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Giovanni Negro

Private, Army


Documentary materials provided by

Martha Hansen, daughter of Giovanni Negro; Martha Hansen is the great aunt of St. Helena High School Students Jennifer (class of 2007), Olivia (class of 2010), and A. J. Hansen (class of 2011)

  • Born in Cunico, Italy, August 23, 1888, to farming parents
  • His mother died at his birth
  • John had nine brothers and sisters
  • Due to extreme poverty, hunger, and the difficulty of farm life, nine-year-old Giovanni ran away to France
  • In France he worked odd jobs in a hotel kitchen and learned to cook
  • To make extra money he caught rats, skinned and sold them
  • He eventually returned to Italy and served in the Italian Army
Emigration to the United States
  • He borrowed money from one of his brothers to emigrate to the United States on the Konig Albert, which departed Genoa, Italy, on September 28, 1910, and arrived at Ellis Island in New York Harbor on October 13, 1910
    • Note—By the time he departed Italy for the U. S., he was fluent in three languages—Italian, French, and English
    • Note—He had taught himself English by reading newspapers
  • He traveled by train to Oakland, California, knowing that a friend of his was already living in Livermore, California [Allec Wittschiebe, telephone conversation with Martha Hansen, 13 January 2010; Marty Hansen, untitled recollections, ts, nd]
  • When the U. S. entered WWI he and his friend joined the Army in Oakland, California; they both fought in the war in France
  • John served unofficially as an interpreter for fellow soldiers and for his commander
    • Note—John's daughter Martha wrote, "He never talked much about what he saw or endured over there." [Marty Hansen, untitled recollections, ts, nd]
  • Discharged from the Army
After the War
  • Became a U. S. citizen [Alec Wittschiebe, telephone conversation with Martha Hansen, 13 January 2010]
  • Worked for Southern Pacific Railroad Company clearing poison oak in Oakland, California, for workers who were laying track
  • Married and moved from Livermore, California, to Sacramento, California, where he purchased a small ranch and raised chickens and rabbits
    • Note—He and his wife had two daughters, Mary, born in 1924, and Martha, born in 1938
    • Note—His wife died of tuberculosis nine months after the birth of his second daughter
    • Note—He remarried in 1946
  • During Prohibition he drove sugar trucks down the Sacramento River to bootleggers
  • When Prohibition ended he and a partner bought a small bar in Old Sacramento
  • At the same time he was hired by the Department of Highways, eventually being promoted to Supervisor; he retired at age 65
  • One week before his death John's doctor recommended hospitalization; he was taken to the Veterans Hospital in Benicia, California
  • John Negro died of pneumonia at age 91 in 1979