Today in New Orleans History

March 29

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 Theodore "Parson" Clapp is Born
March 29, 1792
TodayInNewOrleansHistory/ParsonClapp.jpgIn 1818, the Rev. Sylvester Larned arrived in New Orleans as a Presbyterian missionary. He founded a congregation, First Presbyterian Church, which built a modest brick structure at St. Charles Avenue at Gravier Street. Unfortunately, the gifted and admired Larned succumbed to yellow fever during his second year of ministry.

In 1821, a classmate of Larned's, the Rev. Dr. Theodore Clapp preached an impromptu sermon at a resort in Kentucky, at which two members of the New Orleans Presbyterian Church were present. They persuaded Dr. Clapp to "return to Boston by the way of New Orleans" and to preside at several worship services at their church, which had been without a minister since Larned's death. Although his plan had been to stay in New Orleans only a few weeks, his preaching was so well received that church leaders convinced him to remain as pastor, which he did, for the next 35 years.

Clapp began his ministry in a church with troubled finances, and insisted on its regaining a firm foundation. With the generosity of Judah Touro, a local Jewish merchant originally from Newport, Rhode Island, and the proceeds of a state lottery, the church was rescued. Clapp's preaching drew hundreds of people to the church, which earned the nickname of The Strangers' Church. He also became deeply involved in civic affairs, being appointed president of the board of the College of Orleans, supporting the Medical College of New Orleans (a precursor to Tulane University), and serving as trustee to the Touro Free Library.

In the late 1820s, a change in inner conviction led Clapp to begin preaching universalism, which drew the ire of the Mississippi Presbytery. A trial for heresy was held in 1832, culminating in a vote of excommunication in December. When Clapp returned home to New Orleans after his conviction, in February 1833, he attempted to resign as pastor, but a majority of the congregation voted to leave the Presbytery with him and form a new church. The remainder of the congregation stayed and kept the name First Presbyterian Church, now located across the street from the present building.

The new congregation called itself Church of the Messiah, but was still popularly known as "Parson Clapp's church" or "Church of the Stranger." In 1837, a delegation from the Unitarian Society of Boston came to New Orleans to explore the possibility of starting a Unitarian church in the city. Meeting Clapp, they decided instead to list his church in the Association Directory. The church thus acquired its fifth name, First Unitarian Church. The original building burned to the ground in the great St. Charles Hotel fire in 1851. Once again, Judah Touro came to the aid of the congregation, and provided money for rebuilding, around the corner at Julia Street and St. Charles Avenue (now the site of the U.S. Post Office Building at Lafayette Square).

Parson Clapp retired from active ministry in 1856, accompanied by tributes at the church and in the newspapers. When he died ten years later in Louisville, Kentucky, his body was brought back to New Orleans for burial at Cypress Grove Cemetery alongside Sylvester Larned, in the tomb of the Volunteer Fire Department, for which both men had served as chaplain. Thousands of people attended the funeral service in March 1867.

Following Dr. Clapp, the church was led by his son, Emory. (From the First Unitarian Universalis Church of New Orleans)  Photo from the New Orleans Public Library.

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On March 29, 2005 the Board of Commissioners approved "City Park 2018 – a Master Plan" for improvements over the next 13 years. Its completion would coincide with the 300th anniversary of the City of New Orleans. On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina made her unwanted and devastating arrival. A look at the park during the weeks that followed broke the hearts of many but the City Park Improvement Association (CPIA) never lost sight of the Plan – it is being implemented as written before Katrina. The park's recovery has been made possible by civic, business, and private contributions of blood, sweat, tears, money, and hard physical work. Thousands of people, New Orleanians and volunteers from around the world, came to its rescue. While still a bit on the mend as this book was completed, City Park is once again a jewel. (From New Orleans City Park by Catherine Campanella)

Photo of St. Charles Avenue sky line shot from Pan Am Building, Lee Circle in foreground, March 29, 1953. [Photography by Leon Trice] (NOPL)

View of Howard Avenue, March 29, 1953. This photograph was taken from the Pan-Am Building on St. Charles Avenue. It shows Lee Circle under renovation, a domed bank building (demolished) and the Bradford Furniture building before the installation of its aluminum facade. Photograph by Leon Trice Photography. City of New Orleans, Public Relations Office. (NOPL)

Photo of the winner of the March 29, 1930 Louisiana Derby -- captioned "John L. Pontius, Detroit, turfman, and Jockey Shelton, who rode Michigan Boy to victory in the Louisiana Derby at Jefferson Park, were the happiest persons at the track after the race. They are shown after the finish of the race." (NOPL)

On March 29, 1909 the Los Angeles Times printed "QUEER FISH ARE SHRIMPS. NO ONE KNOWS MUCH OF ANYTHING ABOUT THEM; They Come and Go in the Waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Keep Their Own Counsel Regarding Their Food and Where and When They Breed".  That same day the New Orleans Times-Democrat announced, "Shrimpers, shrimp packers and experts from the Louisiana Biological Survey Station in Cameron parish, will meet in New Orleans during the last week in January to confer with the State".

Jazz clarinetist Sidney Arodin was born in Westwego on this day in 1901. He is best known as the composer of "Lazy River".

Bartolomé Beauregard, merchant. Born, 1727, La Grève, France; son of Simon Toutant Beauregard and Marie Landrian. Emigrated to New Orleans, ca. 1750. Operated merchant firm in partnership with brother Jacques, 1750-1792. Performed various secret assignments for Spanish governor during American Revolution. Died, New Orleans, March 29, 1792; interred St. Louis Cemetery I. L.T.C. Source: Beauregard Family Papers, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University.  From

According to Buddy Stall, "Governor Bienville, on March 29, 1721, used his loyal and valiant sword to trace the exact spot where the church [St. Louis Cathedral] was to be built".

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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