Caddo Parish, Cemeteries

The Smiths of Shreveport

This engraved bit of concrete marks the threshold of the Smith family’s section of Oakland Cemetery in Shreveport.

I spent Easter weekend in Shreveport, where I saw the Oscar-winning Coda, visited the auditorium where a young Elvis Presley forged his musical career, met my youngest nephew (he screamed every time I tried to hold him), drove through a historic cemetery and ate pastries, ham, turkey, fish and chips, a shrimpbuster (it’s a Shreveport thing), salmon, loaded potatoes, hot cross buns and God’s knows what else. I’m never eating again as soon as I finish this bag of Skinny Pop.

But back to the cemetery … I love visiting cemeteries, and Oakland Cemetery in downtown Shreveport is a must for history buffs. It’s the oldest, existing cemetery in Shreveport and sits on the outskirts of downtown. It’s not in the best part of town -although it’s directly across from Municipal Auditorium – so it’s best to bring a friend with you and visit during broad daylight. Just be aware of your surroundings.

Oakland is the final resting place of multiple mayors, at least four congressmen, an ambassador, yellow fever victims, a madam, Martha Washington’s great-great granddaughter and the first Shreveport police officer killed in the line of duty. You’ll also find members of Shreveport’s founding families here. The cemetery is no longer in the business of burying people so it’s very much a tribute to the past.

The Smith family’s plot caught my eye on a recent visit. I decided to find out who they were.

The patriarch of this plot was Joseph B. Smith, who died in 1889 at age 58. Known as J.B. Smith, he was born in Kentucky but moved to Shreveport as a young man. He went into the pharmacy business under his brother. Eventually, he and a partner opened their own hardware store in downtown Shreveport.

Smith prospered in Shreveport. The business flourished and he built a handsome home to accommodate his wife and their five sons. His death was sudden and relatively unexpected. He’d been feeling poorly for a few weeks but had seemed to rally until he suddenly came down with congestion and died minutes later. This is according to The Shreveport Times, which described him as clear-headed, cautious and painstaking.

It appears that Smith’s wife, Mary, took over the family business. She hastened to assure the good people of Shreveport that the hardware business would continue.

Mary, who was 15 years younger than J.B., would outlive him by more than three decades. She is also buried at Oakland although her marker is much more modest. Instead of a monument reaching toward the sky, she’s remembered with a simple marker set in the ground. It seems fitting that the headline for her news obit simply summarized her as the widow of a prominent businessman (who had been dead for 43 years).

Near Mary is her son Leon Rutherford, who was just 14 when his father died. Leon got a grand marker with a wreath and tribute in stone, perhaps because he died rather tragically.

Remember on Downton Abbey when Lavinia rather conveniently died from the Spanish flu, paving the way for Mary to wed her true love and stay in her childhood home? There was nothing convenient about Leon’s death, but he did die from the Spanish flu that was sweeping Shreveport at the time. In fact, the flu was so feared that the family skipped a church funeral and just did services at the grave.

Leon accomplished a lot in his rather short life.

Like I said, Leon was just 14 when his father died. He’d been away at school but he came home to help with the family business. Leon explored a lot of interests before landing on a career. He worked for a jeweler and a bank and ultimately decided to go to law school. He went into practice with a former governor.

From the law, it was a natural move into politics. Leon first served on the School Board before winning election to the Louisiana Legislature. It was at a speech that he likely caught the Spanish flu. He developed pneumonia and died two weeks later at his home on Fairfield Avenue.

Leon is one of two of J.B. and Mary Smith’s children who is buried at Oakland (the rest of their sons are at another Shreveport cemetery). The other is Joseph Bruce Smith, who died in 1942. It appears that Joseph, who was a real estate agent, never married.

terrebonne parish

Grave spotlight: Tayler Clement

When I saw this grave at St. Patrick’s in Gibson last weekend, the vase was empty. I studied the name on the marker – Father Tayler Clement – and thought he must have been a priest. I imagined he’d come to this little bayou town from a far-flung place, ministered to the largely Catholic population, died and was buried here goodness only knows how many miles from home. So I gifted his grave with a bouquet of Dollar Tree flowers.

Someone tell me to stop making assumptions.

From the Houma Courier newspaper

It turns out that “Father” Clement was a married man whose news obit focused more heavily on his widow’s insurance payment than on his actual death. Still, the newspaper characterized him as popular.

Mr. Clement married Orsena Faucheux in 1895, just five years before his death. They had a summer wedding.

And that’s all I know about Mr. Clement. At least I now know that he wasn’t a priest.

Genealogy tools

The 1950 census is here!

My grandfather Rex Millhollon was an 18-year-old college student in 1950.

Get out your poodle skirts and hula hoops! The 1950 Census is here!!!

I’ve yet to find my Hebert grandparents on the bayou in Assumption Parish, but I did find my Texas-born grandfather at Tarleton State College in Erath, Texas. They even spelled his last name right, which is a small miracle.

Here’s the handy dandy link to find your own relatives: https://1950census.archives.gov/

Aucoin family

From the Mystery Files: The Case of the Sleeping, Slain Soldier

This marker tells an interesting story, but is it true?

After writing a blog entry about Highland Cemetery in Baton Rouge, I discovered a hiccup in the research. It’s unclear which cemetery resident met his end when he came home from the Civil War, tossed his cap on the bedpost and was killed by a stray bullet that ricocheted off his cap while he napped.

There are two candidates: Charles Daniel Comeaux and Albert Florestan Aucoin. A newspaper article cites Comeaux as the unfortunate napper. A history website says it was Aucoin. Since Aucoin died in 1863 and Comeaux in 1850, all signs point to Aucoin. However, I was curious as to the origin of this story. Could it be proven with source material from the era? Let’s dive in.

Albert was the eldest child of Florentin and Elizabeth Verdeau Aucoin. According to a story posted to Ancestry, he was killed during the siege of Port Hudson in 1863 and buried at Highland Cemetery.

A newspaper account from 1863 backs up the battlefield death.

Now, I suppose it’s possible that he carried a four post bed with him to the battlefield and was taking a nap in his comfortably furnished tent – and not charging into battle – when he died. However, that seems a tad unlikely.

I’ll keep digging. File this one under “unsolved.”

Cemeteries, Early Louisiana

The oldest cemetery in Baton Rouge

An archway leads to a bench and a grouping of graves in Historic Highland Cemetery.

Highland Cemetery isn’t one of those flashy graveyards with giant mausoleums or serene statues. The graves here are crumbling and lie tucked away in a neighborhood near the roar of Tiger Stadium. The veterans buried here tend to have fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. By the time the Civil War swept into Louisiana, Highland Cemetery had been forgotten.

Today, the cemetery soldiers on with the help of history enthusiasts who are giving it the due it deserves as Baton Rouge’s oldest cemetery. The cemetery sits on the Highland Ridge, an area settled by Germans and Acadians through Spanish land grants (according to a helpful sign in the cemetery). The settlers’ surnames included Adams, Anglehart, Babin (related!), Daigre (related!), Garig, Hillen, Landry (related!), Kleinpeter (as in the dairy people, I assume) and Sharp (as in Sharp Road, I assume).

Few of the graves are legible. Someone’s added markers to some of them to explain who’s buried there.

The cemetery dates to 1813, when a landowner named George Garig gave a piece of his property to the community. This was common for settlers with an abundance of land. People had to be buried somewhere, and George had all that property and he wasn’t even farming all of it (which is how I’d imagine the gentle prodding went). The fact that it wasn’t consecrated must have weighed on George’s mind because less than a decade later he asked the Catholic Church to take ownership of the cemetery. In 1825, George would be laid to rest in the now consecrated cemetery that he carved out for the community.

Although technically owned by the Catholic Church, the little cemetery was always too far from the nearest place of worship to be tended to or even used much by the church. The cemetery was a family affair with relatives and friends attending to the loved ones buried there.

Look! A marker I can actually read.

The cemetery’s religious issues didn’t end with Garig’s death. Half of his plantation was purchased by a Protestant named Robert Penny. Penny took a piece of land adjacent to the cemetery and turned it into a Protestant cemetery since it wouldn’t do to get buried in land consecrated for Catholics. Now a corner of the cemetery is known as the Protestant section.

Newspaper articles reveal other notables buried in the cemetery:

Josephine Favrot, whose sweetheart, Louis de Grand Pre, who was the only casualty when the Fort of Baton Rouge fell in 1810. Josephine never married and became a poet.

Jean Baptiste Kleinpeter, who served with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.

Charles Daniel Comeaux, who had the great misfortune of flinging his cap onto his bedpost after coming home from the battle at Port Hudson. A stray bullet hit the cap, ricocheted and killed him while he slept.

This gazebo was built in memory of the lost graves.

A huge change for the cemetery came in the 1920s, when the College Town neighborhood was built. Someone conveniently forgot to include the cemetery on the subdivision plans. Of the 280 people buried in the cemetery, 100 are underneath a sprawling house.

The cemetery once extended all the way to Amherst Avenue.As houses were built, half of the cemetery disappeared.

A 1940 survey map shows the cemetery is half the size it was nearly a century ago. The cemetery once stretched all the way to Amherst Avenue. Oops.

Today, the cemetery is a pleasant place to spend a spring afternoon. There are benches for sitting, trees for shade and a gazebo for an impromptu concert. You can be Catholic or Protestant to enjoy the peace before venturing back into the insanity that is Baton Rouge traffic.

Here’s a list of burials and possible burials from the History Highland Cemetery Inc.:

Confirmed Burials

Aubin, Aurelius Victorin, s/o Victorin, 1850 – 1885, no marker
Aubin, Elizabeth, w/o Victorin, 1825 – 1858, no marker
Aubin, Victorin, s/o Francois, 1825 – 1880, no marker
Aucoin, Albert Florestin, C.S.A., s/o J. Florentin, 1821 – 1863, no marker
Aucoin, J. Florentin, s/o Pierre Firmin, 1798 – 1847, no marker
Aucoin, Julia Zeolide Doiron, w/o A.F., 1831 – ___, no marker
Babin, Balthazar, s/o Gregoire, 1814 – 1884, no marker
Babin, Martha Buckner, 1824 – 1884, w/o Balthazar, no marker
Brackin, “Nettie” Brunetta Stokes, w/o Albert D., 1868 – 1894, no marker
Buckner, George W., s/o Lewis, h/o Margaret Phillips, 1822 – 1855, no marker
Buckner, Susannah, d/o Margaret Buckner, ? – 1857, no marker
Comeaux, Charles Daniel, 1817 – 1892, no marker
Comeaux, Charles Daniel, War of 1812, 1787 – 1850, no marker
Daigre, Alfred Huguet, s/o Denis Daigre, Junior, 1880 -1891, no marker
Daigre, Benjamin M., hsb/o Pauline Daigre, 1836 -1914, no marker
Daigre, Carmelite Daigre, d/o Paul, w/o Olivier Francois, 1796 – 1855, no marker
Daigre, Denis Olivier, s/o Olivier Francis, 1820 – 1875, no marker
Daigre, Denis Olivier, Jr., 1853 – c1917, no marker
Daigre, Genevieve Buckner, w/o Denis O., Sr. 1821 – ?, no marker
Daigre, Gordon, s/o Benjamin M., ? – 1912, no marker
Daigre, Josie Huguet, d/o John S. Huguet, 1860 – 1884, no marker
Daigre, Mary Martha, d/o Denis & Genevieve, 1855 – 1858, no marker
Daigre, Olivier Francois, s/o Francois, 1793 – 1843, no marker
Daigre, Pauline Daigre, w/o Benjamin M., ? – 1886, no marker
Daigre, Victor Templet, s/o Denis O. Sr., 1857 – ?, no marker
Davis, Elizabeth Sharp, w/o Ersin Slaughter & Wm. Davis, ? – 1825, no marker
Doiron, Henrietta Malvina, d/o J.V., 1847 – 1887, no marker
Doiron, John Villeneuve, s/o John Remi, 1821 – 1879, no marker
Duke, William Ensley, infant of Wiley, 7 mo., 1921 – 1921, no marker
Duplantier, Armand Allard, Continental Army, War of 1812, 1753 – 1827, marker
Duplantier, Augustin, s/o Armand, 1806 – 1860, no marker
Duplantier, Constance Rochon, w/o John Joyce & Armand Duplantier, 1766 – 1841, marker
Duplantier, Didier, s/o Armand, 1809 – 1834, marker
Duplantier, Fergus, War of 1812, s/o Armand, 1783 – 1844, marker
Duplantier, Guy, War of 1812, s/o Armand, 1790 – 1835, no marker
Duplantier, Joseph, s/o of Alberic, 1844 – 1884, no marker
Duplantier, Josephine Joyce, w/o Fergus, 1791 – 1859, marker
Duplantier, Matilda Brown, 2nd w/o Alberic, 1844 – ?, no marker
Duplantier, Nicholas Alberic, s/o Armand, 1806 – 1891, no marker
Edmonston, Lillie E. Aucoin, w/o J. Walter, 1861 – 1893, no marker
Favrot, (unnamed), s/o Louis, 1824 -1824, marker
Favrot, Augustine Eulalie Duplantier, w/o Louis, 1799 – 1864, marker
Favrot, Aurore, d/o Bouvier & Aurora, 1832 – 1911, marker
Favrot, Eulalie Pulcherie, d/o Pierre, 1803 – 1846, no marker
Favrot, Francoise Gerard, w/o Pierre, 1763 – 1842, marker
Favrot, Henri Bouvier, s/o Pierre, War of 1812, 1799 – 1881, marker
Favrot, Henry Neuville, s/o Bouvier, 1835 – 1847, marker
Favrot, Josephine, d/o Bouvier, 1840 – 1913, marker
Favrot, Josephine, d/o Pierre, 1785 – 1836, marker
Favrot, Louis Stephen, s/o Pierre, War of 1812, 1788 – 1872, marker
Favrot, Marie Aurora Villers, w/o Bouvier, 1809 – 1877, marker
Favrot, Octavine, d/o Bouvier, 1848 – 1939, marker
Favrot, Octavine C., d/o Pierre, 1795 – 1868, marker
Favrot, Philogene Bernard, s/o Bouvier, 1845 – 1852, marker
Favrot, Philogene Joseph, s/o Pierre, USA:  War of 1812. 1791 – 1822 ( His government marker is mislabeled “T.R. Favrot”), marker
Favrot, Pierre Joseph, Galvez Expedition of 1779, LA Legislature, 1749 – 1824, marker
Foreman, John C., hsb/o Nancy Garig, 1806 – 1870, marker
Foreman, John M., infant s/o Oscar H., 1862 – 1870, marker
Foreman, John M., s/o John C. & Nancy, C.S.A., 1838 – 1905, no marker
Foreman, Linda F., d/o Oscar H., 1863 – 1866, marker
Foreman, Nancy Garig, d/o George Garig, w/o John C., 1812 – ?, no marker
Foreman, Oscar Heady, Jr., 1868 – 1872, marker
Foreman, Oscar Heady, Sr., 1833 – 1905, no marker
Foreman, Therese Addie Rowley, w/o Oscar H., 1840 – 1913, no marker
Fortin, Adele Duplantier, w/o Joseph J.G. George Fortin, no dates, no marker
Garig, George, s/o Adam, h/o Mary Barbara Thomas, ? – 1825, no marker
Garig, Guilliame, s/o George, 1815 – ?, no marker
Garig, Henrique, s/o George, 1798 – ?, no marker
Garig, Juan, s/o George, 1795 – ?, no marker
Garig, Maria, d/o George, 1801 – ?, no marker
Germany, Aurelia Ann Foreman, w/o Henry James, 1833 – 1898, marker
Hodges, Aurelius B., s/o I.B.A. Hodges, 1832 – 1854, marker
Huguet, John Stephen, M.D., s/o Juan, C.S.A., 1825 – 1891, no marker
Huguet, Mary Elvira Kleinpeter, w/o John S., 1832 – 1899, no marker
Huguet, William Pike, s/o John S., 1852 – 1853, no marker
Joyce, William, s/o John, c 1790 – 1846, marker fragment
Kleinpeter, Andrew, s/o Joseph, 1801 – 1853, marker
Kleinpeter, Benjamin Franklin, s/o John Bapt. & Rose, 1845 – 1858, memorial marker
Kleinpeter, John Baptiste, s/o George, 1797 – 1861, no marker
Kleinpeter, John J., infant s/o Andrew, 1847 -1847, marker
Kleinpeter, John L., s/o Joseph, c 1797 – 1837, no marker
Kleinpeter, Mary Rose Bouillion, w/o John Baptist, 1805 – 1878, no marker
Kleinpeter, Oscar Andrew, s/o Andrew, 1844 – 1858, marker
Kleinpeter, Zachary Pinckney, s/o Andrew, 1849 – 1857, no marker
Lener, Mary, 1887 – 1888, no marker
Lopez, Anna Euphemie, d/o Joseph Onieda, 1879 – 1884, no marker
Lopez, Henri, s/o Joseph Onieda, 1875 – 1876, no marker
Lopez, Joseph Onieda, s/o Joseph Adonis, 1845 – 1896, no marker
Lundquest, William, no dates, no marker
Lundquest, John, no dates, no marker
Maurison, Mary V., 1871 – 1885, no marker
McGehee, Ann Scott, d/o Abraham & Mary C., 1831 – 1836, marker
McGehee, Mary C., 1809 – 1836, marker
Neilson, Capt. John James, s/o James, U.S.A., ? -1813 at Baton Rouge Fort, no marker (1st husband of Pauline Gras)
Neilson, James, h/o Elizabeth, f/o Capt. John, ? – 1831, no marker
Parker, Nan Pecue, d/o John Pecue, w/o Mack Parker, no dates, no marker
Pecue, (Picou, Picaud), John Baptiste Jr., h/o Odile & Victoria Aucoin, 1829 – 1905, no marker
Pecue, Odile Elizabeth Aucoin, w/o John, 1835 – 1865, no marker
Peniston, Anthony, hsb/o Euphemie Duplantier, c 1800 – 1826, marker
Peniston, Euphemie Duplantier, w/o Anthony, 1804 – 1826, marker
Penny, Matilda G., w/o Burns & Robert Penny, ? – 1846, no marker
Penny, Robert H., s/o James, ? – 1849, no marker
Phillips, Isabella Foreman, w/o Albert, no dates, no marker
Phillips, Plaisant, Jr., 1838 – 1859, no marker
Phillips, Plaisant, Sr., husb/o Elizabeth Babin, ? – 1845, no marker
Phillips, Theodore, s/o Plaisant Sr., 1845 – 1861, no marker
Piker, Fluvia, d/o John F., c 1864 – ?, no marker
Piker, John F., s/o Frederick, 1817 – 1869, partial marker
Piker, Mary C. Foreman, w/o John F., 1830  – 1903, memorial marker
Pilant, George Zitzman, s/o Wm. Jr., 1912 – ca 1920, no marker
Pilant, Sarah Clair, d/o Wm. Jr., 1909 – ca 1920, no marker
Pilant, Marie Julia LeBlanc, w/o Wm. Sr., 1837 – 1920, no marker
Pilant, William Sr., ? – 1899, no marker
Randolph, Catherine Kleinpeter, w/o John, 1786 – 1847, marker
Randolph, Ellen M. Smith, w/o George, 1834 – 1856, marker
Randolph, John, s/o John, 1818 – 1856, marker
Randolph, John, War of 1812, 1777 – 1837, marker
Riviere, Anne Marie Renee Aime Douezan, w/o Jean Baptiste Riviere, 1766 – 1849, marker
Roberts, Constance Kleinpeter, w/o Gilbert Comeaux & Stephen Roberts, d/o George Kleinpeter, ? – 1851, no marker
Kleinpeter, George, ? – 1851, no marker
Smith, Jacob, 1814 – 1857, no marker
Smith, Mary Barbara Thomas, w/o Jacob, 1813 – 1872, no marker
Staring, Kathryn J. Hillman, 1st w/o George H. Staring, 1870 – 1898, memorial marker
Stokes, James, s/o William & Nettie, 1872 – 1903, marker
Stokes, Sidney, s/o William & Nettie, 1878 – 1896, marker
Stokes, William, s/o Alexander & Virginia, 1873 – 1912, C.S.A., marker
Stokes, Willie F., s/o William & Nettie, 1870 – 1896, marker
Thomas, Antoinette Caroline, d/o Jefferson P., ? – 1857, marker
Thomas, Buffington J., s/o Jefferson P., no date, marker
Thomas, Elizabeth, widow/o Benj. Parker Thomas, d/o Gen. Philemon Thomas, mother/o Jefferson P., ? – 1841, no marker
Thomas, Florence, d/o Jefferson P., ? – 1857, marker
Thomas, William E., s/o Jefferson P., no dates, marker
Trousdale, Kleinpeter, Randolph, Mary Catherine, w/o Andrew Kleinpeter, 1822 – abt. 1874

Unconfirmed And Possible Burials

Aucoin, Elizabeth Verdon, w/o J. Florentin, no dates
Bills, John A., husb/o Mary Garig, ? – 1841
Bills, Mary Garig, w/o John A., c. 1812 – 1860
Comeaux, Florestine Sylvannie Tullier, w/o Chas. D. Jr., 1825 – ?
Comeaux, Mary Carmelite Hebert, w/o Chas. D. Sr.
Daigre, Francis Paul, s/o Denis O. Daigre, Sr.,  1850 – 1892
Daigre, Jean Baptiste Bouvier, s/o Olivier, c 1810 – 1840
Daigre, Mrs. Mary C., w/o Gilbert, ? – 1879
Davis, William, War of 1812, h/o Elizabeth Sharp, ? – c.1825
Doiron, Alzie Daigle, w/o Francis G., ? – c.1910
Duplantier, Marguerite Mary Lopez, w/o Augustin, 1815 – ?
Edmonston, J. Walter, C.S.A., husb/o Lillie E. Aucoin
Fulton, Helene de Grand Pre, d/o Gov. Carlos de Grand Pre, 1782 – 1855
Fulton, Col. Samuel, husb/o Helene, ? – c.1827
Garig, Elizabeth, d/o George & Mary B., c.1809 – ?
Garig, George, s/o George & Mary B., 1807 – 1868, C.S.A.
McDonald, Mary Barbara Thomas, w/o Joshua McDonald & Geo. Garig, 1777 – 1852
Neilson, Elizabeth, widow of James Neilson who d. 1831
Neilson, William, s/o James & Elizabeth, ? – c.1833, bachelor
Parker, Mack, husb/o Nan Pecue
Pecue, Victoria Coralie Aucoin, w/o John Pecue, 1842 – 1921
Penny, Marian A., d/o Robert & Matilda, c. 1840 – 1846
Penny, Ann W., d/o Robert & Matilda, 1835 – 1850
Penny, Lucy Ann, d/o Robert & Matilda, c 1839 – c 1846
Phillips, Elizabeth Babin, w/o Plaisant, Sr.
Randolph, George, husb/o Ellen M. Smith, (m. 5-13-1852)
Randolph, John, 17?? – 1822, father of John (1777 – 1837 )
Sharp, Joseph, husb/o Pauline Gras, Widow Neilson, ? – 1820
Sheppers, Pauline Gras, widow of Neilson & Joseph Sharp, w/o Louis Sheppers who survived her and m. Her sister, Olympia, 1796 – 1822
Thomas, Benjamin Parker, husb/o Elizabeth Thomas, son-in-law of General Philemon Thomas, 1782 – 1835
Thomas, Caroline E. Trager, w/o Jefferson Plummer Thomas, d/o John Trager & Julia Kleinpeter, c 1827 – c.1871
Thomas, Jefferson Plummer, grandson of General Philemon Thomas, s/o Benjamin Parker Thomas, father of 4 children buried in Highland

Early Louisiana

Free Stuff Friday: The price of hiring a drummer in colonial Louisiana

In 1717, Captain De Lauze died just a year after being commissioned for service in Louisiana, which belonged to France at the time. De Lauze didn’t die without setting his affairs in order. He left a will, bequeathing a pot of butter to the Jesuits. The rest of his estate was to go to his sister in France, which meant debts had to be settled and possessions sold.

Fortunately for his sister in France, there was a plan in place to drum up attention for the liquidation. Literally. A man named La Croix was hired to beat his drum and advertise the estate sale. Think of La Croix as a walking, beating billboard.

We know about La Croix the Drummer because he filed a receipt with De Lauze’s estate to be compensated for his labor. The request is part of a treasure trove of colonial documents scanned and put online by the Louisiana State Museum.

Wondering how much it cost to hire a drummer in colonial Louisiana? The answer is 10 livres. A livre was the equivalent of a pound of silver.

The museum holds the records for New Orleans’s French Superior Council (1714-1769) and Spanish Judicial Records (1769-1803). They tell the story of New Orleans’ infancy. And they’re helpfully indexed in English in case you don’t read Spanish and French.

You’ll find deaths, murders, slavery and pirates in these records.

Enjoy! Here’s the handy dandy link: https://www.lacolonialdocs.org/

lafourche parish, Newspaper articles

The Augeron family of Lockport

Ah, the 1970s and 1980s. TG&Y still was in business with a never-ending stock of sea monkeys. K&B sold the best ice cream ever in rectangular boxes (or huge tubs if you were having a birthday party). TV stations signed off the air with the National Anthem. And newspapers weren’t the thin leaflet they are today. They had miles of pages to fill, my friend.

I wasn’t reading newspapers in the 1970s and 1980s, but I go back and look at them now. They contain a wealth of family research.

Newspapers had space for genealogy columns and long, meandering family history stories. If you wanted to share a story about Great Uncle Edgar, the local newspaper would find a home for it. If you wanted to share photos from the family album, all you had to do was drive your Pinto to the newspaper office. If you wanted to sell a family history that you’d typed up at the kitchen table while downing a Tab, well, the newspaper could oblige with free publicity.

Here’s the story of the Augeron family of Lockport courtesy of Monsieur Gros.

New Orleans

The trouble with being mayor

New Orleans’ mayor is in a bit of trouble for partying at Mardi Gras without a mask. That’s a no-no when you’re the person who put a citywide mask mandate in place.

In the 1800s, the mayor of New Orleans had different problems: Orphans.

It was the mayor’s job to keep track of the city’s orphans and dispose of them. Fortunately, there were plenty of orphanages because there were countless children, from day-old babies to delinquent adolescents, to place. I do wonder: Did people bring babies in baskets to the Mayor’s Office? Were misbehaving children marched into the Mayor’s Office?

You have to wonder what happened to 14-year-old Bertha Guth, who got herself sent to the House of Good Shepherd for robbing a house and trying to set fire to it in 1875. She’s one of the entries in a transcription of the mayor’s records published on the New Orleans Public Library’s website.

Here’s a strange tale. Poor Mr. Brown didn’t even know the name of the lady who left her son with him.

Children ended up in orphanages because their mothers died, their fathers disappeared – or in the case of a 2-month-old with no name referenced in the above image – they were left at a stranger’s house for a short span of time that stretched into weeks.

The library has a lot of records like this in its digital collection. Enjoy: http://archives.nolalibrary.org/~nopl/spec/speclist.htm

terrebonne parish

A double burial in Chacahoula

This is a story that starts with lunch on an October day and quickly turns sad. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Like a lot of Cajuns who tired of living hand to mouth, half brothers Joseph and Louis Bernard didn’t stay on the bayou where they were born. They found work as carpenters for the railroad in New Orleans.

On Oct. 2, 1928, they found a comfortable ledge in the yard of the railroad shed and tucked into their lunches. A switch engine backing a string of nine empty rail cars disrupted their meal. The brothers’ tools were on the tracks in the path of the switch engine.

It’s not clear which brother jumped down to retrieve the tools. All that’s known is the one who did slipped and fell – and his brother jumped onto the tracks to pull him to safety. The train was on top of them in a flash.

Joseph, who was 70, died immediately. Little brother Louis, who was 59, died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Their bodies were taken to the Catholic cemetery in Chacahoula for burial. Their markers are still there in the little bayou town.

Fun facts about Louisiana

A female steamboat captain in Louisiana

Alas, I’ve been busy with work and home remodeling (don’t remodel … just take my advice blindly on this; it will mean working with men of few words who will silently judge you while you laboriously debate monumental decisions such as grout color) so I haven’t had much time for blogging.

However, since my husband keeps telling me the remodeling project is somehow “my thing,” I thought I’d shamelessly share a recent post making the Facebook history group rounds.

In 1930 a New Orleans newspaper proclaimed Blanche Leathers the “only woman licensed river pilot.” I think they meant she was the only woman licensed to be a river pilot, an elite group of people entrusted with guiding ships through Louisiana’s tricky waters.

Blanche wasn’t the only female river pilot of her day. But she was the only one who piloted a veritable floating mansion with plate glass windows, a piano and pretty drapery.

The story goes that Blanche was the daughter of a Tensas Parish cotton planter. In 1879, she was 16 and ready to party for Mardi Gras. She boarded a steamer for New Orleans, fell in love with the captain and married him. They honeymooned aboard the steamer, which also became their marital home.

Blanche’s husband, Captain Boling Leathers, would leave his wife in charge of the boat when he left to go ashore because he didn’t trust his crew. Eventually, she got a river pilot’s license. She would bring steamers down the sugar coast – as the stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans was called – with bales of cotton piled so high that you couldn’t see the lower decks.

Life on the river suited Blanche. Passengers included planters, politicians, gamblers and professional opera companies. The price of cabin passage included meals, which for lunch alone meant soup, chicken, roast, chops, vegetables by the dozen, salad, hot rolls, ice cream, cake and pies. It’s a wonder the passengers didn’t roll off the boat.

After 18 years on the river, Captain Blanche retired to New Orleans. A life of movies and shopping and motoring and bridge wasn’t for her. Soon she was back on the river for another stint as captain.

She piloted for a few more years and died in 1940 at age 79.