Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church

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Italian families of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church


By DONNIE VERUCCHI


An Italian from Vicksburg, a man named Tirelli, who worked for the large plantation owners as an agent, conceived the idea of introducing Italian peasant farmers to the nearby sections of Louisiana and Mississippi. He was known to be ruthless and somewhat of a scoundrel. Around the turn of the century, he traveled to Italy where he contacted many poor families near Bologna and made many lavish promises of prosperity if the Italians would travel to America.

The first group of families went through Ellis Island and then on to Vicksburg. After months of travel, they were exhausted, penniless and thoroughly confused, mainly because of their inability to speak the language. “From New York to Louisiana they were packed on cattle cars with no seating; they sat on the floor,” said Charlie Verucchi.

Their new life in America was that of a tenant farmer or sharecropper. In reality, it was a life of slavery. The Italians moved into shacks and shanties once occupied by black slaves of the plantations around Mound, Louisiana. They were paid in company script, not American currency. Script was only redeemable at the plantation commissary; therefore, the plantation owner had complete control of their lives. Life was hard, really hard! But the biggest disadvantage was they could not speak English, and the translator worked for the plantation owner. Amelia Stallone said “My mother never talked about Italy and would not even teach us any Italian. She said that we were Americans now and should speak English.”

A few years later one of the men, Lodovico Viccinelli, traveled to Natchez where he met and befriended Mr. Lee Parker, Sr., a cattleman and farmer who owned land along St Catherine’s Creek. On a return visit sometime later Viccinelli brought his new friend a hamper of fresh vegetables as a gift. Mr. Parker offered to rent his land along the creek to the Italian families to grow vegetables. Under the cover of darkness, they slipped away from the Louisiana plantations and rafted across the Mississippi River to Natchez. In Natchez they rented houses and small parcels of land from Mr. Parker and Mr. Tildsley, another prominent land owner along St. Catherine Creek. The Italians applied their skills at raising and selling fresh vegetables. They soon began to eek out a living to support their families.


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    The Boschieri Family
    Ettore Giuseppe Boschieri and Maria Golfi Boschieri
    Ettore and Maria arrived Ellis Island on 21 February 1905
    Ettore was born 21 May, 1881, he died in 1920 at the young age of thirty-eight
    Information provided by Harry Boschieri
    Harry Boschieri is the grandson of Ettore and Maria Boschieri

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    The Benedettini Family
    Standing L-R, Theresa Maria Benedettini Guercio, Emma Benedettini Flournoy, Mary Magdaline Benedettini Stallone
    Seated L-R, Angela "Rosa" Monteventi (Mother), Emilio John Benedettini (Buster), Pauline Louise Benedettini Ott
    The Benedettini family arrived at Morgantown in 1924 before the great flood of 1927.
    Information provided by James E. Guercio
    James E. Guercio is the son of Theresa Maria Benedettini Guercio

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    The Stallone Family
    Standing L-R, Emma Stallone Verucchi, Servilo "Jimmy " Stallone, Premo Joseph Stallone,
    Helena Stallone, Meno Stallone
    Seated L-R, Mary Bignami Stallone, Linda Stallone Hinton, Edoardo Stallone, Hugo Stallone
    Information provided by Premo Stallone.
    Premo Stallone is the son of Premo Joseph Stallone

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    The Verucchi Family
    Standing L-R, Angelo "Charlie" Verucchi, Genoveffa Verucchi Mascagni, Augustine Hayden Verucchi, Columbia Verucchi Stallone, Raphael Verucchi, Condinda Verucchi Rouse, Alfredo Verucchi,
    Seated L-R, Cecelia Verucchi Frank, Evangelisto "Gisto" Verucchi, Matilda Gruppi Verucchi, Chiorino "Mike" Verucchi,
    Insert lower right, John Ernest Verucchi.
    Information provided by Donnie Verucchi
    Donnie Verucchi is the grandson of Augustine Hayden Verucchi, and the great grandson of Evangelisto "Gisto" Verucchi

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    The Vicinelli Family
    L-R, Guglielma Vicinelli Brown, Aniceto Vicinelli, Ida Clorati Vicinelli, Helena Vicinelli Gonnillini
    Information provided by Donnie Veruccchi

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    The Carazza Family


Legal problems ensued because the Louisiana plantation owners pressed charges to recoup the money spent on the Italian immigrants’ passage to America. The men were arrested, but after their day in court the immigrants were freed of their debt. They were also free to go and live where they pleased. A number of them settled in Natchez. The first Italian families were Boschieri, Mascagni, Monte, Stallone, Verucchi, Viccinelli, Zacchiroli, and later Baroni, Benedettini, Zucconi, Carazza, Gonnillini, and Maggio, (May).

The Italians were quickly befriended by Father Patrick Hayden, pastor of St. Mary Cathedral. Ladies of the congregation took an interest in the immigrants, especially the children who worked as hard as the adults in the vegetable fields. Catechism was taught along with English and practical advice. Masses were celebrated in the home of the Verucchi family. Then in 1913 with his own money and land donated by Mr. Lee Parker, Father Hayden built a little church on the corner of Morgantown Road and Highway 61 North. In April 1913 the church was dedicated in honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today, many of the Italian descendants are named Hayden after the beloved Irish priest from St. Mary’s.

On July 1, 1957, the little country church became a parish with its first full-time priest, Father Thomas Tuite, the first in a long line of Irish priests. Today, because of the Italian heritage these church doors are always open to immigrants of all nationalities. The church family is made up of people of all nationalities who live, work, and worship together as Americans.

The Italians of Assumption are thankful for many people who enriched their lives, especially the ladies of St. Mary Church and the Irish priests who not only taught them the Catholic faith but also how to become good American citizens. They are even grateful to the scoundrel Tirelli who brought them to America.

Sources:
Verucchi Family History
Shoulders of Giants: The Italian Colony at St. Catherine’s Creek (Privately printed in 1998 by Ida Regina Brown)

Related
100 Year History Celebration
Italians in Mississippi
Italian Immigration
Selected Images of Ellis Island and Immigration, ca. 1880–1920


Lithograph on stone - St. Mary Cathedral