Early Italian heritage on tap Sunday at museum

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Berle 'Rusty' Figgins portrays Francesco Leonetti in the museum's vineyard.

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At work in Fort Walla Walla Museum's garden, David Venner, left and Doug Saturno portray early Italian settlers Frank Orselli and Pasquale Saturno.

Early Italian settlers Pasquale Saturno and Frank Orselli will be portrayed by members of the Living History performance, company 2 p.m. Sunday at Fort Walla Walla Museum, 755 Myra Road.

Among the earliest Italians to settle in the valley was Frank Orselli, portrayed by musician and retired school district employee David Venneri. Orselli was born in Lucca, Italy, in 1833 and arrived in Walla Walla as an infantryman at Fort Walla Walla in 1857. After receiving his military discharge, he opted to settle here and by 1860 owned 180 acres of land north of Main Street from Second to Ninth avenues, where he planted orchards, vegetables and wine grapes. Orselli also owned a bakery and was a member of the Walla Walla Fire Department.

Pasquale Saturno, played by his great-grandson Doug Saturno, owner of The Clock Shop and Antique Company, was born on the island of Ischia near Naples in 1850.

He immigrated to the United States in 1875 and settled in Walla Walla the next year, where he is said to have become the valley's first commercial truck gardener. Saturno is also thought to have been the area's first commercial winemaker, tending his own Zinfandel vineyard behind his home and 88 acres on Larch Street, as well as bringing in two to four tons of grapes from California each year. He also owned 46 acres of land where Wildwood Park is today.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the Saturno Farmstead in the Museum's pioneer village and visit the horticultural exhibits supporting it. The Museum features its own "Black Prince," or Cinseault vineyard originally planted by Francesco Leonetti's grandson, Berle "Rusty" Figgins, and an Italian herb garden.

Popular music of the 19th century, performed by the Museum's own Oregon Trail Band, precedes the Living History performance at 1:30 p.m. The performances will be the Grand Hall should the weather be inclement.

Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, April through Oct. and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily Nov. 1 through Dec. 23. Admission is free to members and children under 6, $3 for children ages 6-12, $6 for seniors 62 and older and students, and $7 general admission. Membership, which includes free admission to more than 40 Living History performances and other benefits, begins at $27.

For more information, call Fort Walla Walla Museum, 509-525-7703; email info@fortwallawallamuseum.org; or visit fortwallawallamuseum.org .

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