Sarzottis’ route to Ojai passed through Ellis Island

This article first appeared in the October 7, 2005 edition of the Ojai Valley News under the author’s “SOCIAL CLIMATE” column. The article is reprinted here with the permission of the Ojai Valley News.  Photos were added by the Ojai Valley Museum.

Sarzottis’ route to Ojai passed through Ellis Island
David Mason

The German steamship Patricia was built in 1899 at Stettin, Germany, for commercial employment under the German flag. Her maiden voyage was from Hamburg, Germany to New York in 1900, and carried a total of 2,489 passengers. The next transatlantic trip sailed from Boulogne, France to New York and arrived at Ellis Island on Oct. 3, 1901.

Ellis Island was often referred to as the “front door to freedom” in the early years of the 20th century. Hundreds of thousands of new arrivals made their way up the steep stairs to the large, echoing Registry Room.  As each man, woman and child’s name passed from a steamship manifest sheet to the inspector’s record book, the excitement, courage and the thoughts of the American dream were with each of the passengers.

One young family that arrived on that autumn day back in 1901 was Domenico, Domenica and young Catherina Sarzotti. The family had traveled from their home in Italy to start a new life in America. Domenico was 25, Domenica was 23 and young Catherina, called “Rina” by her father, was a mere 2 years old.

The Sarzotti family traveled to California and settled in the seaside town of San Buena Ventura, where the father’s sister was residing.

Catherina would eventually be called Kathryn and would marry a man by the name of Michael Erburu. The young couple with three small children, Lawrence, Robert and Barbara, moved to the Ojai Valley in 1930. Their first house was a modest Spanish bungalow on the triangle that is today Cluff Vista Park. It wasn’t long before they were able to secure a larger Spanish-style home in the Arbolada on El Paseo Road across from the Ojai Valley School. The family stayed involved in many school and community activities while being big fans of the USC Trojans.

In the 1940’s, son Lawrence joined the U.S. Marines. He would become a war causality. He was killed in the Invasion of Saipan on July 4, 1944, along with 3,100 other American soldiers. Their only daughter, Barbara, would pass away some years later.

Lawrence Erburu in military uniform. Photo from
Lawrence Erburu in military uniform. Photo from

In 1970 the family built a new home in the Ojai Valley Country Club Estates, and have remained there for 35 years.

This week, surrounded by friends and her remaining son, Robert, and his wife, Lois, Kathryn celebrated her 106th birthday while still enjoying the Trojan football games. She is one of the most spirited and courageous women I have had the pleasure to call a dear friend for so many of the 75 years that she has lived in the Ojai Valley. I wish for her, many more years of good life and the same joy that she has brought to so many people.

As to the great ship Patricia, after the World War I Armistice, she was temporarily allocated to the United States for use in bringing service personnel home from the former European war zone. Placed in commission in March 1919 as USS Patricia, she made four voyages to the United States, carrying nearly 9,000 passengers. Decommissioned in September 1919, the ship was sent to Great Britain for service in their merchant marines.

USS Patricia at Boston, Mass. on April 28, 1919
USS Patricia at Boston, Mass. on April 28, 1919

Today’s visitors to Ellis Island, although unencumbered by bundled possessions and the harrowing memory of a transatlantic journey, retrace the steps of 12 million immigrants who approached America in the early 20th century. Ellis Island receives today’s arriving ferry passengers as it did between 1897 and 1938. In place of the business-like machinery of immigration inspection, the restored Main Hall now houses the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

The grand brick-and-limestone buildings gradually deteriorated in the fierce weather of New York Harbor. Concern about this vital part of America’s immigrant history led to the inclusion of Ellis Island as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965. Private citizens mounted a campaign to preserve the Island, and one of the most ambitious restoration projects in American history returned Ellis Island’s Main Building to its former grandeur in September of 1990.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.