MORNINGS ON MAPLE STREET VOLUME TWO

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Stories From Hope Cemetery: Carlotta Miglierini, Page One

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Carlotta Miglierini: 1879 - 1907. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

STORIES FROM HOPE CEMETERY (2010)

"And she became the sad Carlotta. Alone in the great house...walking the streets alone...her clothes becoming old and patched and dirty. The mad Carlotta...stopping people in the streets to ask: ‘Where is my child? Have you seen my child?' Poor thing. And then she died...by her own hand. -Edited from the screenplay for Vertigo

In Alfred Hitchcock's classic movie, Vertigo (1958), retired detective Scottie Ferguson (played by Jimmy Stewart) is hired by an old friend, Gavin Elster, to follow his wife, Madeleine Elster (played by Kim Novak). Madeleine has been behaving strangely, and Gavin wants to know what's wrong. At one point, Scottie observes Madeleine staring longingly at a portrait of Carlotta Valdes at an art museum.

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Carlotta Valdes

Later she visits Carlotta's tombstone. Scottie soon learns that Carlotta was mistress to a rich man by whom she had a child. When the man abandons her and takes the child, Carlotta is left to wander the streets, asking people "Where is my child?" She eventually commits suicide. When Scottie tells this to Gavin, he explains that Carlotta was Madeleine's great-grandmother, and that the child was Madeleine's grandmother. He is concerned that Carlotta's ghost is beginning to possess Madeleine.

I have been haunted by Vertigo ever since I saw it more than 50 years ago. One of my daughters had the same reaction when she saw it many years later. When my wife and I made our first visit to Hope Cemetery in Barre, Vermont recently, she spotted Carlotta Miglierini's tombstone. She cried out, "Look, it's Carlotta!" It was a chilling moment. When we got over the shock, we wondered why it looked so much different than any of the other tombstones at the cemetery, and we felt sadness at its poor condition. Right away, I wanted to know who she was, and if there was anyone alive who remembered her.

Hope Cemetery was designed by Edward P. Adams, a famous landscape architect. It was established in 1895, on 53 acres of land. By then, many skilled artisans from around the world, especially Italy, had been immigrating to Barre to become a part of the booming granite industry. Silicosis, a respiratory disease caused by granite dust, was common among the artisans and sculptors who were breathing it in every day, and that led to an abnormally high death rate among them. Understanding that their lives might be shortened by their work environment, many of the workers designed their own tombstones to showcase their skills. It is estimated that 75% of the tombstones at Hope Cemetery were designed by the occupants of the graves. Now expanded to 65 acres and more than 10,000 tombstones, the site is a popular tourist destination.

When we drove home, all I could think about was Carlotta. The next day, I logged on the Internet and started searching. At first, I found no records of her - not in the census, not in birth, marriage, death or immigration records, not even listed in the millions of family histories that amateur genealogists have posted on sites like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. But I did find a few people named Miglierini that were residents of Barre and Montpelier in the early 1900s, among them Aldo Miglierini. Very quickly, I found an interesting document posted online, titled Joint Resolution In Memory of Aldo E. Miglierini. Among other things, it said, "Whereas, Aldo E. Miglierini initially worked with his father as a tender, helping to construct the impressive brick tower that stands at the pinnacle of Hubbard Park; Whereas, decades later, in 1974, he continued his family's contribution to Vermont's premier building when he expertly reconstructed the wall behind the State House that his father originally built..."

His daughter, Joan Kirby, was mentioned. I found her and gave her a call, thinking that she might know something about Carlotta. She was excited about my inquiry. She told me that she discovered Carlotta's tombstone several years ago and wondered if she was a relative, but could not find much information. All she learned was that Carlotta married Giulio Miglierini, that her maiden name was Bellarini, and that she died of septicemia (a serious blood infection). She could not find anything more about Giulio, but she was hopeful my research might turn up something more. It did, but nothing to confirm that she is related to him.


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I tried searching a number of variations of Giulio and Miglierini on Ancestry.com, and was soon rewarded with the 1906 naturalization record for Juilio Miglierini, of 29 Maple Ave, in Barre. It said he entered the US on May 8, 1899, and that he was born in Italy on December 31, 1872. Then I found a Julian Miglierini listed as a World War I draft registrant, living in Santa Cruz, California. He had the same date of birth. His occupation was brick layer. Then I found Giulio Miglierini, a cement contractor, in the 1920 census, still living in Santa Cruz.

He was living with wife Mary (later confirmed as Maria), and 15-year-old daughter Louise, born in Vermont. Wow, I thought, that means Louise was born before Carlotta died in 1907, so she must have been her daughter. She would be about 105 now, but I had visions of identifying her children, if she had any, and tracking them down. I imagined the prospect of talking to Carlotta's grandchildren, and being able to send them my photo of the tombstone. Would they even know about her? It didn't take long.

 

 

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Dates of advertisement and article unknown. Provided by family.

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Continue with Carlotta's story

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