Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Nicasio, Marin County, California

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

marcia_man

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

marcia_family

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

federal-terrace-1951

14 thoughts on “Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Nicasio, Marin County, California

  1. Hello Teresa, Your mother Genevieve Carmel Martinelli was my mother’s second cousin. Your grandfather Jordan Martinelli Sr. was my mother’s first cousin. Ennio Battista Martinelli was the oldest brother of my grandfather, Robert Martinelli. I would like to contact you thru your email address. I collected the information for this article from many sources, family and local historians. Best Wishes, Marcia

  2. Dear Marcia:
    Thanks for your message and writing me. It is so much fun to know there are more Martinelli´s we’re related to since on our side most have passed away. My Mom is the only one living from her generation, and there are only 7 cousins in my generation. Three of Uncle Jordan´s grandchildren still live in San Rafael and Bolinas. Let’s keep in touch.
    Warmest regards, Teresa

  3. OLA JANETH,
    VOCE E DESCIDO DESTA FAMILIA QUE VEIO ORIGINAL DE MAGGIA, TICINO DE MARTINELLI? ONDE VOCE VIVE?
    MINHA PRIMEIRA LINGUA E INGLES MAS EU ESTOU USANDO “YAHOO BABEL FISH” PARA TRADUZIR ESTE AO PORTUGUES.
    CUMPRIMENTOS,
    MARCIA

  4. would you happen to know of a elmer martinelli, leroy martinelli, olimpio martinelli or a hazel martinelli of point reyes california. leroy martinelli is my dad, hazel and elmer are my grandma and grandpa, i am june martinelli

  5. Hello June, I have heard of those Martinelli names before but do not know the exact relationship to my great grandfather, Lorenzo Martinelli. I read in the Point Reyes Newspaper (1994) that Elmer Martinelli was another branch of the Martinelli family, the others being the Apple Cider family from Stephen Martinelli and mine descending from Lorenzo and Carolina Martinelli. I think if they all originally came from Maggia, Ticino, that they are cousins. Wasn’t Olympia Martinelli a store owner in Point Reyes? Marcia

  6. I live in Melbourne Australia and I am the great great grand-daughter of Benvenuto Martinelli born in Maggia Ticino Switzerland in the 1830’s .It would be great to contact the Martinelli family genealogist’s in the U.S. and see if we have any family link? Could you please suggest how I may be able to be put in contact with these people .

    Many thanks,

    Kim

  7. Dear Kim,

    I would like to be in contact with you about the Martinelli families of Maggia, Ticino. If you could write a message here and include your email address or send your email address to Dale Bechtel ,the co ordinator of the Swiss Immigration Blog

    Dale Bechtel (he can be contacted via this blog)

    I would be happy to share whatever information I know about the Martinelli family from Maggia, Ticino.
    Kind Regards,
    Marcia

  8. MARCIA,
    I THINK YOU ARE RIGHT ABOUT THE MARTINELLIS BEING IN TICINO SWI. I FOUND A DISTANT RELITIVE BY THE NAME OF WIM TOMASINI AND HE GAVE ME SOME INFORMATION, I HAVE THESE NAMES THAT ARE IN MY LINES ENNIO B. MARTINELLI FRED GENAZZI, POMPEO AND SANTINO MARTINELLI, A PIERTO MARTINELLI, ISA CAMPIGLI, ATTILIO MARTINELLI, HAZEL AND ELMER MARTINELLI, LEROY MARTINELLI, ALSO TOMASINIS, CAMPIGLIS AND GENAZZI’S COME UP IN MY FAMILY LINES. I DONT KNOW IF YOU CAME ACCROSS AN OLYMPIA, I HAVE CAME ACCROSS THAT NAME BUT NO INFORMATION ON HER. THERE ARE SOME OTHER NAMES AS WELL BUT DO NOT KNOW THEM RIGHT OFF HAND. FRED GENAZZI WOULD BE MY THIRD COUSIN, AS I FOUND OUT WHEN MY SISTER VICKI DATED HIM FOR A WHILE UNTIL SEE FOUND OUT SHE WAS RELATED TO HIM.

  9. HELLO MARCIA,
    i FOUND OUT THAT I AM RELATED TO THE MARTINELLIS WHO MAKE THE APPLE CIDER. HAVE YOU HEARD OR KNOW OF ANY INFORMATION ON A JOE MARTINELLI? I WAS TOLD THAT HE IS OF SOME RELATION, BUT I HAVE NOT FOUND ANY INFORMATION ON HIM. YEAH. i HAVE COME ACCROSS LORENZO AND ENNIO BUT NOT SURE HOW THEY ARE RELATED OR IF THEY EVEN ARE. IF YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE OR FIND ANY INFORMATION I WOULD GLADLY APPERCIATE IT THANKS JUNE MARTINELLI.

  10. Hi June, I found this link to the message boards, with your entry as well as all the others. I think your great grandfather , Olympio was a cousin to my great grandfather Lorenzo Martinelli since they are both from Maggia , Ticino and immigrated to West Marin, Ca. I can see on this link that a Martino Martinelli is listed as the father of Olympio, I have heard that name before and he may be the brother or cousin that links these two branches of the Martinelli families. My Martinelli ancestors have a large cemetery plot in Petaluma Calvary Cemetery, I can see your family is in the Olema Cemetery. My great grandfather Lorenzo is the father of Ennio (E.B.) Martinelli, my grandfather was Robert A. Martinellli, a younger brother of E. B. I have never heard of a Joe Martinelli. If you want to send me your email, I will share what I know. http://boards.ancestry.com/thread.aspx?mv=flat&m=105&p=surnames.martinelli Best Wishes, Marcia

  11. HELLO MARCIA,
    HOW ARE YOU DOING? I HAVE BEEN BUSY BUT OTHER WISE DOING GOOD. I MADE A MISTAKE HIS NAME WAS NOT JOE HIS NAME WAS JIMMY MARTINELLI WHO WOULD BE A SON OF JORDAN MARTINELLI WHO WAS A LAWERYW IN SAN RAFEAL CALIFORNIA OR PRACTICED HIS BUSSINESS THERE. ALSO MAYBEE GET IN CONTACT WITH SUZZANE MELL SHE HAS ALOT OF INFORMATION ON THE MARTINELLI. ALSO WHO OWNED THE STORE WAS OLYMPIO MARTINELLI, I HAVE FOUND THAT THEY HAVE BEEN SPELLING HIS NAME OLYMPIA. I WAS TOLD IN A FILE THAT WAS SENT TO ME THAT OLYMPIO WAS MARRIED TWICE THAT HIS FIRST WIFE WAS OLYMPIA, THAT IS WHAT THE FILE STATED BUT NOT SURE IF THAT IS TRUE OR IS A MISTAKE. i HAVE NOT FOUND ANYTHING ON JIMMY MARTINELLI WHO SUPPOSEDLY DIED OR PASSED AWAY OR COULD STILL BE ALIVE. BUT WAS TOLD BY A RELITIVE THAT HE PASSED AWAY. IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION I WOULD REALLY APPERICATE IT THANKS JUNE HAZEL MARTINELLI

  12. HELLO MARCIA,
    I HAVE BEEN RESEARCHING MY SIDE OF THE MARTINELLI’S, I WAS TOLD BY A FAMILY MEMBER THAT THERE WAS A JIM OR JIMMY THAT WOULD BEEN A BROTHER TO JORDAN. JORDAN WHO WAS THE SENTOR OF MARIN CALIFORNIA. i HAVE NOT FOUND ANYTHING ON HIM. I WAS TOLD THAT JIM OR JIMMY MIGHT HAVE PASSED AWAY. I WILL KEEP ON SEARCHING TO SEE WHAT I COME UP WITH, ALSO MAYBE THAT IS NOT HIS NAME BUT THAT IS WHAT I WAS TOLD WAS THAT HIS NAME WAS JIM OR JIMMY. MY E-MAIL IS CHIKITAYCARINOSAXTI@YAHOO.COM HOPE TO HEAR FROM YOU SOON THANKS JUNE HAZEL MARTINELLI

Leave a Reply to june martinelli Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.