Cemeteries, Early Louisiana

At La Balize, the dead now lie beneath the Gulf of Mexico

If you look very closely, you can see Fort Balize marked in the lower right.

La Balize (The Balize) hasn’t existed since the 1860s, when a hurricane swept it away once and for all. It was probably never a good idea to build a settlement where the Mississippi River pours into the Gulf of Mexico, but sometimes you have to learn things the hard way.

Balize once stood as the first port of entry in the Mississippi Valley. The Gulf tends to reclaim land at the deepest end of Louisiana, and that’s what happened to Balize.

Hurricanes battered the settlement until it was finally abandoned for good in the 1860s.

The last resident was a woman named Mrs. C. Laurie, who remembered a time when the town had three grocery stores, a dry goods store, a town hall and a fine church. Laurie called the town home from 1844 to 1862. She said she stayed three days longer than anyone else because her husband was looking for a good home for their relocation.

Only the dead stayed behind for good in a cemetery that now lies under the Gulf of Mexico. Balize was once home to 800 people. People were born there and died there. Others came from the East Coast or as far away as Ireland to find their final resting place at the tip Louisiana.

This drawing of Balize in 1804 was in the New Orleans Item.

By 1921, all that remained of Balize were a few markers (the rest were lost in the marsh). One bore the name Joseph, son of Captain Joseph and Jemima Preble, died September 2, 1852, aged eight months, 25 days. That tomb probably has also slipped under the water.

We know about baby Joseph’s tomb because the New Orleans Item (a newspaper that no longer exists) sent someone to find the little cemetery in the marsh and record what remained.

The reporter also found markers for:

William Holliday, born June 3, 1837. Died March 30, 1841. Son of Robert and Mary Holliday.

Mary Holliday (young William’s mother) died in the 25th year of her age in the 5th day of April, 1844. Wife of Robert.

Susan Mitchell, wife of John Perrin. Born August 14, 1825. Died Sept. 7, 1843. Aged 18 years and 18 days. Remembered as someone loved who was snatched away.

Evelina Lemont, wife of Thomas Ruiz. Born at the Balize, Louisiana. Died Nov.30, 1860, aged 19 years, five months and four days.

Jourdan Yarborough, born Jan. 25, 1826. Died July 19, 1857. (a newspaper report from 1857 indicates he was a branch pilot who died suddenly of what appeared to be yellow fever).

John Parker, died on the 8th day of October 1848. Aged 37. A native of Boston, Mass.

Edward Taylor, son of Asa and Eliza S. Payson. Died March 5, 1818. Age 16 months and 21 days.

Margaret McNulty. Born August 7, 1817. Died July 19, 1842. In 1921, a bright crimson oleander bush adorned her grave.

Julia Glenon, consort of William Ellis. A native of County Westmeath, Ireland. Died at The Balize July 18, 1847, aged 58 years.

Josephine Barbara Ross, only child of James Baag and Adrionna Beaulard Ross. Born in the city of Savannah, Georgia, on the 15th day of June 1833, and died at The Balize, Louisiana, August the sixth, 1844.

Charlotte Webster, consort of H.B. Webster. Died Sept. 24, 1843, aged 38 years. A native of New York.

Other newspaper articles reveal others buried there:

Sarah Taboo, died at Balize in 1845.

Mary Jane Lamont, died in 1848.

Cyrus Lamont, a native of France and a branch pilot in New Orleans, who died in 1852.

Henry Johnson

John Sprigg, died in a steamboat explosion in 1840.

Anna Maria, daughter of Joseph and Jemima Preble. Died Nov. 2, 1859, aged 3 years, 3 months, 5 days.

John Bennett, died in 1857 during a voyage from New York onboard the Rebecca.

Paul Lucie (son of Francois Lucie and Catherine Cap Chedome). Born May 5, 1800. Died June 11, 1841. (This is taken from church records, which note he died as a result of wounds received at Bayou Lime-Klim by the troops of Gen. Smith. There seemed to have been some debate on whether he was a pirate).

Finally, the following were probably buried at Balize since they died there. Diocese of New Orleans records are unclear:

Joseph Rios (son of Juan Rios and Agueda Carballo). A native of Palma in the Canary Islands. 46 years old. A sailor. A bachelor. Died April 20, 1791.

Antonio de la Ossa (son of Balthasar de la Ossa and Magdalena de la Ossa). Native of Granada. 77 years old. A sailor. A bachelor. Died Oct. 11, 1791.

Juan Garcia. A sailor. Died April 17, 1794.

Miguel Nabarro (son of Joseph Nabarro and Maria del Rosario De Roxas). A native of Cuba. 53 years old. A sailor. A bachelor. Died May 6, 1795.

3 thoughts on “At La Balize, the dead now lie beneath the Gulf of Mexico”

  1. Your stats about the markers are grim reminders that so many people died so young back then. The demise of La Belize is an interesting tale — and a sad one. But I have to admit chuckling at your “but sometimes you have to learn things the hard way.”

  2. My GG grandfather Capt. Watson Chadwick was one of several Bar/Branch Pilots who lived in Belize at the time of the 1850 census. Bar Pilots were responsible for safely guiding ships up the treacherous Mississippi River to New Orleans. He didn’t witness the final demise of Belize in the 1860s as he died in New Orleans in 1854 at the age of 48. Before moving from New York to Belize about 1846, Capt. Chadwick had been a whaling ship captain and later commanded one of the celebrated packets in the Liverpool Line that before steamships made extraordinary passages across the Atlantic.

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