The Grilli Forest and Friends
Grilli History
July 21, 2024

This is the Grilli Family History by Peter Grilli, son of Victor , grandson of Cesare. This account is based upon conversations with various family members and their recollections. Hopefully this is an accurate account.

Nonno Grilli (Cesare) was born 1862 in Cacciarasca, Italy, according to Uncle Chester. Cesare Grilli had two brothers, one named Giovanni, the other went to live in France, and a sister, Guilia. All were born in the San Querico area of Northern Italy, about 110 miles southwest of Milan and about 40 miles from Parma, and 5 miles from Borgotaro (renamed Borgo Val De Taro), which is on the Taro river.

Cesare's older brother, Giovanni was married to Maria Zecca and they had five daughters, Rosina (Rosa) who married Giovanni Ferrari, my maternal Grandfather,  Guilia (Julia), Angelina (Angela), Eugenia and Maria.
According to Ellis Island Immigration Records, Cesare had previously been in the United States in 1888 when he was 26 years old and in1893 when he was 31 years old.

Cesare married Louisa Zecca, sister of Maria, in 1882 (Approx.) and had 4 children in San Quirico, Italy. Luigi(Louie), born July 5, 1884 , Giovanni(Johnny), born August 16,1886, Guiseppe(Joe), born January 08, 1889, and Cheleste(Chester) born September 23,1894.

Cesare’s wife, Louisa (nee Zecca) contracted pleurisy, a lung disorder, and died in Italy, around 1896, at the age of 38.

Cesare married his second wife, Louisa (Maestri) about 1897. Cesare was 35 and Louisa, born in 1881, was 17 at the time.

Shortly thereafter, they decided to come to the U.S. accompanied by Maria Grilli (Cesare's  40 year sister-in-law) and Guiseppe Maestri (Louisa's 29 year old brother). After a delay while their visas were approved, they  arrived in New York on April 4, 1898 aboard the ship, "La Bretagne" from Le Havre, France. They were sponsored by the Thompson Family in New York and stayed there about a year.

Peter was born in New York on November 16,1898.
After a short time, the family moved to San Francisco. According to Uncle Pete, Cesare worked driving a team of horses hauling lumber. He worked a 12 hour a day shift, from sun up to sundown earning the fat sum of $1.25. The 25 cents was to feed the horses.

Atilio was born in San Francisco, California, on May 16, 1900.
Cesare came to the Santa Clara Valley and worked together with Giovanni Perazzi (Aunt Eda, Uncle Chester's wife's father) at a vineyard in Montebello by Stevens Creek Reservoir. The vineyard was next to Picchetti's on Montebello Road. Aunt Eda's father said that Cesare was a very religious man and often preferred to retreat to his bunkhouse room, after a hard day's work, and read his bible.

Cesare lived in a house on Keyes Street, in San Jose, then built a new home at
930 South 6th Street.

Victor was born in the San Felipe Valley on September 10, 1903. That summer, apparently, the family was staying at a cabin in the San Felipe Valley, near Metcalf Road off Hwy 101, where they were picking prunes.

Luigi(Louie) came by himself to the U.S. in January of 1905, arriving in New York aboard the Steamship S.S. La Savoie, which left La Havre, France on Jan 14, 1905. He was 21 years old at the time. His uncle, Giovanni, paid his fare and the passenger record said that he planned to visit his father at 53 Market Street, San Jose.

Victor and the other family members survived the 1906 Earthquake. He recalled that his bed moved violently from one side of the bedroom to the other. At the time of the San Francisco Earthquake, Chester was in Italy being raised by his Uncle Giovanni and Aunt Maria Grilli.

Angelina(Angela)(Lena) was born on November 1, 1906 at 6th Street in San Jose.

After the 1906 Earthquake, Cesare sent for Johnny, Joe and Chester to come to California. They traveled by themselves and got as far as Paris, France, but were not allowed to emigrate, due to Uncle Johnny's club foot condition. It seemed the authorities deemed that they could not provide for their support in the States, because of Johnny's disability. So they spent a year in Paris. At that time, Johnny was 20, Joe 17, and Chester was 12 years of age. Johnny being a shoemaker made shoes, while Chester helped by delivering the shoes to their customers. Joe worked making electric globes (light bulbs) and also made agates (marbles).
It took a year before their visas were approved for passage to the U.S. They left from Le Havre, France on the ship, "La Provence" and arrived at Ellis Island, New York on Nov 2,1907.

According to Uncle Pete, on occasion, Cesare would rent a horse and surrey and drive the family up to the Montebello vineyard.

Maria (Mary) was born on January 15, 1908 in San Jose.

In 1909, Cesare went into partnership with his son, Joe and Emilio Sozzi (Aunt Teresa's first husband, who died later). They bought the ranch off Phelan Avenue, near Senter Road in San Jose. The ranch was originally 48 acres. Someone named Archer and Kelly owned the estate. The south 14 acres were sold and the 34 acres were worked for many years by Guido, until the property was sold in ?

Archer stayed at the De Anza Hotel penthouse. at According to Victor, Cesare planted the trees on Senter Road by the present Japanese Tea Gardens and San Jose Historical Museum.

Robert (Bob) was born March 15, 1909 in San Jose.

Emily (Margaret) was born in San Jose on November 20, 1912. 

Leo was born in San Jose on November 6, 1914.

Cesare had a total of 12 children: 4 children from Louisa Zecca, and 8 children from Louisa Maestri. There was 30 years difference between the oldest and the youngest child.

Cesare's heart was not in ranch life. He had an artistic penchant and was more inclined to painting. In fact, Uncle Chester said that Cesare had painted a beautiful mural of roses around the ceiling of the dining room at the 6th Street home.

About 1917, Cesare sold out his share in the ranch to Joe and Teresa and since his health was failing, decided to spend his last days in his hometown of San Quirico, Italy. It was at that time that Victor was asked, and agreed, to accompany Cesare back home. They left San Jose in March of 1917. Uncle Pete had the opportunity to go, however, he opted to stay in the States. He said that he didn't relish the thought of a polenta diet, back in San Quirico.

Victor said that his father made bread in Italy, and all he wanted to eat was coffee and doughnuts.

Also, he had a big sign in his house, which stated, "No Swearing!"

Louisa stayed at the 6th Street home after Cesare went back to Italy with Victor.
While working at the American Can Company, she cut herself on a can. The wound became infected and she died of septicemia (blood poisoning) in San Jose on June 23, 1918, at the young age of 37.

After Louisa, Cesare's second wife died, Louie(34) stayed at the home on 6th Street, and Angela(12), Mary(10), Bob(9), Emily(6) and Leo(4) were raised at various convents and homes. The 1920 San Jose Census recorded Angela(Lena), Mary and Emily residing at the O’Connor Notre Dame Institute. Mary and Bob lived with Chester and Eda for a time.

Returning on the boat from the war (World War I), all his fellow army comrades got sick, except Chester. He experienced temporary blindness from being the lookout on the ship.

Cesare died in Italy, in 1920 at the age of 58?
Louie married Palmira Borella and had two children, Dino in 1922 and Mario in 1924. Johnny, according to Aunt Eda, was quite contentious as a young man. Johnny lived with Chester and Eda for a while at their Uvas Road home. One story is that Chester and Johnny built a new chimney on the Uvas Rd. home. After they finished Chester gave instructions to John, not to wet the mortar. Apparently, Johnny, just to spite Chester, hosed down the fireplace chimney and it fell down.

Johnny was a bachelor and died in August 1973 at the age of  87.

Joe married Teresa Minoli on December 2nd, 1919. Teresa was previously married to Emilio Sozzi who had died in 1918 and they had 2 children, Eugenia, born 1910, and Rose, born August 09, 1918. Joe and Teresa produced Julia born October 21,1920 and Guido(Larry) born February 10,1923.

Cheleste (Chester), as a youth, enjoyed hunting and fishing. His first job was working for a neighbor who grew mushrooms. Next, he worked at F.G. Wool Cannery on Senter Road. Then he was employed as a mechanic by the Studebaker Automobile Co., and afterwards worked as foreman at the Nash Company, which built Nash automobiles. He spent some time in Colorado, also.
About 1918, he went to visit a friend, who was in the army, in El Paso, Texas. To get there he rode his motorcycle, and since there were no freeways in those days, he followed the railroad tracks. He got as far as Tucson, Arizona and decided to enlist in the Army, but he wasn't a citizen. He took the citizenship test, which consisted of one question, "Who is the President of the United States?". By giving the correct answer of Teddy Roosevelt, he was accepted right away. He only had a couple days to sell his motorbike, which was worth $300, but was only able to get $75 for it.

While in the army, he worked as a mechanic on airplanes. (The Army Air Corps?) He was working on a plane and got his finger caught in a motor. The doctor gave him ether and operated on his finger. He did not regain consciousness in the usual amount of time and the doctor thinking he was dead began writing up papers saying Chester was killed in action. Then someone saw some movement as Chester revived. Then the doctor tore up the "killed in action" papers.
Shortly after he got out of the army, Uncle Chester married Eda Caterina Desolina Perazzi(b. Aug 24, 1902) on October 7, 1920. Eda worked at Del Monte, Grazzo and F.W.Wool canneries. Eda's parents were Giovanni and Mary (Bethanesci)Perazzi. Uncle Chester had a flower business for 7 years, and also taught himself how to make the flower arrangements. Lillian, his daughter, also learned the trade and went to work at Navlets Flower Shop when she was 17 years old. She became a manager and worked there 21 years. She married an older man named Lincoln (Linc) White and was married 11 years, before she died of a brain tumor at the young age of 38.

Chester and Eda invested in a 400 acre ranch off Uvas Road and worked the acreage for 6 years growing grapes and prunes. They sold 100 acres to Atilio in December 1927.  During the Prohibition years, someone got a year in jail for running a still on the property. The heavy labor of pruning and maintaining the property was taking its toll on Uncle Chester's knees, hands and fingers, so they decided to sell the property. A Sicilian man was ready to buy, but apparently some litigation came up and he filed suit against Chester and the 3 real estate agents who were handing the deal. It was something to do with misrepresenting the property. The grapes were bad. One of the realtors, Charlie Pugh, was a good friend of Chester's. The case went to court, and one of the lawyers was in cahoots with one the real estate agents and the judge ruled in favor of the Sicilian causing Chester & Eda to lose the property.

Chester was devastated and depressed by the situation. According to Aunt Eda, his stomach got so knotted up that he couldn't do anything. Eda called the doctor who prescribed 3 spoons of milk of magnesia. That didn't work so he prescribed 3 spoons of Epsom salts. He finally suggested 3 spoons of table salt. That worked and loosened up his breakfast then he was physically fine.
Although Chester had minimum education, he was an avid reader. His main staple was Westerns. He enjoyed the works of Louis Lamour and Zane Gray, in particular.

Uncle Chester died on November 1, 1994 at the ripe old age of 100. At his funeral Aunt Eda commented, “Chester would have lived a lot longer if he hadn’t worked so hard”. Aunt Eda lived another 12 years, and died on January 8, 2007 at the age of 104.

Peter married Cora Wilkins and had 6 children, Roy, Lawrence, Mildred, Margaret, Caroline and Martha.
Pete held jobs as policeman, rancher and custodian in his latter years. He enjoyed playing cards. He really enjoyed people and often took trips to Concord using bus and BART public transport. While in Concord, he visited a local Deli for a sandwich and Coke.

Atilio grew up in San Francisco and started work at American Can Co. on Wed., Sept. 24, 1924. It was there his co-workers called him "Bill". He bought 100 acres of Uncle Chester & Aunt Eda's property on Uvas Road for $3000 in December 1927.

Uncle Bill's old journals kept a record of his trips to the "country property" from the City (San Francisco).

In the journals (for the Uvas property) he notes rainfall, how well the springs were doing, (water for the house was obtained from these springs), how many gophers were caught in the vineyard, what types of grapes were planted, etc.
He first started these journals in 1926 -1927, it noted his income from American Can Co. and the stock that he had bought.   In 1927 he noted his total income from American Can as $2,546.21 and that he also had stock income from Pacific Telephone, $185.00, Bancitaly Corp. $115.00 and American Can Stock $144.00 for a grand total of  $2990.2l for 1927.

From the sound of it, he did quite well for a single man of the time.  Needless to say the journals are an interesting read.  The original only spoke of the income of the above year.

It was interesting to note that he entered dividends from his stock (I think he had a total of 12 shares - he only dabbled) in 1928 and his last entry for a dividend was April 16, 1929, probably very close to the date the stock market crashed.

Atilio married Toots(Ethel Gladys Jerome) on May 30th, 1930 at Corpus Christi Church in San Francisco. Toots remembered that Peppina Bordi gave them a wonderful wedding dinner at her house, and immediately treated her like "family".

Aunt Toots worked for the Pacific Telephone Company for a period of time in the 30's.

There was even a note in the journal that his brother Bob Grilli had bought a 1934 Ford sedan on Nov. 15, 1941 and the car was running OK. They drove to the ranch on Nov. 22, 1941 (this was noted as "events" during 1941.
The other journals are his trips to the country and ran from Jan 1941 to Dec. 1948 and then again from 1949 to 1951

After they were married, Toots sister in law, died of a tumor. Her husband( Mr. Jerome?) was so distraught with his wife's death that he hanged himself.
In 1942, Atilio and Toots became legal guardians and took the care of their 2 nieces and nephew. The 3 children Gloria(5 years) , Florence(3 years) and Peter(4 months old) grew up in San Francisco. Atilio retired in 1951.
Toots was one of a family of 13 children (not all grew to adulthood).
According to Gloria's recollections, it was either a relative or a friend of the family (when she was a child) that used to tease her with the old adage:  Tootsie Wootsie Widdly Wye kissed the boys and made them cry, when the boys came out to play Tootsie Wootsie ran away.  She said he used to say it to her every time he came to the house and it just stuck with her.  

It was in 1951 that they moved from San Francisco to the Uvas property permanently. Atilio died in 1969.

 Victor, as a youngster, was struck by the butt of his brother, Chester's gun for a good reason. It appears Victor pointed a shotgun at Chester, saying that it was not loaded. Chester reminded him that unloaded guns have been known to kill people, too! Apparently, Victor did not learn his lesson well, because he lost 2 fingers off his left hand in a gun accident. He was walking along a trail holding a double-barreled shotgun across his shoulders, with his right hand on the trigger. The two fingers of his left hand were resting in the mouth of the gun barrels. He stumbled, the gun went off and the rest is history.
Victor was educated at Lowell school and the family attended St.Mary's Church in San Jose.

Rosa Grilli, Victor's cousin, married Giovanni Ferrari in Albareto, Italy and came to Denny, Stirlingshire, Scotland and set up his Fish & Chip business on Broad Street. Afterwards, he moved the business to Stirling Street in Denny. Giovanni was an avid curling enthusiast and won the "Luke Trophy" for curling in 1932. He was also an active and successful lawn bowler. He retired at the age of 51 and in his latter years enjoyed gardening. Rosa died in 1938 and Giovanni died in 1960 at age 85.

After Cesare died in Italy, Victor came to Denny, Stirlingshire, Scotland on March 27th, 1920 with a near relative named, Anna Maestri, to work in his cousin, Rosa’s husband, Giovanni Ferrari’s fish and chip shop. On January 23, 1923 Victor was issued a Certificate of Registration which tracked his travel to and from Scotland.

It was recorded that he left for Borgotaro on the 29th of May, 1923 and returned to Denny on the 26th of July, 1923. It was shared to me by cousin, Enes Ferrari, that about this time, Victor traveled with his brother in law, Jimmy Ferrari to Albareto. Upon arriving at the Railway Station, in Milan, a policeman challenged them regarding them wearing carnations in their coat lapels. Apparently, the carnations signified allegiance to the Fascist Party, which was rising to power at that time, under Mussolini. Victor and Jimmy denied any sympathy to the Fascist Movement, but refused to remove the carnations. They were promptly jailed in Milan, until Great Aunt Eugenia and other family members vouched that they were not Fascists.

Victor worked five years for his future father in law, Giovanni Ferrari. During which time, he courted Giovanni & Rosa's daughter, Lena. They were wed on September 7th, 1926.

Since Vic and Lena  were second cousins, they required a special dispensation from the Pope, in order to marry. They honeymooned by the Adriatic Sea for 3 months. Their honeymoon night, unbeknown to them, was spent in a hotel that was actually a bordello. They returned to Denny on the 3rd of December, 1926 and back to work in Giovanni's fish and chip shop. They lived at the "Vennel" #21 Broad Street, Denny.

On the 14th of December, 1926, they moved to 102 Parkfoot, Longcroft, then managed a fish & chip shop at #8 Coalgate in Alloa, from the 31st of August, 1928 until the 8th of February, 1929. At that time, he managed his father in law's shop at 102 Glasgow Road, in Longcroft, called "The Haven", until November of 1932. Victor and Lena opened their own Fish and Chip business at #2 Glasgow Road, Dennyloanhead, Stirlingshire, Scotland on the 28th of November, 1932.

From the 26th of June to the 10th of July, 1946, the family, (except “the twins” Peter and Paulina) spent a summer holiday in Ireland.

Most people in town called Victor, "Robert" or "Rab the Tally". Victor's mother in law, Rosa, for some reason could not pronounce the name Victor. Thereafter, everyone called him Robert.

Victor and Lena were blessed with nine children as follows: Victor, John born on June 19, 1927, Robert born two months prematurely on December 18,1928, John born on March 14th, 1932, Joseph born on October 15, 1933, Francis born on May 4th, 1941, Rosa born on February 18th, 1943, Peter and Paulina (Twins) born on March 8th,1945, and Andrew, Guido born on November 9th, 1950. Andrew, uniquely, is the 7th son of a 7th son. Lena had quite a busy job over the 23 years between the first and last child.

Victor spent a period of time in jail, during World War II, when he engaged in the illegal activity of selling cigarettes on the black market. Cigarettes were rationed and he had a contact from Glasgow who dropped them off the train at the Greenhill Railway station. However, the local police came to the chip shop to question Victor and asked for his whereabouts. Lena answered, “Aw, he’s away to Greenhill to get the cigarettes!” He spent some time at Barlinnie prison in Glasgow for the offense.

On the 18th of November, 1958., Victor leaves for Auburn, in the U.S.
Angela (Lena), Mary & Emily stayed with Atilio in San Francisco. She worked for Red Book Magazine . She loved cucumbers. She contracted tuberculosis from someone at work. She worked in a small office with this person, in close quarters, who was coughing all the time with no windows. When she was sick, Chester and Eda brought her fruit and vegetables.

Angela (Lena) died of Tuberculosis on January 22, 1936, at Agnews Hospital. She was 29 years, 2 months and 21 days old as noted on her burial record.

Mary, as a youngster, was quite an active child. Mary stayed with Chester and Eda 3 years, from 1920 to 1923. She married Val Mazzurca, and had one? Son, Sal. Mary died on November 11, 1982 at the age of 74.

Bob along with Leo was raised in St Francis Orphanage in Watsonville. Then the nuns came to Chester's home and left Bob on the doorstep, and left. Chester taught Bob how to plow the fields, but Bob ended up plowing up the grapevines. Also Chester raised turkeys and asked Bob to keep an eye on Chester's male turkey that cost $27. Bob apparently got impatient and tired of following the turkeys around, that he killed the tom turkey and buried it by the creek. Chester saw the wing sticking out of the dirt and Bob's goose was cooked.

Another story about Bob was that Chester & Eda left him in charge of the house for the day. When they came home, there was no fire in the fireplace and Bob was in bed. Bob said he tried to light the fire but the fumes made him sick. Chester found the real reason for his sickness, were the empty wine bottles in the basement. Bob stayed with Chester and Eda till he was 16 years old. In later life worked in the artichoke fields of Castroville. He married Mary and had two sons, Robert and Gary. He died in August of 1974 at the age of 65.

Emily grew up in various orphanages, and was raised by nuns. Her own family called her Emily, but everyone else called her Margaret. She and Angela were very close, while growing up. She married Frank Fred Cardona on July 16, 1928. Together they had 3 sons, Carl, Joseph and Henry. She died in Saratoga, on April 11, 1998, at the age of 86.

Leo spent a few years at St. Francis Orphanage in Watsonville, where he achieved near excellence in his school grades. He married Josephine Antuzzi and had 5 children. Leonard, Paulette, Angela, Gregory and David. He worked many years for PG&E, starting as a ditch digger, became a meter reader, then was promoted to the Bill Collecting Department.

Joe Antuzzi shared a story of Uncle Leo. It seems he visited a customer who was delinquent in making his payments. The customer was adamant that he had no money and no way of making payment, but Leo observed a baby grand piano and assorted expensive furniture in the man's living room. Leo offered him a payment schedule, but the man still insisted he could not pay the bill. Leo advised that his power could be shut off if he didn't. The man was convinced PG&E wouldn't do that. Uncle Leo assured him it would happen. He called the office, a PG&E truck pulled up, shortly. A lineman hiked up the power pole and cut the wires powering the man's home. Uncle Leo, though he had a compassionate heart, was not one to be intimidated.

Cousin Joe Berni shared a story of Uncles, Chester and Johnny riding their motorcycles to a potato farm where Joe was working. They showed Joe how to start and steer the motorbike, but forgot to show him how to stop it. He rode the bike, out of control, up and down over the potato furrows then ended up crashing it into the creek, with a great splash! The forks and spokes were a bit bent.
Cousin Joe Berni had a flower farm in San Bruno.

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