Saturday, April 4, 2015

How does Spadoni’s Market of Eureka fit into the Spadoni family tree?

I have long known about Spadoni’s Market of Eureka, California. Friends saw the store years ago and stopped to snap a photo for me. Some of my Gig Harbor cousins once stopped there and spoke with the owner, and they figured they must be related, because the market owners came from the same general area of Italy as our ancestors.

A link does exist, and I have finally discovered it. However, it is about as distant as it can get and still be within the boundaries of verifiable. The quest to determine the connection started when I was contacted by Richard Hallford in 2011. He is a friend of Leroy “Roy” Spadoni, who grew up in the San Francisco area. He wanted to give Roy a gift of knowledge about his family’s origins. At the time, I still knew little of my own family history and couldn’t offer any help to Rich. But as I continued to travel to Italy and learn how to access records here, I realized that the answer to Roy’s ancestry lay in the parish archives in Pescia, which has the baptismal, death and marriage records for many of the churches in the Valdinievole.

In 2012, I was contacted by Ray Spadoni, a first cousin to Roy, and also by Jeanette Spadoni, Ray’s sister-in-law. Using information from Rich, Ray and Jeanette, I pieced together a rudimentary family tree, but I was led astray by some information that led me to believe that Roy and Ray’s grandparents were from Massa Macinaia, which is about 15 miles west of Stignano, the town where most of the Spadoni family here originated. Last year, I realized that I didn’t have the time and patience to search every church record to find their ancestors, and so I finally paid Andrea Mandroni, a professional archivist, to do the work. It turns out that was a good move, because when he gave me the results, he said it was “quasi un miracolo” that he was able to find the records—almost a miracle.

This photo of Massa is taken from Cozzile.
It turns out that most members of the family were from Massa e Cozzile, not Massa Macinaia. Massa and Cozzile are two picturesque ancient villages in the hillsides above the Valdinievole, only about three miles north of Stignano. Because they are so close together, they have only one comune and are thus often referred to as Massa e Cozzile. Roy and Ray’s grandfather Luigi had five sons. Four were born in Massa e Cozzile, and the youngest in Colle di Buggiano, which is located between Stignano and Massa e Cozzile.

And here is Cozzile, taken from Massa.
The father of Ray and his brother James, Jeanette’s late husband, was Piacentino “Peter” Spadoni, born in 1895. Roy’s dad was Ezio Spadoni, born in 1898. Luigi and Maria Vezzani’s three other sons were Nello, 1888; Gino, 1891; and finally Giulio Giuseppe “Beppe), 1904. Gino did not marry, and I haven’t been able to determine yet if Beppe had any children. However, Nello is the founder of Spadoni’s Market, and he has many descendants still living in California.

Nello married Italia Ciabattari, also born not far from Stignano, and they moved to Eureka, along the northern California coastline, where they purchased the Last Chance Service Station in 1927. It was a convenience store and the last gas station that a driver would encounter when leaving Eureka from the north side. Their son Gino, 16 years old when the family purchased the store, replaced the Last Chance in 1956 with a new building, and he and his wife Sarah renamed it Spadoni’s Market. Gino passed away in 1977, but Sarah continued to operate the store. In 1981, Gino “GJ” Spadoni Jr. purchased it from his mother, and he operated the store in much the same way as his parents had done.

From the Humboldt County Historical Society, I obtained a copy of an article from the Eureka Reporter dated Dec. 21, 2006, which tells of GJ’s decision to close the store after 79 years of family ownership. “I am tired, and it’s time for me to catch up on some things,” he says in the article.

GJ had two sisters, Ada and Virginia, and I found an obituary for Virginia which gave the name of her children. Through that source, I also located one of her daughters, Sheryn McBride, who told me that GJ is “alive and well.”

As to how my clan of the Gig Harbor-based Spadoni family is related to Luigi Spadoni’s descendants, it is an extremely ancient tie. When Francesco Spadoni, born around 1455 in Marliana, moved to Stignano in the late 1400s, he had two children, Michele and Bartolomeo. Luigi and his five children are descendants of Michele. My line of the family comes from Bartolomeo, and thus I am probably something like a 15th cousin of the people with whom I am corresponding.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where the photo I once had of Spadoni’s Market is today. I hope that I can obtain photos from Sheryn and perhaps establish contact with JG. Even if we are the most distant of relatives, we have very much in common as descendants from the Great Italian Diaspora.

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