Wisconsin is a small village located on the east bank of the Mississippi
River about 18 miles south of La Crosse. The population about 265 claims
German, Norwegian, Irish, English and American ancestry. The Italian stock
is about 13%.
tiny settlement is obviously never mentioned in official history. Still, a
deeper analysis of the area gives Genoa a dignified place in the making of
intent is to give a brief outline of the facts leading to the formation of
Genoa and highlight the presence of Swiss-Italian and North Italian
migrants already there at the time of the admission of Wisconsin to the
Union as the 30th State on May 29, 1848.
Illinois is situated on the northwestern part of the state in Jo Daviess
County. The Sauk and Fox Indians mined lead in the vicinity and the town
boomed in the 1840s peaking 15,000 residents. It has now dwindled to 3,500
and one of its main attractions is now tourism. Even the New York Times
has recently dedicated one of its travel sections to the discovery of its
well preserved historical center where some of the best features include
the rediscovery of the steamboat era and the Vinegar Hill Lead Mine Museum
where all artifacts related to mining are displayed.
also in this frontier town on the east side of the Mississippi River that
father Samuele Mazzuchelli preached the gospel in his zealous missionary
journeys to convert Native Americans to Roman Catholicism around 1840. He
wandered all over the frontier area and through his efforts over 25
churches were built, some of which are still standing like St. Michael’s
right in Galena. His memories include his comments on the Black Hawk War.
He eventually died in Benton, Wisconsin 1n 1864.
also the family of general Ulysses S. Grant had moved to Galena. They
operated a leather shop where the future President of the United States,
after years at arms was helping his brothers just before the start of the
Civil War in 1861.
less at the same time an adventurous man from Prato in Valle Leventina,
Canton Ticino, Switzerland had arrived in Galena. His name was Giuseppe (Joseph)
Monti. Born in 1809 he escaped the famine that had plagued Ticino since
1816/17 and left for Baltimore, Maryland in 1832 with a large familial
group that eventually went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he met his
future wife Emeline Baron. He worked there as a baker and a confectioner.
He moved around looking for better opportunities and he was in New York in
1839 when his first son Matthew was born. However, his destiny was further
west and in 1840, his second child, Josephine was born in Cincinnati,
Ohio. In 1842 he was in St. Louis, Missouri, thence in Galena which had
good economic perspectives both in mining and lumbering but there, instead,
he conducted a bakery and a hotel, working in the mines only during low
Unites States Census for Galena, Jo Daviess County indicates a population
of about 7,500 people coming mainly from England, Ireland, Germany, Norway
and the adjacent US States. The recognizable Italians numbered about
twenty whereas the Monti group alone comprised 14 people.
presence of Pietro Morelli (Morrella), Giovanni Pighetti (Pighedddi),
Tommaso Guanella (Quinnella), Giovanni Trussoni (Trezoni) may easily
suggest their origin from Campodolcino and augment the queries about them
since their arrival in Illinois via England and other US states dates as
back as 1837. This would anticipate the first migration from Valchiavenna
by about ten years. And whereas we have no hint of the Pighettis, all the
others are present in Genoa.
represented the embarkation point for the ore extracted in the lead mines
of Shullburg in Lafayette County, Southern Wisconsin with the cargo route
passing through the small village of Scales Mound, Illinois where the
Guscetti brothers from Quinto, Canton Ticino, Switzerland had found some
the positive outlook of the area, Monti had other plans in his mind. He
was commissioned to seek a new area suitable for farming. Going northward
along the Mississippi he arrived at the confluence of the North and South
Fork Bad Axe River into the Mississippi.
From La Crosse southward for many miles the rocky hills rise abruptly,
often almost perpendicularly from the water’s edge to a height of
several hundred feet…Every few miles along the stream are little coves a
few acres in extent , marking the place where some small tributary creek
has cut its way down through the level of the great river into which it
flows…For this reason many little villages grew up at the mouths of
these coves, depending for their existence on the traffic between the back
country farmers and woodsmen and the river men".
Ax area had witnessed ones of the most infamous chapters of the
relationship between the Indians and the US in Wisconsin. After the treaty
negotiation of 1804 many Indian tribes were
from their homeland regardless of the fact that they rarely understood the
meaning of the papers they were signing. The US government was paving the
way for the exploitation of lands and its riches i.e. prairie, timber,
mineral and farmland. The Sauk and the Fox Indians had been forcibly
removed to Iowa from their native settlements in Northwestern Illinois and
with the new unfriendly environment, in the spring of 1832 Black Hawk led
over a band o about thousand people back to their ancestral lands in
Northwestern Illinois in order to grow corn. His return caused uproar
among the white settlers and the militia intervened. Attempts by Black
Hawk to negotiate with the authorities failed due to lack of mutual
understanding and both state militia and federal troops joined forces to
annihilate him. Black Hawk attempted to escape with a fiery march across
the central and western part of Wisconsin but finally he had to succumb to
the overwhelming power of the troops headed by general Henry Atkinson. The
Native Americans after some minor skirmishes around the Wisconsin River
were cornered near the shore of the Bad Ax River. Their attempt to ford
was foiled by the fire of the artillery of the USS Warrior that was
patrolling the Mississippi. The attack decimated the Native Americans that
had no way out and had to surrender either on location or right after a
short escape as Black Hawk did. This happened on August 1 and 2, 1832.
this is the site of Black Hawk Recreational Park.
Joseph Monti received 177,44 acres of land from the United States of
America by President Millard Fillmore and went along the Mississippi River
past Prairie du Chien stopping a few miles before Prairie du Crosse. The
place was Hastings’s Landing and Monti thought it suitable for many
reasons: wild pigeons, rolling hills that resembled the Alpine panorama of
the migrants and a route that led up north toward the lumber camps of
Wisconsin and Minnesota. He had already made the decision to resettle in
this area a few miles north of the Bad Ax River massacre and in 1854 he
laid out and platted the village on section 28 with David Hastings and
John Richards : the name Bad Ax (City) was applied.
name denoted the unsuccessful Native Americans attempt to flee the
American troops and the
characters that frequented the area surrounding the landing of the
steamboats that plied up and down the Mississippi and gave it a negative
connotation. In 1868 the community changed it into Genoa to commemorate
Columbus’s birthplace and thus enhancing the Italian component of the
Monti built his log hotel on section 28, slowly other people joined him
and the farming aspect of Genoa began to take shape. Among the first
settlers who entered land in Genoa were William Tibbitts with 160 acres on
section 22 in 1860 and Elias Shisler with 120 acres on the same section.
John Ott entered forty acres on section 34 in 1853. Slowly other people
started to buy land which was relatively cheap and readily available since
it needed a lot of work and was not always fertile. The Italians were not
there yet. In 1855 Joseph Monti convinced a friend of his from Airolo to
join him. His name was Ferdinand Guscetti. He had lived at Scales Mound in
Illinois and resettled in Genoa in 1855. He was a wagon manufacturer and
he set up his own shop. He was also the first blacksmith around. While
Genoa was growing the political situation in America was quite unstable
due to the growing differences between the Southern and Northern States.
federal Census of 1860 for Wheatland County in the Township of Bad Ax only
enumerates names and figures but it may be gleaned that the Swiss Italian
and Italian component was slowly growing and they totaled about 40 people
out of nearly 450. Among them the Guscetti (Kussuth), Sterlocchi (Starlocki),
Pettinati ? ( Petteretha), Peretti ? (Peretha ), Zaboglio ( Jabolio),
Morelli (Morally), Devena (Debena), Lupi ( Lupie). They had been in
Wisconsin for a few years and generally around 1855 and already had a
minimum property value of real estate that for the Sterlocchi was already
500 dollars and 600 for Guscetti. They are listed as laborers but also as
stone masons and thus clarifying their origin i.e. Canton Ticino,
Switzerland and Campodolcino in Valchiavenna, Lombardy, Italy. At the same
time large groups of Norwegians were populating the nearby localities of
Bergen, Hamburg and Christiana. It was one of those changing patterns in
the history of migration and the migrants now building Genoa were the
first vanguards. The South and Eastern Europeans (unskilled workers
according to the old terminology) were replacing the North Europeans (skilled
workers). However, while they toiled felling trees and preparing the
ground for their new log houses and clearing it for future farms, in that
often described bucolic environment that existed mainly in the mind of
romantic writers, the Civil War was approaching. It officially started 12
April 1861 at Fort Sumner and ended 9 April 1865 with the surrender of
General Robert E. Lee.
no desire to enhance the Swiss Italian content of the Civil War but rather
try to extrapolate more personal information from the dry lists of
misspelled names and skimpy data that accompany these situations. Their
names were already cited here but original sources had to be collated to
match all data. The American scribes gave little help.
Swiss Italian inhabitants of future Genoa who volunteered to join the
Union forces were the Guscetti brothers: Ferdinand, Jeremiah and Benjamin.
Their name has been found misspelled more than ten times…. The Guscetti
family has lived in Quinto, Ticino, Switzerland for centuries and they are
patrizi (families present in Ticino before 1700) of the borough of
Deggio. It probably derives from the German Guccio, Arriguccio and
Federicuccio. They were so numerous that they were distinguished as Ratt
(Mice , Ratitt ( Little Mice) and Orsi (Bears).
Guscetti (Goosuth) was born in Quinto, Canton Ticino on March 19, 1824. He
married Maria Beffa, a local patrician, in 1849. The economic condition of
Ticino had worsened due to the influx of about 20,000 refugees from
Lombardy who were escaping the Austrian tyranny that retaliated by
reducing the food export from Lombardy to Ticino and thus increasing its
food shortage. He then left his homeland alone in 1853 on a voyage to
Illinois that took him 52 days but he was soon reunited with his wife
Maria and his daughter Giulietta ( Juliet ) born 12 April 1850. At the
time hundreds of Swiss Italians from Valmaggia ( a valley near Locarno)
and nearby areas were leaving in quest of gold for Australia and thence
California. Guscetti first settled at Scales Mound in Illinois where he
worked as a wagon maker and other odd jobs. The place was close to the
lead mines of Galena and Wisconsin and there was a need for service. He
was in the store business with his brother Benjamin. Two more children
were born, Paul on March 15, 1854 who died ten days later and Catherine on
June 4, 1856. When Joseph Monti moved to Genoa (then still Bad Ax) he
eventually convinced his fellow countryman to join him. And so he did. He
continued working as a manufacturer of wagons, snow sleighs, oxen yokes
and burial coffins at the time when Genoa was quite a wooded area. The
economic difficulties linked to the never-ending and bloody war and also
family disgraces induced him to enlist. In 1858 and 1859 he had purchased
160 acres of timberland soon followed in 1860 by Joseph Monti and Maria
Zaboglio. The land had to be cleared day after day but wasn’t enough yet
to conduct a decent living. While the Confederation had conscription, the
Union had to resort to paid volunteers to fill its ranks. Civil War
records provide a specific memory of this special period of his life. The
roster of the Wisconsin volunteers report that Ferdinand Gossuth of La
Crosse had enlisted on August 30, 1864 as a private. He was in Company U,
1st Heavy Artillery Regiment Wisconsin. His muster date with
honorable discharge was 21 September 1865 in Madison, WI following a
period of illness with pneumonia (eyericiplis or lyriciplis bacteria). He
then returned to Genoa carrying smallpox and his children were infected.
One of the four children born in Genoa, Joseph died on account of this at
age 3 on January 2, 1866. Also Henry born on November 15, 1858 died on
August 3, 1859 and soon after Caroline born on July 5, 1860 met the same
fate on February 1, 1862. Only Matthew born on September 12, 1062 had a
longer span and died in Galesville, WI on July 3, 1923. Ferdinand
continued to live in Genoa alternating the work in the farm with his shop.
His political views were democratic but never held any office. He died in
Genoa on January 8, 1898 and he too is buried on the cemetery on the hill.
His short stint in the Union army guaranteed him a pension that was
eventually collected by his wife Maria Beffa.
gentleman from Genoa had instead enlisted on November 13, 1861. His name
was Geremia Guscetti (Gusatti) aka Jeremiah Guscette, Jeremiah Kussinth.
The Wisconsin census of 1860 lists him as a bachelor farm laborer in the
household of David Hicook. Enlisted as a Private in Company B, 2nd
Cavalry Regiment Wisconsin he mustered out on November 15, 1865. He is
also shown as part
Company E of the 5 Veteran Reserve Corps. There is no other news about
Geremia. The family recalls that Gerald (Geremia) probably died during the
war as an unknown soldier. It was customary to send infirmed soldiers to
the Reserve Corps and he might have died of the consequences of either a
war wound or of sickness.
Guscetti (Gussette) was also born Quinto, Canton Ticino, and Switzerland
in 1834 and he too settled first at Scales Mound, Illinois around 1855
with his brother Ferdinand. In 1860 he was still living there working as a
stone mason. His family consisted of his wife Hanna Blaufuss ( Plaufolz)
born in Saxony, two children Louis and Emma born in Scales Mound 1855 and
1857 respectively and Hanna’s brother who was 17. The majority of the
800 dwellers were farmers or miners and the Germans and Swiss were just a
few. Prior to the burst of the Civil War he moved north to Wisconsin with
his family and farmed east of Genoa at Chippewa Falls. In September 1864,
he enlisted as a Private in Company H of the Third Wisconsin Infantry. He
joined his regiment as a bugler near Atlanta and took part to the infamous
March to the Sea. I wonder how he reacted to the destruction of Atlanta
and to the forced exodus of all civilians and to the barbarous pillage of
the country made by the army towards any property they encountered.
General Sherman was committed to cut the supplies. He proceeded with
audacity and eventually entered Savannah, Georgia on December 21, 1864.
Benjamin Guscetti was probably already ill and died soon after near
Savannah on January 4th 1865. Oral history says that President Lincoln
wrote a letter of commendation that was eventually given to a local
historical center, a little consolation for the efforts made by this
unknown Swiss Italian bugler.
the Civil war few Swiss Italians and Italians ventured beyond New York.
The estimated 10,000 Italians resided in the eastern area and mostly in
New York. Frederick Guscetti was one of them.
born in Egypt either in 1832 or most probably in 1842. This possible error
continues throughout several documents to create a mysterious aura around
him. However, he wasn’t apparently connected with the Spinola’s Empire
Brigade or the Giuseppe Garibaldi Guard that attempted to recruit Italian
patriots per order of Col. F.G D’Utassy, Lieut. Col. Repetti and Maj.
Geo.E. Waring, jr.
was probably unaware that Col. Alexander Repetti was indeed a Genoese
typographer naturalized Swiss Italian in Lugano who returned to
Switzerland a few months after the beginning of the war with strong
accusations of being unable to militarily organize the guard. He also
seemed to be unfamiliar with another famous Lombard man at arms, Louis
Tinelli so much sought by Lincoln.
service records show that he enlisted as a Sergeant on December 6, 1861 at
age 20 in the Company B, Enfans Perdus Regiment of New York and mustered
into the US service on April 18.1862. Eventually on January 30, 1864
commanding Lie.Col. Levy his regiment was consolidated with the 1st
New York Engineers and the 47th and 48th N.Y.
Infantry. He was then transferred to Company A of the 47 h
Infantry Regiment of New York. The regiment fought several battles at
Morris Island and at Fort Gregg, SC from July 12, 1863 to November 28,
1863. He was then in the Florida expedition that ended with the battle of
Olustee (Ocean Pond). Guscetti was taken prisoner and confined at the
controversial prisoner camp of Andersonville GA on March 28, 1864 where
due to his knowledge of at least seven languages he interpreted for the
numerous foreigners at the hospital. He was finally discharged with
distinguished service from this company on June 22, 1865 in Norfolk, VA.
the war he resumed teaching and subsequent records show him in 1870 at the
10 Ward Penitentiary in Albany, NY. In 1881 he was in England as a late
"major USA director of the Society for the Italian inland steam
navigation" with his wife Annie Brown and his infant baby Daisy born
in Munich, Prussia. His wife Annie would eventually file the US government
to collect Frederick’s Civil War Pension benefits while living in Italy.
biographies of these Swiss Italians fighting for the unity of the Unites
States are quite simple and there is no pretense to enlarge them. Simply
there is no more news about them as it is often the case. It’s
interesting to note, however, how these newcomers embraced the new
challenge of the military at war after sampling just a few years of life
in the trying city of New York or in the uncharted and wild frontier of
Illinois and Wisconsin.
experience of the Civil War was shared with other people from Genoa such
Edward Cox, Charles Brown, William Pulham, John Carpenter and JEW. Clayson,
William Stevenson, William S. Riley, Albert F. Kuehn but only Ferdinand
Guscetti and Florence Jambois’ graves are marked as Civil War veterans
in the Catholic Cemetery. There is no paper evidence of the feelings of
these Swiss at the time of the Civil war. Apparently there was no
correspondence with Switzerland. Whereas the epistolary collected by
Giorgio Cheda contains numerous letters written from Australia and
California, only a few were mailed from other places such as one from
Quincy, Illinois in 1851 and another one from Fort Laramie in 1857 while
the migrants were enroute to California.
the Italians, there are no viable old records of letters about Wisconsin.
The published correspondence of the Valchiavennaschi in Australia, South
America and the United States never acknowledge the presence of a large
group in this state.
Genoa initiated its growth. The construction of the Catholic Church
represented one of the first accomplishments for the increasing number of
German and Italian migrants. The first stone church dedicated to St.
Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan was erected in 1864. Its records
tell the history of the community along with the gravestones of the
cemetery that overlooks the Mississippi River from a steep hill. In 1901 a
stone church replaced the old one that with new additions such as the
rectory and the school which is still thriving today. St. Charles Parish
is very active in serving the needs of the community. The incumbent Pastor
is Father Charles Nobwana who has lived in Rome for some years and helps
to maintain close links with Italy.
first inroads made by Joseph Monti, Ferdinand Guscetti, and Bartholomew
Sterlocchi were followed by many others. The usual friend and relatives’
connection by 1870 had already given Genoa its distinctive Italian flavor.
time when Italians preferred to remain in and around New York, it’s
noteworthy the stubbornness of these people in reclaiming the land that in
the old country was so hard to acquire. In Wisconsin it was still
inexpensive to buy at reasonable terms and initially the cultivation of
wheat required limited continuous labor thus permitting the men to venture
north to work in the lumberyards where the request for timber was
increasing due according to the fast pace of immigration. The first
settlers such as Monti, Zaboglio and Guscetti were among the first to
secure vast tracts of land.
of the Civil War life resumed also for Genoa and immigration from Italy
crops changed according to the different needs. Wheat which had been
cultivated year over year on the same soil became unproductive and
therefore by 1875 many farmers resorted to animal breeding and other
Census of 1870 depicts a different village where as usual the main
activity was done on Main Street where the familiar Monti Hotel, Zaboglio
hardware Store, Latimer and Red Inn were firmly located.
church records start with the baptism of Margaret Rosalie Morelli on May 1st,
first wedding saw the nuptials of Anthony Levi and Angela Zabolio (Zaboglio)
in July 1872.
first burial at Genoa’s cemetery was that of Sylvester Pedretti in 1875.
of Canton Ticino and Valchiavenna marked the birth of this new parish.
on hand for 1870 enumerate the various Swiss Italian families : Monti,
Lupi, Franzini, Guscetti, Beffa, Pedretti, Morelli and the Italian ones
from the Campodolcino area in Valchiavenna: Zaboglio ( Jabolio),
Sterlocchi (Starlocki), Levi, Gadola, Gianoli (Gianolo), Barilani (Bariloni),
Vener ( Venner, Verner), Paggi ( Page, Pagge), Gianera.
family of the deceased Benjamin Guscetti had left Chippewa Falls and
resettled in Genoa.
was now the head of the family.
a movement of people that seems so straightly connected with a single
destination that’s to say Genoa was in reality well diversified as if
often happens. In fact, the 1870 records continuous showing of Illinois
and Minnesota birth prompt a deeper analysis. While Illinois was a
starting point, why there was such a presence in Minnesota? What was the
connection between Minnesota and Genoa? Was this presence created by
seasonal work from the Genoese or else?
results are simply astounding.
undated obituary scrap exemplifies similar migration stories. Mary Ursula
Trussoni Levi died in St. Henry, Cleveland Township, Minnesota on April,
10, 1902. She was born in Campodolcino on February 20, 1804 and she
married Lorenzo Levi. They had seven children and Lorenzo died in 1849.
migrated with her family to Wisconsin around 1856 stopping briefly in
Genoa where some members of her family Levi and Massera lived. However,
the 1860 census states that Anthony, the head of the family now was
working as a raft man at the lumber mill in Stillwater, MN. In 1868 she
moved to Amery, Polk County, WI until 1878 until her next transfer to
Minnesota where she lived with her son Lawrence and Thomas in the old
homestead at St. Henry where there was a large concentration of Swiss from
Canton Grisons (Graubunden) who spoke Romansch.
Ursula’s children remained in the area except Anthony who returned to
Genoa and married Angeline Zaboglio, the widow of Silvio Buzzetti. He died
there on June 11, 1883. He bequeathed a large sum to the Don Guanella
Institute of Pianello del Lario, province of Como, Italy.
another Trussoni crossed these lines indirectly. Joseph Trussoni married
Mary Muggli widow of Gion De Gonda in Stillwater. They never had any
children together but he helped her raise hers. When Mary died, Joseph
returned to Chiavenna where he died on March 5, 1895. His step-daughter
Mary DeGonda (Hounder) disposed of his bequest of about 300 dollars.
was then a work either temporary or definite destination for many.
Washington County, MN naturalization records indicate a number of Swiss
Italians that are never found in Genoa like Simonetti (Simonette) now
Simons, Cappellazzi (Caplazi), Bertossi ( Bertopsa), Giossi, Casanova (
Cassinova) and Italians like De Stefani ( De Steffaney - De Staffney) and
other Italians who are also present in Genoa like Curti (Cuti), Della
Bella, Levi, Trussoni (Trucciani), Paggi ( Paggio – Page ). As early as
1857 they had already petitioned to obtain the American passport. Before
1861 the Italians were shown as Austrians or the reference made to Joseph
1st King of Lombardy, later the reference was made to Victor
Immanuel 2nd King of Italy but not to Italy as a country
back in Genoa the village was evolving. The main street was still the
center of all the activities with the Zabolio (Zaboglio) hardware store,
the Latimer grocery and hardware store and the Monti hotel and the Big
River Inn. Ferdinand and Albert Guscetti operated their wagon shop while
Fred Morelli and Albert Schubert were the blacksmiths. The Chicago,
Burlington and Northern railroad connected Genoa to La Crosse in 1884 and
offered some local jobs as section men that integrated the usual farming
income. Eventually in the early 1900’s other employment was offered by
the button companies that
clam shells from the Mississippi river as source material. It may be
easily assumed from the various sources of information that people
integrated their income with seasonal work in the lumber mills. Genoa had
his own post office since 1854. The old stone church was eventually
replaced with a new structure in 1901.
time of 1880 census Genoa had a distinctive Italian character. Early
settlers had large families and more came in. Among the families that just
missed the Census were the Berras and the Garavaglias. These families are
originally from Cuggiono, province of Milan, Italy. They represent the
vanguards of the thousands people from the area that left for Detroit, MI.,
Joliet, Il., St. Louis, MO., Herrin, IL and scattered to other small areas
in the Unites States and south America starting around 1882. The first
records show them aboard different ships from Le Havre to New York between
1879 and 1881.
families left directly for Genoa. Besides the Berra and Garavaglia there
were the Zoia, Calcaterra and Spezia who eventually found jobs elsewhere.
economy in Italy was quite bad. Francis Berra was 66 years old and his
wife Theresa Garagiola 62 when they crossed the Ocean in 1881. He lived
with his son Anthony for a while and then left for Florence, WI where he
worked as a miner and lumberman. He died there in 1894.
bands of transient workers from Cuggiono were toiling in the St. Croix and
Stillwater lumber mill areas more or less at the same time. Their
petitions for first papers in order to become American citizens start as
of November 7, 1881 when almost 20 migrants signed to become Americans.
They were either unaware of the implications of a new citizenship or had
simply decided en masse to start a complete new life. The long list of
misspelled names of people that had preceded by a whiff the more important
or so called mass migration that had just started.
historical weight of these people is minimal. We see no biographies, no
they have represented one of the most important accomplishments in an
agriculture done by the Italians in the United States and some farms like
the Barilani of Genoa and the Fanetti homestead in Bloomer have remained
in the same family over 100 years.
comprehensive analysis about Genoa was performed by the Immigration
Commission and presented by Mr. Dillingham on June 15, 1910. The report
was drawn by Alexander Cance who was probably of Irish descent and had
scarce knowledge of Italy. He identified the Italians of Genoa as "Piedmontese
on the Mississippi" although the first migrants were either Italians
from Northern Lombardy or Swiss Italians.
Genoa had a population of 200 and about 200 families in the township of
which about 50 were Italians. The Ticinese and the Italians had finally
conquered the environment and had cleared the land they had bought as
homesteaders at 5 to 10 dollars an acre. The main production consisted of
: barley, corn, potatoes, clover seed, hay, tobacco and hay. Cows breeding
generated milk and butter. Unexpectedly and mainly due to the climate, no
grapes were grown.
analysis of the Italian farmer confirms that Ticinese and the Italians had
preferred to buy their land since the terms were favorable because it was
almost completely covered with trees. Therefore they worked at odd jobs as
wood choppers or in the sawmills or as section hands on the railroad until
little by little they could cultivate some of it. In addition, the soil
was quite productive because it had never been tilled. The main income
derived from hay, tobacco, oats and dairy products also depending on the
ability of the farmer. All in all the community had managed to prosper and
acculturation of the Ticinese and the Italians followed by frequent
intermarriages with Germans prompted Alexander Cance to declare the
community as non- Italian because:
of them speak Good English, and converse intelligently and frankly,
without suspicion, on agriculture, politics, or topics of current interest…The
Italians (Still considered as such) attend strictly to their farming. They
are honest, peaceful and industrious. Contrasted with the New Jersey
colonies, they show more intelligence, initiative, and independent
self-reliance than the eastern group."
time when the Americanization process was forced it is indubitable that
the approach was towards a fast integration to the American model. The
mind of the researcher was never crossed by the thought that these sturdy
and adventurous people had also changed the people around them by showing
them another way to approach life with values that were not inferior but
century after, Genoa is still permeated by an Italian flavor. From time to
time various articles have appeared in the local press either to retell
the story of the birth of the village in another way or to show old
pictures. Frequent articles about St. Charles Borromeo and its school
remark the sense of community that the church has generated while a 1948
report tells us about the farming skills of the three Trussoni sisters and
another clip elaborates about the Genoa dam built on the River attracting
new people. State Highway 35 that used to run through Main Street
eventually by-passed Genoa next to the railroad tracks. And next to the
dam Dairyland Electric Co-Op built a nuclear reactor. Zabolio’s
The staccato of death notices that mark the passing of time. The original
plat of Genoa, the plat of 1896 and 1930 to demonstrate that the Italians
were the real owners of Genoa at least north of James Morris Island.
people have come and others have gone to pursue their professional career.
Now hunters roam the woods and the countryside in search of wild turkeys
and patient fishermen stand by the shore of the Mississippi and its
backwaters for bass, sauger, walleye.
friendship of over 25 years with Sister Loretta Penchi from Genoa
testifies that the search for a usable past has started many years ago and
that our heritage is not easily erasable and that it remains within us at
are no more Guscetti in Genoa. All gone somewhere else.
are still there on the steep hillside cemetery overlooking the familiar
steeple of St. Charles Borromeo Church, the Hills of Minnesota in the
horizon beyond the majestic Mississippi River.