On April 22, 1916, Sarah E. Guthrie sold her house, now the home of the Cambria Historical Museum, to Eugenio Bianchini for the token amount of $10. The deal was witnessed and notarized by W. M. Lyons, father of Wilfred Lyons.
Eugenio Bianchini was born on July 20, 1861 in Gordevio, canton Ticino, in the Swiss Alps near Lake Maggiore about ten miles from the Italian border. He attended the public schools until he was fourteen years of age after which he was apprenticed to the stonecutter’s trade.
In 1878, he sailed for the United States and arrived in Cambria on February 17. He was not familiar with the English language and had very little money when he reached his destination but he found employment at once and, for the next four years, milked cows on various ranches in the area. By saving his money he was able to lease land from Ed Shaw in Green Valley in 1882. He sold out his stock in 1886 and opened a butcher shop in Cayucos where he remained for six years. His next move was to engage, for twelve months, in mining for quicksilver at The Oceanic Mine, and then he returned to the butcher business, opening a shop in Cambria and running it for a year. He then leased five hundred acres on Santa Rosa creek about eight miles from Cambria and began dairying. In 1902 he purchased a ranch and continued at dairying, with fifty cows, besides raising stock. He continued dairying until 1914 when he rented the ranch and, in 1916, he purchased the residence in Cambria.
However, when World War I broke out, the demand for mercury increased and he decided to take up mining once more. In partnership with Antone Luchessa and William Bagby, he purchased the Klau mine and he was put in charge of operating it. By 1917 the mine was producing a flask a day.
Eugenio Bianchini also bought a small home and a 100 acre ranch at the mouth of Pico Creek where his daughter, Elvira, and her husband, Rocco Rava, later lived. The Bianchini family kept the ranch, which included several acres of ocean front land, until 1949, when they sold it for $24,700 to Walter Southall’s development company. Today it is known as San Simeon Acres.
Eugenio Bianchini won recognition and distinction at barbecuing meats, and after 1902 he was in charge of the barbecues of importance in the county and was always much sought after for that purpose. Later, he initiated his son, William, into the mysteries of the art and handed the responsibilities over to him. He served as road master of district number one on Santa Rosa creek for a number of years, and for eight years was trustee of Mammoth Rock school district.
Even before prohibition began in the United States in 1920, Eugenio Bianchini became a bootlegger. Illegal whiskey was imported from Canada and landed just south of Piedras Blancas Light Station. It was then transported to the Bianchini House for storage. During the restoration of his house, four large jugs were discovered embedded in a concrete wall in the basement. The whiskey was then retailed through Doc (Billy) Randall who had a drug store on Main Street where Linn’s Restaurant is today. People would come to the drug store complaining of a bad knee, grippe or some other malady and Doc Randall would sell them some “tonic” to cure their ailment.
On September17, 1889, Eugenio Bianchini married Louisa Bezzini. She was born in Avegno, in the canton of Ticino, Switzerland. Avegno is less than two miles from Gordevio, Switzerland, where her husband was born. She came to California in 1888. They had seven children: Henry, Elvira, Palmira, WilIiam, Thelma (also known as Mary or Tillie), James (also known as Joseph), and Walter. At one time, all four boys worked at the Oceanic Mine as their father had before them. As one of the area’s largest, most successful and long-running mercury mines, it was a major employer in the area, along with construction of the Hearst estate in San Simeon.
Eugenio Bianchini suffered greatly with diabetes and was confined to a wheelchair after he had one leg amputated. Although he and Louisa lived in Cayucos at the time of their deaths, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in San Luis Obispo on December 24, 1942. Louisa died on October 15, 1940. Both Eugenio and Louisa are buried in Cayucos.
Henry Bianchini (also known as Andre) was born on June 29, 1890 and moved to San Diego County in 1910. He then married Anna G. Amador and changed his name to Henry Ben Keeney (she was known as Anna Keeney). He worked at ranching for 38 years and retired as foreman of the Rancho Peñasquitos. Henry died of lung cancer on September 8, 1971 and is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego. Anna was of Mexican descent being the daughter of Ponciano Amador and Barsabe Peña, both born in Mexico. Anna was born on March 18, 1906 and she worked at the Rancho Peñasquitos as a cook. She died on November 14, 1996 in San Diego and is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery.
Elvira Bianchini was born on November 13, 1891 and she married Rocco Rava. Elvira died on March 6, 1956 and Rocco died on July 31, 1975. Both are buried in the Santa Rosa Catholic Cemetery in Cambria.
Palmira Irene Bianchini was born on February 12, 1893. She married Robert Scott who was from Georgia and they had six children: Lillian, Rovaline, Michael, Patrick, Calvin and Robert. Palmira died of a stroke on November 14, 1949 while still living in Cambria. She is buried in Cayucos Cemetery.
William Bianchini (who was nicknamed Coyote) was born on June 6, 1894. He never married and he served in the United States Army during World War I. Although he was living in the family home in Cambria at the time, he died at the Veterans Administration hospital in Fresno on March 23, 1959 of pneumonia and lung cancer. He was buried in Liberty Cemetery in Fresno.
Thelma Lavina Bianchini, also known as Tillie or Mary, was born on December 8, 1895. She married a man named Putnam and died of a heart attack on November 23, 1984 at her home in Paso Robles. She is buried in Cayucos Cemetery.
James P. Bianchini (nicknamed Spider), also known as Joseph, was born on June 8, 1889. He worked as a rancher all of his life and sometimes was employed by the Oceanic Mercury Mine. He died of a heart attack while living at the Bianchini home on May 24, 1971. He is buried at Cayucos Cemetery.
Walter Leo Bianchini (nicknamed Weasel) was born on September 24, 1904. He worked as a general laborer, sometimes in the Oceanic Mercury Mine and he was a widower when he died at age 47. Walter died on October 13, 1951 when his throat closed due to strep throat. Doctor Gray attempted an emergency tracheotomy while Wilfred Lyons held Walter’s head but the effort was unsuccessful. He is buried in Cayucos Cemetery.