Genoa, Wisconsin and the Civil War: 

The Guscetti Brothers fight for Their New Country.


By Ernesto R Milani             Ecoistituto della Valle del Ticino of Cuggiono

presentato ad Annapolis, Maryland

il 4 novembre 2004 in occasione della 37° conferenza della American Italian Historical Association



Genoa, 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%.

This 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 the USA.

My 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.

Galena, 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.

It was 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.

Curiously 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.

More or 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 season.

The 1850 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.

The 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.

Galena 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 work.

Notwithstanding 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".

The Bad 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

Displaced 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 Southwestern Wisconsin.

Dissatisfied 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.

Today this is the site of Black Hawk Recreational Park.

In 1851 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.

This name denoted the unsuccessful Native Americans attempt to flee the American troops and the

strange 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 village.

While 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.

The 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.

There is 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.

The only 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).

Ferdinand 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.

Another 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

Of the 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.

Benjamin 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.

Before 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.

He was 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.

Guscetti 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.

His 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.

After 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.

The 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.

The 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.

As for 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.

Slowly 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.


The 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.

At a 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.

At end of the Civil War life resumed also for Genoa and immigration from Italy continued.

The 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 staples.

The 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.

The church records start with the baptism of Margaret Rosalie Morelli on May 1st, 1872.

The first wedding saw the nuptials of Anthony Levi and Angela Zabolio (Zaboglio) in July 1872.

The first burial at Genoa’s cemetery was that of Sylvester Pedretti in 1875.

The seal of Canton Ticino and Valchiavenna marked the birth of this new parish.

The data 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.

The family of the deceased Benjamin Guscetti had left Chippewa Falls and resettled in Genoa.

Louis was now the head of the family.

However, 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?

The results are simply astounding.

An 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.

She 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.

All 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.

Curiously 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.

Stillwater 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 yet.

Meanwhile 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

Used the 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.

At the 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.

Not many families left directly for Genoa. Besides the Berra and Garavaglia there were the Zoia, Calcaterra and Spezia who eventually found jobs elsewhere.

The 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.

Other 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.

The historical weight of these people is minimal. We see no biographies, no letters.

However, 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.

The most 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.

In 1905 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.

The 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 improve.

The fast acculturation of the Ticinese and the Italians followed by frequent intermarriages with Germans prompted Alexander Cance to declare the community as non- Italian because:

"Most 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."

At a 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 only different.

A 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

Closure. 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.

New 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.

My 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 various degrees.

There are no more Guscetti in Genoa. All gone somewhere else.

But many 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.