From the emails and voice mails:
LINK TO HOTEL’S PAST – When Coulterville’s historic Hotel Jeffery suffered major fire damage last week, my column drew an intriguing email. It came from Andrew Jeffery, likely a descendant of George Jeffery, who transformed the building from a store and Mexican fandango hall into a hotel that opened in 1851.
Andrew Jeffery is a real estate broker in the Bay Area. He read my column online and wanted to know how he could reach the current owner, Sara Zahn. I put them in touch through Mandalynn Sudberry, a close friend of Zahn’s who once managed the hotel.
Andrew Jeffery’s father traced the family history back to relatives, brothers named Dave, James and George Jeffery. The brothers migrated to the United States from Canada sometime around 1850.
“They somehow got separated from George,” Andrew said.
It wasn’t until his dad came across information that George Jeffery owned the Hotel Jeffery in Coulterville that they thought there might be a connection with the James Jeffery who had owned the Hotel Jeffery in Salinas around the same time frame.
“We’re not 100 percent sure (George) was the actual brother of Dave and James, but we suspect it probably was,” Andrew Jeffery said.
The Hotel Jeffery in Salinas no longer is in business. While Andrew Jeffery never has visited the Coulterville Hotel Jeffery, his dad did, as recently as a couple of years go.
“He gave a short talk about (the possible family connection),” he said.
The hotel is within Coulterville’s downtown business district and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that could enhance the repair and rebuilding effort. Zahn still is assessing the damage and what it will take to put the place back together again.
When Andrew Jeffery read my column online, he wanted to reach out to Zahn. “To help out however I can,” he said.
POIGNANT VISIT – Three Modesto residents will visit the Italian village of Ravarano, where their grandparents lived.
Leslie Shaw Klinger, cousin George Arata and his wife, Marla, and a cousin from Sonoma plan to venture to Italy to participate in a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the murders of their relatives – uncle Sincero Bernini and his sons Remo, Walter and Ugo – by the Nazis.
“They were murdered for being Partisans,” Klinger wrote. “The Germans broke into our great-grandparents’ home and dragged them all out into the snow. The youngest was 14. They were marched to the local woods where they were shot for being traitors.”
Their grandparents Rose Bernini Crocco and John Bernini migrated to America and settled in Stockton. After John Bernini died in an accident, Rose met and married dairyman Angelo Crocco of Modesto, where she lived in a home that still stands near Graceada Park.
CASUAL READING – In 1942, Helen Woods began reading a novel titled “The Sun is My Undoing.” She was only 18 years old at the time, and the United States still was reeling from Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the nation into the war. She lived in Lynn, Mass., and worked nine-hour shifts in a factory.
“I didn’t have much time to read,” she said. “I’d get home at 2 a.m. and read a page. The next thing I knew, I’d gotten married and left.”
She eventually moved to Modesto, where she raised her family and spent five decades working as an administrative assistant at E.&J. Gallo Winery. Woods retired at 83 in 2007.
She since has joined a book club and mentioned to friend Gloria Vincent that she would love to finish the book she started reading back in 1942. Written by Marguerite Steen and first published in 1941, the 1,176-page novel focused on the slave trade between England and Africa’s Ivory Coast.
“Gloria found it online and gave it to me in September for my 90th birthday,” Woods said. “It was musty-smelling, and she apologized for that. But I told her not to worry about it. I’ve been airing it out. (The smell) is gone.”
The book, Woods said, was worth the wait.
AUTHOR! AUTHOR! – Chuck Holland, a descendant of a pioneer family that came to Tuolumne County in 1860, is releasing his book “Sonora Yesterday and Today.” The paperback includes 87 pages with 151 photos (color and black and white). Priced at $23, it will be published by the Tuolumne County Historical Society’s publications committee and CHS Publications Committee, and can be ordered by visiting the TCHS Online Store.