St. Louis Cemetery, No. 1 — 29 Comments

  1. I can mark that tour off of my bucket list! Thank you so much for going with me, I know you have a busy schedule! I was excited to get back in your neighborhood, we had such an amazing experience the last time. We really did luck out with Trevor, his love for the places and people he told us about was contagious, I wanted to spend all day learning more. Cemeteries have always been my favorite place to visit in a new area, you can just tell so much more about a culture by seeing how they care for the departed. Again, thank you so much for joining me for the tour and just the chance to catch up with my bayou sister! Your blog post captured the day in a way I couldn’t do justice to.

    • Thank you so much for inviting me. I really did enjoy it, although it ended way too fast! You’ll have to come abck again and we shall go visit No. 2. Deal?

  2. Many other stroies in that cemetery (and much more accurate information than many tour guides provide..including this one).
    Several o’ my relations are interred there – and one I’ve yet to find, an associate o’ Jean Laffite and the “Architect Of New Orleans”, Barthelemy Lafon! He built residences and office buildings in the Vieux Carré & Treme, drew some o’ the first detailed maps o’ New Orleans and is responsible for designing the street layout & many names in the CBD (Business District aka “The American Side”) and the Lower Garden District.
    The alleged tomb o’ Marie Laveau in St. Louis #1 is in fact, Marie Laveau II – the daughter o’ the original Marie Laveau. While both were considered Mambo (Voodou Priestess), Marie the daughter was less traditional and more “theatrical” – known for her public ceremonies on St. John Bayou. Today those ceremonies continue on the same footbridge she used – facilitated by Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman (who also runs her shop from the Healing Arts Centre at St. Claude & St. Roch).
    The “original” Marie Laveau is said to be buried in a wall tomb – belponging to the Glapion family – in St. Louis #2. She was a much more traditional healer, herbalist, etc. – and believed by some to be reincarnated in our good mate Maman Miriam Chamani, Mambo and owner o’ the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple on N. Rampart…around the corner from a house it is rumoured Marie Laveau lived & worked in.
    The small, broken tomb ye saw with all the offerings should be more noted…it is the final resting place o’ the infamous Voodo practitioner, Dr. John (for whom the Musician Mac ‘Dr. john’ Rebennack takes his name)- “a purported Senegalese prince who came to New Orleans from Haiti, a medicinal and spiritual healer. The Doctor was a free man of color who lived on Bayou Road and claimed to have fifteen wives and over fifty children. He maintained a fascination with reptiles and kept an assortment of snakes and lizards, along with embalmed scorpions and animal and human skulls. His specialization was healing, and as such, in selling Gris-Gris, voodoo amulets that protected the wearer from harm.”

    FYI, when Nick Cage’s ridiculous tomb was being construsted, the folks doing the work damaged a couple o’ the nearby markers – nearly beding one wrought iron piece in half! It’s doubtful Cage was aware o’ this, but nonetheless, it was not repaired…staff at St. Louis #1 did their best to fix it this year.

    • Well, like all uninformed tourists, I can’t tell you if Marie I is entombed in this Glapion family tomb or in the wall at No. 2, but I assume there are X’s all over it, too? And offerings? The guide did mention that some think she is buried there. What is the definitive proof? Thanks for expounding on the history in your usual helpful, informative fashion, and a post focusing on Marie I and family might be forthcoming.

      • The tomb in St. Louis #1 has the Xs largely because the story has been widely propogated by Tour Guides. One rumour has it the guides started the story! It is not any traditional Voudon/Voodoo ritual I have ever heard of anywhere else – and while much o’ what is practiced in New Orleans (and the US in general) is more often considered “Hoodoo” (an American adaptation o’ traditional Haitian Voudon), I’ve not heard o’ this ritual there either.
        The wall tomb in St. Louis #2 does get offerings, but more reverent and “subtle”. It is not widely advertised as her tomb as there are not generally tours there and in years past it was considered “unsafe” for tourists (as was #1, being next to “The Projects”).
        As for definitive proof…well, I will say this; the QM felt the darker energy o’ Marie Laveau II at the tomb in St. Louis #1.

        Did ye notice many o’ the wall tombs in #1 are now below ground? Due to settling, soft ground…and sheer age! Ye may have also noticed thatere are people buried IN the ground (present in all New Orleans cemeteries – it’s often a religious requirement). Those tombs are treated the same as the above ground ones – multiple burials in the same space…with no excess coffins.

        St. Louis #1 contains the tomb o’ one o’ Jean Laffite’s sons (Charles) as well as Bernard deMarigny (for whom the Faubourg is named). St. Louis #2 also contains the tomb o’ one o’ Laffite’s right hand Pyrates, Dominque Youx (spelled You on the tomb).

    • I remember the tour guide saying he thought one of her daughters was buried there and that all 9 daughters had the first name of Marie so it was pretty confusing. We did notice the sinking of the wall vaults and several of the houses. Thanks for the additional information! I wondered why the battlefield cemetery had traditional below ground graves and tombstones and it seemed to be in a flooded area, I suppose they started that cemetery before they figured out the logistics of floating coffins.

      • I was biting me tongue on the whole “floating coffins & lack of space” story. So forgive me for pointing out probably the most commonly propagated, erroneous information shared by alleged tour guides in New Orleans.
        First, the tombs have nothing to do with the water levels. Tombs can flood just as easily as in ground graves (ask any family in St. Bernard Parish, sadly, they’ve had plenty o’ experience in recent history). Lafayette #1 in NOLA has never flooded in it’s history!
        The tombs are a European burial tradition brought to Louisiana by the French…however one important thing changed in Louisiana. Normally, family crypts are huge in order to accommodate generations o’ family (there are some in the Hamilton Cemetery – Ontario Canada – that make NOLA tombs look puny). If ye look at the tombs in Louisiana and really look closely, ye may notice quite a number o’ family members in a tomb that is clearly too small for that many coffins. The standard tomb is the burial equivalent o’ a Shotgun home – just long enough and only slightly wider than it needs to be (room for a faceplate and supporting walls). Inside the tomb are two spaces, one on the ground and one above on a shelf. In New Orleans, coffins aren’t as big a business as the wake/Second Line. The containers used for burial are more “eco-friendly”. When someone is buried, they are placed on the top shelf for one year and a day – during which time, the narrow brick enclosure and Louisiana weather takes care o’ the recycling (much like a crematory) and at the end o’ that time little is left but ash & a few fragments o’ bone. When the tomb is reopened in a year and a day (this is tradition – as all tombs are traditionally cleaned, whitewashed and cared for each All Souls Day – though occasionally, the tomb may not be reopened until absolutely necessary, depending on family wishes), the remains are removed and collected into a reliquary…usually the kind also referred to as “hefty bag”. These remains are mixed with any other previous remains until the “reliquary” is full…and they repose on the lower portion o’ the tomb. In ground burials follow a similar process, but are raked through after the year and a day…which is also why most open earthen tombs are sprinkled with shells (disguises the occasional bone fragment that surfaces).
        FYI the Chalmette Military Cemetery contains soldiers o’ several battles: 1812, Revolutionary War, Civil War, WW I & II…and many “unknown” soldiers with only a concrete block and a reference number. While it does get a bit soggy around the edges, it rarely if ever floods, despite having water on all sides. The large Oak tree near the entrance to the Battlefield has enveloped at least three tombstones over the years.

        • Tara – in my studies of Marie, there seems to be no birth record proof of 9 daughters. There were only two, according to some records, and one of those died, leaving just one daughter, who was also named Marie. I have not exhaustively studied the records, so I may solve this mystery by the time I do the post about her. I guess most tour guides are just hired to spew out what they’re told and never do their own research, plus they figure no one else is going to take a different tour and dispute what they say. As far as floating coffins? We have seen coffins surfacing down here during and after flood events, so maybe more research is warranted on that topic, too. I don’t expect that our tour guide had all his facts straight, but it all sounded good, and it was quite an interesting tour, after all. Hey, ignorance is bliss, right? 🙂

          • There are even rumours that Marie Laveaux’s Daughter abhorred Voudou and that Marie II is merely someone who adopted the name.
            Some interesting research on the link below outlining a family tree for Marie Laveaux (the bottom one is the “most corrected”)…it shows her Father as Charles Laveau Trudeau – following a line back to Montréal, Quebec (now in Canada) and before that, France. Ancestors o’ the former Prime Minister o’ Canada, Pierre Trudeau…and my Cousins by marriage!
            The mystery continues…

  3. I really enjoyed this. I love to wander thru cemeteries also. We have some really old ones here also with tombs and graves. Unfortunately, many of the old, wrought iron fences and the beautiful sculptures that adorned the resting places have been stolen or severely damaged by vandals. Some were recovered a few years back but, most are long gone. I would be terrified to deface, steal or mar a tomb or grave. I would probably wake up in the middle he night with the ghost of someone standing at the foot of my bed demanding restitution!!!

    • A sad truth, Cammy! Lafayette #1 in the Lower garden District o’ New Orleans is missing all but one original statue – and it was damaged in an attempted theft (3 photos here
      Almost worse is the attempted land theft. Virtually all tombs in New Orleans are “deeded land”, meaning the family owns it like any other property, in perpetuity unless they decide otherwise. Unscrupulous Real Estate agents have on many occasions tried to ppresent tombs as “abandoned” (often with the payed help o’ someone to damage/remove the faceplate o’ names) and re-sell them to unsuspecting families – often from out o’ State.

  4. I find cemeteries fascinating too. In the early 70’s, one of my brothers, Hubby and I got separated from other mourners in St.Louis 2(?) while attending the funeral of a Great Aunt. I didn’t think we’d ever find our way out. She is interned in one of the mausoleums like the last photo. I remember it being rather eerie because the bricks were falling out of the one next to hers and you could see the coffin. If I go back, it will be with a guide.

  5. Just fascinating. I’ve heard some of the tales of course – especially about the reason for the above-ground tombs. I can tell you from direct observation that, after Hurricane Ike, there were coffins floating in Galveston. Of course, there are all kinds of questions about soil, burial practices, and so on that would need more exploration before drawing any conclusions about similarities between NOLA and Galveston. Some of the most beautiful mausoleums in Galveston actually belong to Italian Catholics – there was quite an Italian community there in the very early years.

    I’ve always been fascinated by Maria Laveau. One of the best videos has Dr. John and some great footage – I just watched it again, and was reminded that a friend found a gris-gris bag back in the swamp once. And years ago, I found a wax candle in a human form that had been inscribed in French – it washed up on the beach at Galveston. I showed it to a fellow from Haiti I knew. He backed off and wouldn’t even touch it. He wouldn’t translate the inscription, either. He said such things were common in Haiti – juju. Ohoh.

  6. Oh, WAY cool! I love cemeteries and, if you got me into the ones in NOLA, you’d probably never get me out.

    We’ve got above and below ground burials in the older cemeteries here. Generally, the richer you were, the more you wanted to impress folks with those above ground mausoleums. The majority are in ground and the markers range from simple to the elaborate.

    Family tombs/mausoleums’ space inside was still limited and remains would be gathered up and stored somewhere inside, as new burials occurred, as Cap’n Swallow indicates regarding the NOLA tombs.

    That story about above ground tombs in NOLA and the water table has been around for a long, long time. Twain talks about it in “Life on the Mississippi.”

    We have root doctors here in the Lowcountry. Herbalists, healers and conjurers for both good and bad hexes/spells. If you know who to ask, you can still find them.

    Those shotgun houses are very much like Charleston’s Freedman cottages. NOLA’s shotguns are a little different in their outside architectural details. It’s the same concept. A few rooms in a row, with a straight shot from the front door to the back door.

    Higher up the social scale, even the Charleston Single House is along the same lines. I always heard the Charleston Single Houses were based on the architecture of Barbados. Pre A/C, you had to catch any little wisp of breeze!

    • Great comment, Gue`, and similarities in the houses don’t surprise me. And aren’t there gullah gullahs around there? i’m sure i spelled that wrong. Don’t know where they came from originally, but i’m sure it speaks to the similarities, that AND the ened for catching any wisp of breeze! you really would find the n.o. cemeteries fascinating.

  7. There are remnants of the Gullah language and culture here. Because the people are no longer isolated, as they were in the past, there was a danger of it all being lost. Quite a number of people and groups are working to conserve it.

    When you think ‘Gullah’, think ‘Creole’. They’re almost identical.

    Here’s what Wiki has to say:

    • yes, I know a little of their history and found it very interesting when I read about them some years ago. I recall comparing them to the Creoles. I haven’t read the Wiki link yet but maybe they, too, originated from Haiti? Have a great holiday weekend!

  8. During all the years I lived in LA – and all of them in the New Orleans area, I never did a cemetery tour either! It was something I always wanted to do. Hmmm…..maybe I need to take care of that soon!

  9. I lived across the street from the cemetery in the now torn-down projects. My bedroom window overlooked the Conti street entrance. I played, as children do, in the cemetery from the age of 6 to 12, & as a teenager would also do guides but was not allowed to charge. I was & am a light sleeper, & with no air-conditioning then, I would have woken in the middle of the night. Nothing ever happened except the occasional person jumping the fence to get away from the cops.

    The 3 x x x were the brainchild of the two venerable tour guides, Buddy & Poncho. Buddy lived in Algiers, where it’s maintained, by some researchers, the last vestiges of the old vodun cult went. The real question, unknown to modern visitors & tour guides, is what was everyone doing there on the first Tuesday of every month, children? Yes, Marie is not buried in that tomb. No, her tomb was a rectangular one not far away, since desecrated, remains removed. No, that’s not Dr John Mantenet’s tomb. He was a staunch anti-Catholic, & his final resting place is conjecture. There’s a reason for the xxx on that tomb, though, not having to do with Mantenet. Just a few thoughts by this lover of ruins.

    • Aye…thank ye for chiming in, Chacalata. Sadly St. Louis #1 is being threatened with closing to the public – and all tours will have to pay an extra fee to the Catolic Diocese to give tours. Access on All Saints Day is still open…and by appointment at other times for those with deeded family tombs. Even Geneologists will be subject to appointments and possibly fees!
      Much new research has come to light recently. It seems Dr. Jean Montanee (his spelling), is in fact buried in St. Roch Cemetery in the Marigny. He had at least one recorded marriage in New Orleans – to Marie Armant at Saint Theresa of Avila, Catholic Church, 1868. Witnessed Joseph Grenot & Marie Glapion (aka Marie Laveau). As it happens, Marie Laveau was properly named Marie Trudeau dit Laveau (Laveau was a family name carired forward from her Paternal 3x Great Grandmother, Catherine de Laveaux). Her father, Charles Trudeau dit Laveau (which was shortened by dropping the ‘dit’) was the Surveyor General of Spanish Louisiana (and referred to as ‘Don Carlos’) and briefly the first Mayor of New Orleans! HIS tomb is definitely in St. Louis #1, but ignored by Tour Guides.
      Marie Laveau is my first Cousin through marriage! (though a few years distant)

      • Thanks Captain…are you familiar with Carolyn Long’s work? Fairly solid research with no particular slant in terms of theoretical politics or post-mod babble.
        Dr John lived off Bayou road, at my last look in 1999 the house was still there. You must be an independent researcher, not many people would have delved that far. I’ll have to take a look at the St Roch cemetery when I can find an armed guard to go with me.
        My brother & I will be getting a pass for All Souls’ & trying to track down a distant cousin with the deed, first registered in the late 1700s is proving to be a nightmare. We can’t afford to restore it. When I last spoke to a UPenn restorer, figures like $5-8,000 were tossed around. I’m having to track down all birth & marriage records for my family back to 1760. Too bad I can’t just copy the pages from FR Hébert & the SLC sacramental records. Maybe a DNA sequence??

        • Aye, I believe I’ve seen pieces o’ Carolyn Morrow Long’s work…have to look more closely, now that ye mention it!
          Louis Martinié (associated with the Voodoo Spiritual Temple) has compiled a “Grimoire” on Dr. Jean Montanee and dug up many original documents that are quite something to see – the one’s presented are notarized copies o’ ‘secondary originals’ – a lot o’ the older, handwritten, documents were transcribed for better viewing & filing some years later in the early 1900s.
          Well worth a look:

          FYI, the Diocese is looking to lock up St. Louis #1, #3 and St. Roch. Not sure about #2, but they don’t worry much about it as tourists tend to stay away from it (or don’t even know it’s there). #3 surprises me since it’s “the neatest, cleanest cemetery”…anywhere! Overlooked, ironically, by a Seniors building.
          I suspect the issue there may be like Lafayette #1 – damage from Real Estate Agents & Antique Dealers swiping statuary and land out from under folks. There’s only one statue left in Lafayette #1 and it’s damaged from a previous attempt at theft (there are a couple o’ photos I took here
          For research, Ancestry is great – but pricey..also have a look at – it’s free and a little more “manual”, but decent database o’ info…and it always pays to have a second (or third) opinion.

          • The genealogical library in Lake Charles, which I use, has on it so the fee is waived, great library with wonderful librarians who copied the entire Rapides, Allen, Beauregard & Calcasieu census from 1870 for me. Made my thesis so much easier. I do a line read for research. Ancestry’s work won’t help if you need specifics with orthographic or phonetic variants.

            Carolyn also looked at John Mantanet/Mantanee on the census records as well, as she pointed out, he’s one of the few with Africa as place of origin. He had a coffee house there by Baypu Road at one point.

            Still trawling for records for the archdiocese. Did you see the Geneaology Roadshow tonight? The researcher got it right…no male descendants for Marie Laveau. Can’t find death certificates for her 2 daughters with Jacques Paris either. But then getting into the archdiocese’s archives necessitates a letter from the Pope…just joking.

            • Chacalata – Lake Charles Library sounds like a great resource! Few libraries these days get it right (but then few libraries get much o’ anything these days, sadly…if they survive at all).
              Have Geneology Roadshow on DVR, looking forward to the episode.
              These days a letter from the Pope might be easier than previously…H.H. Pope Francis seems like the first Pope to “get it right” in a long time…maybe since St. Francis himself!

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