By Marcia, United States
Lorenzo Martinelli and Family
In August of 1866, W.J. Miller sold the newly partitioned 873-acre ranch to brothers Lorenzo and Pietro Martinelli for $5,000. Lorenzo and his older brother Pietro were born in Maggia, Ticino, Switzerland in the mid 1830s. Their parents were Giovanni Battista Martinelli and Anna Maria Bonetti. They first worked as teenage chimney sweeps in Paris where the younger and smaller Lorenzo was the one most often assigned the work of going down the chimneys. The story is told that once they had to escape with their lives after taking potatoes to eat from the home of someone they were working for-the owner of the chimney set a fire while they were in the chimney!
Lorenzo Martinelli in later years
They left France sailing on the Joseph Holmes that departed from Le Havre, and arrived in New York on April 21, 1854. They came to California after joining the Union Army of General John C. Fremont. My great grandfather, Lorenzo served two tours as a cook, joining the Fremont party on expeditions throughout the West. He returned to his homeland in 1862 to marry Carolina Bonetti, the daughter of Tobias Bonetti and Guidetta Quanchi of Maggia. The couple lived in Switzerland for a year where their first child, Maria Dina, was born and died in infancy before Lorenzo returned to California alone. He then worked in a Greek Restaurant in San Francisco, California for 6 months without cash payment but in lieu of payment the owner gave him an acre of land between Montgomery St. and the San Francisco Bay. Lorenzo sold this property in 1863 and left for the Mother Lode Gold Mining Country near Jackson and San Andreas, California. Here he worked with his brother Pietro driving a mule team (6 mules) supplying cog-wheels, leather belting, food, tobacco and alcohol to the miners. The owner of the business, which was very profitable, died and the brothers Martinelli took it over. They lead mules to transport supplies to the miners of California, Nevada, Idaho and Montana, a risky and daring business.
In 1866, having learned of the great success attained by some of their compatriots in the dairy business, Lorenzo and Pietro established their own dairy farm with a herd of cattle on the Devil’s Gulch Ranch.
Lorenzo sent for his wife the next year after he bought the ranch. Carolina Bonetti made the trip to California from Switzerland by going around the horn of South America. There were violent storms and the people aboard the ship were told to throw all their belongings off the ship to keep it afloat. Carolina kept her “birthing chair”. They arrived safely in San Francisco. It is told that she was originally horrified at the sight of the wilderness cabin and all the dirty clothes where Lorenzo and his brother had been living and had thoughts of returning to Maggia. But she managed to clean things up and on the 1870 California census is listed as “housekeeper/wife” with two children already. She bore seven more children, most born in Nicasio: Ennio, born 1868 at Devil’s Gulch Ranch served as Marin County District Attorney and California State Senator 1909-1911, he died in 1930, his brothers and sisters were: Arnoldo, Geremino (Jeremiah), Erminia, Ermengildo, Robert, Ulysses, Genevieve and Chelso Martinelli.
Sons of Lorenzo Martinelli
Also listed on the 1870 census besides Lorenzo (Anglicized by the census enumerator to Laurens), was his brother Pietro, a sister in law Bonetti, and two dairy laborers named Gambonini and Quanchi. Quanchi was a cousin to the Martinelli family. The brothers valued their belongings at $6,000 each plus land. Sometime later Pietro Martinelli sold his share of the ranch to Lorenzo . The family of Lorenzo Martinelli eventually moved to a ranch in Hicks Valley, then farther east to Old Lakeville Road where Lorenzo Martinelli died April 2, 1893 suffering an aortic aneurysm while on his way to deliver butter to market in Petaluma in his horse drawn carriage.
His Italian language obituary from the California Italian-Swiss Colony newspaper, April 3, 1893, made uncommon praise: in translation: Lorenzo Martinelli Born November 6, 1835 , Maggia, Ticino, Switzerland. Died April 2, 1893 Sonoma Co., California , USA. With the death of Lorenzo Martinelli is spent an industrious life, an adamantine character, a man of intelligence, uprightness and scrupulous honesty, an exemplary husband, admirable father of a family, and one of the most precious individuals of our (Swiss) colony, Whoever knew him will corroborate these assertions.
Mr. G. F. Cavalli was the person delivering the eulogy.
The family sold the Nicasio ranch some time after Lorenzo’s death. It sold in probate for $20,000.
Today Devil’s Gulch Ranch is owned by the Pasternak family with programs open to the public, livestock and gardening including viticulture are among the activities at Devil’s Gulch Farm. There are summer camps available for children and families. Mark Pasternak bought the ranch in 1969.
Today, many descendents of Lorenzo and Carolina Bonetti Martinelli still live in California. Their professions range from teachers, nurses, musicians, artists, real estate agents, bankers, wine makers, organic farmers, computer engineering, genealogists, non-profit executive director, home makers, etc.
Caroline Roberta Martinelli Kelly, the granddaughter of Lorenzo Martinelli, with her class at Federal Terrace School 1951, Vallejo, California