The Italian Ranch
The De Ferrari/Foppiano/Malatesta Ranch in the Douglas Flat Region
In August of 1863, Giacamo De Ferrari (spelled numerous other ways, as he could not read or write and signed his name with an X) filed a land claim to his property, noting that it was bounded south by Hitchcock’s Ranch, north by that of Moses Towle, crossing Coyote Creek westerly at the intersection of Towle and Holmes’ ranches, and thence southwesterly along the line of an old flume. The land was marked and bounded by a picket and brush fence (thus, it does not appear as if the stone fences had been constructed by that time) (Calaveras County Land Claim Book D:60). The 1861 assessments for Towle and Hitchcock noted the “Italian Ranch” positioned between the two.
By 1865 De Ferrari was assessed for 20 acres and improvements but in 1869 sold one-half of the “Italian Ranch” to Francisco Foppiano for $100 (Calaveras County Deed Book T-184). Foppiano, a native of Italy, was listed as a miner, aged 39, naturalized in Sonora in 1869, the same year that he registered to vote in Douglas Flat. Another entry noted him as “removed” (Great Register of Voters 1866-1887).
In October of 1871, Foppiano sold the ranch to Giovanni Batta Malatesta for $380 (Deed Book T184). Two years later Malatesta’s assessment noted real estate valued at $25, and improvements at $125 (undoubtedly including the residence associated with the stone cellar). In 1873-4, he was assessed for the property with a house, barn, orchard, and fence. The property was valued at $25, and improvements at $125, and the legal description noted it was bounded west by Coyote Creek, south by Hitchcock, and north by Matteson & Garland. For many years the ranch was commonly known as the “Italian Ranch,” and probably operated by a group of Italians, so it is difficult to ascertain exactly who built the residence or stone walls.
On September of 1878, Silas H. Stickles, as administrator of the Hitchcock Estate, deeded the land to Malatesta for $41.83, noting that it was “part of the Hitchcock Estate claimed by Malatesta” (Deed Book 1:608). That same month Malatesta sold the ranch to John Bertatta for $375, noting that it included 40 acres of land, a cow, horse, hog, chickens, and everything belonging to the ranch (Deed Book 1:610).
Bertatta’s 1880 assessment listed the land as valued at $400 and
a house, barn and fence at $125. In 1886 Bertatta was still
assessed for the land, valued at $300, with a house and fence
valued at $150. By 1887 the Italian Ranch was no longer assessed
to Bertatta and no other assessment was located in a scan of the
assessment rolls until 1899, when the 18.2-acre property was
assessed to T. J. Matteson, who owned the adjoining ranch to the
north, with fences the only improvements noted. The house may
have burned or simply been abandoned by Bertatta after he
purchased the 15-acre parcel to the west, thereafter the core of
the Bertatta Ranch, in 1884 (Deed Book 10:571).