We Could Use More Mothers Like Grandmother Belluzzi

HISTORY

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Mrs. Bartolomeo Belluzzi was a pioneer mother, born Dec. 24, 1854 in the Altar Valley of Sonora, Mexico, south of Sasabe, Ariz. She blessed the Rim country with five daughters and two sons, all but one of whom married into other pioneer families.

Her maiden name was Mercedes Mungarro, and she met a prospector from Arizona Territory named Frank Clymer. At the age of 17, she married him, and they lived near his mines around present day Ajo. At one time he was the stationmaster of a stage stop near Gila Bend along the old Butterfield Trail. The young bride bravely endured the rigors of Arizona's southern desert, but after a couple of years her husband's prospecting took him north to the Pinal Mountains.

July 17, 1876, Clymer suddenly died and the childless widow moved to Globe where she could secure employment. Mercedes had just turned 21 the previous Christmas Eve.

She worked in a boarding house where one of the boarders was an Italian immigrant named Bartolomeo Belluzzi, nicknamed John by his Anglo friends. Although he was working at the Old Dominion Mine, he had claimed squatter's rights on 160 acres along the upper waters of the East Verde River. He could only afford to live there when enough money had been saved. Mercedes was beautiful, with a genetic mixture of Indian (probably Yaqui) and Basque. John was strongly attracted to her and they were married June 5, 1879. Mercedes was 26 and John was 31. The following May, Angela was born.

In 1882, the Old Dominion mine closed, and the family went to Tucson where John worked for a stage-coach company. (The Butterfield Stage had gone out of business long before, but other local stage lines were operating.) Their second daughter, Rose, was born in Tucson and the family returned to the ranch. However, in 1885, John developed a throat illness derived from his work in the mines, and since there was no Rim country doctor, the family went to the hospital at Winslow.

During that time, this pioneer mother maintained her family, living out of a wagon and selling tortillas and tacos to railroad passengers and workers. While there Mercedes gave birth to their son Bert.

After John was released from the hospital he worked for the railroad until they had enough cash to return to their beloved farm. To supplement the family income, John returned to Globe for work. There in October of 1887, Josephine was born, known as Jo.

In 1889, Allen was born, and by 1890, the family was all together on the homestead where two more girls were born, Sue and Marie in 1890 and 1895.

In 1896, John was naturalized as a citizen of the United States, and in February of 1909 the patent for the family homestead was completed.

Their Rim Trail Ranch became a place of happy reunions over the decades to come. During her time working in the boarding house, Mercedes had saved apple seeds from the pies she made, and with John she planted those seeds up and down the river. Some of those trees continue to bear for the fortunate people who built on the Belluzzi ranch after it was subdivided in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Belluzzi bloodline spread throughout the Rim country in the years that followed.

Angela married Richard Taylor, Rose married Henry Hardt, Bert married Charlotte Hardt, Jo married Vern Gillette, Allen married Ruby Beck (from a Texas-bred family), Sue married Lewis Bowman and Marie married Walter Lazear.

Angela's daughter, Margaret Murphy, loved to tell about the joy-filled Christmases they all celebrated at the ranch.

Ida Bell "Sis" Martin, daughter of Henry "Papa" Haught, told how often they would enjoy the Belluzzi's hospitality. When she was "of dancing age," she and the other girls would bring their good clothes to the ranch, change for the dance at Rim Rock school, and then stay the night at the Rim Trail ranch.

Mercedes' grandson Frank Gillette told of the time that she took a painful thorn out of the eye of Fred Haught. He had been advised that she knew Indian remedies, and he went to her with his extremely painful, blinding wound. She took three swallows of milk, cradled Haught's head in her lap, spoke soothingly to him, and then in a flash ran her tongue over his eyeball, taking the thorn into her own flesh.

Mercedes Belluzzi was indeed a pioneer mother whose spunk and devotion brought many blessings to the Rim country.

In a tribute to his grandmother, Frank Gillette wrote, "Mercedes was the family's guiding light. The children were strongly disciplined and constantly reminded of the values of cleanliness, of truthfulness, and of the existence of God. As a result of this stringent training, the children all developed into adults with a strong sense of character. Integrity was more important than tangible things."

As Mother's Day comes around again, let us hope for more like Mercedes Mungarro Belluzzi.

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