Dennis Cassinelli: Tragic family mystery solved
March 13, 2019
Several times in the past, I've written stories about my family when they owned a ranch across the Carson River from Dayton. My great-grandfather Pietro Cassinelli owned and operated the ranch, now known as the Ricci Ranch, from the 1880s until about 1910. These stories included family squabbles, bar fights, Pietro being shot in the back while taking water from an irrigation ditch and lawsuits among some of the family members.
I had done some research on the family and, with assistance from family members and others, was able to make a list of the family members who had lived on the ranch and the dates they were born and died. The list was fairly complete, except for one child who was listed without a birthdate or a date of death. This person, named Angelo, was listed with an unknown birthdate and a death date of "as a baby." No one in my family could tell me anything more about the boy until Phil Hanna sent me the following newspaper article from the Lyon County Times, July 2, 1904:
"Pietro Cassinelli, an Italian rancher on the Carson River across from Dayton, while running a hay mower Tuesday afternoon, fearfully mangled his little 3-year-old son. The child had wandered into the alfalfa field where the mower was in operation, and was probably asleep in the tall grass. The machine struck the little fellow before his father observed him and could not stop the team (of horses). The sickle of the machine severed one of the child's legs and nearly cut off another, besides cutting and bruising him on other parts of the body. A physician was immediately summoned and rendered the proper medical care, but it is doubtful if the child can recover."
Sadly, the little boy didn't survive the injuries from the mowing machine accident. His name was Angelo Cassinelli and he was born to Theresa and Pietro Cassinelli sometime in 1901. He was the ninth of their 12 children. I've searched the Dayton Cemetery, but since there were so many unmarked graves, I never could find Angelo's grave. It's possible the family had buried his remains at the ranch.
Angelo's older brother, Bill Cassinelli, suffered a similar tragedy several years later, when he was a soldier in the Aleutian Islands during World War II. He lost a leg when he was hit by a Japanese artillery shell and surely would've died if fellow soldiers from Nevada, Paul Laxalt and Leon Etchemendy, had not helped take him to a field hospital.
At the Dayton Museum, I donated a 1906 Dayton school photograph picturing several of the family members, including Bill, who had attended the school. I also donated an accordion my dad had played at dances held at the Odeon Hall. I had seen Pietro and Bill a few times when I was a child but I had never heard anyone in the family talk about the tragedies. It was my experience the old-timers were tight-lipped about some tragic events, and now I can understand why.
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This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All Cassinelli's books sold through this publication will be at a discount plus $3 for each shipment for postage and packaging.