By Adam S. Eterovich
I have spent many years writing to Encyclopaedias, Record Books, Source Books, Institutions and other holders of documents about Marco Polo, Pope Sixtus V, Joseph Haydn, Antonio Lucas-Lucich (the discoverer of oil in Texas), American Croatian Medal of Honor winners and Mathew Ivankovich at the discovery of gold in California. There are many other historical figures credited to Turkey, Italy, Venice, Hungary and Austria. I have advised them with documentation that they are Croatians.
Croatians say: “Why doesn’t anyone know anything about us or Croatia?” Blow your own horn. No one else will do it. No Croatian politicians in America or Croatia will do it.
There are no Croatian American institutions structured, funded or mandated to research Croatians or help Croatians with their heritage. As an example, all European nations have Genealogical Societies for family research, Croatia has none for their own people or their immigrants. Croatia will find that it is good for business and good relations to assist overseas Croatians in this manner.
Croatian Immigrant organizations in Croatia should stop the politics with their immigrants. I have personally witnessed 50 years of it here in California. Historically we are disappearing and have disappeared in America. The credit has been taken by other nations...we should take it back.
Joseph Bonjonos, or Bujenovich, an Austrian, who lived under the assumed name of Antoine Andriche, but who was better known as "Quatre Escalins" (four bits) on account of his miserly propensities acquired the property now known as the Ferdinand Barrilleaux tract of (sic) and from the succession sale of Mrs. Elizabeth Mills, widow of William Fields, which was held on January 26 and 27, 1816. He also owned most of the town lots, except the front, but would never sell a lot, keeping them, as he said, for a cattle pasture. He led a miserly life and died, leaving no heirs, January 13, 1866. His estate, inventoried at $22,157.42, was sold by the state. The Lockport Eagle Newspaper, Lockport, Louisiana Saturday, December 21, 1901.
MARKO RAGUSIN BOUGHT AN ISLAND
California Gold Rush
Marko Ragusin, the first Croatian pioneer in Sacramento, California appeared in 1849, being 21 years of age and having voted that year. He listed himself as a “Slavonian” from Louisiana. He later moved to San Jose and opened a saloon, again being one of the first Croatians in that area. He married a native Californian (Mexican) and they had their first child, Perina, in 1857. He was from Losinj.
In the last century, an opportunity came to the people of the Island of Silba to get rid of their colonial liabilities and to buy off their island. The noble Morosin family was the former owner of the island. At that time, they sold the island to Marko Ragusin, a native of Losinj and a rich emigrant who returned from America. Raguzin had no interest to keep the island for a cash annuity, so he decided to sell it. The people of Silba purchased the island for the amount of 5,025 Bavarian talirs. They collected money among them and the wealthier households gave money for the poor ones. In 1867 there were 94 households still in debt, some of them owing up to 180 forints.
OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS FROM ITALY AND AUSTRIA
Croatians participated in all Olympic Games since the start of the modern games in the 1890’s. Credit was always given those that ruled her. Milan Neralic was awarded a Bronze medal in Fencing for Austria in 1900. He was a Croatian. Croatia was a part of Austria. Petar Ivanov, Ante, Frano, Simun Katalinic, Viktor Ljubic and Bruno Soric were awarded Bronz medals in Rowing for Italy in 1924. They were from Zadar; Zadar was then part of Italy. Paolo Radmilovich from Dubrovnik was award a Gold medal in swimming for England in 1908.
Croatia and Croatians should not allow Austria and Italy to any longer take credit for something that is not theirs. These are spoils of war and national heritage theft.
VIRGINIA CITY SALOON-FIRST IN TOWN
Martin Grosetta from Dubrovnik, Dalmatia was proprietor of the Virginia Saloon in Virginia City in 1860. This was one of the first of approximately fifty business in Virginia City at the time. The Virginia Saloon was included in a prominent panorama of Virginia City. Martin had been in Mobile, Alabama in 1849 and had voted in that city prior to coming to the Pacific Coast to seek his fortune. He was one of many who had been established in the South prior to coming West.
In 1859 Martin had a coffee stand in San Francisco at the corner of Sacramento and East Streets. He was in many business ventures during his lifetime in Virginia City and San Francisco. A few of his ventures were:
1860-1865 Virginia City 19 B. St. Virginia Saloon
1868 San Francisco 535 Sacramento St. Wines-Liquors
1872 San Francisco 803 Union St. Saloon
1878 San Francisco 527 Commercial St. Oyster Saloon
1883 San Francisco 1610 Hyde St. Restaurant
1884 San Francisco 1203 Polk St. Oyster Saloon
1889 San Francisco 515 Clay St. Oyster Saloon
Martin was a citizen in 1849 at Mobile, Alabama and had voted in 1870 in San Francisco. He was Godfather to a child of Vulicevich in 1876 at St. Mary’s Church in San Francisco. He was also a member of the Slavonic Illyric Society of San Francisco.
Martin appeared on the Census in 1880 in San Francisco with a wife named Maria, also from Dalmatia. It is not known whether he had a family. Martin was typical of the hardy Dalmatian pioneers who ventured into the gold and silver mining boom towns as saloonkeepers or merchants. Martin had other brothers or relatives in San Francisco at the time because a John Grosetta with a large family in the early 1860’s and later a prominent commission merchant had a business on Kearny Street in 1858. Another A. Grosetta had a fruit store at 311 Dupont Street in San Francisco in 1859. This A. Grosetta became a very prominent citizen of Arizona.
In about1895 the brothers Nikola and Andrija Benkovich-Grosetta came to America from Babino PoIje, Island of Mljet, Croatia. On his departure to America Andrija left his wife and son in Mljet. He first lived and worked in Oakland and later moved to Monterey where he worked as a cook in a restaurant. Later he became the coowner of a restaurant in Monterey. His brother Nikola also lived in Oakland for some time and then moved to Watsonville where he was with S. Strazicich a co-owner of the hotel "Morning Star" When they sold the hotel, he moved to Monterey where he worked in a restaurant as a cook like his brother Andrija. There he married Maria who was of Portugese origin. They had no children. Grosetta is the Clan name for Benkovich.
MATO MACELA GRAVE AND TOMB
“Mato Macela Born in Vrucica Gornja March 24, 1846 in State of Dalmacia under the Australian! flag came to the State of Louisiana in 1870. This vault is for Mr. Macela and his wife. Mr. Macela is not dad yet, but when he is dad this vault is to be sealed forever. This tomb is never to be sold None except those of white blood to be buried in this tomb.” Our Lady of Good Harbor Cemetery, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.
And then there is Sheriff Bob Butorovich who closed the oldest Whore House in the great State of Montana. The now call him “Montana Bob NeDa”.
KING OF OYSTERS..THE TOCKOS
The Tockos, were willing to kill for their oysters. The French and Americans called Dalmatian Croatians “Tockos” in Louisiana. It came from “do this or that” or tako-tako.
Kings or no kings, the Tockos had converted oyster production into what is probably the most efficient of the Delta gathering enterprises. The French remained in the business, but it expanded all about them, and the expansion was Dalmatian. Between the Frenchman and the Tocko, little friction developed; the French shrugged and concentrated on their trapping and their various other callings. When a Dalmatian oyster man needed extra help, the French did not object to digging and tonging, though they complained that he was a hard driver. But occasionally a Tocko would find oysters missing from his reef and accuse certain of the earlier Deltans of stealing. The reefs until now had been more or less public property; and among some it was not regarded as a mortal sin to draw out a few shellfish. A man moved his pirogue into low water, slipped over the side, and felt for the oysters with his feet and his rump. When he dumped his catch at home, he rubbed his trouser-seat and said, "I worked for them;" and the family knew what he meant. Gradually, however, the poaching decreased.