Pete Piccolotti

The Piccolotti Family. Parents Pete and Rosa pose with seven of their eight children, c. 1930. Youngest child, Alice, was born in 1931. (Kelley House Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

August 23, 1889 – Pete Piccolotti was born in Crespano, Italy. He immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island, New York in 1907. Three years later, Rosa Vagliana also arrived at Ellis Island from Italy. Individually, each made their way to Fort Bragg where Pete found work at the lumber yard and Rosa had a job as a hotel chambermaid. They met in Fort Bragg and married there. According to their youngest daughter, they sought a better life for themselves and an education for their future children.

By June 1917, Pete and Rosa had 3 children, and Pete was a tie maker for the Mendocino Lumber Company. They lived in Melbourne, not far from the Company’s Lower Ranch, a cleared area in the woods that was used to grow food for the logging camps. After the death of ranch manager Harry Stuedman in 1918, Pete became ranch foreman, a position he held until the Mendocino Lumber Company closed down in 1938. He leased the ranch and continued to operate it as a private commercial enterprise until his retirement in 1954.

In 1918, Pete and his growing family moved into the ranch house, 14 miles up Big River. The ranch had no electricity, telephone, or refrigeration. Their children hiked 4 miles each day to attend the one-room schoolhouse in Melbourne or to catch the bus to Mendocino High School. Francis Jackson estimated that the children who completed 12 years of school walked over 7,000 miles.

In addition to supplying the logging camps with food and hay, the family also raised and sold vegetables, including corn, tomatoes, and potatoes. The Beacon reported whenever Pete brought a truckload of produce to town. The people in Mendocino were eager to buy fresh produce from the farm. According to the Beacon, “We don’t know what we’d do without Pete!”

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