Ancestor stories: Antonio Capuano (Pavarno)
By John Capp
Antonia Capuano, who is my great grandfather was born in 1818 in Avarsa, a town north east of Naples not far from Capua. In 1850 he left Italy and arrived in Victoria on a ship that his brother captained. Research by Norma Jean Capuano in her publication “Capua to Creswick” indicates Antonio jumped ship in Geelong.
According to Antonio’s memoirs as stated in the 1910 book “Early Creswick – The First Century” by John A. Graham, Antonio was attracted to Victoria by stories of vast quantities of gold. Antonio arrived at Daylesford, then known as Jim Crow, and worked as a miner. He then walked to Creswick via Spring Mount, arriving in 1850.
Antonio joined the Creswick “mob” who walked to Ballarat to join the Eureka Stockade, but on the way got caught in a severe storm. Some of the “mob” returned to Creswick, but others proceeded and were involved in the events of December 3, 1854. The Eureka Encyclopedia suggests that Antonio may have been one of those who took part in the defense of the Eureka Stockade.
Two years later. Antonio married Agnes Bell, a Scottish lass from Loch Maben, Scotland, in 1856. Together Antonio and Agnes had 4 sons and 4 daughters. Spiro James, the eldest son had 17 children. Agnes died 12 March 1877. Antonio married Emily Frances Edmonds in March 1891.
According to the history passed down through John’s family, Antonio Capuano was a member of the contingent of diggers who left Creswick to join the diggers at Ballarat shortly before hostilities.
In the Ballarat Star of 16 June 1915, there is the following article:
“Creswick: A Veritable Pioneer. About the oldest resident of Creswick has died in the person of Antonio Parvano of Luttett Street. He was one of the sturdy pioneers and had reached the very great age of 97 years. Deceased was a man of robust health and was able to get around until the final summons came. Coming from Italy in the early fifties, he immediately resided in Creswick where he made his home for the rest of his life. In his younger days he followed the occupation of a miner, working on the rushes at Breamfield and Springmount at Ryan’s Junction and at the Australasian mine. At the last-named mine he met with a terrible accident, having his arm and legs broken, which incapacitated him from work for some time.”
Capuano as a name must have been confusing, and an alternative name Pavarno was used by Creswick residents. In fact, some descendants in NZ use the name Pavarno.
Prior to World War 2, my grandfather’s family changed the surname to Capp, allegedly as Italy was aligned with Germany.
I regret that my father and his brothers did not relay any of Antonio’s history in Creswick to me. I joined Eureka’s Children (EC) in 1992 at a gathering in Ballarat, where the Governor General of the time, Bill Hayden, was the Guest speaker. Membership of EC has piqued my interest, and hence my continuing research into the life of Antonio.
EUREKA: THE CRESWICK CONNECTION
(Reproduction of S.T. Gill lithograph: Spring Hill, from road to Government Camp, Creswick Creek).
From a lithograph held by the Creswick Museum.
The plaque opposite, located at the entrance to Calambeen Park, Creswick reads as follows:
In late October 1854, the road to the Government Camp at Creswick Creek was crowded with diggers so incensed by the oppressive licence system and general injustice that they threatened to burn the Camp, and demanded the removal of all officials.
The protest was quelled, but the anger returned on 25 November when delegates from Ballarat’s vigorous Reform League rode in to seek support for their democratic protest and their condemnation of overbearing and unjust Ballarat officials.
Four days later, about 2000 men from the population of 25,000, met at Long Point to promise support. Licences were burnt, and led by a German band, a contingent of about 150 set off for Ballarat travelling via Clarke’s Flat and Black Lead, encouraging fellow miners to join them.
Legend has it that some were caught in a thunderstorm at Mopoke and returned home. Yet it is recorded that about 500 men arrived at the stockade in Ballarat on 1 December 1854.
The Creswick men joined the Ballarat men in their defensive stockade, standing up for their rights and liberties. The Stockaders were no match for the government forces, who stormed the stockade and even massacred bystanders early on the morning of 3 December.