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The Bertatta Ranch

The Bertatta Ranch complex -- on Coyote Creek south of Murphys -- is made up of the 15 acres encompassing the residence, barns, blacksmith shop, garage, and stone walls. The property remained in the Bertatta family from 1884 on until the last family members died in 1970. During the late 1880s, Bertatta was assessed for 15 acres with a house, barn, orchard, and fence bounded north by Matteson, south by Ansil Davis, and west by the road, with furniture, a cow, wine, and a dog, with little change through the 1890s. 

Giovanni Bertatta, however, was not a newcomer to the area. He arrived in the United States from Italy in 1860, and evidently made his way quickly to Coyote Creek. It appears likely that this was another case of serial migration, as in 1870 he was residing in a household with three other Italian gold miners somewhere on Coyote Creek near the Hitchcock place (U.S. Federal Census 1870).

In July of 1877, Giacamo Malespino (sic) and Giovanni Bertetta (sic) were granted a U.S. Patent of 40 acres in the Douglas Flat Mining District, known as the Pennsylvania and Coyote Creek Placer Mining Claim. The patent was signed by President Rutherford B. Hayes and recorded by Bertatta in 1880.

The year 1877 was an important one for Giovanni, as that was also the year that Caterina Raffetto arrived in California from Italy with her brother Louis and settled in the Douglas Flat area. The couple were married in September of the following year, and set up residence together. By 1880 the household consisted of John Bartetta (sic), 44, noted as a farmer born in Italy; Caterina, 27, keeping house; and their two-year old daughter Louisa (U.S. Federal Census 1880). Although it is not known exactly where the family was residing, it appears to have been on the Malatesta property, as his assessment for the following year noted that he had a house, barn, and fence, bounded west by Gagliardo, south by the Hitchcock Estate, and north by Matteson & Garland.

In 1884 Giovanni purchased the former Holmes/Everhart/Gagliardo property and had evidently moved there by 1887, as he was no longer assessed for the Italian Ranch after the previous year. In 1887 the 15-acre Bertatta property was assessed at a value of $200, with personal property consisting of furniture, a cow, wine, and a dog. His 1890 assessment noted a house, barn, and fence valued at $150, while in 1891 the assessment jumped to $250, suggesting that he made improvements to the property, perhaps construction of, or improvements to, the extant house, and/or some of the barns.

Besides farming, raising grapes, and making wine, Bertatta operated one of the two distilleries in Douglas Flat; the other located on the Gianelli place at the south end of town (Castro 1966). His assessment in 1896 noted furniture, a “distill outfit,” wagon, harness, horse, two cows, and poultry, as well as the Douglas Flat property and the mining ground on Coyote Creek.

In addition to the 15-acre property with a house, barn, and fence, in 1899, Bertatta was assessed for the 40-acre mining claim on Coyote Creek, with a house, as well as a water right and ditch from Coyote Creek to their land. The water right on Coyote Creek near Douglas Flat was granted in June of 1894 (Water Right Book O:226).

By 1900 the Bertatta family was complete and consisted of John, noted as a 64-year-old farmer, who owned his farm free and clear; Catherine (Caterina), aged 48, mother of 10 children, seven living; Louisa, aged 20; Janey, aged 19; Joseph, aged 16; Louis, aged 13; John, Jr., aged 10; Antone, aged 9; and Catherine, aged 5 (U.S. Federal Census 1900).

Giovanni (John) died in March of 1902 and was buried in the Murphys Catholic Cemetery. The following year the property was assessed to Mrs. Catherine Bertatta, with land valued at $150, improvements at $250, and personal property at $195. The family then began acquiring more land, evidently as they turned from farming and making wine and brandy, to a cattle operation.