Prepared by Frank J. Francone, FJFrancone@msn.com,
Feliciano was married to Giovanna Micona in San Benigno. Giovanna came from the commune of Boscanero Canavese - about 10 miles from San Benigno Canavese. Their three youngest children were Martha, Margherita and Andelina. They started their family before Feliciano immigrated to America. Apparently his wife did come to the US for a while; Andelina was born in the US. Margharita, who later became a nun apparently came to the US with her aunt Caterina. This was a common practice among many immigrants. They went to America because of the poor conditions in their own country and the prospect of returning home wealthy, or as many did, stay in America and send for their families. Feliciano chose to return home.
Feliciano removed to Silver Plume and the city directory of Silver Plume for 1892 lists him as operating a saloon on Main street between Silver and Dailey streets.
Apparently he did not own the saloon (maybe rented the space). He did own some lots one block from the saloon. Della (his niece) claims that he operated a house of prostitution. The building where this saloon was is still standing (1997), and I believe the house he owned on lot 5 of block 6 is still standing.
Feliciano's bar was on Main Street between Silver St. and Dailey St. He also owned lots 4, 5, and 6 on the corner of Madison Ave. and Dailey Street. Carlo later lived on Mountain Street.
Later findings indicate that Feliciano purchased the fixtures for the bar on May 25, 1891 for $1000. This included the bar, the bar side; the board with mirror; two pool tables; one clock; one horse; one saddle; one single harness; one wagon; two round tables; one faro table; layout chucks and chuck rack; about 25 chairs; two square tables; also all china, glass, tin and silver ware; lifting machine; lamps; stove and fixtures; one show case; also the stock of wines liquors and cigars now contained in the saloon. On July 9, 1892, he bought for $150 from National Cash Register a number 9 cash register, serial number 43981 equipped with all the latest improvements: denomina (?) of keys, and regular cabinets of metal. The register was to be set on the back counter at "my place of business, city of Silver Plume, Colorado."
Feliciano also owned a saloon in Idaho Springs, the "Freighter's Friend". This saloon was located in Gilson Gulch and was co-owned because on October 10, 1893, he, Frank Zanolio, and Charles Zanolio sold this bar for $1500. Feliciano apparently had not paid all of his bills from operating one or both of these saloons, because after selling the saloon, by order of the court, liens were placed on the three lots owned by Feliciano by three companies, the Morey Mercantile Company for $148.97 (12/13/1893); the Hennington Produce Company for $92.80 (2/14/1894) and the Milwaukee Brewing Company (3/21/1894). Apparently he was able to clear up the liens because he was still payng taxes on these three lots in 1900. In 1893 this land was valued at $400 (presumably this included a house - which was still standing in 1997) the horse at $20, the wagon at $10 and the merchandise at $345. Tax rolls for 1894 through 1900 do not include the horse, wagon, or merchandise. The 1901 tax rolls list the property in the name of Gio Vanni (sp) Aliberti. I cannot place who this might be. The taxes were not paid in 1901 and the assesor sold the property to recover the taxes.
The date that Feliciano returned to Italy is not presently known but it was apparently about the same time Carlo and his family moved to Morgan County.
At this time Italy practiced an inheritance protocol, called primogeniture whereby the eldest son was the sole inheritor upon the death of the father. (As a law this had been revoked many years before but the rural communes continued to practice it.) Feliciano Francone, 16 years older than Carlo, was the senior heir and, as such, became head of the household, over siblings, nephews, etc. Carlo could expect no inheritance. This law was designed to keep from having to subdivide the small estate among all of the sons. In many cases the younger sons remained celibate in order to minimize the number of family members requiring housing. The economic situation in Italy was very bad at this time. The Ethiopian war was a great drain on the nation's resources. Jobs were scarce. Many of the city dwellers were forced to move to the rural areas such as San Benigno to work on the farms - this only increased the pressure on the locals Between 1861 and 1870, 27,000 Italians emigrated but between 1881 and 1890, 992,000 emigrated. The population of Italy had also jumped from about 11 million in 1800 to 18 million in 1860. Italy experienced a migration boom between 1871 and 1915 when over 13.5 million emigrants left the country for European and overseas destinations. Migration was the most visible manifestation of a disequilibrium caused by stagnant economy and increasing population pressure. In the north it was growing unemployment because of industrial competition from the more advanced European countries; in Liguria the shipping industry was in crisis; in central Italy the sharecropping system (mezzadria) was in collapse; in the Mezzogiorno, peasants were fleeing from hunger, malaria, rising taxes, and rising prices.
The south, which had 40 percent of Italy's population, contributed about the same amount to total emigration but accounted for 70 percent of the country's emigration to the United States.
The pressures on the Carlo Francone family to emigrate were many and great.
Carlo arrived in the United States aboard the ship, La Gascogne on March 17, 1890. The ship had departed from La Havre, France. Apparently he had taken a train from Torino, through the Mount Cenis tunnel to Paris (about 70KM) and boarded the ship in La Havre. He was 33 years old. He landed at Castle Garden in New York. (Ellis Island didn't open until December of 1900.) Carlo spoke not a word of English and was a blank slate about American ways.
Saloon keeper in Silver Plume, Colorado he decided to start a new life in America. He spent about 17 days aboard the ship bound to America. He was crammed with other laborers, peasants, blacksmiths and other families in the third-class, or steerage, section of the overflowing steamer. They slept on bunks in the lower deck close to the boiler rooms and ate out of mess kits wherever they could find a place to sit. Relegated to community bunk rooms in the bowels of the ship, steerage passengers found sanitary facilities almost nonexistent. The overpowering stench and the constant rocking of the boat made most seasick, so they crowded onto the deck until bedtime.
Carlo took the train from New York to Colorado where he met his brother-in-law, Feliciano, in Silver Plume. The 1892 Clear Creek Directory lists a Charles Franconio, miner, to be living near Charles St. north of Mountain in Silver Plume.
Caterina and the baby were berthed in the steerage area. A typical steerage compartment consisted of a compartment indistinguishable from any upper cargo hold, without portholes or any other effective ventilating mechanism, unpartitioned and six to eight feet high, crammed with two or more tiers of narrow metal bunks containing minimal mattresses. Men and women were separated, sometimes on separate decks, sometimes by nothing but a few blankets tossed over a line in the middle of a compartment. Children usually stayed with their mothers. According to the ship manifest, there was also a Margharita Aliberti who was traveling on this same ship. She was only 11 years old. Feliciano's (Caterina's brother) daughter, Margherita, was about 12 years old. She later became a nun in the Catholic church.
Toilet facilities were always inadequate; cleanup was almost nonexistent; and the combined smells from the ship's galleys and human excrement nauseating. The food was both monotonous and poorly prepared-if prepared at all-and fresh water was usually available only up on deck. The chief kind of food provided, described by many immigrants, was barrel after barrel of herring, the cheapest food available that might be relied on to keep the immigrants alive for voyages that lasted up to three or four weeks.
Under those conditions people got seasick and stayed seasick, they cried and kept on crying. Some people were even detained for suspected trachoma, when their eyes were simply red from continual crying all the way across the Atlantic.
They came through what was called Barge Office in New York (rather than Ellis Island), then rode the train to Denver, Colorado. The hardships of making this trip were great. Some of the ships carried 800-900 people. Many never arrived alive. Young women were targets of the unscrupulous. Many single women arrived safely in America but never reached their destination. It's hard to imagine Caterina arriving in New York with a baby; she was unable to communicate with anyone; she had to get from the docks to the rail station; she probably had to transfer at least three times on trains. It may be that Carlo met her in New York but family history does not support that. When she got to Silver Plume, just before Christmas, it was very cold, snow all over - she probably would have gladly gone back to San Benigno were it not for the trials of making that trip again. One of the favorite possesions which immigrants brought with them was their featherbeds. Grandmother had a featherbed in her house on 45th Ave. in Denver. I remember staying at her house in the evening and trying to climb way up there onto that feather bed. This might have been one she brought with her from Italy.
Hardships were not limited to the crossing of the ocean. Silver Plume, at an altitude of 9175 ft was far different than the Po valley of northern Italy (San Benigno is 875 feet above sea level). Caterina expressed her feelings about Silver Plume as follows: "The huge mountains in Silver Plume were very frightening - the long shadows, the cold winters crowded in on her. She missed San Benigno."
Feliciano (Philip) was the second born of Carlo and Caterina, Mary, Maggie, Frank, Della, and John were born in Silver Plume. Armond was born in Goodrich, Colorado. Feliciano was named after his paternal grandfather and Frank (Francesco) was named after his maternal grandfather. It was traditional in Italian families to name the first son after the paternal grandfather and the second son after the maternal grandfather. All of the children except Philip and Marie were born in the United States.
We have copy of the Quit-Claim deed, dated March 1897, where Carlo bought the house in Brownville for $75. I was unable to locate the specific site of their house. The quit-claim deed has a description of the property which is not traceable. Carlo continued to pay taxes on this house till 1900. In 1901 the county sold the property for taxes.
A Joe Bertorello also had a place in Brownville - opposite the Union Tunell. He also apparently stayed in Brownville for a while because he paid the taxes in 1901. This is probably the Joe Bertorello who married Rosa Aliberti Bertorello after Antonio Bertorello died.
The entrances to some of the mines were well above the residential area. They were on the side of the mountains surrounding the Silver Plume community. For example, the mine which Carlo worked in, the Dunderberg mine, was on the north side of the canyon at 9700 feet, about 500 feet above Brownville. The February 11, 1899 newspaper reported that several miners experienced frostbite Tuesday morning while going to work.
The Mendota (one of the larger mines) marks the eastern edge of the once-booming town of Brownville. From here, houses spread across and up the valley to a point well beyond Brown Gulch. Early settlers in this area came in response to the growing number of mines; however, the town did not survive the test of time. The Fox and Hounds Saloon was torn down in 1895 to make way for expansion at the Mendota; the large Odd Fellows Hall may have been moved into Silver Plume to become the Knights of Pythias building (This building is still standing -1997). By the 1890s, major landslides were an annual event. Tailings, rocks, mud, and snow slid to the valley floor, destroying property and, on occasion, causing deaths and injuries. By 1900, most families had moved or were planning to move away from Brownville.
Although Brownville was eventually abandoned it had a thriving social life back in the 1877s. The early population was mostly Cornish immigrants.
According to Della Francone (the third living daughter), the slide of February 12, 1899 almost wiped the Francones out when it cascaded down the mountain and took the kitchen "lean to" area with it. Caterina would have been 8 months pregnant (with Della) at the time of the slide. Ten Italians were killed in this slide.
The slide affected the Italian community most severely. All ten of the deaths were Italians. Reports of rescue crews searching for lost persons mentioned the Italian rescuers and how they searched tirelessly for their lost relatives and friends; how they obtained dog teams for rescue attempts; how they went to Georgetown seeking additional help; and how they continued to search through the spring months till all bodies were found. As a group they resented comments in the Denver newspapers which claimed that the Italians had sacked the dead bodies of the slide victims.
Quoting one report:
"One of the worst accidents which was not man-made was an avalanche which occurred on February 12, 1899. The avalanche struck early on Sunday morning, sweeping down the south side of Sherman Peak. In its path were some miner's cabins. The slide ended west of the school house with such force that houses on the east hill five blocks away were showered with snow. One mother was tying the bow on her small daughters bonnet preparing to attend an early church service when the avalanche hit, and their bodies were found in this posture when they were recovered.
The ten victims were all Italians. In their memory a tall granite marker was placed in Pine Slope (The Silver Plume cemetery) with this inscription:
Sacred to the memory of
THE TEN ITALIANS
Feb. 12, 1899 erected by the public.
The February 12, 1899 slide was not the only one to threaten the residents of Brownville and Silver Plume. The following abstracts of newspaper articles from the period when the Francones were living there describes some of these events. This information was supplied by Christine Bradley, the Clear Creek County Archivist.
Silver Standard June 15 1889 p3 c3Another heavy slide occurred in Brown gulch last Thursday, this time washing away a large portion of the Seven-Thirty dump and doing considerable damage to surface improvements of mining property situated below. The ore houses at R. M. Wood & Co.'s lease was totally destroyed, and the water course in the gulch was almost filled with loose rock and sediment that came from the big dump higher up the hill. The water in Clear Creek was riled for several hours from the effects of the enormous rock slide. Silver Standard June 25 1892 p3 c4 Some High WaterLast Sunday was the first really warm day experienced in this locality this spring and its effect on the bast accumulation of snow up in the gulches was noticeable by the rapid rise of water in the creek during the afternoon and in the evening it had reached the point of overflowing the banks at the blacksmith shop of Grogan Bros. Some logs had been placed across the creek and the shop partly moved onto them, but they were not above high water mark and had the effect of backing the water up and causing it to spread out on each side. The water flowed through Mrs. Ralph's yard into Bermingham's and knight's yards and thence across Woodward avenue, finding its way into the creek again on Cherokee street. Monday and Tuesday were warmer still and the flood was higher each night. Dirt had been hauled in on the Ralph lot which prevented the water from overflowing at that point, but Main street was flooded in front of Mrs. Allen's and the blacksmith shop on Tuesday evening.
Some apprehension was felt at first as there was no telling how high the water would get but although it rose some higher later in the week it was seen that there was no danger unless a dam of drift-wood should form against the logs under the shop and cause them to move, but fortunately there was little drift-wood coming down so this did not occur.
BROWN GULCHOn Wednesday morning the dump of the Seven-Thirty mine began to wash away and Brown gulch was a scene of ruin. The water in the gulch seemed to reach its highest point after midnight and when the first dump started to go the mass of rock and timbers was added to from other dumps as it went down. The ore houses and blacksmith shops of the Coin, Brown, Mammoth and Dunderberg (This is the mine where Carlo worked)were situated in the gulch, as are also the mouths of numerous tunnels going into the mines. The latter were speedily covered over and the buildings either buried where they stood or washed down the gulch. Most of the debris washed donwn on Wednesday stopped at the lower end of the gulch above the Terrible, and on Thursday morning about 3 o'clock it began to move under the influence of the volume of water then coming down. It was expected that it would go toward the Union tunnel of the Terrible but it took a course toward the Terrible mill and granite quarry, burhing the house occupied by William ayne and the office of the company. The mass of rock flowed out over the railroad track running into the quarry and filled up the wagon roads going across the bridge and by the terrible mill to a depth of many feet. One corner of the mill is mashing in, and 2 cars of rock standing on the track was buried.
One of the most unfortunate occurences was the loss of all the household goods belonging to Mr. Payne. While the situation the evening before was not considered dangerous, the family took the precaution of removing to a safe place to sleep but left everything in the house and there was no opportunity to save anything after the flood came. Had it gone in any other direction there might have been a loss of life, as people were sleeping in other houses situated along the creek at that point. It is also fortunate that the debris did not have momentum enough to carry into the creek thus temporarily backing that and then releasing a large body of water to flow down on the towns below. . . .
Another Washout in Brown GulchOwing to the increase of water caused by the melting snow the Seven-Thirty dump commenced washing down Brown gulch on Wednesday afternoon and the scene of three years ago at the mouth of the gulch was repeated. Large quantities of rock, timbers and other debris was carried down and spread over that which had come down before, only it extended farther than the previous slide, going nearly across the creek and also following down the road and demolishing Mrs. Desmoineaux house.
At the first intimation that the dump was coming down the work of moving Mrs. Desmoineaux's household goods to a place of safety was commenced and it was hardly completed when the slide was upon them and the large store room on the west side of the dwelling was demolished and completely covered up and the west end of the dwelling crushed in.
A part of the slide went towards the Terrible mill, which had such a narrow escape on the former occasion, and the northeast corner of the building was crushed in and some of the machinery damaged. Fortunately the gulch had such a cleaning out three years ago that there was not as much stuff to come down as there was at that time or it is likely that the mill would have been entirely destroyed and the slide would have extended across the creek, forming a dam that might have resulted in considerable damage. A number of people living along the south side of the creek at that point moved their household effects to a place of safety in anticipation of such an occurance, and several men were placed there to watch during the night, but there were no further slides to amount to anything.
The county road and the one leading to the Terrible are left in bad shape, and it will take considerable work to make them passable, and the chances are that the former will have to be changed at that point.
The mouths of a number of tunnels situated along the gulch were filled up, but luckily no one was caught in them.
The Brownville school was not closed in regular form this year as the rock slide that came down Brown gulch last week changed the channel of the creek so that the school house was surrounded by water, and there has been no school since it came down.
Water was flowing into Mr. Griffin's yard in the rear of the Windsor hotel Tuesday evening, as the creek was higher than it has been for several years before.
Had A Narrow EscapeOn last Sunday morning a house at Brownville in which James Warren and his mother were living was struck by a log that came down the mountain and the family had a very narrow escape from death or serious injury. The log was about 4 feet long and 2 feet in diameter and came through the air from the top of a cliff back of the house and crashed through the roof, smashing the bedstead on which a little girl, Bertha, was sleeping. Mrs. Warren was in another room getting the morning meal and James had not yet gotten up when the crash came.
Mr. Sprankle was walking up the railroad track near the house at the time and heard the noise but hardly knew what had happened until he saw the hole in the roof and dust rising from it. He went to the house expecting to find someone hurt but fortunately that was not the case. There is a comparatively flat place back from the top of the cliff but the stick had gained such an impetus that it was carried over this and had a plunge of about 200 feet onto the house. .....The Warrens have moved out of the dangerous place.
Road Blocked by a Snowslide.The gulch which comes down Republican mountain near the old toll gate above Georgetown was the scene of a snowslide Monday night about eleven o'clock. The avalanche apparently started away up towards the top of this mountain where huge piles of snow have been deposited by the wind and as the gulch is very steep and narrow towards the base of the mountain the huge mass of snow and debris which it gathered on the way swept down with great force and spread out over the flat at that point, burying the wagon road to a depth of 10 or 15 feet. . . .
Thomas May concluded that there were safer places in town that where he was living, as a slide of snow might come down upon his house at any time, and on Wednesday he moved out of the dangerous location.
SCHOOL CLOSEDOn Account of the Fear of Snowslides But Some are of the Opinion That There is No Danger. Owing to the scare on Tuesday about snowslides a large proportion of the pupils did not attend school the day following, and as many parents announced that they would not send their children to school for awhile on account of the fear that the school house was in danger of being buried by a snowslide the school directors thought that the best thing they could do under the circumstances would be to close the school for a few weeks, as there would be little use of keeping up the expense if only a few pupils were going to attend, so Thursday morning it was announced that school would be closed until the first of March.
It is unfortunate that such a step had to be taken as it will seiously interfere with the winters' schooling. Of course the lost time can be made up later on perhaps, but it will carry the term into warm weather, which is not favorable for school work.
So far as there being any danger is concerned, it seems as if the school house is in as safe a place as almost any other building in town, and that there is no occasion for people to be alarmed even if their children were at school. Many acquainted with the lay of the country above the school house seem to be of the opinion that it would be impossible for a slide to reach it even if one should get started near the top of the mountain, as there are so many flat places along the gulch down which a slide would have to come in order to reach the school house. Others think that if a large slide should get started it would come clear through.
Slides going into a gulch at right angles to it do not follow down the gulch unless the latter is very steep, but pile up across it. It is only snow that starts at the head of a gulch or some point in it that sweeps down it, so that one source of a slide which would endanger the school house is at the head of the gulch going up past the Pelican and Corry City. At the latter is quite a large flat formed by the dump. At the foot of that dump is another flat formed by the old Eagle Bird dump, and below that are the Pelican dumps and below them is a large area of ground which is comparatively level. It would have to be a monstrous slide that would fill in all those places. The gulch lying west of that is considered the principal source of danger, however, but there is a great deal of ground that a slide from that gulch would have to pass over which does not seem to be steep enough for a slide to go very far on it. . . .
AVALANCHE, Brown Gulch; 3 dead, 4 injured 6 Swedes at the 7:30, Dan Fitzpatrick further down the gulch near the Dunderberg
A slide of snow off of the rocks back of Owen William's house occured last Saturday afternoon and came unpleasantly close to the dwelling.
[body of Ben Nelson, killed in the 7:30 slide, found]
[body of Domenico Destefane--cherokee gulch slide]
The chances of finding the body of John Anderson who lost his life in the snow slide last winter, seem to be growing slim, as a large stream of water is coming down the gulch and some of the dumps have been moving which may have buried the remains deeper than ever.
Newspaper accounts of the February, 1899 slide and events preceding and following it give a feel for some of the social climate of Silver Plume and the Italians living there. For example, none of the social comments so common in newspapers of that time included any Italian names. Even birth and death announcements seemed to shun the Italians. It was typical for immigrant families to live together, providing a social structure with which they were familiar, but impeding their full integration into the American society. The Italians had their own societies and by 1899 most lived in Brownville, rather than Silver Plume.
In 1893 it had been proposed that the school districts of Brownville and Silver Plume be combined as there were 224 pupils in Silver Plume and only 36 pupils in Brownville. There were many arguments against this from Brownville residents for fear of increased taxes and it wasn't till early 1900, after the snowslide, that consolidation was approved. Phil, Mary, Maggie and Frank all attended the Silver Plume school. We have a copy of the class attendance records for these four. The schoolhouse is now used as a museum.
The Silver Plume schoolhouse was built and occupied in 1894. It was built from bricks made in Silver Plume, during a period when the outlook for economic growth was dismal. In 1896 the school was wired for electricity. Indoor plumbing was installed in about 1911. There was a drinking fountain installed at the foot of the main stairway shortly before the turn of the century. But since the hallways were never heated, the spills and overflows from the fountain froze in the winter, putting a film of ice over the floor. It was removed about 1905 and wooden buckets and tin cups were again set up in the hallway. Generally, students walked to and from school. As the ore carts and lumber sleds made their way out of town each morning some students occasionally hitched a ride to school. Some carried their ice skates and took a short cut along or across clear creek. Everyone went home for lunch except for the Brownville students, many of whom were Italian, and the school house would often carry the unmistakable odor of garlic in the afternoon. First and second graders, in the early years of the schoolhouse, wore white aprons in class while they were learning to use ink, which was used exclusively from the fourth grade on.
Frank reported an incident where he was walking home from school with his older sister, Maggie, and some older boys attacked Maggie. Frank was able to drive them off with rocks and they returned home safely.
The Georgetown loop Railroad was completed in 1884. It was the engineering marvel of it's time. When the original purpose to be the first train to reach Leadville was lost to another train service, it become a tourist attraction and support to the Silver Plume and Georgetown mines. The silver crash of 1893 eliminated this need. Tourism kept the line alive for a while but in 1939 the line to Silver Plume was abandoned and the loop itself was dismantled and sold for scrap. In June of 1984 the line was reopened.
In about 1986 Frank (91 years old) was able to ride the reopened train as a tourist with his son and two great grandaughters, Deanna and Sandra Cox.
During the summer the Francone youngsters would go to the Georgetown Loop pavilion with "specimens" (rock samples) their father and other miners would give them and they would sell them to the tourists who came to Georgetown from Denver to ride the train of the famous Georgetown Loop.
In 1894 Carlo received his certificate of naturalization. Carlo was not a miner by profession when he arrived in Silver Plume. He worked for a couple of years in the Dunderberg mine just above Brownville. He then leased some property and went out on his own. But between his inexperience, a non producing lease, and the collapse of the silver market it was a failure. The silver mines were very active in 1890, but the establishment of a gold standard in 1893 brought an end to this activity and by 1900 most of the silver mines were closed. Attempts to find other products which could keep the mines operating failed also.
According to the 1900 census, Carlo was still working and living in Brownville. Although Carlo and Catherine were both listed as being able to read, neither was listed as being able to speak English. In fact, Della reports that Phil was called on to translate for Carlo in his dealings with legal matters. Phil, Mary, Maggie and Frank were listed as going to school. Carlo was also listed as owning their home. Feliciano Aliberti was not listed in the 1900 census, so it is assued that he had returned to Italy by this time. John Francone (Carlo's brother) was listed in the 1900 census as living with Carlo and his family in Brownville. Joe, another brother, was also in Brownville. He was boarding with James Guenzi.
Feliciano Aliberti (Catherine's brother) decided to go back to Italy. Carlo was not only looking at reduced job opportunities in the mines but his brother-in-law (who probably was helping to meet the needs of the family) was going to leave. The Francones left Silver Plume in September 1901. Frank's school attendance record shows his last day at school in Silver Plume to be September 13, 1901.
In 1997, 100 years after Carlo Francone and Catherine Aliberti Francone bought their first home in Brownville, over 60 of their descendents gathered for a family reunion in Silver Plume, Colorado. Tours were made of the community - including Brownville and, of course, there was a ride on the Georgetown loop.
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