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Author Susan Young to discuss new book on Italian immigrants at Lakeport Plantation Feb. 27

Feb. 15, 2010 --  Author Susan Young will discuss her new book, “So Big, This Little Place: The Founding of Tontitown, Arkansas, 1898-1917,” at Lakeport Plantation, 601 Highway 142, Lake Village, Ark., on Saturday, Feb. 27, beginning at 1 p.m. The day will begin with a tour of the Lakeport Plantation home and at 2 p.m., Young will begin her talk on the Chicot County roots of northwest Arkansas’ Italian community, Tontitown. The event is free and open to the public.

“So Big, This Little Place” tells the story of a group of 100 Italian families who came from Genoa, Italy, to Chicot County’s Sunnyside  Plantation in 1895. Three years later, 40 families, let by Father Pietro Bandini, left the harsh conditions of the plantation and moved to northwest Arkansas to establish Tontitown in the Ozark Mountains.

The book focuses on the first 20 years of Tontitown, focusing Bandini’s foundation and development of the small community until his death. Bandini imagined Tontitown as an ideal model for Italian immigration, although an atypical one, since many Italian immigrants settled in cities and towns on the east coast of the United States. The book features a recently compiled genealogical record and more than 100 images from the Tontitown Museum archives.

Young, the outreach coordinator at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Springdale, will be accompanied by a group of Tontitown residents who will visit the plantation their ancestors left behind over 100 years ago.  Her presentation will be followed by a book signing. Books will be available for purchase at the site for $30 (price includes tax; cash or check only, please).

The Lakeport Plantation is one of Arkansas's premier historic structures. The house, constructed circa 1859, is Arkansas’s only remaining antebellum plantation home along the Mississippi River. Lakeport’s mission is to research and interpret the individuals and cultures that shaped plantation life in the Mississippi River Delta, focusing on the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods.

The plantation was donated to Arkansas State University in 2001 by the Sam Epstein Angel family. After more than five years of restoration, the plantation opened as a museum and educational center in September 2007. Arkansas State University’s Arkansas Heritage SITES Program operates two other heritage sites: the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott and the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum in Tyronza.

For more information, contact Dr. Blake Wintory, assistant director and facilities manager at Lakeport Plantation, Sarah Long, museum assistant, or call (870) 265-6031. Visit Lakeport Plantation online ( for maps and driving directions, restoration pictures, virtual tours, and more.

--Molly Carpenter, senior public relations student intern in the Office of Public Relations, researched and wrote this release.

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