IF YOU’RE MY AGE OR OLDER, YOU KNOW THIS FAMILY

The following is from MORE OF PAUL HARVEY’S THE REST OF THE STORYby Paul Aurandt (Paul Harvey, Jr.).

The Gianinnis

Her name is Doris Gianinni.  Gianinni is her maiden name.

She is proud of her Italian ancestry, especially proud of how it relates to our American history.

Doris’s family, five generations before, had been brought to this country at the behest of Thomas Jefferson.

Their home in the Old World was a little Italian town called Lucca.  The Gianinnis were growers of fruit trees and vines, tenders of vineyards, makers of wine.

About 1773, three years before our country was a country, the Gianinni family received a communication from America from a fellow countryman who had emigrated there some years before.

His name was Philip Mazzei.  Philip had only recently befriended revolutionary statesman Thomas Jefferson.  Their common interest was horticulture.

Mazzei and Jefferson discussed the feasibility of forming an agricultural company because Jefferson was fascinated by the prospect of growing exotic trees and vines in America.  Mazzei told Jefferson that they would need Italian laborers for the projects.

That’s when the Gianinnis entered the scene.  Philip Mazzei, at Jefferson’s request, prepared to take over land adjoining Jefferson’s Virginia estate.

“Come to America,” Mazzei wrote the Gianinnis.  “Let us accept this glorious challenge.”

The Gianinnis did come to America, worked with Mazzei and Jefferson.  The project lasted about four years, through the autumn of 1778.

Although the horticultural experiment suffered and eventually failed in the Virginia climate, Thomas Jefferson–through his association with Mazzei and the Gianinnis–gained a deep affinity for all things Mediterranean.

Historians recall that Jefferson favored friendship and trade between the United States and the Mediterranean countries, that he was particularly in awe of Italian agricultural skill and artistic heritage.

Jefferson’s respect is one reason Doris Gianinni is so proud of her family.  For after the Virginia experiment failed, Doris’s ancestors stayed in Virginia.

Now Doris represents a sixth generation of Gianinnis in America.  And her son is THE REST OF THE STORY.

He became a writer; because of something he wrote, we know his mother, Doris Gianinni.

We don’t know her by that name nor did we know previously about her Italian ancestry.

For nine years, however, she had been portrayed in the setting her son remembers, in the mountains of Virginia.  Her writer son is Earl Hamner.

Earl’s mother, whose Italian forefathers worked alongside Thomas Jefferson–Doris Gianinni we know as Olivia Walton.

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