The story of my great-grandfather Luigi Canepa

From Barbara Canepa Saul

Luigi Canepa (Luigi Canepa di Filippo) was born in 1839 in Monzonio, Canton Ticino. His parents were S. Gicomo Filippo Canepa (b. 1805) and Maria Conti Maza. His grandparents were Giovanni Canepa and Maria Anzini. Luigi was one of eight children. In 1864 Luigi, age 25 and his younger brother, Angelo, age 23, went to Australia to try their hand at gold mining. Records show that in 1865 Luigi married Mary Jane Pender, age 18 (from Scotland) in Melbourne. At this time his profession was listed as “miner”.


Mary Jane and her twin sister Mary Anne had left the family home and travelled to Australia where they both eventually married. The couple had two sons while living in Australia. Peter Matthew was born in 1867 and Louis Philip in 1868. Louis died in infancy.

In 1868 the couple and Luigi’s brother Antonio, left Australia for California. Tomales Bay in Marin County was their first home. It is assumed that Luigi worked on a dairy farm for a Canton Ticino native. Their first daughter, Mary, was born in 1870 and in 1874 another child, Archibald, was born. Luigi became a U.S. citizen in 1873.

In 1875 the family came to northern California to homestead on a remote mountain area in Humboldt County called Bear River Ridge. They travelled from San Francisco to Eureka on a steam ship as that was the only way to get to Humboldt County. From there they went to their homestead. Their second daughter, Gertrude was born in 1879.

When their pre-emtion period was up, they sold their property and purchased a 52 acre dairy farm in the Ferndale California area in the early 1880’s. Luigi managed the hotel at the neighboring community of Rio Dell where Angelo was the bartender and a friend from Ticino, John Pedrotti, ran the stage, bringing visitors from the railroad to the hotel. Antonio Giacomini from Brontallo, Canton Ticino and his wife Maria Anzini were also living in Rio Dell at this time. Rio Dell was a very small town made up of loggers and millworkers and a few vacationers.

In 1887, Luigi leased his dairy and moved his family into the town of Ferndale, CA where he worked at a saloon. Their youngest son, Lawrence was born in 1889. Luigi became the manager of the American Hotel, in Ferndale, where the family took up residence. In 1892 Luigi opened his own saloon, the “Palace” (which is still in operation today). His oldest son, Peter, was also a Ferndale business man, owning a general store. In 1895 the Canepa family had a two-story house built on the edge of town. They sold their interest in the Palace Saloon to their future son-in-law and ran a small dairy and a saloon and store close to their home. Jane died at the age of 50 in 1898 and Luigi died in 1905.

Angelo returned to Monzonio, married and raised his family. I don’t know the date, but assume it was when Luigi’s family moved into Ferndale in 1887. Luigi’s youngest brother Antionio came to California around 1875. He returned to Monzonio and married Candida Conti in 1881. Three of their sons came to California in 1902. Of these, Silvestro and Davidi died in California at young ages and the remaining brother, Tedoro returned to Monzonio. Antonio and Angelo’s descendants still live near Monzonio and have houses there where they vacation.

Although none live in Ferndale, many of Luigi’s descendants live in and around Eureka California, 15 miles north of Ferndale.


Descendants of the Giacominis and Pedrottis remain in the Ferndale area and have continued diary farming. Other Canton Ticino family names who lived in Humboldt County in 1915 include Regli, Moranda, Walker, Ambrosini, Biasca, Toroni, Genzoli, Pedrazzini, Grandy, Piffirini, Bernardi, Berti, Rodoni, Massi, Pontoni, Sacchi, Barca, Comisto, Gamboni, Fasoletti, Crivelli,Anzini and Coppini. Most of these families were dairy farmers. Descendants of all of these families still live in Humboldt County and many are still dairy farmers in the Ferndale, California area.

Thank you for providing this place to share family history.

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