American Gypsy Records 

Barbara (Barbla) Catrina Muz??Fazedin

An Oral Tradition

I seek information of northwest US Gypsies and Canada Gypsies above North Dakota, Minnesota,Wisconsin, and Montana. Liz Palmer.

Our family came through Italy, Greece and Asia Minor, I think the Caspian Sea area just below the Caucasian Mountains. We are from the Roma tribe that traveled from India to Transylvania, Romania.

My great grandmother, Barbara Katherine (Barbla Catrina) Fazendin was a Spanish(Gitano) Gypsy, whose Gypsy family has oral traditions from at least before the decisive battle between Charlemagne (Catholic French) and Sultan of the Moors at Algon, Spain (Zaragoza).* They had ways of healing the injured with spider webs to stop bleeding, many herbs, etc. They saved many people on both sides. In gratitude one daughter married the sultan of the Moors and another daughter was in the court of King Charlemagne of France. So our family is directly related to Queen Isabella of (Catalonia) Spain and distant cousins to King Ferdinand (Castile) of Spain.

Barbara Catrina Mahon - Fazendin, nickname Barbla was born on Christmas day 1858. Her family traveled in the Pyrennes, Barcelona, Iberian Islands (Menocra) before she was born (FOC: I assume this was one of the Canary Islands (off NW coast of Africa, in the Atlantic) or one of the Balearic Islands (off Mediterranean Coast of Spain)). She spoke of distant cousins in Transylvania, Romania that were slaves, that she prayed for them. She never went to school. She spoke 9 languages Basque, Romansch, several dialects of French, several dialects German, Italian, Greek, and Basque. As an 8yr old girl she begged on the streets of Barcelona.

Barbla Catrina Fazendin, whose Spanish Gypsy family who lived in Mahon, Menocra, Iberian Islands, Spain were exiled to Switzerland. Her family traveled up the Rhine River to Briel/Brugels, Canton Graubunden, Switzerland which is near the headwaters of the Rhine River. In 1832, they gained Swiss naturalization. In 1846, the Great Potato Famine created a mass European emigration. The Swiss townspeople of the Canton Graubunden formed of Swiss Colonies in Northern Midwest, USA. Wealthy townsmen such as Thomas Wolfe sponsored and also joined Barbla and her brother, Christofel Anton Fazendin, along with ten additional men and their families to settle in America. The wealthy Swiss from each town collectively sponsored young, needy townspeople. The sponsors paid for their passage and in some instance tracts of land and the colony settlers repaid their sponsors with revenues from their successful farms. In Ramona, South Dakota, new Swiss Colony settlers reimbursed the sponsors and paid the passages for their other family members in 1875, 1876, and 1877. In 1878, 17 yrs old Barbla traveled with her brother Christofel as husband and wife, believing that it was safer. They embarked in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and boarded in 3rd class. Then the ship docked in Ireland and boarded more people bound for America. In 1878, the US government held a "land rush" so the word spread through Europe that America was giving away free land that was formally Dakota Souix. The natives were gathered on Indian reservations which was the repercussions for winning the Battle of Little Bighorn, Montana or Custer's Last Stand, Jun 25-26, 1876. Barbla claimed 180 arces and Christofel 150 acres. They settled their homestead which continues to be an active family farm. (as of 2014)

The immigration of the family started in 1875 through the port of New Orleans, LA. Some of the Irish decided to follow those from Switzerland up the Mississippi River. In New Orleans, they stopped for supplies and stayed several months. The families of Fazendin and Cassutt were sometimes confused as cajun, mulatto, or Indian. The only people they could understand were the French speaking Cajuns. Therefore a bond formed between them. They purchased most of their supplies and trusted them. One of the Casut daughters (Ann Marie Casut) married a Cajun (Gruntz). The Romansch language is spoken in Louisiana.

The Swiss and Irish families barged up the Mississippi River to Stillwaters, MN, the headwaters. Then overland in covered wagons to South Dakota (The Dakotas) and settled around Badus, German for lake. The Swiss Colony built the town of Ramona which was name after Wolfe's deceased daughter. The first building erected were the schoolhouse and the catholic church. In May 1881 the first wedding was held in the new church, St. Anne's, and married Barbla and her neighbor, Johann Casper (JC) Casutt, from Briel/Brugels, GR, Switzerland.

Barbla and JC's first home was a sod house (constructed of grass squares and dirt floors) on the lake in Ramona, Badus, Lake County, South Dakota. For over a year, they lived in house with rats, mice, snakes and spiders hanging from the ceiling. These vermin were very frightening when they jump down on the dining table while the family was eating supper. The next spring, JC returned to Stillwaters to procure lumbered wood for a decent clapboard house.

During the Blizzard of 1881, the renegade, raged, starving, sickly Dakota Sioux Natives wandered from Canada in search of food. These few surviving Dakota entered the family home in the mistaken belief that Barbla was a Native American woman. She was short, braided black hair, brown skin, and one blue eye and the other brown eye. They realized their mistake as soon as they gazed in her eyes. Barbla was very frightened since she thought she was going to be killed. Luckily her husband, JC Cassutt, who was also was dark and over 6 feet tall, was at the farm. The Dakotas gawked at the dark skinned woman, and immediately backed out of the house. They believed she had special powers due to her different colored eyes. Outside the house they communicated in sign language that they needed food and were starving. Barbla gladly provided them food and clothing which she continued to leave outside of the door until they were able to move on. These small groups of natives returned several times in the next few years.

Later a starving, very pregnant, and very sick Dakota Souix woman appeared. Barbla welcomed her into her home, nursed and prayed for her. Unfortunately the native woman died shortly after giving birth. The baby was christened Thomas Johann Cassutt. John and Barbla never told the other children of their adopted brother was of Dakota Sioux descent. He was equal is all ways. No one could tell the difference between the children. Thomas, like all Cassutt brothers who wanted their own farm, was given seed money to start a ranch in San Antonio, Travis, Texas.

The plagues of the plains were locusts, droughts, flooding, tornadoes, hail storms, a blizzards (snow covered a two story house), blazing heat in the 100's, and howling continuous winds that would haunt you. The Catholic German Swiss were taught never to complain about anything, pure Stoicism, and if it was God's will and thank Him for it. As a rest bit from these natural disasters, the Barbla with her babies traveled to Stillwater, MN and Bluff Siding, Buffalo CO., Wisconsin to stay with relatives and friends and winter over, the conditions were so severe. Then they would return when the snows melted.

Barbla had healing powers, laying on of hands, and knowledge of herbs. After her 7 out of 12 surviving children grew up, she became a lay nun, experienced stigmata, and traveled with her priory to Canada, helping heal poor sick people. Her son, Mathias, came back from WWI with the influenza (epidemic 1918-19) that struck healthy 18-35 year old people. It was said that only the very old and very young were spared from the flu. Barbla rushed to Stillwaters, MN to nurse him but he had recovered. She returned home to find his name was incorrectly listed in the obituaries. Her 7yr old daughter, Dorthy contracted the flu and perished. Barbla also contracted the flu, broken hearted, and died at her home at the age of 55. She was buried standing up in her nun's habit (FOC: recall Isabel Fonseca's book, "Bury Me Standing," although "bury me standing" isn't a Gypsy burial practice, as I -FOC- understand it but refers to an old man saying, "Bury me standing, I've been on my knees all my life.")

My mother didn't know we were of Gypsy descent. It was kept as a deep dark family secret. When I lived with my grandparents for 2 years (at 5-7 years old). I was told then about our Gypsy ancestry and some of the stories that great-grandma told my grandpa as a boy about her family.About the white dove on top of the Christmas tree, and her saintly actions.

Why do Gypsies love to travel? I love it and so does my daughter. We meet the people, learn the way they think, and learn their ways. My daughter lived in Switzerland for 8 months while earning her Master's degree in Cultural and Historical Communication for museums. I have just completed a DNA test of 23rd chromosome that verifies Romania, Jewish, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Swiss German, Danish, and Irish descent. This follows the Roma migration from India to Middle East to Europe and in my case USA to now Puerto Rico (as of 2012). Side bar: My daughter has more Romania, Slavic, and Ukrainian than I which indicates that my husband is also a lost Roma. A new scientific article stated that couple with similar DNA are more compatible. I amend that to more understandable.

Liz Palmer.  Please contact Liz Palmerwith information on this family.

* link to Zaragora, Spain decisive battle again Moors and Catholics

here is an excerpt:

In 714 the Berbers and Arabs took control of the city, renaming it Saraqusta (??????), a corruption of the original Roman name. It later became part of the Emirate of Cordoba. It grew to become the biggest Muslim controlled city of Northern Spain and as the main city of the Emirate's Upper March, Zaragoza was a hotbed of political intrigue. In 777 Charlemagne was invited by Husayn, the Wali (governor) of Zaragoza, to take the submission of the city but having marched an army to the city gates he found Husayn to have had a change of heart and was forced to give up after a month-long siege of the city, facing Basque attacks on his rear guard on his withdrawal. Four years later Emir Abd ar-Rahman I sent an army to reestablish firm control over the city. Husayn's family rebelled again in 788, and the head of the Banu Qasi was killed trying to put down the insurrection. Subsequent rebellions were launched there by Matruh al-Arabi (789), Bahlul Ibn Marzuq (798) and Amrus ibn Yusuf (802), who reached an accord with the Emir and retained control of the city. In 852, control of the city was awarded to Musa ibn Musa of the Banu Qasi, but following a defeat at Christian hands in 861 he was deprived of the city by the Emir, only for it to be retaken by his son Isma'il a decade later. Muhammad ibn Lubb ibn Qasi rebelled against the Emir in 884, and according to chronicler Ibn Hayyan he sold Zaragoza to Raymond of Pallars, but it was immediately retaken by the Emir and in 886 was given to the Banu Tujibi. In spite of a 17-year siege by the Banu Qasi, the Banu Tujibi continued to hold the city, growing in power and autonomy, until in 1018 they broke from Cordoban control and founded an independent Taifa state.

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