Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Antonio Gotto: A Centenary Tribute

One hundred years ago today my great-great grandfather Antonio Gotto passed away, at age 103. Aside from a few additional family anecdotes that have been handed down, his obituary provides virtually all of the knowledge that my family has retained about our fascinating ancestor and his apparently colorful life and experiences. (Due to his extreme old age, his death was a matter of significant local interest, and his obituary, given below, appeared on the front page of the evening paper.)

The Nashville Banner, Wednesday Evening, March 13, 1912

Antonio Gotto, a stone mason by trade, and probably the oldest citizen of Davidson County, died at 9:45 o’clock this morning near Una [then a suburb of Nashville, today a community east of Murfreesboro Road, just south of Nashville Int’l Airport].

Mr. Gotto was a man of wide information and experience and he stood high among those who knew him, having the respect of all. He came to the United States from his native town, Genoa, Italy, while a young man, and entered upon his trade in this country. He was one of the skilled workmen employed on the present State Capitol, and he also worked on all the culverts and other similar work on the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway. He continued active work until about ten years ago, when he was forced to retire because of his advanced age and the ailments resulting therefrom.

Mr. Gotto had traveled not alone in this country but in Central America as well. While in the latter country in 1860 he witnessed the execution of William Walker by the Honduran Government.

January 8, 1912, Mr. Gotto was 103 years of age. His wife preceded him to the grave four or five years ago. Several children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Gotto, the sons being Willard, George, Ed, Nathan, and Joe
[my great-grandfather], and the daughters, Alice Mrs. Eugene Gresham, Mary, Mrs. George Fox, Maggie and Mrs. Arthur Ridley.

Mr. Gotto was a citizen of Davidson Country for more than half a century, living at the home place near Una for fifty years. As an evidence of his activity even during his latter years, it is of interest to note the fact that Mr. Gotto, at the age of 94 walked from his home to Nashville and on to Belle Meade, and then back home.
[That distance would be well over 30 miles, altogether.]

Mr. Gotto’s last illness lasted about two or three weeks, during which time those who watched at his bedside feared he would never survive his final illness. The death of this well-known citizen this morning showed that their fears were well founded.

In addition to a couple of photographic portraits of Antonio, my mother has a large (about 18" x 12") photograph of the old “Gotto home place” which was apparently taken sometime around the turn of the 20th century. The house was demolished in 1999, but I got permission to retrieve a few relics, including a couple of the smaller logs from the cabin portion, and two of the unique stained-glass window frames that can be seen here. I turned one into a mirror for my grandmother, and the other hangs in the front foyer of my home.


  1. My brother sent this to me and though we have to get more details from my grandfather, Antonio is either our great-great-great-great or great-great-great grandfather. Andrew Gotto (checking on full name) was our great-great grandfather. I do not see his name listed in the obituary, so it is possible he is the son of one of Antonio's sons. Or Andrew is a middle name not listed in the obituary. My brother confirmed he was related as a "great...something" with my grandfather, but did not get whether he was Andrew's father or grandfather. My grandfather confirmed the story of him walking all the time and the Belle Meade walk. (Family rumor/lore was he was scared of horses). Andrew's daughter Sarah Francis Gotto Butts was our great grandmother, and her son Lloyd Francis Butts is our grandfather. Andrew (grandaddy Gotto) as we called him was alive when I was born in 1971 and I have a picture of him holding me in December of that year. I believe he died in 1972. Wish I had the full family details to pass on to you.

  2. Very interesting! Post here if you find out more! (Or you can also contact me directly: abe@officinaabrahae.com.)

  3. I'm Andrew Gotto's Great Grandson. My Grandmother was Sarah Francis Gotto (Butts). Andrew worked as an engineer for the TN Central Railways. We often heard stories of Antonio from "Grandaddy Gotto" and how Antonio stowed away on a sailing ship to come to America. The story goes that Antono's "fatal illness" was a stroke caused by showing off to the other stonemasons. Apparently there was a contest of strength to see who could lift the biggest stone. Antonio apparently won. Some of his stone walls still stand to this day in Una-Antioch along Murfreesboro Pike and Una Road.