American Gypsy Records 

Barbara (Barbla) Catrina Muz??Fazedin

An Oral Tradition

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

Our family came through Italy, Greece and Asia Minor, I think the Caspian Sea area just below the Caucasian Mountains.

My great grandmother, Barbla Catrina Fazedin was a Spanish Gypsy, whose Gypsy family has oral traditions from at least before the 1461(?) decisive battle between Charlemagne (Catholic French) and Sultan of the Moors at Algon, Spain (Sargrasso). 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 ( Castilia) of Spain.

Barbara Catrina Muz?? Fazedin, nickname Barbla was born on Christmas day 1858. Her family traveled in the Pyrennes, Barcelona, Iberian Islands (the smallest one?) 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 Translyvania, Romania that were slaves, that she prayed for them. She never went to school. She spoke 9 languages Basque, Romanache, several dialects of French, several dialects German, Italian, Greek, and Russian. As a girl she begged on the streets of Barcelona.

Barbla Catrina Fazedin, the Spanish Gypsy went to Switzerland in exile. Her family traveled up the Rhone River to Briels, Switzerland which is near the mouth of the Rhone River. They became Swiss citizens after the Napoleanic Wars in 1832. A wealthy Swiss family, Thomas Wolfe, sponsored her and her brothers to go to the new world. After the sponsor, Wolfe donated money ( the wealthy Swiss would take the poor off the streets and send them to America), then one by one the first the brothers came to America in 1875,1876,1877. Then she traveled with her brother Christopher ( but some confused her as his wife, probably safer) in 1878. They traveled the Rhine River to Rotterdam, Netherlands, where they boarded on 3rd class. When the boat stopped in Ireland and pick up more people on the way to America. The word spread that the US government was giving away the Indian land ( Dakota Souix). This was after the Little Bighorn Battle and Custer's last stand in Montana.

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 Fazendins and the Cassutts (Casutt) were sometimes confused as black 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 daughters (a Casutt) married a Cajun (don't know name). The Romanache language is spoken in Louisiana.

They went up the Mississippi river to Stillwaters, MN, the mouth of the Mississippi. Then they traveled overland to South Dakota (The Dakotas), as the government was giving away free land (like legend of the fall movie) so they settled around Baden Lake, in a town by the name of Romonia. Barbla Fazedin immigrated in 1878 with her brother Christopher Fazedin.

When Barbla arrived in Romania, Badus Co, SD she lived in a sod house. For about a year, and there were snakes and rats that lived in the sod. Snakes would hang from the ceiling of the sod house. These were very frightening. During the big blizzards, renegade Sioux Indians from Canada would come looking for food. My grandmother was very frightened when they came into her home. Luckily her husband, John Cassutt, who was also was dark and over 6 feet tall, was home. The Indians looked at the dark skin, black hair, and two different colored eyes (blue, brown), less than 5 foot tall woman, and backed out of the home. They believed she had special powers. Outside the house they communicated in sign language that they needed food and were starving. They gave them food and continued to leave it outside of the door of the sod home until they moved on. They came to the home several times in the next few years. Once a squaw was with the renegade Sioux. She was starving, very pregnant, and very sick. She stayed with my family. Barbla nursed and prayed for her. Unfortunately she died after giving birth. The baby became the Cassutt's son. John and Barbla never told the other children of their adopted brother, who was of Dakota Sioux decent. No one could tell the difference between the children. The Swiss and Irish formed a Swiss Colony and incorporated a town, Ramonia. Which is a Souix name. Maybe the woman that stayed with them and died after birth provided the name. They hauled lumber from Stillwater MN to SD. They built homes, a church, St. Anne Catholic Church, and a school. There were locusts, droughts, a blizzard that covered a two story house, blazing heat, and howling wind that would haunt you. The German, Romanache Swiss were taught never to complain about anything, that it was God's will and thank him for it. A few times Barbla would take her babies and travel to Stillwater with friends and relatives and winter over, the conditions were so severe. Then they would return when the snows melted. She had healing powers, laying on of hands, and knowledge of herbs. After her 7 surviving children grew up she became a nun, experienced stigmata, and traveled with her priory to Canada, helping heal poor sick people. Her son, Mathiass, came back from WWI with the influenza that struck healthy 18-35 year old people. The very old and very young were spared. She traveled to Stillwater, MN to tend to him but he had recovered. She returned home to find his name on the obituary list ( incorrectly) but she contracted the flu on her travels and died at home on the farm, 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 a secret. I lived with my grandparents for 2 years (when I was 5-6 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.

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.

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

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