pink from its stalk and stuck it in her black braids. She tried to laugh, but it wasn't the same. It would never be the same and I began to cry.
     "We must change with the times, Batto," she said, putting her arms around my shoulders. "Someday, you will understand. Stop crying now. Tonight Bellows' sister is coming and she will tell us stories.
     Bellows' sister Gemma came, after dinner, She didn't look like Bellows, Wrapped in a Paisley shawl with a scoop hat over one ear, she looked like a circus clown I had seen in Placerville the year before. I began soaking chestnuts in wine and wondering how soon I could go to sleep.
     The story of the ten years war the Greeks waged against the Trojans began monotonously. Before I knew it, I was captivated by some quality in the rise and fall of the odd little woman's voice. Suddenly, I was sitting up seeing Hector plain. Agamemnon and Achilles were fighting on an imaginatively created battlefield. Andromache walked on the walls of Troy. I never knew how much time it took to come to the burning of Hector. After the women stopped and drew a deep breath, I looked at my cousins. They sat on the floor, wide eyed, as though they had seen vision.

This was my introduction to "The Iliad" by the clown like little women who had never read the epic but had inherited from ancestors who may have gone back to Homer himself, the power to make the spoken word live.
     Early next morning, my mother packed the portmanteau. I repeated "thank you" and good by," clutching a striped bag of peppermint lozenges that were to keep me from getting train sick. The journey home was swift and without incident, except that I lost my hat and no one tried to find it. Soon we were on the stage, calling to Colas at the at the turn of the road. Blackberries were still ripe in the hollows, the poplars on Weber Creek were turning to brightness. I saw my sister and my friends and my dog Tiger, and I cried out with joy,

"I will never go away from Newtown again."



14. "Miners Pops"

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Mountain Democrat of March 16, 1901:

MINING POPS.
Ironic, Sarcastic, Wise or Otherwise

Always designate the Super as the "Old Man." It may inspire him with a parental regard for some who evidently need a guardian.

Don't fail to call the foreman "Captain." It may impress him (where impressions are possible) with a more exalted sense of importance and indispensability.

Never fail to lay all responsibility for defective work on the opposite shift. (This suggestion is only for the younger members of the digging fraternity.) Old hands invariably follow this rule.

Never fail to mention the way things were done and run in some "model" mine where you were formerly employed. This will create the impression that you are a "master among craftsmen."

Always exhibit unusual diligence when the Boss shows up. By so doing you might hold your job to the end of the shift. Should the Boss possess asinine horse sense you could not in reason expect to hold it longer.

Never let an opportunity pass to enlighten the Public at large with reference to all that transpires in and about the mine. By so doing they will eventually? know more about its workings and prospects than those who are paid TOP salaries for such knowledge.

I observe that some of the best barroom miners get into a harder formation as soon as they operate underground.

Costly buildings and machinery are no more reliable indications of a prosperous mine, than that fine clothes are the unquestionable envelope of a gentleman. A real, genuine bona fide mine is USUALLY underground.

Always stoutly deny that you were ever a "mucker" thus deluding your fellow workmen with the idea that the saying applying to poets and artists, "Born, not made," applies to you particularly as a miner.

Pick up all of the Cousin Jack terms possible, especially if either your Super or Foreman hail from the "Hornwall of old Albion," and fire them off frequently when in their presence. If this won't make them feel homesick, they are fully naturalized.

If in drilling double handed you should hit your partner, convince him,if possible, that it was his own fault; else console him with the assurance that he is not hurt nearly half so bad as the last fellow you struck. This will cause him to conclude that you think twice as much of him as you did of the other fellow.

Don't fail to cuss the blacksmith occasionally, especially if your holes fissure. Never for a minute admit any fault of your own.

Should the other shift accomplish more work than yours insist that it is only the result of your superior wisdom and foresight in giving them a show.

If the rock should prove very rich, pick out all of the handsome specimens you can and save them for the Super. Nearly all thrifty, honest miners do this.

If your holes fail to explode, cuss the fuse and detonators, as well as their manufacturers; if they fail to break, "blow up" the dynamite and its compounders.

Should the Super and owners visit you in the mine don't fail to chip in the conversation at every opportunity. This will probably provide the means of your getting promoted some where else.

Don't forget to pay your respects to the carpenter if the timbers fail to fit and declare that either his square is not perfect or else his mechanical ability is not sufficient to construct a chicken coop.

It is indeed a difficult task for the ordinary brain to build up something from nothing, creative genius being a gift usually relegated to the fine arts, and it certainly would not require any signal stroke of genius to picture the average mining superintendent. I venture to assert that not one superintendent in ten gives complete satisfaction to anybody but himself. The fatal mistake of nine is the want of common courtesy extended to those with whom they are constantly in contact.

A soldier who lacks confidence in his general would assuredly prove a faint hearted fighter, and the miner with hammer and drill could not be expected to exert himself to an uncomfortable extent for a superintendent who treats him as a menial and thrall or as our erstwhile Charlie would say, "A brother to the ox," forgetful perhaps that it is only owing to circumstances that many times in life the superior is at the bottom and mediocrity on top.

The average superintendent ignores another fact entirely. By isolating himself from his miners he deprives himself of much practical information which they alone can furnish.

Were I a capitalist and wishing to invest in a working mine, I would place for greater dependence in the testimony of some intelligent working miner than all the maps, books, specimens, assays, and rosy tales from the office.

It is a well known fact that what is performed willingly is usually performed in less time and better than that done through coercion. Although the horse may be driven to the water you cannot compel him to drink, and the miner likewise may be driven underground but can't be driven to accomplish more than just and honest day's task. Hence I would say to every superintendent, "Treat your miners well, for as a rule you will not find them ungrateful." Contribute to their comfort as far as practicable. A sound healthy force of men will preform far better service than a debilitated crew. Be just, listen to all statements or grievances and judge with absolute impartiality. And remember that it is only by fortunate circumstances that you are temporarily placed over your fellows, and that all must be equal by and by, "For six feet of earth makes us all of one size."

Don't say too much about the engineer. "He has the drop on you."



15. Mine's of the Newtown area:

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  • Avansino Mine      S29, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Also called, the Standard Gravel Mine.
    Two deep channel drift mines between Avansino's Store and the bluffs to the north, near Pleasant Valley. Active beginning 1893 when it was developed by Bind, Avansino and Company. By mid 1895, the machinery was removed by the company when finding the gravel at 100 feet, bedrock level would not support further development. The gravel's and benches were developed by a shaft that was 107 feet deep with a 57 foot north drift on the 90 foot level and a 307 foot drift on the 107 foot level. During the early 1930's, the mine was prospected again.

  • Dominico Besimo Tunnel      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Dug by Dominico's son, John A. Besimo, probably after 1900.
    Located in the SE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 and in the W 1/2 on the NE 1/4 of the SE 1/4 in sec. 20, T10N, R12E.
    Now flooded and used as a spring water source.

  • Buffington and Company Mine      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

  • The Jonah Mining District, bounded by Zerga and Company., prior to 1875.

  • Chilean Camp      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Adjacent to the Mormon Diggings on the South Fork of Weber Creek in 1848-1849 near the Snow Road crossing.

  • Deadhead Gulch Mine      S29, S30, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    A hydraulic mine active in the 1870's and 1880's in the Newtown area, a C. P. Steadmen hydraulicking operation. Water was supplied by the steadman Ditch from the South Fork of Weber Creek. This is where the confederate spy, "Doc" was planning to cache weapons for the Knights of the Golden Chain and the Confederate Army of the Pacific. A 42 1/2 ounce nugget was found near the confluence of Deadhead Gulch and the South Fork of Weber Creek.

  • Ferari and Garaventi      S20, S21, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

  • Probably Ferrari and Garavento.

  • John H. Ferretta Claim      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

  • Nick Ferretto Placer Claim      S--, T--N, R--E     Placer gold

    Located in Newtown Mining District and proven during 1897.

  • Ferriera      S29, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    One mile south of Newtown, it was prospected in 1930 when a 135 foot shaft was sunk in search of gravel. No pay was found.

  • Fossati (Tunnel)      S17, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    A drift mine located one and one half miles south of Camino on Goose Nest Ravine, east of Sailor Jack Mine. Active intermittently, 1930-1936. Two channels of the Tertiary South Fork American River, the lower one being 25 to 200 feet wide, were developed by adits and raises.

  • French Ravine Hydraulic      S20, T10N, R11E     Placer gold

    Also called French Ravine Hydraulic Claim, owned by Samuel Snow. It is located in the Iowaville Mining District west of S. Zerga and Company., east of D. Raffetto, north of Keller. Water was supplied by the Samuel Snow Ditch from the North Fork of Weber Creek.

  • French Ravine Ledge      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Located within the French Ravine Hydraulic area, probably during the late 1800's.

  • Golden Gulch Mine      S20, T10N, R12E     S29, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Two mines active in 1883 and 1887 in the Newtown Mining District. The 1883 mine was located about 400 yards southerly from Newtown, west on and adjoining Monteverde's Claim. The mines were known also as the Angelo Gardella Gravel Mining Claim, patented to Giovanni Gardella and Gio Balter Paginini.

  • Goose Nest Ravine      S17, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Located in the south Camino vicinity, it rises out of the North Fork of Weber Creek to the north about the middle of Section 17. It was so named for the nuggets of gold found there by Emanuel Snow in the 1870's Located in the Newtown Mining District.

  • Highville Gravel Mine      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Previously called Iowaville Gravel Mine which was purchased by Highville Gold Mining Company of San Francisco in 1881 and newly equipped with the best, most substantial appliances. The mine was located near Newtown. One solid nugget weighing 3 1/2 ounces was found.

  • Iowa Gulch      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Probably active early in the Gold Rush through the late 1800's.

  • Monteverde's Claim      S20, T10N, R12E
    Placer gold

    A claim working in 1883 about 400 yards southerly from Newtown, east of and adjacent to Angelo Gardella Gravel Mining Company (Golden Gulch)

  • Mormon Diggings      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold
    The gold discovery site in the Plan area, mid Jun 1848, by the Veterans of the United States Army Mormon Battalion while assembling at Pleasant Valley for the trip to Salt Lake. The Mormons had made a surface cut three hundred feet long, four feet wide and two feet deep.

  • Mormon Gulch      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Located along Snows Road between the South Fork of Weber Creek and Snow Ridge. It yielded fabulous sums in it's day, supporting the construction of much of the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle.

  • Newtown Gulch      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    (W 1/2 of NW 1/4 of S20, T10N, R12E,) Old Mines.

  • Newtown Mining Company      S13, T10N, R11E     Placer gold

    Active during 1899.

  • One Spot Mine      S17, S18, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Also known as Sailor Jack, and known as Pinchgut and Pinchemtight because of it's narrow entrance. It is located in the Pinchgut Ravine. Sailor Jack was Finnish, knew nothing of mining, and was persuaded by miners teasing him to file a claim on worthless land. He turned the joke around, finding a huge pocket of gold where none had been expected! It is a drift mine active in the early days producing $40,000. Active again in 1934-1941, some prospecting continues. Two channels of the tertiary period South Fork American River, one above the other, were developed by a 500 foot adit with drifts and raises. The gravel yielded up to $8.00 a yard. Gold from the mine won blue ribbons at our County and State Fairs as well as at the Treasure Islands gold exhibit.

  • Phelps and Wood Mine      S16,T10N, R12     Placer gold

  • The Snow Brothers Newtown Mine which they sold to F.M. Phelps and Aetemus A. Wood, five moles east of Placerville. Two men running a tunnel, cross cutting, and removing about 100 cars of gravel per week, crushing with a water powered ten stamp mill. (W 1/2 of S16, T10N, R12E, mouth of tunnel)

  • G.B. Raffetto, Biagiotto and Pardi Claim      S19, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Located in Newtown Gulch near Newtown, an hydraulic mine granted a permit by the Debris Commission. (W 1/2 of NW 1/4 of S20, T10N, R12E, old mines)

  • Sailor Jack     See: One Spot Mine    
  • Snow Brothers      S16, S17, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    A hydraulic mine 1/2 mils northeast of Newtown, which became active in 1880 when cemented gravel was mined in two pits. It produced more gold than other mines in Newtown and Pleasant Valley, except for the Grand Victory Mine on Squaw Hollow Creek in Hanks Exchange. (cont) One nugget of 5 1/2 ounces was found in July of 1880. (The Snow Brothers mined in Mexico's Sonora State also along the Guaymas Railroad grade, finding a bonanza there.) The first significant dam on Weber Creek was built in 1894 as a debris impounding basin for the Snow Brothers to prevent silting of the Creek downstream. The dam was located a few hundred yards upstream from the present concrete Weber Dam. Water for hydraulicking was supplied by the Samuel Snow Ditch from the North Fork od Weber Creek. In 1895, 140 ounces of coarse gold were shipped as part of the winter's work in the hydraulic mine. The mine was licensed by the Debris Commission in 1897.

  • Snow Consolidated      S16, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Patented to Joseph and Charles Snow.

  • Snow Quartz      S20, T10N, R12E     Load Gold

    Located within the boundaries of the French Ravine Hydraulic Mine in the Iowaville Mining District during 1889.

  • Joseph Snow and Company Mine Placer gold      S16, T10N, R12E

  • Snow and Woods Claim      S16, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Located and working in the Newtown vicinity by 1896. Also see Phelps and Wood.

  • Southerner #1 Tunnel      S--, t10N, R12E     Gold

    The tunnel was started in 1855, and located in the Mormon Hill near Newtown.

  • Swansborough and Kimerer Ledge Quartz      S16, T10N, R12E     Lode gold

    Located on Snow Ridge in the Newtown area, it was developed with a 30 foot tunnel during 1887.

  • Swiftsure Tunnel      S--, T10N, R12E     Gold

    Near Newtown in 1855, it was over 300 feet long.

  • Utah Consolidated Quartz      S--, T10N, R--E     Lode gold

    Located in the Newtown area, a rich body of quartz ore at the 60 foot level, a ledge 20 feet wide. In 1878, the shaft was sunk to 100 feet. A steam powered ten stamp quartz mill was financed by the people of Newtown; but, the rich ore gave out and the mine failed in the 1880's. The owners were Sheriff J. B. Scott and the County Clerk L. M. Buello

  • Utah Quartz      S20, T10N, R12E     Lode gold

    Also called the N. D. Arnot, Jr. Claim in 1881 and the J. B. Scott Claim in 1890, it was the chief quartz mine of the Newtown District. Ore was worked by arastras in the early days but by the 1880's, stem operated stamp mills were installed. The mine was located about 300 yards southerly from Newtown. During the 1930's, a tunnel was cut through the mine to Diamond Road (now Pleasant Valley Road).

  • Ventura Mine      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    A drift mine, also called the Solari Tunnel, located on the north side of the ridge between Weber Creek and Pleasant Valley, south of Newtown.

    The ridge (Newtown Ridge) contains a lava capped channel; and, a 1300 foot adit (now connecting with workings on an adjacent property) was driven through the volcanic ash in an attempt to reach the channel gravel. The mine was proven in 1899 by Luigi Arata and most active during the 1930's and 1940's. In 1935, a 351 foot adit was driven, prospecting for bench gravel.

  • Weber Creek Mine      S--, T10N, R--E     Placer gold

    Located in the Newtown District by Frank A. Ferretto who proved the mine in 1899.

  • Woodworth Claim      S16, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Located above Snow's Mine in 1890, a rich streak in the gravel.

  • S. Zerga and Company Mine      S20, T10N, R12E     Placer gold

    Located east of French Ravine Hydraulic Mine. Stefano Zerga was 31 years old, a native of Italy, when he was naturalized 10 May 1867 in El Dorado County. He was the Newtown delegate to the 1882 Democratic County Convention.

  • Stefano Zerga and Luigi C. Misone Claim      S20, T10N, R12E     Gold

    Purchased from Andrew Gardella of Bodie in 1881.

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    17.Nuggets of El Dorado County Newtown Area.

    Return To Chapter Index

         The Lost Goose Egg Mine, and the Goose Nest Mine, produced large nuggets in the Newtown / Weber Creek area producing easy income in their day.
    A 5 1/2 ounce nugget was taken from the Snow Mine on the North Fork of Weber Creek, a 36 ounce nugget and a 42 1/2 ounce nugget were taken from Deadhead Gulch near the South Fork of Weber Creek; and, a fifty pound nugget worth $9,000. was taken near the Knapp's ranch (probably at the extreme east end of the North Fork of Weber Creek). Another 36 ounce nugget and a 10 ounce nugget of gold quartz were taken from the claim of two Germans, near Newtown, in 1867.

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