Let’s Talk Clovis: The John Ghilotti Family

The Ghilotti Family, 1927. PHOTO COURTESY OF CLOVIS MUSEUM

John Ghilotti was born in the city of Grosio, Italy (northern part of Italy) on November 11, 1871. Jobs were scarce in Italy. John and his brothers traveled the world in search of new opportunities. They worked in the diamond mines in South Africa.

The Boer War erupted while he and his brothers worked in the Transvaal (South Africa Republic) area. They were captured by British troops and became prisoners of war for several months. They eventually returned to Italy. As a young man John had learned the trade of stone cutting and finishing. He took great pride in his profession.

Ghilotti sailed to South America and visited the United States several times prior to locating here. He arrived in San Francisco in 1905 and moved to Clovis just before the destructive 1906 San Francisco earth quake.

The Academy Granite Company was opened in 1903. Granite was cut into slabs of five inches or more thick and was sent to Raymond, CA to be finished. In 1914 a second quarry was opened called Doyle, Gill, Doyle and Co. Their rough stone was carried to Clovis by wagon.

Doyle & Co. operated a granite finishing business northwest on the corner of Third and Clovis Ave. near Clovis Lumber Company. The granite from Academy (still in operation) produced one of the best grades of granite in the country. The black columns and the window sills at the 1912 Clovis Museum were installed by the Doyle Co.

John worked for them as stone cutter and a tool sharpener. In 1921 the company became Doyle & Ghilotti. In the 1920’s the company was incorporated as Superior Granite Company by nine working partners with Ghilotti as secretary-manager. John retired at age 79 years in 1950.

Superior was a major employer in Clovis and reached a peak of twenty-five or more employees. The company closed in 1955 and all the machinery was moved to the Raymond Granite Company.

John’s wife Mary was born in Sondrio, Italy in 1879. She was a chef for the Counselor of Italy in Sondrio for ten years. She met John in 1910 and they corresponded by mail for five years. She married him on February 20, 1915 in the city of San Rafael, CA.

Their son Julius Caesar was born in Clovis on Dec. 7, 1915. He worked as a cabinet maker for the Hollenbach Lumber Co. in Fresno for over 25 years.

Their daughter Anne was born on Sept. 28, 1918 in Clovis. The family lived in a home on Fourth Street adjacent (directly east) of The First State Bank (now Clovis Museum). Dr. M.S. McMurtry had his office next to their home.

Anne graduated from Clovis High School in 1937. She completed an 18 month course from 4C’s Business College in Fresno. Anne worked for Fred Kurz Motors, Fresno Ford Co., Valley Ford Sales and Friendly Ford. She purchased her first car (Chevrolet) in 1946.

Anne enjoyed dancing and would go to the Fresno Rainbow Ballroom each Wednesday night. Moyers Stage (bus stop at Mission Café on Pollasky) would provide her transportation. She would return at one in the morning. She joined the Smooth Dancers in the 1950’s during the “big band era”.

She is quoted in The Clovis Independent Senior Spotlight article in 2002: “I have seen Clovis grow from a hick town to a big city. Some of the Pollasky Street stores I remember are Clovis Furniture, Valla’s Grocery, the 5 and 10, Clovis Bakery, Belle Quinn’s dress Shop, Emil’s Barber Shop, White Front Café and Travis Pendergrass’ Drug store next to the Mission Café. I can’t forget George Gage’s drug store on Clovis Avenue.”

In 1921 John built the family home at 105 Pollasky (southeast corner of First and Pollasky). The first floor of the house was made of granite and the second floor of wood. The side walks were formed by scraps of granite. Anne lived in the family home until her death in 2009.

The family is part of our rich heritage.

Peg Bos
Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.