New Orleans History – All Souls Day, All Saints, and All Hallows Eve

New Orleans History – All Souls Day, All Saints, and All Hallows Eve

New Orleans History – All Souls Day and above ground cemeteries in New Orleans in celebration of Halloween!

new orleans history - all souls

House decorated for Halloween (Infrogmation photo)

New Orleans History – All Souls, Saints, and All Hallows Eve

Ghosts and ghouls and goblins! All Hallows’ Eve is upon us! New Orleans never lacks for an excuse to party. Halloween provides a fun theme. Even in New Orleans, the season offers more than jack-o-lanterns, black cats, and witches on broomsticks. On Halloween, Catholics gear up for the really important day: The Feast of All Souls, on November 2.

Halloween

new orleans history - all souls

Feast of All Saints, novel by Anne Rice

Halloween wasn’t really A Thing in New Orleans until the 1980s. Anne Rice’s first novel of her “Vampire Chronicles” dropped in 1976. The series enticed people. Readers accepted the notion of vampires in New Orleans. Combine this with other authors like Poppy Z. Brite (Billy Martin), writing about paranormal New Orleans. It was as if we always had vampires. Add The Witching Hour and Rice’s other “Mayfair Witches” stories. Halloween and New Orleans connected.

Voudon and Halloween

new orleans history - all souls

Voodoo Experience Stage, 2009 (courtesy Commons user Njmaki)

Voudon doesn’t have a lot of connection to Samhain or All Hallows Eve. St. John’s Eve, at midsummer, was always the big “feast day” for followers of Voudon. While the focus should be on the Celtic traditions, Voudon gets caught in the mix. The annual Voodoo Music Fest contributes to this, much to the dismay of those who don’t approve of the mashup.

All Saints Day

New Orleans History - all souls

Three “double” tombs in front of the Italian Society Mausoleum in St. Louis Cemetery Number One in Faubourg Treme (author’s photo)

The Catholic Church recognizes individuals believed to be in heaven as saints. (New Orleans recognizes football players wearing black and gold as Saints). While conclusive evidence of such a state is hard to come by, Catholics make it happen. So the Church looks for supernatural events after a person’s death. Those taking up the “cause” of a prospective Saint attribute “miracles” to them. A sick person prays to a holy person for intercession. Their illness passes. The Church calls that a miracle. So, the Pope declares the holy person a saint.

Martyrs

new orleans history - all souls

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, a Redemptorist priest whose work in New Orleans helped make him a candidate for sainthood. (Wikimedia Commons)

Martyrs, those who give their lives defending their faith, are believed to go immediately to heaven, which is why the yearly calendar of saints’ feast days includes a large number of them. In fact, the first recorded general recognition of saints was in 609, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome for the Blessed Virgin and all martyrs. May 13 was designated the date this event would be commemorated. During the papacy of Gregory III (731-741), the recognition of “all saints” was moved from May 13 to November 1. This commemoration gave the Church a “catch-all” day, where folks could pray for their “personal saints,” family and friends who they believed were in heaven but would never be formally recognized by the Church as such.

All Souls

The tradition of All Hallows (All Saints) is a strong one, but it’s still secondary in New Orleans. Faithful Catholics rise and go to Mass on November 1st. So, then they head out to the cemeteries. They clean up and prepare their family tombs for November 2nd. That’s the “Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed.” Catholics call the day, the Feast of All Souls.

While most people don’t want to believe that Grandpa is burning in the fiery pit for all eternity, maybe he wasn’t as good a person as he could have been. Catholics have a solution for that situation: Purgatory.

Purgatory

The idea was, since Grandpa wasn’t ready to go directly to heaven, he had to make a stop along the way, for purification. This pit stop was worked up over centuries into an elaborate system, where the faithful could pray for a “reduction in sentence” as it were, for their loved ones that were in Purgatory. Knowing that Grandpa wasn’t on the express train motivated Grandma to make sure the family tomb was kept up well and prayers regularly said for the repose of his soul. Since November 2 was a work day (the day before often is a holiday in Catholic-dominated countries), any clean-up projects at the cemetery had to be done on the day before.

new orleans history - all souls

“Decorating the Tombs” from Harper’s Weekly, 1885 (public domain)

Fixing up the Family Tomb

Cleaning up the family plot is often a bit more complicated in New Orleans than other parts of the United States, because we regularly bury our loved ones above-ground. The New Orleans cemetery tour guides will tell stories of how this had to be done in the early years of the city, since burying coffins below sea level would force them to the surface as the water table would rise. The truth of the tradition is a bit more simple (and obvious): above-ground burial was something that came over to New Orleans from France. Above-ground tombs gave families a better focal point for visiting the departed and praying for a remission of their time in Purgatory.

Above Ground

These tombs are usually made of regular brick-and-mortar, then plastered over and whitewashed. Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans were usually constructed by the various ethnic groups that made up the city’s faithful. The French-Spanish-African Creoles had the original St. Louis cemeteries in Faubourg Treme and Faubourg St. John. The Irish built the St. Patrick’s cemeteries at the head of Canal Street, and the Germans had their cemeteries dedicated to St. Joseph on Washington Avenue.

new orelans history - all souls

“Ovens” in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (Mugnier photo)

The heat and humidity of the city’s climate takes its toll on those structures. They require periodic maintenance. Families share tombs. They also share the maintenance duties.

One Big Picnic

So, the adult children go out to the cemetery with Grandma on All Saints Day. The kids come along, of course. So the scene in the cemeteries was often quite festive. Everyone spruced up their tomb. What started as work details became picnics where families that grew apart would come together for a very worthy cause. Siblings and cousins could catch up with each other, and Grandma was able to go to the cemetery regularly for another year with her head held high.

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain, All Saints and All Souls!

Locoul Family Tomb, New Orleans, Orleans Parish, LA

Locoul Family Tomb, New Orleans, Orleans Parish, LA

Locoul Family Tomb, in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

locoul family tomb

Locoul Family Tomb drawing from its HABS survey. (Library of Congress)

Locoul Family Tomb

Locoul Family Tomb

Locoul Family Tomb HABS Survey (Library of Congress)

The Historic American Building Survey (HABS) collection at the Library of Congress contains several surveys of tombs in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, in Faubourg Treme. The Locoul family’s tomb is particularly interesting, because of the family’s links to Laura Plantation.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 draws large numbers of tourists daily to Basin Street. The city opened the cemetery in 1789. St. Louis No. 1 replaced an earlier cemetery, St. Peter’s, in the Vieux Carre. So, the French tradition of above-ground burials in tombs and vaults allowed families a lot of creativity in designing their resting places. Therefore, individual tombs attract study. Catholics and Protestants buried their dead in St. Louis No. 1, until Christ Episcopal opened Girod Cemetery in 1822.

Significance of the tomb

Locoul Family Tomb

Emile Locoul (1822-1879)From the survey entry:

Significance: The Locoul family owned the Laura Plantation on River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The family’s patriarch, George Raymond Locoul, arrived in New Orleans in 1821 and shortly thereafter married Elisabeth Duparc, whose family owned one of the largest sugar plantations in St. James Parish. Raymond himself had a lucrative wine importing business. From 1820 to 1920 the plantation was a main distribution point for French wines and other liquors, with a 10,000 bottle capacity. Raymond died in 1850 from yellow fever, leaving Elisabeth and their two children, Louis Raymond Emile and Mary Elisabeth Aimee.

It was after his death the tomb was built, for the contagiousness of the disease prevented the body from being transported upriver to the family tomb. Elisabeth ran the plantation during the Civil War up until her death in 1882. The plantation later became the focus of a bitter property war between siblings Emile and Aimee. Since Aimee owned the sugar mill on the land, Emile built his own and subsequently named it after his daughter, Laura. Laura Locoul Gore would later go on to write a memoir, “Memories of the Old Plantation Home,” of the Locoul family’s history.

The Locouls were Creole in heritage and one of the wealthiest families in Louisiana at the peak of the plantation’s production. The tomb puts that wealth on display by employing a slate and granite foundation and has some of the cemetery’s finest ironwork surrounding the tomb.

The first image in the survey includes a map of St. Louis No. 1. The map shows the location in the cemetery of the Locoul tomb.

HABS and St. Louis No. 1

Locoul Family Tomb

Map of St. Louis Cemetery No 1 included in the HABS surveys of tombs in the cemetery.

There are a number of HABS surveys on tombs in St. Louis No. 1. So, we’ll look at them as we go forward.

In the meantime, if you’d like to visit St. Louis No. 1 and the Locoul tomb, check out my friends at Two Chicks Walking Tours.

 

 

 

Girod Cemetery isn’t under Da Dome

Girod Cemetery isn’t under Da Dome

Girod Cemetery – no, it’s not cursing the Saints

Girod Cemetery

Girod Cemetery 1885. Illustration in book “Souvenir of New Orleans and the Exposition”

Girod Cemetery was the first Protestant cemetery in New Orleans

Since this comes up every football season. I wrote an article about this in 2007. Let’s update it a bit.

The original citation and introduction:

Wednesday Cemetery Blogging and NOLA Kossacks Open Thread
Sep 26, 2007 10:12am Central Daylight Time by YatPundit

Thing is, Da Dome wasn’t built on the cemetery. Girod Street Cemetery was built between Girod, LaSalle, and Liberty Streets, roughly on the area now occupied by the parking garage for the New Orleans Centre shopping mall. I got one piece wrong in the original article: The stadium was built on land occupied by a bunch of warehouses and other commercial buildings. The engine terminal was on the other side of Union Passenger Terminal.

Before the Superdome

Girod Cemetery

Girod Cemetery and Poydras Street, 1883

This is a section of the Robinson Atlas of 1883. The cemetery extends to Freret Street.

Girod Cemetery

New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal (left), Girod Cemetery (right)

Here is an aerial shot from 1954, after the completion of Union Passenger Terminal. So, Girod Cemetery is to the right. The Chapter of Christ built Girod in 1822. Prior to 1822, Protestants buried their dead in the back of St. Louis Cemetery Number One.  ,

Girod was a grand cemetery for almost a century. Unfortunately, Christ Episcopal did not establish a “perpetual care” fund. So, the cemetery deteriorated.  The Chapter lacked the funds to maintain it. By 1957, the cemetery was a jungle.. Therefore, the diocese deconsecrated Girod. They demolished the cemetery in late 1957.

The Superdome and UPT Today

Girod Cemetery

Map of area around Da Dome

So, here’s a map of the area around the Superdome today. Notice Freret Street.

Girod Cemetery

Google Earth view of Da Dome

Here’s a Google Earth view of the same area The train sheds mark the stadium’s position. Compare that and Freret Street. The earlier photo puts the cemetery below the stadium. So, Champions Square occupies the top end of the cemetery. New Orleans Centre occupied the site of Champions Square before 2010.

The curse isn’t real

While the curse isn’t real, it would explain a lot about the Saints! .

Cemetery Sunday – Angelo Brocato, Sr, Metairie Cemetery

Cemetery Sunday – Angelo Brocato, Sr, Metairie Cemetery

Angelo Brocato, Sr, founder of Brocato’s Ice Cream

Angelo Brocato

Brocato Family tomb, Metairie Cemetery

Angelo Brocato, Sr – Ice Cream and Pastries

Angelo Brocato, Sr, was born in Cefalù, Sicily, on May 25, 1875. At the age of twelve, he apprenciced in an ice cream shop in the Sicilian city of Palermo. Brocato emigrated to the United States, coming to New Orleans, where he plied his trade. He soon opened his own shop, on Decatur Street. At this time the Italian groceries like Central and Progress were anchors on Decatur Street. The French Market was across the street. So, this combination was perfect for an ice cream shop. That shop grew in popularity. By 1905, Brocato needed a bigger location. He moved the shop to the 500 block of Ursulines Street. Brocato’s clientele kept growing, to the point where Angelo moved the shop in 1921, to 612-614 Ursulines. This location is now occupied by the Croissant d’Or coffee shop. You can still Angelo Brocato’s name in the tiles at the front door.

From the French Quarter to Mid-City

Brocato’s sold their ice cream and pastries at 612-614 Ursulines from 1921 to 1978. The family purchased a building on N. Carrollton Avenue that year. Much of the Sicilian community moved away from the French Quarter to Mid-City in the early 1900s. Still, Brocato’s stayed for over fifty years. Now, the shop is a Mid-City institution. Angelo Sr’s ice cream, along with his Italian Ices, fig cookies, cannolis, and other goodies define Mid-City. The French Quarter store closed in 1981. The family returned to the Quarter in 1984. Brocato’s opened a second store in the Lower Pontalba Building, at the corner of Rue Chartres and Rue St. Ann. This shop closed after the 1984 World’s Fair closed.

Angelo Brocato, Sr passed away on July 25, 1946. He was buried in Metairie Cemetery. His son, Angelo, Jr, continued to run the business until his death in 1982. Angelo Jr is also buried in the family tomb.

The Brocato tomb is typical of many “double tombs” in New Orleans. The BVM statue is a common addition on tombs owned by Catholic families.

Chalmette Cemetery – USCT #HonorThem

Chalmette Cemetery – USCT #HonorThem

Chalmette Cemetery – USCT

Chalmette Cemetery

Markers of graves of Unknown Soldiers from the Civil War in Chalmette Cemetery (Edward Branley photo)

Chalmette Cemetery and United States Colored Troops

Many men died fighting for the Union in South Louisiana. New Orleans surrendered in April, 1862. The Union Army used the city as a base to move north. They pressed the rebels from both directions along the Mississippi. Major General Benjamin Butler brought a force close to 3000 men to Ship Island to invade New Orleans. A sizable contingent of that force were United States Colored Troops (USCT).

Black men served in the US Army for a number of reasons. They were citizens of the free states. Some were the sons and grandsons of slaves. Their ancestors escaped from the South. So, they made lives for themselves in the Northern states. There were 175 regiments of USCT by 1865, a full one-tenth of the US Army.

Fighting for the Union

Chalmette cemetery

Chalmette National Cemetery (Edward Branley photo)

Black soldiers fought as segregated units The “Colored Troops” battalions and regiments were often raised by white men who were willing to command black soldiers, such as the 54th Massachusetts. While the men might know each other, was, the white officers didn’t. In many cases, Their soldiers didn’t live anywhere near where the unit was raised. So, when these men died in action in the Deep South, the survivors and the locals had no idea who they were.

Butler held incredible power as the general commanding the occupation. Since the war continued after the invasion, the army needed a place to bury their dead. The battlefield in Chalmette was a possible choice for a cemetery. The city preserved the battlefield, and nobody really lived down there, even by the 1860s.

The army sectioned off a portion of the battlefield on the eastern side. This was the “British side” of the battlefield, Pakenham’s army advanced on the Americans from there. Since the bulk of the action took place on the “American side,” nobody considered the cemetery as an affront.

Visiting Chalmette

The top photo shows the markers of “unknowns,” mostly USCT soldiers. The second photo shows the standard markers used by National Cemeteries at the time.

If you haven’t been down to Chalmette Battlefield and Chalmette National Cemetery since your eighth grade field trip, jump in the car!

 

 

Podcast: Maunsel White in the days after the Battle of New Orleans

Podcast: Maunsel White in the days after the Battle of New Orleans

Maunsel White, Irishman, planter, and veteran of the Battle of New Orleans, is the subject of our first pod of 2017.

maunsel white

Beyond Bourbon Street by Mark Bologna

Guest Starring on Podcasts!

Our first pod for 2017! We’re behind a bit, because @NOLAHistoryGuy started out the year doing a guest segment on another podcast. It was fun to sit and chat with Mark Bologna of Beyond Bourbon Street about the Battle of New Orleans. Mark is @BeyondBourbonST on Twitter – note the “ST” for “Street” in Mark’s Twitter handle and website.

After attending a wonderful talk by Mr. Winston Hu of the University of New Orleans Department of History (my old stomping ground as an undergrad) on the history of Chinese people in New Orleans, I went out to Cypress Grove Cemetery to photograph the “Chinese Tomb” that Hu discussed.

(editor’s note: Let’s be honest here, walking through Cypress Grove isn’t a huge sacrifice for me, since I park on Canal Street by the cemetery, then walk over to Banks Street, to go to Wakin’ Bakin’ for breakfast, coffee, and writing time.)

Maunsel White

Maunsel White, 1851

Maunsel White and Cemetery Exploration

Maunsel White

White family tomb in Cypress Grove Cemetery, on Canal Street

As I walked through Cypress Grove, I came across a mausoleum with “Maunsel White” carved in the top. There was a small bronze plaque at the base of the mausoleum, indicating that the senior White was a veteran of the War of 1812. I remembered the name, that he was one of Jackson’s officers on 8-Jan-1815. I shot a bunch of photos, then made a note to do an article on him for my cemetery website. Then I looked him up, and realized he was part of the bigger story of the Battle of New Orleans. Not to steal the thunder from what Mark and I chatted about on his pod, I decided that talking about White would be a good complementary discussion.

Maunsel White

Plaque on Maunsel White’s tomb

So, have a listen to White, and his involvement in the days following the Battle of New Orleans. Be sure to add Beyond Bourbon Street’s pod to your playlist, and recommend it to your friends.