Today Was Kind Of Special For Us

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Today was the day the Craviotto family walked through our 100 year old Shop to look at all of the tools, scrolls, machinery, and memorabilia, deciding what items to keep and what to sell.

It’s time to say good-bye to Craviotto Brothers Ironworks.

634 Anacapa (50's)3

The business has been a part of the Santa Barbara landscape for almost 100 years, but now it’s time for its corrugated iron doors to close forever. A “Going Out of Business” sale will take place April 25 at what our family has lovingly called “The Shop” ever since three generations have worked there.

It was started by this man, Erasmo John Craviotto.

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E.J. Craviotto bought the land in 1914, but when WWI called his name and he went off to Europe to fight, he left the Shop in the capable hands of his brother, Fred Craviotto.

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That’s when the Shop was named Craviotto Brothers.

When E.J. came back from war, his brother moved on, and E.J. ran the business until 1958 when his two sons, Charlie and Danny Craviotto, took over.

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When most people think of Craviotto Brothers nowadays they think of these two brothers. You almost never saw one without the other. They used to finish each other’s sentences, and sometimes they didn’t even need to finish them to understand what the other one was saying. They went everywhere together, did everything together – work, play, and vacations. You could see them at lunch time, sitting in the open doorway of the Shop, eating their sack lunches, watching the girls walk by, and commenting on the world for thirty minutes a day at noon. Some of us called them the unofficial mayors of Anacapa Street. Danny used to say, “I couldn’t have picked a better brother, a better friend or a better business partner.” Charlie never said the same thing because he didn’t have to – his brother said it for him. They were as close as any two brothers could ever be except for twins.

YoungCharlie&Danny

Danny, on the left, and Charlie, on the right.

Two Brothers

Charlie, on the left, and Danny, on the right.

Charlie passed away in 2004 and Danny followed after him in 2011.

But the Shop still remained.

Craviotto Brothers

Now, it’s time for the Shop to go.

Today, Danny’s widow, Carmen, and the children and grandchildren of Charlie and Danny, walked through the shop and had to do an impossible task – We had to choose the artifacts of 100 years of hard work that our individual families will keep, while allowing the rest to be sold to the public.

While we did this, two pigeons (two, not one, or three, or any other inappropriate number) flew into the Shop and perched in the rafters high overhead, watching us as we worked. And there sat those two pigeons for the whole day, just watching us pick through all the artifacts from a business that was started in 1914, passed off from the father of those two boys, who groomed and grew the family business into a Santa Barbara tradition, a tradition that saw three generations of workers trained there, learning not only how to be iron workers, but also how to be Craviotto men. And here’s the thing: It was two pigeons, not two sparrows, or two Jay birds, or two hummingbirds. Two pigeons.

Danny Craviotto used to raise and race homing pigeons, with his pigeon coop in the backyard of his ma and pa’s house over on San Andres Street.

Uncle Danny with Pigeon

That’s Uncle Danny and me with one of his pigeons. He really loved those birds, and he especially loved that he could take them anywhere, release them, and let them fly high into the sky, flying far away.

But they always came home.

I never see a pigeon without thinking of my uncle, and it always gives me a sense of comfort to know that a pigeon will always recognize his home and know how to get back there when he’s ready.

Today, we looked up at those two pigeons sitting high up in the rafters of the Shop and we smiled at them.  We also shed a few tears just seeing them there. Here’s a photo my cousin, Dan, took with his phone.

2 pigeons

We were all in agreement that Charlie, the big brother, was on the left – looking puffed up and wanting to take on the world, while Danny, the younger, was on the right, still at his side, always the loyal brother.

Sometimes life just makes you shake your head and say, “Wow!”

Lost & Found in Monterey

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(This is the last post in the CALIFORNIO series.  You can read the four earlier posts by clicking on each title: Californio,  Facebook Friends & Cousins,  Searching for the Garcias,  and Following Felipe.)

I’ve come to Monterey to find a grave.

Two graves, to be precise – the graves belonging to my fifth great-grandparents.  Felipe Santiago Garcia and Maria Petra Lugo Garcia are both buried at Mission San Carlos cemetery at the Royal Presidio Chapel. They are two of only 119 people who are buried there, at a church that was founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1770, on the shores of Monterey Bay.  It was supposed to be the cornerstone of Serra’s first California Mission,  but a year later Mission San Carlos was relocated to Carmel, a site where more indigenous tribes lived, making it easier for Serra to convert them to Christianity. The small church left behind in Monterey remained as a Royal Chapel for the soldiers guarding the new Spanish Presidio of Monterey.

San Carlos Cathedral Presidio

Felipe was one of those soldiers.

Monterey was where Felipe was first stationed as un soldado de cuera, and where Petra set up their first home as man and wife.  They would eventually travel to many other missions and presidios when Felipe would be re-assigned by his commanding officers to new posts.  Missions were being built up and down the coast of California, from San Diego  to San Francisco.  Felipe was sent wherever soldiers were needed, for whatever reason they were needed at that location.  But when he was finally ready to retire, Felipe came back to Monterey – the place he looked at as his one true home.

After a lifetime of service for his country, as a retired soldier, Felipe was given land.  He became a farmer.  He had his own home, and acres that belonged only to him and his family.  Several of his nine sons remained in Monterey to help him.  But  still, there was much work to be done. When his 6th son, Jose Antonio died, his 8th son, Inocente, petitioned the Governor so he could be released from the military to go home to his family in Monterey “…in order to take care of what little property they had.”  When Petra got ill and eventually died in 1817, it was only natural that she be buried at the Royal Presidio church that her husband had protected as a soldier, and where they had worshipped as a family.  And when it was Felipe’s time to pass on, as a retired soldier of that Presidio, there was no other final resting place (or greater honor) than burial at the small church he had helped to build, and guard.  It was Spain’s payback to him for dedicating his life to his country.  In 1822, Felipe Santiago Garcia died and was buried at the Royal Presidio Cathedral.

And now, in 2013, I can’t find him.

I can’t find Petra either.  I know this for a fact because I’ve travelled four hours, 241 miles (at $4.39 a gallon for gas), from Goleta to Monterey, and I not only can’t find the graves of the Garcias, but I don’t see a cemetery at all.  There isn’t one headstone in sight.  Not one.

We Spend The Day Searching. 

Arriving at the Presidio Chapel in the middle of noon mass, we find every office and the Heritage Center locked up and currently unavailable to the public until mass is over.  Not the best timing.  But after a quick search on our iPhone we discover the main Catholic cemetery is just a few blocks away, and head over there to find out some answers.

The people at the San Carlos Catholic Cemetery office very graciously search their computer records for Felipe and Petra Garcia’s names.  Although the cemetery certainly has its share of old (and fascinating) graves, there’s nothing as ancient as 1817 or 1822.  Felipe and Petra aren’t listed in the computer.

“They would have been buried up at the Presidio Chapel,” they inform us.

Gravestone Monterey

Murder in Monterey,  1855

They send us back to the Presidio Chapel, where now it’s lunchtime; offices and the Heritage Center are still locked up.  The only person who seems to be working is the janitor, and we follow him as he carries mop and pail into the vestibule of the church.  When we ask him about the Presidio cemetery and where the graves might be located, he tries to send us back over to the Catholic cemetery we just visited.

“They’re supposed to be here,” I tell the janitor.  “They told us at the Catholic cemetery to come back to the Chapel,” I explain, trying not to sound too exasperated.

“Well, they might be under the floor,” the janitor suggests, and leads us all the way to the back of the church where a large wooden information booth is tucked into a corner.  We help him push the booth out of the way, and magically an old square of marble with hard-to-read letters carved on it appears.  The janitor is right – there are people buried under the church floor.

“But those are Pachecos,” he informs us, just as I was getting optimistic.  “You can’t hardly read the names, but the Pachecos have people buried here.  Are you a Pacheco?”

Nope. Garcia.

He sends us back to the Heritage Center, and when I try the locked door again, I notice the operating hours are only for a couple of days a week because of cutbacks.  Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those days, and we’re scheduled to leave Monterey tomorrow.   Oh well, at least I tried. Giving up, I turn away and we start to head back to the car.   But then, I notice a woman exiting from the office.

“Excuse me!  Can I ask you something?”

She stops to listen.  And (poor woman) I proceed to tell her my long story about the search for the Garcias.  Maybe she thinks I’m crazy or just takes pity on me, but she offers me a glimmer of hope by saying, “If your Felipe was an early soldier in Monterey, then by all means, he would be buried here.” Even though the museum is officially closed, she asks me to come inside as she starts to look up information.

Her name is Fay and she is the kindest and most patient woman I’ve ever met.  I try to limit my questions but I have a lot.  

“You need to speak to our archivist,” she tells me.  And she hands me a card with Father Carl Faria’s name on it.  “He’ll have your answers,” she says with a smile.

A Priest With All The Answers

It’s a week before I can connect with Father Faria because he’s on a cruise.  But when I reach him and tell him I’m looking for Felipe Santiago Garcia’s grave, he hesitates.

“…Do you know a David Gonzalez from Florida?” he asks me.

I tell him no and ask him why.

“He was just this moment in my office looking for Felipe Santiago Garcia’s grave.”

Excuse me?

“Felipe was his fifth great-grandfather too.”

What are the odds?  Am I the only one who thinks this is little strange? Two cousins who don’t know each other on opposite ends of the country looking for the same ancestor at exactly the same moment?

“What did you tell him?” I ask the good Father.

He explains to me everything he just told my Gonzalez cousin:  Yes, it’s true that both Felipe and his wife, Petra, were buried at the Presidio Cathedral.  He gives me their burial numbers that were written in the church book that Father Serra first started.  It’s a record of all baptisms, marriages, and deaths, and Petra is #2225 in the book; Felipe is #2428.  Father Faria tells me that the book itself has recently been sent to the  Huntington Library for an exhibit commemorating Father Serra’s 300th birthday.

“You can go there and see where it’s written – the names of your fifth great-grandparents.”

But what about their graves?

“We’re not exactly sure where they are,” he admits, sheepishly.

They’re lost?

“They were buried here, at the Presidio Chapel, but we can only guess at the location.  Somewhere on the church grounds,” he explains. There’s a Catholic school that has been built on the land, a road that was expanded, and even part of a small strip mall, and all are on land owned by the Church.  “They could be anywhere in those areas,” he tells me. “They expanded the road just behind the church in 1940, and they found quite a lot of bones.  There were no markers so they were buried, all of them together, in a common grave at the Catholic cemetery,” he explains.

But why weren’t there any headstones on the original graves?

“The grave markers were all wooden – made from the bark of trees,” he tells me.  “By the time the Americans came, most had broken apart and crumpled, like dust into the ground.”

We come from the dirt, we go back to the dirt.  

I can’t help but think of my father, and our family saying.

Losing One Thing, Finding Another

I don’t know what I would have done had I found Felipe and Petra’s graves.  Would I have brought flowers to leave there?  Or knelt and said a quick “Hail Mary?” Maybe I just would’ve sat a moment in silence, reflecting on this amazing couple that traveled over 1400 miles, on horseback and mule, across desert, through scorching heat and relentless rainstorms, with no permanent shelter – risking their lives to the elements, bears and mountains lions, and sometimes, hostile indigenous tribes – the first of our bloodlines to come here to California.  It somehow seems wrong that when people die their graves just disappear, and there aren’t any words to acknowledge they were here, that they lived, they contributed; and their families, thousands of descendants (both sharing their name or not) are scattered around the country, from Florida to California.  And maybe a lot of those descendants know nothing about the people who came before them, who struggled and survived, and worked so hard to make a new land their home.

Even though I wasn’t able to find Felipe and Petra, I found something else there in Monterey. With every one of my footsteps following after them, I started to see Felipe and Petra in my imagination. What they looked like, how they sounded, and what dreams they must have had. They were newlyweds going into the unknown, and not sure they would even survive the journey. And as I saw them, I also started to see their son, Carlos, and their grandson, Hilarion, and what their lives might have been like as California grew and changed along with each generation of Garcias.  But mostly, it is Rosa, whose voice I can hear the strongest – a tiny old woman who used to sit at her kitchen table, counting out beans into five stacks – one stack for each one of her children.  The beans represented the money she had saved for them.  Money in five banks that once a week she would visit – taking along with her the young grandson who would translate because even in the 1920s Rosa still didn’t speak English.  She didn’t write and she didn’t read and on her own will she marked an “X” because she didn’t know how to write her name. But she managed to save and to give to the next generation – money, and more importantly, land.  Land to build their own homes where they would raise the next generation, and the one after that.

A family’s history is like a palimpsest – a parchment that is written on over and over again, with some of the earlier writing still visible, even after it’s been erased.  Although one generation’s story has been written, that next generation writes its own story, layered over the last, whether they are aware of it or not.  There are times when the generations intersect, in what they desire, or what they believe.  What one generation strives for, and perhaps never accomplishes might be passed along to the next generation, and perhaps in that particular layer, and in that unique time, dreams – the ones that may have started long ago – might now be realized.

There’s a story about the Garcia family that I’d like to write.  But I have to go inward now – into my imagination – to find that story.  It parallels the tale of early California which is rich, multi-cultural, and hasn’t been told in many books at all.  I know this because I’ve been looking for those books as I’ve been writing these Californio posts.  Although there are non-fiction and academic works, I want to delve deeper, and sometimes the only way to do that is through fiction.  Who were the Californios?  And how did they evolve from their identities as Espanioles, Mexicans, Anglos, and Indigenous tribes, into the people who would become known as Californios?  I can research these questions, and learn the knowledge, or I can experience it with my heart and soul.  I’d rather do the latter.

Toni Morrison once wrote, “Write the books you want to read.”  Californio is a book I really want to read.  But since it’s not written, I guess that means I have to try to write it.

When I take a screenplay assignment in Hollywood, I always do it with the proviso that I will only work on one project at a time.  Writing, for me, is like being pregnant, and my creative womb can only accommodate one pregnancy at a time.  So while I’m writing the book, this blog will have to be silent for awhile.  I’ll take breaks every now and then, and when I do I’ll post a little something here.  Maybe to share how Californio is going, or maybe just to change the topic completely. But I’ll always be reachable.  If any of you have questions about anything we’ve talked about here, you can always leave me a comment on the blog.  I’ll read it and write back to you.

But it might take me a little while.

I’m off to Californio.

ROSALOGO

Following Felipe

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 (This is the 4th post of the CALIFORNIO series.  You can read the 1st post HERE, the second post HERE, and the third post HERE.)

You don’t ever expect to find a relative’s name in a history book.

At least I didn’t.

But there was the name, in black & white text on the page in front of me:  “Felipe Santiago Garcia.” I stared at it, and gave myself a thousand reasons to doubt it.  Then, I looked closer and confirmed the facts.  The dates matched:  Felipe was born in 1748 in Sinaloa, Mexico, and married in 1773 to Maria Petra Alcantara Lugo.  Both husband and wife arrived in San Diego, in 1774.  They had a son named Carlos Maria who went on to have a son named Hilarion.  All three names were on the Garcia list I was searching for, and there they all were in the history book in front of me.

The three volumes of Spanish-Mexican Families of Early California: 1769 – 1850 ( by Marie Northrop) are considered the Bible when it comes to historical research on the beginnings of California. The books are out of print (except for Volume 3) and if you are persistent enough to look for them, and lucky enough to find them, two volumes will easily set you back $500.

My cousin Eileen was smart enough to track down the first two volumes in 1997 for a little over $40 to give to her father (my uncle) as a Christmas gift.  Now,  sixteen years later, with my uncle’s passing, my aunt had handed me both volumes along with my uncle’s files of genealogical research.  Having found Felipe’s name on the internet, I had called her and asked if Uncle Danny had ever written down any information about the family.

The file my aunt shared with me was brimming over with notes, scribblings in my uncle’s handwriting, and yes, there was Felipe on a roughly sketched out family tree, along with Carlos, Hilarion, and Rosa.  But the Marie Northrop books she also loaned me gave a legitimacy to those names.  The Garcias were true Californios, and historians had acknowledged that.

Felipe had been a soldado de cuera – a special type of Spanish soldier in California named after the “cuera” or the thick “leather vest” they wore for protection in combat from arrows, or spears.

Soldaldo de Curea2

These soldiers were sent to Alta California as early as 1769 to escort the Franciscans as they set up their missions, and the soldiers built the presidios.  In 1774, Father Serra and the Crown decided that no longer would soldados de cuera travel to the unsettled region as single men.  Families were to be sent with them, to help settle the land, and to ease the loneliness of the soldiers in Spain’s new territory.

The first land expedition that brought both soldiers and their families to California was led by Captain Rivera in 1774.  Felipe and his new wife were among the 51 people on that expedition. Petra was pregnant at the time, and on November 10th she went into labor while the expedition was on its way to Monterey.  A son, Juan Joseph, was born outside Oso Flaco and was baptized immediately when they reached the San Luis Obispo Mission because the baby wasn’t expected to live.  He lived, however, and his birth was recorded as the first European child to be born in California.  Petra and Felipe went on to have eighteen more children – Rosa Garcia’s grandfather (our family connection), was their second son, Carlos.

The soldados de cuera were moved from mission to mission.  Felipe, along with his family, went from the Presidio of Monterey to Mission San Antonio de Padua, San Gabriel Mission, Pueblo Los Angeles, and the Santa Barbara Presidio, until his retirement took him back to Monterey.  Most of the early soldados were given land as gratitude for their service to Spain, and I wonder if Felipe received land, and if so, what happened to it?  Was this the beginning of our family’s connection to owning land?

Seven of Petra and Felipe’s sons became soldiers; the eighth son resisted and was smuggled out of the country on a ship that was bound for Chile.  He chose exile from his family rather than hanging for refusing mandatory military service.  His brother, Inocente, (who would write about the experience in Garcia Hechos and Other Garcia Papers) helped his brother escape and the family never saw him again.

I’m hooked. And I want to know more.

In July, I ask my husband if he’d like to take a road trip up to Monterey to follow in some of the footsteps of Felipe and Petra.  Maybe see a mission or two where he was stationed, and some of those nineteen children were born.

“I’d like to visit their graves,” I tell him, knowing that both Felipe and Petra had died in Monterey.

“Let’s go!” he tells me, sensing an adventure and a much-needed summer vacation.

And so, we headed up north to San Luis Obispo, picking up our friend Marie who took us to our first stop,  Mission San Luis Obispo, the place were Felipe’s first son was baptized.

SLOMIssion

(There was a wedding going on and the Mariachi’s  helped to set the mood.)

Next, we travelled by car to another mission where Felipe was once stationed, driving across land that would have taken him a day’s ride to reach the mission.  We arrive there in less than an hour and a half.

San Antonio Mission in the distance

Mission San Antonio de Padua is one I’ve never heard of before.  An hour outside of Paso Robles, and set away from any major cities, it’s in a rural setting much like Felipe and Petra would have travelled through to get there.  It’s easy to imagine a column of women, soldiers, friars, and a few small children, all on the back of horses or mules, traveling in the San Antonio valley’s oppressive heat.  When we were at the mission, the temperature reading in our car at one time read 118 degrees.

Mission San Antonio

We’re expecting to see no one at the mission – it’s hidden away under the careful watch of the Santa Lucia mountains, surrounded by thousands of oak trees, and in the middle of military land – Fort Hunter Liggett.  But when our car pulls up we see hundreds of other cars parked around the mission, and it turns out we have arrived on Founder’s Day. It’s July 14th, exactly 242 years after Father Serra erected a cross and named the mission, San Antonio de Padua.

San Antonio Chapel

If ever I felt like Felipe was walking at my side, it was on that day as I moved across the mission grounds, poking my head into every nook and cranny I could find.  There was the church where Petra and Felipe had gone to Mass, the barracks where the soldiers were housed, and even the baptismal font where three of Petra and Felipe’s children had been baptized.

Baptismal Font

I could feel the Garcia family surrounding me.

And I wondered what would happen when I finally got to Monterey?

(NEXT WEEK:  The final post in the CALIFORNIO series: Lost & Found in Monterey)

ROSALOGO

Searching for the Garcias

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(This is the 3rd post of the CALIFORNIO series. You can read the 1st post HERE, and the 2nd post HERE.)

“We come from the dirt, we go back to the dirt.”

That was the phrase my father was fond of saying.  He used it often, and he did it to remind us of who we were, and what our family was all about.  No pretensions.  No highfaluting ways.  We were humble, hard-working people with common wants and needs, and no lofty sense of importance.  We were the peasants working the land.  As a matter of fact, this was my father’s favorite family photo and one that was the basis of his dust-to-dust philosophy:

DusttoDustOrig

The man behind the team of horses was my father’s grandfather, the son of an Italian immigrant, and a man who worked the land to feed his family.  My father always liked to point out that the land being toiled wasn’t ours; it was leased.  He also liked to point out how skinny the dog was, and that it was a sign of how poor we were.

What my dad forgot to mention was the grocery and grain store his grandfather co-owned with his cousin (supplied by those crops on that leased land) or the property his great-grandmother owned, acres of land high above Santa Barbara, on the Mesa.  These facts were missing from his dust-to-dust scenario. I learned the truth, however, in the yellowed papers of our family’s history that my uncle had handed off to me.

As I read those papers, I learned more about my father’s great-grandmother Rosa Garcia.

“When Rosa got married she had all this land,” that distant cousin had reminisced many years ago, and I was now finally reading about it.  “Every time they could get a dollar and a quarter together they would buy another acre. They had these cows and chickens and they used to plant their own vegetables, and Rosa used to go to town; she’d make cheese and butter, and bring eggs to trade for coffee, sugar, and flour. They raised their own pigs for lard and they raised their own beef.  And when they could spare a little, in between they would buy another acre.”

Rosa Garcia had owned land.

But she was a Garcia, and my dad had never mentioned the Garcias at all, or talked about the land his great-grandmother had worked so hard to own.  That family name always was missing in our conversation until Pam, the cousin-I-didn’t-even-know-I-had, friended me on Facebook.  Now, I was faced with an entire list of Garcia names that Pam had sent me, and here was this new-found cousin telling me I was related to all of them.

And what did I do with that list of Garcia names Pam sent me?

I ignored it. Forgot about it.  Put it out of my  mind completely.

Voices From The Past

Why do you want to go digging in the past? I could hear my father’s voice ringing out loudly inside my head.  These were people I never knew, names I’d never even heard of before.  Besides, I didn’t need to be reminded that we “came from the dirt, we go back to the dirt.”  I didn’t want to face more people behind ploughs with starving dogs, working dawn to dust.  Even Rosa had to scrimp and save, raising and growing their own food, to buy another acre for her family.  She had buried two husbands, but the one remaining constant in her life was the land she had worked so hard to own.  We were farmers, carpenters, and iron workers; okay, I got it.  Just plain working folks. The history books are never filled with our kind of people.  Those Garcia names would only mean something to the people who inhabited their world, their time, and that time was over.  The most I could hope for would be names on a headstone; there wouldn’t even be any photos of these people, or any real record of who they were, or how they had lived.  They were simply anonymous names who lived anonymous lives.

But I was wrong.

It took me almost a year before I went back to my private messages on Facebook and took a closer look at those Garcia names that came before Rosa.  And when I did what I learned surprised me and made me want to learn even more.

There were six names on the Garcia list that Pam had sent me.  The last name was Rosa’s and since I was 100% sure we were “parientes” (kin), I looked at the other five names on the list.  The first two had lived in Spain – in Alpera, Albacete, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain. Quite a mouthful. Google was kind enough to show me where in Spain that mouthful is located (150 km. from Valencia and the coast overlooking the Mediterranean).  But the other names – Hilarion, Carlos Maria, and Felipe Santiago – only connected us to a generation, and not to where they lived.  I wrote Pam and asked her, and she wrote back immediately.

California, she told me.

Names On A LIst

I didn’t have all of their birth dates, or the dates they died; I didn’t know who they married, or how many children they had, but each one of the three men had lived here in California. Hilarion, who was Rosa’s father, was baptized in Santa Barbara; Carlos Maria, Rosa’s grandfather, was baptized at the Mission in Carmel and died at the Mission San Gabirel, and Felipe Santiago Garcia, Rosa’s great-grandfather, was buried at San Carlos Mission in Monterey.  They were three men with roots here in California.  But who were they, and how would I ever learn anything about them?

When in doubt, turn to Google.

I wasn’t expecting to find any of their names listed there on the Internet, but I started with the first name, Felipe Santiago Garcia, since he seemed to be the first of the Garcias to be connected to California.  I typed out his name and a rush of data suddenly appeared, 3 million and 30 results, to be precise.

I didn’t know where to start.

I clicked from one site to the next, skipping through the entries like a kid in a candy store.  I got lost momentarily by another man named Felipe Garcia, but who turned out to be a Romero, and not my grandfather five times removed. But I corrected that misstep and found my way back to Felipe Santiago, our Felipe, as I read and re-read a night long series of websites, genealogical listings, and yes, even California history.   I compared dates and locations, and the information pointed to one name, one man called Felipe Santiago Garcia, who had a past and a history, and a rich connection to California. Felipe was a soldier – un soldado de cuera – a special soldier of Spain that was sent from Nueva España (Mexico) to Alta California in 1774.

The Garcias were the first Europeans to settle in California – the first of the California Spanish.

(NEXT WEEK: Following Felipe – the beginnings of an untold story.)

ROSALOGO

Facebook Friends & Cousins

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(This is the 2nd post of the CALIFORNIO series. You can read the 1st post HERE.)

“Tell me again: How are we related?”

The wonderful (and frightening) part about the Internet is that strangers often meet with the click of a cursor. The stranger I had recently started exchanging emails with had found me through Facebook (of course). Her name wasn’t familiar, nor was the face on her profile.  But it was a friendly face so I took a chance and made her my Facebook friend.

It turned out we were  cousins.

Her last name was one that I hadn’t recognized, but then she told me about her father.

“He was a Gonzales,” she emailed me.

That name I knew.

Throughout the years, my uncle had mentioned once or twice that his grandfather’s sister, Bridget, had been a very smart woman. “There was a rumor that her parents sent her to live with a wealthy doctor in Hayward, and she went to the university there,” he would tell us.  When we asked him for more information, he’d just shrug.  “She came back home to Santa Barbara, married a Gonzales, and ended up having eight kids.”

That story always intrigued me. A woman in the 1850s who attended a university near Hayward?  That had to be the University of California at Berkeley, a prestigious school, and Bridget would have attended it back in the days when not many women went to college. I was impressed.  And here was this woman named Pam who I had just friended on Facebook whose father was Bridget’s grandson.

So we started exchanging emails.

We talked a little about Bridget, and of course Pam never knew her or knew anything about the rumor of her attending Cal Berkeley.  We did figure out that we were “double cousins.” Bridget’s brother, Frederico Craviotto had married Bridget’s husband’s sister, Mary Gonzales.  So the Craviotto brother and sister had married a Gonzales sister and brother.  Our heads were spinning at how that would look on a family tree.  But clearly, we were definitely cousins.

We shared what little information we had about both sets of our great-great-grandparents.  It wasn’t much: Antonio Craviotto was an immigrant from Italy, and Jose Antonio Gonzales was an immigrant from Chile.  Both sides were made up of hard-working folks who had lived in Santa Barbara and that was all we knew about them.  I shared with Pam the one photo of Bridget that my uncle had once shown me; an old woman with white hair wearing glasses, she lived well into her 80s and looked like she came from sturdy stock. With thick legs, and strong shoulders, she looked like a woman who could give birth to eight children and still be around to talk about it.

Brigida Craviotto

More than this photo and my uncle’s intriguing story, we didn’t know anything else about  Bridget Craviotto Gonzales.

Time passed and we continued to exchange emails.  Our lives were much more interesting than the Gonzales/Craviotto bloodlines. We talked about our children, our husbands, our careers.  Pam was a university professor and I told her I was a professional screenwriter.  When my book came out she read it, and we talked about that and screenwriting. After awhile, our emails thinned out and then, one day she sent me a list of names.

“You should write about these people,” she emailed me.

It was a list of six names, all of them with the surname of “Garcia.”

I wrote her back and asked who these people were.

“Our family,” she explained.  “Great, great grandparents and beyond.”

I looked closer at the names and at the dates attached to them.  The last one dated back to 1720 and La Mancha, Spain.  But the other names before it had lived in California, most of them in Santa Barbara.  It was a list of names I had never known before.

“How did you get this list?” I wrote her back, immediately.

She told me that a friend of hers – someone who did genealogy – had offered to trace the family bloodlines.  That list of six names is what she had found.  Although there wasn’t a Gonzales listed, the Garcia side was our other side of the family.  The last name on the list was Rosa Garcia, and that name Rosa was one that sounded familiar.

It took me days to sort through my office papers: through drawers, filing cabinets,, and long-ago forgotten personal papers. But the search was successful and I found what I had been looking for – a link to Rosa.

Six months earlier, my uncle had passed away.  He had spent a lot of his later years researching our family bloodlines.  He didn’t often share what he had learned, or maybe I wasn’t around or when I was I just wasn’t listening.  But a few years earlier he had given me a handful of papers that one of our cousins had sent to him.  Yellowed copies from a typewriter, they were 35 years old, and I barely glanced at them when my uncle had first shared them with me.  I only skimmed through those old pages, enough to see that they were part of a transcription of an oral history. Someone had used a tape recorder to share memories and names of people I had never heard of before.  I had tossed the papers into a cabinet and forgot all about them until Pam’s list of Garcias found me on Facebook.

This time I looked closer.

When I did, that’s when I found Rosa.

A Woman Named Rosa

“It’s too bad you never got to meet your great-great grandmother,” began the yellowed papers my uncle had given me. “Her name was Rosa,” our cousin’s grandfather had spoken more than thirty-five years ago, and the tape had recorded it.

I quickly checked my uncle’s notes scrawled across the borders of the transcript.  There was my grandfather’s name, and the name of his parents.  And yes, there was Rosa’s name.  The words spoken were about a woman we shared in common – Rosa Garcia.

In my imagination, I tried to picture Rosa as I read the words on that yellowed paper.

“As a little boy I would interpret for her when Rosa would go into town to the bank.  She only spoke Spanish so I would speak for her in English,” he said.  “I used to take her to get her interest, for her money in the bank.  She had five accounts in five different banks because she was so afraid something would happen to her money; she didn’t trust it to be in just one.  I’d go out to her ranch in the morning and there’d she be, waiting for me.  She had a round oak kitchen table and it was full of pink beans.  She had these five bunches – one bunch of beans for each bank.  And she knew exactly how much she had in each bank account.  She got three or four percent and each bean represented that amount and each pile had exactly that amount of beans.  She stayed up all night figuring out how much money she was going to have in interest. And each pile was for one of her children.”

One of those five children was my grandfather’s mother.  Rosa Garcia and I were definitely related – My grandfather was her grandson, and I was her great-great granddaughter.

I decided to take a closer look at Pam’s list of Garcias.

(NEXT WEEK:  A list of names, forgotten on Facebook, until a Google search begins an adventure. The 3rd post in the CALIFORNIO series: Searching for the Garcias.)

ROSALOGO