On Sept. 24, 73 members of the Ponte family gathered for a reunion at David and Debbie Ponte's home in Angels Camp. Isabelle Briseno and Antonio Ponte, a California Gold Rush couple, were the first of what are now seven generations. Four of those generations gathered at the reunion and came from as far away as Colorado, New Jersey and New York to celebrate with family.
Isabelle Briseno Ponte's father, Bernardo, was born in 1815. As a young man he learned of the gold strike in the Mother Lode country and with his wife, Feliciana, and son Narcisso departed for the gold fields. In early 1849, they lived in Calaveritas, then along the San Antone Creek. Later they bought a ranch on San Domingo Creek, where they built a beautiful home and planted orchards, vineyards and gardens. Feliciano and Bernardo had nine children, including Isabelle, who was born on the ranch in 1857.
Antonio Silva Ponte was raised with two sisters by his mother and paternal grandfather and at age 13 traveled with his godfather to California. They crossed the mountains to the gold fields in Columbia, where Antonio and two Irish miners became partners. The Irishmen went back to Ireland with their stake and Antonio worked the claim himself. He spent about two years on Shaws Flat and with a partner bought the ranch on San Domingo Creek. His partner became ill and died soon after he swam in the creek after eating lunch, so Antonio continued on the ranch alone until he was 25 years old. He married the 19-year-old neighbor girl, Isabelle Briseno. Their six children were born at the ranch.
Antonio and Isabelle's grandson, Wendell Ponte, was one of the hosts of the family event. He recalled several family homes on the original Ponte property and growing up on the ranch. Several descendants brought photos, newspaper clippings and articles written about the Pontes and their descendants.