Dipiazzi - Ferrari

Acknowledgement is made for the enormous research carried out by Jenny Keast for her publication "Valley of Solitude" from which information has been used in this family history.

When Giuseppe Di Piazzi married Maria Della Vedova they made their home on six acres of land high in the mountains at Baurafini, Province of Tirano. A son, Agostino, born in 1880, married another Maria Della Vedova. She was no relation to his mother, Della Vedova being a very common name in the area. Agostino traveled to Australia in 1902, leaving his wife and eleven month old son, Dominic, in Italy. He cut wood at Karrawong for six years, returned to Italy for five years, at the beginning of World War 1, and then once again set sail for Australia.

Dominic grew up on his Grandfather’s farm, attending school until 4th Standard, about twelve years of age. He worked with the cattle during the summer and often walked into Switzerland. When he was fourteen years old he worked for the Army. Although there was no fighting near his home during World War 1, he was employed digging trenches, “just in case”. After the war, when he was nineteen, he was called for military service and served for eleven months. The family received very few letters from Agostino and life was very hard for his wife. Dominic fried to trace his father and asked a neighbour, who had just returned from Australia, if he had any news of Agostino. He was told Agostino was working on a market garden at Osborne Park. The neighbour, another Di Piazzi, wrote to his brother, who was also at Osborne Park, asking him to arrange papers to allow Dominic to immigrate to Australia. In the meantime, contact was made with Agostino and he sent Dominic tickets and money for the journey. Maria did not mind Dominic leaving Italy, life was so poor there she thought he would make a better life in Australia. In 1924, Dominic was reunited with his father and together they made for Kondinin, where they cleared the land for wheat farmers.

Agostino and Dominic stayed in the wheat belt for two years before Agostino decided he preferred to cut wood and left for the wood lines. Dominic returned to Osborne Park and grew vegetables. He worked for himself for a while and then leased land with two brothers named Tonta, on an old lake site. They were able to plant only two crops a year as the ground flooded in the winter. All the work was done by hand, there was no machinery and the land was too boggy to use a horse drawn plough. The land was turned by spade and back breaking work. The produce was taken to market by cart, there were only two trucks in Osborne Park at that time but Dominic did buy one later, after the depression. The partners could hardly make enough money for blood and bone for the land but managed not to “go broke”. Many of Dominic’s friend had to return to Perth to live on the sustenance relief of one shilling and sixpence (15 cents) a day.

Most of these men lived at the Italian boarding houses, some of which were run by Cassotti, Tomae, Saligari and Molinari. Dominic had stayed with the Molinari’s on his return from the wheat belt; they were from the same area as Dominic, the Province of Tirano. The Molinari’s later built a new boarding house at Osborne Park and did well boarding soldiers during World War 11.

In 1936 Dominic leased land at Pickering Brook, in Merrivale Road, from Mr. Stevens, and bought the land in 1939. He grew cabbages for the Army during World War 11 and continued to plant fruit trees. A small shack was built, with timber from Smailes’ Mill, which later was moved nearer the road, then having a verandah added. He cleared the land by horse and tree puller. All the drains were dug by hands as were three twenty-four foot deep wells, although Dominic also used water pressure and an auger. He is able to divine for water and has placed many bores on good water supplies. A dam was dug by filling barrels with soil, dragging them up with the horse and tipping the soil out to form the wall of the dam. It was very hard work and took a long time to complete a dam.

In 1937, on the death of his Mother, Auguste, Dominic’s brother, and Madelena, his sister, came to Western Australia and lived with Dominic at Pickering Brook. Auguste eventually went to work at the Sons of Gwalia mine, contracted silicosis and died at the Villa Terenzio.

Madelena says life for women was terrible here in those days, she had no one to speak to except Mrs. Ida Urbinati. The washing was done in the creek, there were oil lamps and an old wood stove for cooking. Mac Beard came with the stores from Pickering Brook three times a week. She hardly ever went to Perth, Dominic has hardly left the property either. Their Australian neighbours were the Niven’s and a Mr. Silk. Velento Negronii lived at Carmel, he was a very old man who lived with his son. The son contracted tuberculosis and was sent to Woorooloo Hospital. However, he wished to return to Italy and was allowed to go but died a few days after his return. There were quite a few Italians burning charcoal, one of whom, Joe, was the cousin of the Vareschetti who was trapped in the flooded mine at Coolgardie.

There was no church in the area, services were sometimes conducted in a private home by a traveling Priest. When the Carilla Hall was built it served as a church until enough money was raised to build the church at Pickering Brook.

When Madalena had been at Pickering Brook for ten years she met Domenico Ferrari when he visited the property. In 1946, when she was thirty-five years old, she and Dominico were married. He had come to Australia as a young boy of about ten years of age, his parents were at Currawong where his father cut wood. They were from Tirano too, but the families did not know each other. Diminico had been cutting wood for fifteen years before finding work at the Darling Range Quarry at Gosnells, where he stayed for three years before working at Chamberlains factory at Welshpool. He tried the rural life at Osborne Park but did not like working in the swamps. He returned to the Quarry before being offered a job as foreman on Dom Marchetti’s property at Pickering Brook. When he and Madelena were married he worked on the orchard with Dominic. Dominico’s mother had died when he was very young and he had been brought up by a step-mother. When his Father was ninety-one years old he wished to return to Italy, his wife would not go with him so he left her to live at Cannington. He died at the age of ninety-three.

As well as developing the orchard, Dominic made a good “grappa”. His family had made it in Italy and sold it as contraband in Switzerland for extra money. His neighbour, Alex Niven, made beer and the two beverages were often swapped.

Dominic often rode his pony around the district to visit people. Once he became totally lost in the bush at night, he gave the pony his head and was taken safely home. One day he rode to visit the Sala Tenna family and as he approached the house he glanced at the water barrel, to his amazement he saw two little legs poking out pf the top. He threw himself off the pony and grabbed two year old Joan Sala Tenna before she disappeared altogether! Dominic had bought the pony for ten pounds ($20) from a wandering boy who was looking for work. He later sold it for six pounds ($12).

Dominic found neighbours to be reasonable during World War 11 although some were interned from the area. Dimenico was manpowered to the quarry at Gosnells.

Madelena can remember one incident that could have been very nasty but for the level headedness of Mr. Vaccaro. A dance held at the Carilla Hall was visited by a group of louts from town, who wanted to cause trouble with the Italians attending the dance. Vaccero quietly told the women and children to leave the hall and the men followed.

Dominic did not marry, he says he never found anyone good enough. He and Madelena are still happily living on the orchard with Madelena’s children, Raymond, Rose and Emily.

Family Information

Agostino Di Piazzi, born 1880, married Maria Della Vedova, born 1879.
Children; Dominic, born 1903, arrived Western Australia 1927.

Augustino (Auguste), born 1910, arrived Pickering Brook 1937.

Madelena (Lina) born 1913, arrived Pickering Brook 1937.

Madelena married Domenico Ferrari 1946.
Children; Raymond, Maria (Rose), Emilia (Emily).

Raymond married Gillian Smith.
Children Rachel, Calie, Domenica.

Every endeavour has been made to accurately record the details however if you would like to provide additional images and/or newer information we are pleased to update the details on this site. Please click here to email us at info@pickeringbrookheritagegroup.com We appreciate your involvement in recording the history of our area.

References: Article: Valley of Solitude by Jenny Keast