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Madras homesteader once guarded the Vatican

Antonio Batalgia in his Swiss Palatine Guard uniform circa 1880.During the homesteading era, Madras was the home of many interesting settlers, including one man who previously had been a guard at the Vatican.

The following information was provided by John and Marjorie (Bruck) Rinkes of Coos Bay. Marjorie Rinkes is the granddaughter of Jefferson County homesteaders Antonio and Christine Batalgia.

“Before coming to America, Antonio Batalgia was a member of the Swiss Palatine Guards, in charge of guarding the interior of the Vatican in Rome, Italy. His family came from Switzerland,” said John Rinkes, who emailed a photo of Batalgia in his guard’s uniform taken around 1880.

The book “Jefferson County Reminiscences” had a brief mention of the Batalgia family: “The Sam Haberstich family, 1902 pioneers from Iowa, emigrated from Switzerland. There was Antone Batalgia, also from Switzerland, as honest and sincere as the day is long, who filed a claim in March 1903. He was the director of Mountain View School for many years. His daughter Betty was a homesteader.”

Antonio and Christine Batalgia had two sons and six daughters. Their daughter Margaret Batalgia married Theodore Bruck and is the mother of Marjorie Rinkes in Coos Bay. The Rinkeses have Margaret’s diary from when she was 14.

Records at the Family Finders research library in Madras note Antonio Batalgia was the first director of the Mud Springs School in 1902, while the “Reminiscences” book says it was Mountain View School (or maybe both?).

John Rinkes said, “Antonio was a very short man. Homer Haberstich met him in person and described him as being about five feet, one inch tall. He told Homer he did not like the name Antonio, so he went by Anton and had that inscribed on his tombstone.”

He said Antonio’s family lived in Kentucky, Iowa, Agency Plains Madras, and in Corral Creek (between Wilsonville and Sherwood) while building a home in Wilsonville in 1904.

Their daughter Betty lived out her life in the family home in Wilsonville. Anton Batalgia is buried at Pleasant View Cemetery in Clackamas, with the dates 1860-1946 inscribed on his marker. His wife Christine lived from 1859-1921.



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