Italian immigrants memorialized at church's museum

Apr 08, 2019 327

BY: Jack Schnedler

A historical marker on the lawn of Our Lady of the Lake Church along oxbow Lake Chicot's shoreline sums up a melancholy episode from the end of the 19th century: "In 1895, Austin Corbin, a New York banker and land developer, working with immigration officials, brought 100 families from north central Italy to grow cotton at Sunnyside, a plantation located between the Mississippi River and Lake Chicot.

"These Italians struggled against exploitation, prejudice and language barriers, and many died of malaria and other lowland diseases. Many of their descendants are now among the leading citizens of Arkansas and the nation." The story of those sometimes forlorn immigrants, many of whom left the Arkansas Delta after a few years to establish Tontitown in the state's northwest corner, is told in affectionate detail at Our Lady of the Lake Church Museum.

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