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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Santa Eulalia find historically significant

Jerry Bowen


Property once sold for a $10 gold coin

In my last column I diverted a little from the story when the sink was identified as a sacrarium and helped identify the stone portion of the “Canevascini Winery” as possibly the original Santa Eulalia Chapel building and its significance as a historical site.

Giovanni Canevascini’s brother, Peter Canevacini, sold the Canevascini property to Antonio Pienovi for a ten-dollar gold coin in 1904.

Some time the 1920’s Antonio Pienovi built a home on the property and it is occupied today by his grandson, Mike.

One of the stories I was told by the family is that during the days of prohibition the family had their own small private “moonshine still” that was used by family and friends for their own use and parties.

Also, at one time a renter occupied the home that Antonio built but couldn’t afford the rent for a time.  So, in compensation, he built a large fountain sometime in the 1930s that is still in use today.  It is a rather unique piece of artwork of the times built of any and everything that was available including mine drill cores, miscellaneous rock from the gold country and various other items.  It is a beautiful piece of work.

Nothing appears to have been known about the origin of a trough that was used as a watering source for horses, or the building the Pienovis used as their own “Pienovi Winery” over the ensuing years.

In 1940 a “Hendry & Bowman” report about adobes and other buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area stated,

“The Sonoma Mission report of December stated that a rancho had been established in a place called Suisun… and provisional house had been erected by the mayordomo.”  This was the Santa Eulalia sub-Mission of the Sonoma Mission.

Then Rodney Rulofson made a visit to the site in 1957 and determined the “horse trough” was actually a crude baptismal font.  The Daily Republic published an article on the find on May 5, 1957.  In it Rodney stated, “Evidence so far points to the existence of an 1800 Mission branch established by Father Jose Altimira near Rockville.  These missionary branches were called asistencia… the baptismal font seems so far to be authentic except for the cross usually seen on them.”  But Rulofson pointed out that these Indians who built them were most primitive.

In 1992, the late Vacaville Heritage Council Historian, Bert Hughes, made a visit to the site and took measurements and photos of the font.  Nothing more seems to have been done with the discovery that we could find.

So, last year, we at the Heritage Council decided it was time to see what we could find about the font after Daphne Nixon found the old stone adobe not far away from the Santa Eulalia site.

In reviewing old maps and surveys of the area, it appeared the stone adobe was very old and could possibly have been a part of the old Santa Eulalia Mission.  Alissa DeCarro sent a letter to property owners in the area asking if any of them had a large bowl shaped item on their property and got a quick response from Gordene Pienovi.

What followed was the story you have been reading about in the previous eight parts.  The Pienovis have been great to work with.  They welcomed all our interviews and visits to the property as well as allowing considerable video work by Ted Haskins and Jesse Hayden to record the site as completely as possible for future research and verification that the stone structure on the property is in fact the original Santa Eulalia Mission church.

You might say we have come full circle, but the research will continue.  If it does prove to be the original chapel, it is the only asistencia structure to remain mostly in its original condition in California.  This would make it a very significant historic site for Solano County.

In addition, while we were doing our research, we may have determined that the original location of Cordelia before it was moved to its current site might have been at the old truck stop at the intersection of Suisun Valley Road and I-80.

But ... that’s another story to be researched and told.