Courtesy of The Madera County Historical Society
Nello and Eugenia Barsotti are shown here in their 1912 wedding photograph. He was the oldest son of Domenico and Louisa Barsotti, whose descendants are still making their contributions to Madera.
The 32-year-old Italian packed his bags and prepared to leave his native village of Marlia in the Province of Lucca.
The year was 1900, and the upcoming journey to the United States was not to be taken lightly. Domenico Barsotti was married and had a family.
Coming to America meant leaving his wife, Louisa, his son Nello, and his three daughters, in their native land. The trip was fraught with anxiety for all concerned, but they had one thing going for them — they were not afraid of work!
Domenico had heard of a town called Stockton, so he bid his wife and children good-bye and started out for that place. Louisa gathered the children around her, assuring them that their father would hold to his promise to return and take them all to a new home across the Atlantic.
Making his way to Stockton, Domenico obtained employment as a cook on one of the ranches of the area. For two years, he labored in the kitchen, while writing frequently to his family.
Then one day news arrived from Louisa that two of their good friends were immigrating to California and had offered to transport their 12 year-old son, Nello, to Stockton. Soon the son joined the father in his labors in the ranch cookhouse.
Shortly thereafter, Louisa learned through a letter from Domenico, that it was time that she and the girls joined him as well. The elder Barsotti had worked hard, saved some money, and purchased a boarding house in Firebaugh, which he and Nello were already operating. Louisa gathered her girls together and prepared to leave her homeland to join her husband in Firebaugh.
After a frightful trip, a very grateful mother and her young daughters arrived in New York, having been seasick most of the voyage.
Subsequent to enduring the red tape of immigration, Louisa and the girls boarded a train bound for California. At the end of a very rough six days, they arrived at Los Banos, knowing not a soul and speaking not a word of English.
The depot agent called upon the services of an interpreter, and Louisa was advised to spend the night in Los Banos with her daughters, to which she reluctantly consented. This strange land was even stranger at night. No one could sleep, and the youngsters required constant reassurance that everything was all right. By daylight, they were more than ready to make their way to Firebaugh.
The next day the Barsottis reunited and joined to make the boarding house a success. Soon the family acclimated, and life at Firebaugh came to be tinged with excitement, particularly when it came time for the San Joaquin River paddle wheel steamboats to dock with supplies from Stockton.
The Barsotti children were given time off from their chores to join practically the entire town in turning out at the landing to meet the steamers.
Toward the end of 1903, Domenico sold his Firebaugh boarding house, and after a three-year stint in the kitchens of legendary cattleman Henry Miller, he brought his family to the little burg of Madera. The Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company was going strong and Barsotti sensed an opportunity.
Meanwhile, the Barsotti family grew larger. In 1904, daughter Anne was born, and in 1906, daughter Freda made her appearance. In between those births, Salomena married Giorgio Pera of Dos Palos.
Prior to the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Dominic purchased a hotel on F Street (presently Gateway Drive) in Madera. The industrious Italian, who added a dining room, a kitchen, and several more bedrooms, dubbed his establishment, “The Vesuvius.”
Domenico and Nello took over the cooking, while Louisa and the girls were in charge of the other domestic chores.
Then in 1907, Albert was born. He was to grow up and serve as Madera’s Mayor for 25 years.
Business boomed and got even better when the family purchased two more buildings a little further north and transformed them into a new establishment, “The Barsotti Hotel.” Boarders paid $15 per month, which included a steak and eggs breakfast, lunch, dinner, and some very special treatment. All of the boarders at the Barsotti Hotel got first class service, but those who worked at the Sugar Pine Mill in Madera were especially favored.
Domenico purchased a horse and wagon and built two wooden boxes in which he could transport the noon meal to his boarders while they were working. The food, which included hot soup, always got there warm and palatable. Upon arriving at noon, Barsotti would spread out the dishes and utensils and would serve the men their meals. When his boarders had had their fill, he picked up the dirty dishes and returned to the hotel, where the girls would wash them and get them ready for the evening meal. The quick-paced routine was made all the more rigorous by the fact that it occurred every day except Sunday.
In time, Domenico and Louisa Barsotti sold their hotel and went on to involve themselves in ranching and ultimately in an enterprising bakery business. In so doing, they set an example of industriousness that was not lost on their children and grandchildren and thereby left their own legacy for Madera.
For well over a century now, this community has been influenced by the Barsotti family — in politics, business, education, and a host of other avenues of endeavor — all because one young couple brought their children to America and taught them how to work.