There was a bounce in Cesare Gagliardini’s step as he headed out for work at the Italian Swiss Colony Winery in Madera. It was his first job in the tiny San Joaquin Valley town, and his heart was full of gratitude. He and his wife, Maria, and their four children had left the poverty that had gripped them and all of the other contadino families of Italy. Now here he was, in 1906, working for Tullio Malesani in the winery founded by Rafaello Petri.
Maria had given birth to Umberto (Albert), their fifth child that year, and then went right back to work taking in the washing and doing the mending for the single men who worked for the winery. The Gagliardinis had definitely landed on their feet in this new land, but something wasn’t quite right; they had some friends in need.
The Gagliardinis had come to America with two other families — the Binis and the Filipponis. After a sojourn in a Louisiana sugarcane plantation, working to repay the owners for the cost of the passage, the Gagliardinis and the Binis escaped the guarded compound and boarded a train for Madera.
Unfortunately, the Filipponis couldn’t make the trip. Having just had another child, they were short of funds, so they had to bid their traveling companions goodbye at the fence. Cesare, however, vowed not to forget about them...