Anthony Simoni


Antonio Simoni

Written by Mildred Beach for the June 11, 1979 edition of The Rustler. All material used was submitted by Emma Montoya and Edith and Corina Simoni.

Born in 1877, one hundred and two years ago in Italy was a man by the name of Antonio Simoni. Tony had dreams, dreams of a new country and of coal and gold. At the age of 25, he left the little village of Santa Andrea, 65 miles from Rome, and came to the land which had filled his mind for years. In 1904, Tony landed in New York and during the next four years worked his way across the country into the coal fields of Wyoming. Even then he listened and heard much of richer fields in New Mexico.

Tony was a true adventurer. Not a tall man , his lack of height was made up by his strength of body and mind. He had determination and pride, afraid of nothing and willing to accept any challenge.

On 1908, he returned to Italy and to his school sweetheart, Rosina Silvestre. They were married in 1909. Rosina must have loved him very much to leave her family and friends and cross the ocean into an entirely new country! As before, they made their way through Chicago but instead of returning to Wyoming, they settled in Madrid. Tony had heard that the Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. was operating some of the highest grade anthracite and bituminous mines in the country. The anthracite was used commercially as far east as Chicago, west to San Francisco, to Alaskan salmon fleets and heaters in the coaches of the Santa Fe Railroad. Nearly all of it was burnable.

Tony's family grew: Emma born in 1910, Johnny in 1911 and Freddy in 1914. It was during this time that Tony met John Mitchell, founder of United Mine Workers and champion of the 40 hour week. Tony began talking unionization. In 1915, the company superintendent gave him 24 hours to leave town.

This changed his life. He moved his family into Cerrillos, the supply and entertainment center of southern Santa Fe County. At that time there were several hotels, seven saloons, dry goods store, markets, two churches, a mill and railroad depot. On a main corner, where at one time Tiffany's Restaurant reigned in its glory, Tony took up saloon keeping. The much talked about bar was shaped like a horseshoe with beautiful hand carving. It was later taken into Old Town in Albuquerque. Tony made new friends, cattlemen and business people. Rosina, still homesick for Italy, felt more at home with Spanish speaking people. Business prospered. Those were good days. However, in 1917 Tony sold his business. Prohibition developed. And once more he moved his family across the street from his saloon to the high ceilinged frame building owned by Mr. Callender. In 1918, Tony bought the property for $3,000. To this grocery and meat market, he added feed, shovels, "Blue Jeans", and miner's lanterns. These were the ones used in the days of the "Gay Nineties" when the White Ash Mine exploded, killing 23 miners. Underneath the road from Madrid to Cerrillos, was an old abandoned coal mine called the "White Ash". For 40 years, the ground sizzled and steamed. On a cold winter night, it was an eerie sight.

Meanwhile, Tony's family grew: Charley was born in 1918, Edith in 1922, and Corina in 1928. He periodically bought buildings on both sides of the original store. At the back was a winery where he made some of the best tasting red wines for years. Grapes were shipped from California. He had to have a special stamp from Denver to make wine, but was not allowed to sell it.

Many were hard hit by the Depression. Jobs were hard to find. In the 20's, Tony lost several hundred dollars in a a bank failure. He lost his trust in banks. He went from one challenge to another. But his true love never left him: coal mining. He worked around the Omero Mine for 40 years. In 1940, Tony took out his citizenship papers. In 1941, he bought the Omero Mine from the New York owner. His boys all went to work in the mine.

Every year the Simoni family went to Albuquerque for supplies. In September, 1936, they went as usual. On the way home they had a wreck. The car ahead made a turn without warning. Rosina was injured. Just before Christmas she died without having that long awaited trip back to Italy. Rosina was a beautiful lady whose life in her adopted country was devoted completely to her husband and children.

World War II came and at the Omero Mine, Johnny was the last of the Simoni boys to go into the service in the Air Corps. Johnny returned. Freddy was captured, survived the Bataan Death March only to die later in a prison camp. Charley was killed in action in the Philippines.

At the mine, Tony worked harder than ever. He dug a well, hit water and built a reservoir. He always said "More will happen in Cerrillos" and the rumors of gas discoveries were always around. Tony semi-retired but still loved his garden and chickens. In 1948, he leased the mine. He had his first stroke in 1954 and a fatal one in 1956.

Tony had many friends. During the Depression he always helped those in need and during the war, shared his stamps, so difficult to obtain. He was an integral part of Cerrillos, remembered by many. As we close the door of the past, the trip back to 1877 leaves a vivid and lingering feeling of admiration for that spunky little Italian who dared to live the life he chose by making his dreams come true.