Vintage photos relate Colfax family's history

By: Nancy Hagman, Colfax Record Correspondent
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The smell of fresh-baked bread and pastries emanated from Stagi?s Bakery for some 60 years throughout the 1900s. Colfax native Jeannette (nee Del Carlo) Johnson has fortunately gathered and kept some very helpful information and photographs about the iconic business.. In addition, Johnson?s brother Bob Del Carlo, now deceased, was an avid collector of photographs. That large assemblage ? 715 total images ? has been digitized. Included in the collection are numerous photos of Colfax taken throughout the town?s history. We know that the current building, now being renovated, is the third structure at this site on Depot Street. The first was Starr?s Exchange, Starr and Viscia were the proprietors. The building was very similar to today?s building but located slightly closer to the tracks and with an added roof over the upper deck. An old town rumor is that ?ladies of the evening? operated out of the apartments on the second story. A picture from the California State Museum, taken in 1870, distinctly shows the Exchange. In 1887, just up Depot Street from Starr?s, a fire started in the May Hotel that wiped out the entire town. This type of devastation was common in the old west and happened in Colfax on two other occasions. Giuesseppi (Joseph) Stagi immigrated to California from Italy. He met Teresa Pardini, who was living with her uncle, Louis Pardini, and his wife of New Town, Nevada County. Stagi was 25 at the time and she was 18; they married in Nevada City on April 11, 1907. After their wedding, they resided and opened the Colfax bakery on the corner of Depot and Main streets. Johnson believes this building also caught fire, but that fact is yet to be corroborated. The current structure shows up distinctly in a 1912 photo when it was not quite complete. At that time, the Stagi family was well underway; John, Anita, and Julius ?Babe? were born in 1908, 1909 and 1910, respectively. Stagi was the baker as his wife ran the bakery and grocery store. In 1914, the fourth child, Josephine, was born; she was still crawling the next year when tragedy struck. The following is the account from the Grass Valley Union of November 24, 1915. ?Giuseppi [sic] Stagi, age 33, a baker of Colfax, was killed yesterday morning when the Ford automobile, which he was driving, plunged over the grade on this side of the Bear River. Stagi, accompanied by his 6-year-old son, Johnnie, was driving to Chicago Park and the accident occurred at the first curve above the river. The little fellow, who escaped uninjured, was unable to explain just how the accident happened, but is believed that in rounding the curve the machine struck a rock and the jar caused Stagi to lose control of the wheel and the auto plunged over the edge of the road.? The article explains that a passing motorist, a G. W. Richards, transported the injured and his son to a nearby farmhouse and called for Dr. Miner out of Colfax. However, just as the doctor was arriving, Stagi succumbed to his injuries, a crushed chest and blow to the back of his head. How Teresa Stagi managed for five years with four children and without a husband and baker is a mystery. The long Colfax tradition of community support was probably a factor, and her granddaughter, Johnson, speculates that she may have leased the business during that time. At some point, she put an ad in the San Francisco newspapers soliciting for a baker. Joseph Mattio, who had survived the 1906 big quake, responded and moved to Colfax. He married Stagi in 1920 and she bore him two daughters, Teresa Mattio Ferrari and Ninfa Mattio Rule. In 1928, Angelo and Lena Fontana of Colfax took over the business until 1936. At that time the two Stagi brothers, John and Babe, re-established family ownership. This was to be short-lived as family lore says someone was dipping into the till causing friction between the siblings. This led to John?s departure to start his own bakery in San Francisco in 1939. Babe and Lillian remodeled the bakery and grocery into a soda fountain and bakery after John?s departure. It was during this time that Anita (Stagi) Del Carlo and her husband Tranqillo Del Carlo ? known to all simply as ?Del? ? lived in the apartment upstairs. Their daughter Jeannette, babysat the Stagi children when she was a young girl, and then in her teens worked the fountain as a ?soda jerk.? Her brother Bob and his wife, Dolly, later ran a second-hand store in the building during the 1970s. The facility has seen many businesses over the years and even housed the town library for a while. In recent years the building has housed various businesses and eateries, including the current Café Luna. The building was recently purchased by Dave Stoeckle, owner of Performance Marine. He is seeing to its current makeover, which is nearing completion.