Book details story of Delta’s Italian immigrants

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

Earlier this year we wrote of new book in the works, a book recording the lives of the Italian immigrants who settled the Mississippi Delta.

&uot;The Delta Italians, Their Pursuit of the Better Life and Their Struggles Against Mosquitoes, Floods and Prejudice&uot; is hot off the presses as promised and is now ready for distribution.

This colorful compilation of stories and experiences of the early Italian settlers in the Arkansas and Mississippi Deltas is authored by Paul V. Canonici, himself a first generation Italian American who grew up in the Mississippi Delta, a familiar name to many in Mississippi.

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Canonici was born of Italian immigrant parents in Shaw, Mississippi. Educated in the Shaw Public Schools for his elementary and secondary education, he later studied with the Benedictine Monks at St. Joseph Seminary, Covington, Louisiana and St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Indiana. He holds a Masters Degree in School Administration from the University of Notre Dame and a Doctorate in Sociology from Mississippi State University.

In 1957 Canonici was ordained to the priesthood for the diocese of Jackson, Mississippi and he subsequently taught and served in administrative positions at St. Joseph High School in Jackson.

He was superintendent of the Mississippi Catholic schools from 1970 to 1983 when he became the founding pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Madison. After his retirement in 1999, he committed himself to the completion of this book which is just one of many things for which we Mississippians will be grateful.

This 300-page hardback is steeped in documented history, but the glory of it shines through in the bits and pieces of family stories he has tried to capture and share with the reader. The 250 pictures that illustrate the work are icing on the cake in recording the Italians’ experiences in their new home.

So now it is your turn to share in this remarkable work. The book will be available in bookstores across the state beginning May 4 and although you have missed the special pre-publication prices, the list price will be $49.95.

To herald the book release, a signing and reading will be held May 4 in Jackson at Lemuria Books, Banner Hall 4506 Office Park Drive and I-55 North. The signing will be at 5 p.m. and the reading at 6:30 p.m.

Mark these dates and be sure your friends and relatives know about them as well. Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to meet this remarkable author and experience first hand a taste of the Italian experience here in Mississippi.

For those of you who cannot make a signing or reading, books may be ordered through Calo Creative Designs, PO Box 2207, Madison, MS 39120.

Please send your name, address, phone number and payment of $49.95 plus $3.50 tax and $5 shipping. For those of you who placed advanced orders, watch your mailboxes for delivery of a real treasure in the very near future.

Although we have had some difficulties reaching this site, further information is available at the website


……………. Nan Harvey (PO Box 2835, Jackson, MS 39207-2835;

) is looking for the descendants of SAMUEL COKE KELLY and his wife, VIRGINIA LACY. Coke was born about 1846 in Talladega County, Ala., and moved to the Winston County area with his parents before 1860. After the Civil War, he and his siblings moved to Yazoo County where he married, raised a family, and spent most of his adult life. In later life, he and Virginia moved to Boyle, Bolivar County.

In the 1900 Yazoo County Census, Coke and Virginia had five children: Martha J., Samuel L., James H., Henry C., and Virginia P. Kelly. Coke Kelly died in 1929 in Boyle and is buried in the Indianola City Cemetery.

Ms. Harvey’s grandfather, Coke Samuel Kelly, who lived in Yazoo County his entire life was named for his &uot;Uncle Coke.&uot;

Does any reader have information to about his descendants? Ms. Harvey has information to share on the Kelly line.

Please send your announcements and queries to FAMILY TREES, 900 Main Street, Natchez, MS 39120 or email to

. All queries printed free of charge.