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 • Saint Joseph Cemetery
 • Tontitown
 • Washington County
 • Arkansas
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Rev Fr Pietro Bandini
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Birth: Mar. 31, 1852
Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Death: Jan. 2, 1917
Little Rock
Pulaski County
Arkansas, USA


Father Pietro Bandini was the
founder of Tontitown, Arkansas.

The 1898 community was named
for Henry de Tonti,
an Italian explorer noted
for having established
the first Ark. European
settlement in 1686.

The priest worked for
of Italian
immigrant communities
throughout worldwide.


Bandini's family history
is unknown, other than
he had two brothers,
(one was also a priest).
Pietro Bandini was ordained
a priest on September 30, 1877
at Bertinoro, Italy.

* In 1882 Father Bandini was sent
to the Jesuits' Rocky Mountain
Mission in Montana Territory.
There, he studied both English
and Indian languages.

* In 1883 he was stationed at
St. Ignatius Mission, Montana.
He helped foster the creation
of a church, school and
traveled to Indian Villages
instructing the natives in the
Catholic faith. He started a
mission for Cheyenne natives.

* In 1889 Bandini returned to Europe.
There he was appointed vice-rector
of St. Thomas Aquinas College.

* In 1890 He returned to the U.S.
He established
St. Raphael's Italian
Benevolent Society,
(whose purpose was to assist Italian
immigrants at the Port of New York.)
Bandini assisted over 20,000 of his
countrymen entering America, finding
housing and employment for them.

*Then Pietro Bandini
decided to help
found a US colony
for Italian immigrants.


In December 1896 Bandini asked to be assigned as chaplain for a colony of Italian immigrants being enlisted to work the land at an Arkansas plantation.

The first Italians came to the US shores aboard the 'Chateau Vquen.' They docked at New Orleans on in 1895. The group arrived in Arkansas later that month. In 1897 Bandini arrived the site with more Italian immigrants. . Over 125 had died from malariaŚcontaminated water, poor sanitation, mosquitoes.

A few families went back to Italy. Poverty forced the rest to remain so they turned to Bandini for survival. He realized that Sunnyside was not the place for his people. This opportunity was supposed to test his theor. He wanted to place Italian immigrants in an environment similar to their homeland.


Bandini had traveled the Ozark Plateau, where he found land like the Italian homeland. In January 1898, Bandini returned and found 800 acres of farmland for sale. Before he could buy the land, 40 Sunnyside, Arkansas families arrived, and the owner increased the asking price of $8.00 to $15.00 an acre. A deal was made and Tontitown was founded.

During their first winter, the settlers lived in deserted farm buildings, barely surviving. Father Bandini put an abandoned building to use as a school and place for church services. He divided the land into parcels of ten acres. A random drawing was hosted and provided a distribution of the land.

In the spring, the immigrants planted vegetable gardens, and family vineyards. Under the leadership of Father Bandini, these vineyards were expanded into a commercial venture. Tontitown's grape industry changed the face of Northwest Arkansas.

In 1905, Tontitown had prospered. The Italian ambassador of Washington DC, came for a visit and left very impressed.

Bandini prepared a pamphlet titled "Tontitown, Arkansas, the World's Ideal Vineyard" for the Kansas City and Memphis Railway Company. The booklet was handed out across the country. This resulted a number of Italian families moving to Tontitown, Arkansas.


In 1911, Bandini returned to Italy.
* Pope Pius X
* along with the Queen Mother Margherita,
(widow of King Umberto, king of Sardinia
and the first king of Italy)
pledged to alter immigration methods.
They promised to adopt Father Bandini's
proposals for colonization.

Bandini received;
* a medal from the Italian government
* a gold chalice
* a set of red vestments
(from the Pope)
* a set of white vestments
(from the Queen Mother Margherita)


Father Bandini died from heart failure.



"The angels are always
near to those who are grieving,
to whisper to them
that their loved ones are safe
in the hand of God."

* Quote from author
Eileen Elias Freeman
'The Angels' Little Instruction Book'


This biography is
humbly presented by
Audrey Burtrum-Stanley / Arkansas

Saint Joseph Cemetery
Washington County
Arkansas, USA
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Someone Who Cares...
Record added: Dec 09, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 45256402
Rev Fr Pietro Bandini
Added by: NJBrewer
Rev Fr Pietro Bandini
Added by: Margaret Hollaway
Rev Fr Pietro Bandini
Added by: Margaret Hollaway
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