This letter was posted to the web in 2003 by another branch of the family.
March 14, 1994
Dear Mrs. Silkwood (Silvia..Cousin)
You wrote me (and others in the California Cavalletto/Cavaletto family in late November of last year (very soon after our greater family BBQ gathering celebrating the 100th anniversary of Giovanni Battista, known as “G.B.,” and Michele coming to the U.S. I enclose a photocopy of a local news report of that occasion.) I believe (and shall assume) you’ve received our family-tree information from others.
But, as the only survivor of the first generation descendants of G.B. & Michele (I’m 81+), and as three-time visitor to Northern Italy (a 5 month visit in 1920 with my paternal grandmother, Laura, in Vesignano, a suburb of Rivarolo, during which I attended elementary school, served as an altar boy in the small Catholic church there, and had my 7th birthday; 52 years later when I visited the 4 remaining 1st cousins, all of whom I fear are now deceased; and on a tour in 1990), I’ll try to add a little oral family history that may wet your curiosity and help in your research.
I’ve also visited Venice 3 times as an adult, and I’ve learned that the Cavaletto family was well known and very active in business and financial affairs in the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. (They supposedly even produced at least 3 Cardinals during that time.) I’ve come to the informed opinion hat two Cavaletto brothers, a retired army colonel and a retired civil engineer, came from Venice to Rivarolo in the 1700’s and laid out and founded the suburb town of Vesignano. One of the next generation gave the town its church, with a special set of pews for the family; it was in excellent condition when I last saw it in 1972; there were 42 families then living in Vesignano, one half of whom were Cavalletto/Cavaletto’s.
Giuseppe & Laura Cavalletto (or Cavaletto) were the (my grandparents) parents of G.B. and Michele. They had 4 sons and 3 daughters who grew to adulthood. Besides G.B. and Michele (who became permanent residents and citizens of the U.S.A.), these were John (who came to this area, stayed & farmed for 15 years, had 33 children here, then returned to Vesignano with his family for the balance of his life, Lodoviceo (who stayed in Vesignano, and had two children there), and Mrs.’s Scavara, Perona & Perello (who all came to the U.S. and spent the rest of their lives here). Both Giuseppe and Laura were Cavalletto/Cavaletto’s; both came from “large” families; they were distant cousins. I know two brothers of my grandparents; one, Avenino, came to Santa Barbara in 1884 and was “responsible” for G.B. & Michele coming here (he housed them, and found them their 1st jobs). The other was in Italy & was 80 yrs. old when I visited my grandmother. My guess is that your grandfather, John, was the son of one of my grandparent’s siblings…making us “3rd cousins, once removed.”
I also enclose a copy of the announcement of the Piedmontese party we attended with my nice and numerous cousins, of varying degrees, last Saturday. There were about 300 there. Two of my cousins (one is Catherine…from whom I think you received info.) are going to be in Rivarolo, Vesignano & Venice in two weeks or so; they plan to do some historical family research.
A little bit of info. about the Piedmont area. It was an independent province forming the northwest part of what has become a unified Italy in the 1870’s. It was a monarchy ruled by Umberto I, and he became Italy’s king (courtesy of his general Garibaldi). The King Umberto I issued the permission to emigrate from Italy in Oct., 1892 to G.B. & Michele; they arrived in Santa Barbara in mid-November, 1892. The Piedmontese dialect, which I spoke as a youngster, is closer to French than the classic Italian. It took me some college courses and a lot of study to learn the classic Italian. I learned to speak and read French in the le weeks during World War II.
I also recorded the oral history of my father, his family and myself some 8 or 9 months ago for the oral history section of the Santa Barbara Historical Society. And my talk giving the oral history of the family at the Cavaletto/Cavaletto reunion was video-taped. If you visit this area, you can listen to all this. And, let me add that my wife and I will be glad to meet you and have visit us (if I’m still around).
please, tell me about your family. I know where Gillespie, Ill. is..30 miles No. of West St. Louis…apparently, a arming area. Has the family been…and is it now…primarily in farming? Are your family members still mostly in the area? Are they all close friends? I’ll be pleased to hear. I’ll also be glad to receive a copy of the photo your letter mentions, even thought I doubt I can do more than speculate of the identities.
In the meantime, I send my affectionate greetings.