The New World  

1.chapter : The Life of Basilio Ziller

My grandfather, Basilio Ziller, was born June 9, 1870 in San Zeno, Austria, adding one more generation to the distinguished Austrian Ziller family. His parents, Mathias Giovanni Ziller and Barbera Catarina Inama, married February 4, 1856 and had nine children. The boy’s names were Giuseppe, Luigi, Johann Mathias, Emanuelle Andrea, Domenico and Basilio. The girls were Assunta Modesta, Maria Annunciata and Concetta Chiara. Of these children, Luigi, Domenico and Maria Annunciata all died in infancy.

Basilio grew up in San Zeno but as a young man relocated to Westfalen, Germany to find work in the coalmines, it is assumed to earn money to immigrate to the United States. At the age of twenty, he traveled to Le Havre, France to begin the arduous voyage to America on board the steamship La Bourgogne, arriving in New York harbor on June 30, 1890.

In 1893, grandpa’s cousin Enrico Ziller came from Austria to eventually join Basilio in Minnesota.

According to photographs and records, grandpa traveled from New York to Michigan where he lived for a time and then moved to Virginia City, Minnesota and settled there. He revisited Austria for a short time most likely to arrange the voyage for his betrothed Maria Rose Anselmi, and then returned to the United States on board the SS Southwark, arriving at Ellis Island November 21, 1895.

Maria Rose sailed from Europe on board the La Champagne and arrived at Ellis Island August 29, 1897. The marriage of my grandparents took place in Virginia City, Minnesota on November 27, 1897. While living there, in 1899 they had their first child, Enrico who died when he was three months old.


Basil and Mary

Grandma’s sister Rosina Anselmi, came to the United States and married grandpa’s cousin, Enrico. The two couples led parallel lives always living in the same places at the same times as they raised their families.

Basilio became a citizen of the United States receiving his papers in 1900 in Minnesota. That year their first daughter, Paulina Katherine was born. The family moved to Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1901 and had another daughter, Frederica Rose. My mother, Maria Olga was born in Idaho in 1905, Lillian Adelaide was also born in Idaho in 1907 and in 1909 Rosey was born in Wyoming. Rosey died at three years of age in 1912.

Whenever possible, grandpa sent money home to Austria to help his family. During the war years, both grandparents sent Care Packages as their families were devastated by hunger and illness. Grandpa also helped his nephew Vittorio Ziller escape the ravages of the war by coming to the United States. Vittorio settled in the Pennsylvania area and remained there to raise his family.

While living in Wyoming, grandpa worked in the coalmines. With his own hands, he built a home for his family and as a professional musician, taught each of his daughters to play a musical instrument. Grandpa played the bandonian (concertina) and the family enjoyed many happy times together playing music and singing, especially the lovely Austrian music so loved by both grandparents. During the time they lived in Wyoming, Basilio’s brother, Johann came from Austria and lived with the family until his return to Austria some years later. In 1913, Johann’s son Evaristo arrived and eventually married one of Basilio and Maria’s daughter’s, Paulina.


       Grandpa Basil and his bandoneon               

By 1920, the families of both Basilio and Enrico relocated to California where Basilio became a carpenter. He continued in the carpentry trade until he retired. Grandpa and grandma lived out the rest of their lives in California. Their daughters married and had families of their own, always living near their parents. The daughters formed a musical group called "The Ziller Sisters" and much to the delight of their parents, played professionally for many years.

In 1947, a wonderful party, hosted by the Ziller daughters was held in celebration of grandpa and grandma’s 50th wedding anniversary. Their many family members and friends were entertained by the "Ziller Sisters" playing favorite music, especially the lovely Viennese waltzes.

                                               Family Ziller on the 50th wedding anniversary of Basil and Mary

Grandpa and grandma lived in Los Angeles, California until 1948 when they moved to Downey, California. For the first nineteen years of my life, I was blessed to live next door to my grandparents. I learned countless life lessons from them. As an adult, I recognize my grandfather as a man of conviction with great inner strength. He loved his music and grew beautiful roses as a hobby. At Christmas time, he would always roast chestnuts as a special treat for our family and at Easter he loved to "match" eggs with his grandchildren. Grandma’s family was everything to her. She was always available to care for her grandchildren when we were little and how we loved her long hair and the stories she would tell us that she remembered from her childhood. She was a wonderful Tyrolean cook and would treat us often with delicious food, sharing her recipes with her daughters.

Death came to grandpa in January of 1956 and grandma’s death followed ten years later in 1966. They left behind a large and loving family.

Basilio and Maria Rose Ziller’s names can be found etched on "The American Immigrant Wall of Honor" at Ellis Island, placed there in honor of their memory and as a testament to their courageous and successful immigration to the United States.

Written lovingly by their granddaughter, Deanna Davidson Stelzer.

Will be continued!

copyright Dr.Ferdinand Ziller