See Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Morgan City? That was Cordelia Dantin Budge LeBlanc’s destination the morning of June 22, 1958.
The church really wasn’t a long walk from her Railroad Avenue home. She just had to cross the railroad tracks. There’s even a small flight of concrete steps to help pedestrians navigate the descent from the raised track to the street in front of the church. It was on this flight of steps that Cordelia was found.
Whether she fell trying to rush across the tracks to avoid a train or was actually hit by a train is unclear. No one seems to have witnessed the accident. What’s clear is her injuries were extensive: broken ribs, broken arm, brain concussion and internal injuries. She lingered for a few days before dying just a few months shy of her 82nd birthday.
Born a Dantin, Cordilia spent her early years in Thibodaux but most of her life in Morgan City. Her parents were Theophile Dantin and Irene Templet. Widowed in 1918 when her husband died of the Spanish flu, she seems to have always lived near the church she was trying to attend when she died.
I went to Gibson today to spruce up my grandparents’ graves. While there, I walked the small cemetery to see if I could find Lizzie Schmitt/Schmidt’s grave.
Lizzie was the baby sister of my granny’s great grandmother, Anaise Templet Giroir. After her mother died when she was just a baby, she rotated among the relatives before marrying and settling in Gibson. It took me a bit to prove she was Anaise’s sister. My guess is their mother died in childbirth having Lizzie and the family didn’t get around to baptizing Lizzie.
I’d never seen her grave in the Gibson cemetery, but an old catalog of the graves showed markers for her, her husband and at least some of their children.
Using the mention of the graves being in their own enclosure as a guide, I studied the cemetery and soon came across a row of graves squared off by a low border of bricks. None of the graves were readable, which would be why I didn’t remember coming across Lizzie.
I went down the little line of markers and noticed one had a nameplate. It read Mrs. Jos. Schmitt. That would be Lizzie. I’d probably seen it before I knew her married name and it hadn’t registered.
I stuck some white flowers in the ground next to her marker. It’s sad when markers get neglected and forgotten.
Am I the only one who carries extra flowers to the cemetery?
My grandmother devoted decades to genealogy research – mostly concentrating on Texas, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Missouri. However, since she moved to Louisiana in her late 20s and became friendly with other genealogy buffs in Terrebonne Parish, her files include stray Louisiana genealogy notes. I’ve been looking through her files to preserve them, and I keep finding Easter eggs.
Today, for example, I found a typed list of some of the graves in the “Catholic Graveyard – Gibson, Louisiana.” The list is typed on the kind of transparent paper I used in high school to write to my overseas pen pal in Sweden because it was light and cheap to mail. Now, I should caution that this list comes with a lot of unknowns. I don’t know who typed it. I don’t know who sharpened a pencil and made notes in the margins. I don’t know what the source was. What I do know is the list contains graves that aren’t in evidence today.
The Catholic Graveyard – Gibson, Louisiana is St. Patrick Catholic Cemetery along the bayou in the Terrebonne Parish village of Gibson. My grandparents from the other side of the family are buried there so I visit periodically to put plastic flowers on their graves.
Visiting the cemetery was one of the highlights of childhood visits to Gibson because we had to cross the bridge to reach it. The single-car bridge had a pedestrian bridge that hovered right above the water. It was metal, which rang like rain on a tin roof when you ran across it. Very satisfying to tiny feet – and we always walked to the cemetery. Gibson was fun in those days: a country store with gingerbread planks, a post office with a rows of gleaming postal boxes, a circular library and the cemetery.
I know just about every grave in that cemetery because I spent a lot of time studying them while Granny whitewashed my grandfather’s grave. I’ve never seen the Schmitt plot.
Joseph Schmitt married Lizzie Templet, who was the baby sister of my great-great grandmother. Joseph worked at the lumber mill in Gibson. Lizzie busied herself having six children. Lizzie’s life wasn’t a long one. She died age 42 in Gibson. Her youngest would have been 12. Joseph died a few years later.
Like I said, there is no Schmitt plot in the Gibson cemetery. Except – according to the notes in my grandmother’s files – there once was an enclosed plot for them. I’m not certain what’s meant by an enclosed plot. But apparently, Joe, Lizzie, sons Ed and Louis and daughter Julia and her husband are all buried in it.
Here’s the thing: Markers aren’t permanent. They have to be maintained. It’s possible I’ve walked past the Schmitt graves without realizing it because the markers are unreadable or the caretaker knocked a mower into them.
Never rely just on markers when doing genealogy research. Look at burial records if they exist. Study old genealogy magazines for grave lists. Sometimes, families couldn’t afford a marker. Other times, markers disappear.
Certainly, the next time I’m in Gibson, I’ll look for an “enclosed plot” with unreadable or missing markers. I’d like to leave some flowers for my vanished relatives.
Genealogy isn’t for the faint of heart because sometimes you find out your relatives were a little trashy.
Pierre and Jean Templet were the sons of Norbert Templet and Marguerite Augustine Landry. Their mom died when they were young, and they disappeared from census records. I assumed that they, too, died young until I came across a spectacular argument between them in court records.
It seems that Jean shot and killed Pierre’s hogs. I can post the entire court record if anyone’s interested. There were a lot of witnesses against Jean, and he was found guilty and ordered to pay his brother the hogs’ value.
I bet holidays were fun at the Templet house after that.
For YEARS, I’ve tried to track down the death date for my great-great-great grandmother, Anaise Templet. I’m not going to say exactly how many years it took me since I don’t like to be dated like rings on a tree. Let’s just say that I finally did it.
What I didn’t need to puzzle out is that Anaise had it rough.
She was 10 when her mother died. She lived with her schoolteacher uncle and his wife until she became the teen bride of Eulice Giroir. They had five children. The youngest was still a baby on her hip when Eulice died.
From my grandmother, I know what Anaise did to feed at least some of those children. She farmed, possibly as a sharecropper but more likely as a field hand.
She seems to have kept her sons while sending her daughters to live with relatives. What’s curious to me is that some of the daughters married and raised families in the same tiny village where my grandmother lived. Never once did I hear my grandmother talk about her grandfather’s sisters and their offspring. She just mentioned “Naise” and her grandfather’s only brother. It’s likely that she never knew the connection or that she was bumping into relatives at the village post office. That means the little family truly fell apart with Eulice’s death.
But I digress.
Anaise remarried at age 47 to a man named Felix Leonide Larose. They lived in Labadieville. I found them on the 1900 census. After that, they vanished.
Over the years, I’ve looked for a death certificate or a cemetery marker. I’ve scoured succession records and property indexes. I wondered if they might have gone to Texas like Anaise’s brother Charlie and died there. I looked in the burial records for Gibson and Amelia, which cover most of the family tree. Nothing.
Now, of course, I also looked in Assumption Parish for a burial record. But what I forgot is that I looked years ago before I stumbled across her second marriage. After coming across what I suspected was her obit today, I called the diocese.
The lady at the diocese looked up the burial record. Then she came back with the results.
Archivist: You said her name was Anaise?
Archivist: It doesn’t list a first name. It just says Mrs. Felix Larose nee Templet.
And there you have it. Anaise died in 1909 at age 61. Her husband died weeks later. On Anaise’s burial record, the priest jotted down that it was a charity case, meaning the church had to bury her because the family couldn’t afford it. She also died before the priest could visit her.
It’s nice to close the loop on Anaise. Now I’m wondering who Desire Lagreze was and why she died at his house.
It turns out Charles Valsin Templet/Tompley and Louisa Josephine Boudreaux did have a sixth child.
Solving this mystery is why I often leave really frustrating family puzzles for a bit and come back to them later. Often, the evidence is right there. You just need to look at it with eyes that aren’t so tired.
To recap, Charles and Louisa were my direct ancestors. They had five – really six = children before Louisa died in 1858. The relatives apparently drew straws for the children (not really) after she died, scattering them to the wind, and her succession record disappeared from the courthouse. So it’s been a chore to figure out what happened to them all. I also suspected there was a child who never showed up in the church records because her mother died so quickly after her birth and the household would have been in an uproar. That would be Lizzie.
I’ve never found a baptism record for Lizzie – possibly because her mother died shortly after her birth (my guess; I don’t know that Louisa died in childbirth). It’s possible someone in the neighborhood baptized the baby, especially if she was a sickly baby born to a dying mother. Anyway, I suspected Lizzie belonged to Charles and Louisa after seeing her name pop up in relative’s households on census records and not being able to fit her anywhere else in the Templet family tree. Sometimes you just get a hunch. But I couldn’t prove it. Until now.
I traced Lizzie through the years and discovered she married a German man named Joseph Schmidt. He worked at the sawmill in Gibson. Lizzie died in 1900, leaving behind Joseph and several children.
Looking through the Terrebonne Parish census records in 1900, I found Joseph, the kids and another person in the household: Alice Giroir. Alice was the daughter of Anaise Templet and Eulice Giroir. She was my great-great grandfather’s baby sister. I knew she married a man from Gibson and died there. I always wondered how she ended up in Gibson.
Now I know. Lizzie’s family took her in after Eulice died. To Alice, that would have been Aunt Lizzie’s family. She’s identified on the census as a niece.
Lizzie wasn’t a common Cajun name a century ago. Think about it. You’ve heard of Lizzie Borden. How often have you heard of Lizzie Boudreaux?
So I was puzzled when I came across a Lizzie Tompley living with Etienne Carville LeBlanc and Josephine Emiline Templet in 1870. Not only is the name unusual, but I don’t know which branch in the Templet family tree produced Lizzie.
Now I know who Etienne and Josephine were. I just have no idea who Lizzie was although I have a suspicion.
Josephine Emiline Templet – known as Evaline – was the sister of my g-g-grandmother Anaise. They endured what must have been a sad childhood. Their mother, Louisa Josephine, died in 1858, leaving behind a number of young children: Emiline/Evaline, 12, Anaise, 10, Charles, 9, Philomene, 6, and Uranie/Irene, 4
Presumably, their father, Charles Valsin Templet, was still alive but it wouldn’t have mattered. Back then, children were divvied up when a mother died young. The same thing would happen to Anaise’s children when her husband died early in the life. The cycle would be repeated with the children of Anaise’s granddaughter (my g-grandmother).
But back to Louisa. I don’t know what happened to Evaline after her mother died, but census records tell us that Anaise and Charles went to live with their Aunt Marcelite. Philomene ended up with Uncle Basile from her grandfather’s first marriage. Little Irene was taken in by Aunt Adeline. These were all Louisa’s relations. Apparently their father’s relatives, the Templets, had no room at the inn. Or so I thought.
Trying to figure out who the heck Lizzie was, I searched for her in the 1860 census.
There she is in St. Mary Parish with Jean and Zeolide Templet. Jean was Charles Valsin Templet’s brother. Are you still with me?
Some Ancestry trees list Elizabeth as the daughter of Jean and Zeolide Templet. I don’t think that’s correct. She’s listed below the other children, as she would be if she were an orphan or adopted daughter.
My suspicion – and I could be completely wrong – is that Lizzie was the youngest child of Charles Valsin and Louisa. I think – and again, I could be totally wrong – that Louisa died bringing her into the world. A succession record, which would list the surviving children, was filed when Louisa died. That succession record is missing from the courthouse. No doubt it was checked out and never returned. So that’s a dead end.
Plus, if she was Jean and Zeolide’s child, why was she living with the LeBlancs later on? It seems more likely that she went to live with Uncle Jean and Aunt Zeolide as an infant when her own sisters were too young to care for her. After big sister Evalina married, it makes sense that she sent for Lizzie and took her into her household.
My grandmother’s mother died at age 22, leaving three very young children. Granny went to live with her godparents. Her father later remarried and sent for Granny. The godparents, who only had one child of their own, refused to relinquish her. I can’t say that I blame them. They’d raised her since she was 4, and she arrived malnourished because of her family’s poverty. Jean and Zeolide had tons of children. One less mouth to feed might have been a blessing.
I know what happened to Lizzie later in life. She grew up and married Joseph Schmidt in 1879. In yet another dead end, they didn’t bother to tell the clerk of court or the priest their parents’ names when they married.
Their children included:
Mary Elizabeth, born Aug. 10, 1870
Josephine, born June 3, 1885
Edwin, born Dec. 14, 1886
Louis Joseph, born Aug. 28, 1887
In 1900, Lizzie died, leaving behind a husband and several children. Here’s the obit:
This was recorded under Gibson, Louisiana. So I called the diocese, which has a very helpful archivist. He searched and came up empty on a burial record that would list the names of Lizzie’s parents.
She remains a mystery.
But I keep coming back to the spelling of Templet on the 1870 census. It’s not Templet. It’s Tompley.
Louisa’s son, Charles, went through life as Tomplait. That’s the name on his headstone in Texas. The name on Irene’s grave is Tamplet. They didn’t embrace Templet. For them, it was Tomplait or Tamplet. Or maybe Tompley?
I’ve been trying to track down what happened to Anaise Templet’s parents, Charles Valsin and Louisa Josephine Boudreaux Templet, for years. I believe Louisa died in 1854 since there’s a succession record notation for her. Sadly, the record itself is missing.
Then I came across this entry in a Louisiana newspaper. I’m fairly sure this isn’t my Charles and Louisa since Louisa had a child in 1854 so Charles couldn’t have been dead in 1850. Still, how sad this is:
It will be offered in public auction on Wednesday, 4th day of December, 1850, at 10 o’clock in the morning, on the spot, by AF Hickman, sheriff and auctioneer duly commissioned and sworn in and for the aforesaid parish the properties hereafter described belonging to Mrs. Widow Charles Templet:
1. An earth or dwelling located at Bayou Pierre Part, in this parish, measuring five arpents of face on fourteen acres of depth, bounded on one side by the land of Narcisse Trahan, and on the other, by that of Joseph Frioux , together with all the buildings and improvements that depend on it (except the house occupied by Valery Templet). The vendense reserves the right to remain at the said dwelling until next January, 1851.
Imagine it’s 1906. Cuba’s just become a republic. Colorful cars aren’t yet a thing in Havana. But it’s sunny, tropical and the sugar industry is booming. Sounds like the perfect place for a guy from Donaldsonville to boil some sugar!
Bernard Edgard Templet (distant relation) went to Cuba more than once. He first visited in 1906 to work as a sugar boiler. He returned shortly before Christmas in 1917, sailing from New Orleans aboard a fruit company’s steamer.
It sounds like the 1917 trip was quickly planned. A letter in his passport file indicates he requested a new passport just a week before sailing.
Christmas in Cuba! It must have been exciting.
Already in Cuba was Bernard’s nephew, Gaston Sosthene Bordis.
Gaston was the foreman for a sugar house in Salamanca, Cuba. His passport records indicate he lived in Cuba for six months out of the year. Back in Louisiana, he served as a deputy sheriff.
Indeed, Gaston applied for passports again in 1918 and 1919.
I learned all this from passport records. I had no idea that it was once possible to sail from Louisiana to Cuba for a job in the sugar industry.
I love to stumble across genealogical records that contain photographs. The other day, I stumbled across something called seaman’s protection certificates from 1916 to 1940. These were passports that seamen used as proof of citizenship. They contain dates of birth, addresses and photographs!
The collection is on Ancestry. Just for fun, I pulled photos of seamen born in Louisiana with the last name Templet.
Here’s Henry Templet. born Oct. 23, 1900, in Lafourche Parish. He was a chauffeur looking to board the S.S. Hancock County.
Here’s Maxime Templet, born Aug. 15, 1904, in Napoleonville. His father was Emile Templet. Maxime had a tattoo on his arm and wanted to leave his studies to board the S.S. Warwick.
Here’s Adam L. Templet, born June 8, 1905, in Plattenville to Jules Templet. Adam had a scar on one of his fingers.