From the village of St Antonio, Valle Morobbia

mark-lesina1by Mark Lesina, United States

Erminia Martini was born July 20, 1890 in St Antonio, Valle Morobbia to Giovanni Martini and Angelina Maria Martini-Martini and died May 22, 1976 in Redding, California; however she was buried in Crescent City, California, where she had lived for most of her life. She was one of nine children, four of whom immigrated to California, with one returning to Ticino. On April 16, 1910 Erminia arrived at Ellis Island on the ship, “New York” she had come via Southampton, England. The manifest for Ellis Island shows her to have traveled with an Achille Tamagni, also of St. Antonio. It also lists her final destination as an Aunt Mrs. R Buletti of 310 Broadway in San Francisco – Swiss Hotel. (What is interesting the hotel’s stationary, letter head is shown on this web site.) Erminia was to have worked there for a short time as a hotel chamber maid before proceeding to Crescent City.

Angelina Maria Martini-Martini (wife of Giovanni Martini), 1859-1941. St Antonio, Valle Morobbia

Erminia’s final destination was to be Crescent City, as her brother, Caesar Martini (born October 23, 1882) was living there and had sent for her. He had arranged a marriage between her and Elvezio Lesina (born April 18, 1878 in Giumaglio). She also owed her first cousin, Battista aka “Robert” Sarina of Smith River money for part of her passage to the States. Robert operated a large dairy ranch near Crescent City at Smith River.

Prior to Erminia’s arrival in the States, her brother Carlo Martini (born December 22, 1893 in St Antonio, Valle Morobbia) came to the States arriving at Ellis Island on March 20, 1909 on the ship, “La Touraine” via La Havre, France – he had departed France on March 13th. We do not know how long he stayed in the states prior to returning to St Antonio, but by December 27, 1913 he had return to Ticino and married Premilia Bassetti (born – November 18, 1894). Carlo and Permilia Bassetti-Martini remained in St Antonio until his passing on February 28, 1974. They had three children.

Left: Geneva Gianocca-Sarina (Wife of Battista Robert J. Sarina) Right:  Erminia Martini-Lesina (Wife of Elvezio Lesina). Visiting the home of Dora Tamagni-Lanzi’s in Petaluma, California.

While Erminia was living in Glide, her youngest brother, Rocco Martini (born February 04, 1896 – St Antonio, Valle Morobbia), also immigrated to the States arriving at Ellis Island on January 10, 1914 on the ship, “La Lorraine” via La Havre, which had departed France on January 3rd. His destination was Smith River and his cousin, Robert and Geneva Gianocca-Sarina and then eventually it was to join his sister Erminia. Rocco did stay some time in Smith River as he worked as a ranch hand on the Sarina ranch. On February 28, 1915 Rocco was riding a horse across the Smith River in the fog, and while crossing the river he suffered an epileptic attack and fell of his horse and drown. He was 19 years old. The obituary states the bad luck the mother had had back in Switzerland, as the husband had recently died and now two sons had died in the States and that the banks had failed in Switzerland and she had lost her savings.

As for the remaining siblings of Erminia: Giuseppa Martini (born – May 12, 1881 married Rocco Santini (born – April 10, 1855 – died February 15, 1931) on May 10, 1904. She died May 13, 1963. They had no children. The other siblings all died in childhood.

Erminia, like so many other Ticinese that came to the states, had many first cousins throughout the state of California. As a child names would swirl around in my head, Mrs. Such and Such was always a first cousin of my grandmothers! To name a few: Sarina, Buletti, Bassetti, Boggia, Boggini, Canevascini, Breschini, Codiroli, Corda, Guidotti, Lanzi , Maretti, Pedraita, Pelascini, Tamagni – they were all grandchildren of Pietro and Marianna Grisetti-Martini who had seven children. As a child I was looking for a photo of my grandparents – and it was here among these families of my grandmother’s first cousins that we discovered the photos of my grandmother. When the first cousins were young they all wrote letter to each other and shared photos.

The Martini Family of St Antonio, Valle Morobbia. Back Row L – R: Rocco Santini, Carlo Martini. Front Row L – R: Angelina Maria Martini-Martini (wife of Giovanni Martini), Bruno Mario Martini, Premilia Bassetti-Martini, Giuseppa Martini-Santini.

6 thoughts on “From the village of St Antonio, Valle Morobbia

  1. Thanks for posting this — it is fascinating reading! My wife and I have reversed this migration, in a way: we started off in California, and currently own a house in Vellano, St. Antonio, Val’ Morobbia. The house we bought was once owned by a woman who was known as “la americana” because she had once migrated from Vellano to the US, and later returned. And we are surrounded by Boggias and Codirolis. It’s a small world.

  2. Hello David,
    Very interesting and a great reverse immigration story! Are you or your wife of Ticinese descent? Do you know the name the name of the “la americana”? It seems that Val’ Morobbia has become somewhat of an ex-pat area, as I believe I heard the mayor of the St. Antonio a few years ago was from the States. I trust you have been to the museum of Giancarlo Maretti in Vellano. He has did a wonderful job of preserving the history of the valley.

  3. Hi, Mark.

    Neither of us is of Ticinese descent, but we do now feel very much adopted by our neighbors there. I need to get back to you on “la americana’s” name, as there was the possibility of a name change in there. You know, we haven’t yet visited the museum, even though we walk right by it so many evenings; thanks for the tip, we will have to now go.

    Had thought we were the only Americans in the valley at this point, but we’re still learning a lot about the area.

    Cheers.

  4. Hi, Mark!

    It’s taken me a long time to get back to your blog — sorry. But I did find out that “la americana’s” name was, indeed Giuseppina (“Peppina”) Codiroli.

    Thanks for the tip about the book — I will look for a copy!

    By the way, there is a newly marked trail that starts in Valle Morobbia — “la via dell’aqua” — which describes the role of water in the valley, including its use in hydroelectric generation. We haven’t yet followed the new signs — we’ve been focused on rennovations and retaining wall maintenance! — but it follows a route we already knew, and know to be beautiful. Seems like we’ve had higher hiker traffic this year than previously, even on the other routes.

  5. Hello David,

    Sorry for the delay in responding. Thanks for the name David; I will ask my cousins about the lady. Also thanks for the tip on the new trail in the valley; I’ll have to try it on my next trip. In April when I was there, we were talking and I realized I had never been down to the river to see the location of the hydroelectric plant; I have been above Carena, at the ruins of the old iron works.

    If you are interested in seeing some nice old photographs of the Valley and St Antonio, stop by the Comune and walk the halls – there is a nice, small collection of old and new photographs of the valley. There is another nice series of photographs at Grotto Scarpape’ taken from it’s vantage point above Giubiasco. In Vellano stop in at Osteria Passeggeri, have an espresso and ask Luciano, the owner, to see his binders of photographs of the valley and of it’s people and of course a stop at Museum Maretti.

    All the best with your restoration work!
    Mark Lesina
    lesinafamily@gmail.com
    Seattle, WA

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