Today in New Orleans History

October 26

Shushan Airport Milneburg Joys

To receive an update for each day in New Orleans history,  join our facebook page - Today in New Orleans History

John McDonogh Dies
October 26, 1850
This illustration diagrams several prior owners of what would become New Orleans' City Park. The majority of the property was originally deeded to the Allard family in 1784.  Through the years the land was subdivided and sold, as can be seen by in illustration.
City Park's first benefactor, the man who gave his property to the city, is memorialized only with a solitary tree – the McDonogh Oak which was not named for him until 70 years after his gift was given. Born in Baltimore of Scotch-Irish descent in 1779, McDonogh came to New Orleans as a young man and began building his fortune trading molasses, sugar, hides, pig iron, and indigo. He then became a planter and amassed great wealth in cotton and real estate – buying huge tracts of unimproved property.

He was a soldier in the Louisiana Regiment which fought in the battle of Chalmette Plains (Chalmette Battlefield) under General Andrew Jackson.  McDonogh was a founding member of the American Colonization Society which reportedly provided passage for 18,000 slaves to the Liberian Republic. In 1842 McDonogh oversaw the shipping of 80 slaves who had 'bought' their freedom after work credited to their accounts equaled their market value.

After McDonogh purchased what would become City Park in an 1845 Sheriff's sale (654 acres, 19 slaves, 10 horses and mules, 140 head of cattle bought for $40,000.), he allowed Louis Allard to live the remainder of his life there. It is often said that Allard was buried in a quiet spot under a favorite tree (the Dueling Oak) however St. Louis Cathedral records indicate that Allard was buried on May 18, 1847 in St. Louis Cemetery #2. 

McDonogh died on October 26, 1850 at the age of 70 in McDonoghville (west bank of New Orleans) where he was buried in the slave cemetery he had built on his property as per his wish. A staunch believer in the value of education, he bequethed the majority of his great wealth and masive real estate holdings, valued at approximately $3,000,000, to the cities of Baltimore and New Olreans -- to be evenly divided to provide a free school for poor children of all classes and an asylum for the poor.  His will stipulated “That it be permitted annually to the children of the free schools to plant and water a few flowers around my grave”. He was later reburied in his native Baltimore but the children of New Orleans honored him for many years by bringing flowers to his memorial in Lafayette Square.

McDonogh also left $400,000 to the Protestant Male Orphan Home, required that a number of his negroes would be freed and moved to Africa. and stipulated that none of his property could ever be sold, but would remain forever as a fund for the above charitable purposes. Much of his bequest was used to build schools but a portion of his property was set aside for the park. The 4th District Court's 1854 designation of approximately 100 acres of the property as a public park makes it one of the oldest in the nation  

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/McDonoghOak1910cCarouselLOC.gifOn October 31, 1860, Allard's remaining land was up for Sherriff's auction. It was described as "fronting the park and partly on Metairie Road with Bayou St. John and the Orleans Canal.  40 arpents front on Metairie Road.  Depth 18 arpents (a French unit of measure slighlty smaller than an acre) on each side  45 arpents on rear line. except City Park, formerly Allard's Place and a parcel of land n Bayou St. John.  Will be sold as a bloc, and subject to a lease which includes the user of 16 negroes.  $1600 per annually.  Sold to John McDonogh". 

The city sold much of the Allard/McDonogh property including the bayou frontage but would buy much of it back later. In 1867 a park keeper was hired to cut the grass on a salary of $80 while illegally selling it for hay, chopping trees to sell wood, and taking in $15,000 per year charging fees for the grazing of 50 goats, 25 mules, 100 horses, and hundreds of cows. During the 1870's the keeper, E. A. Pegroux, appointed Jean Marie Saux to oversee the park and tend the cattle. Saux also sold wood from trees cut in the park – while running his coffeehouse across from it which is now Ralph's on the Park restaurant.

An 1870 legislative act authorized the city to levy a real-estate tax to establish "a New Orleans Park" and a Board of Commissioners was appointed. In 1871 prisoners were used to make some improvements. In 1877 the board was abolished and the City Council took over the park's management. The land was roughly fenced in 1880 “to keep cows from neighboring pastureland from becoming a further nuisance”.

In 1881 new commissioners were appointed – including J.M. Saux (the coffeehouse owner). In 1882 the portion of park west of Orleans Canal was detached for use as small-pox hospital and cemetery. Picayune's Guide to New Orleans 1903 stated “The park contains 216.60 acres, only a portion of which, however, has been improved”. 

The McDonogh oak named for the park's patron, is estimated to be 600 years old. It is pictured here in 1910. In 1920 the League of American Municipalities inducted the McDonogh Oak into its Hall of Fame. The historic Carousel house can be seen through its branches. (Photograph from the Library of Congress)

Board member George G. Friedrichs advocated renaming the park for John McDonogh (45 years after his death). The CPIA contested that 30 schools had already been named for him and that he had originally donated half of his land to Baltimore. The Daily Picayune reported on November 30, 1895, ”If the name McDonogh Park was substituted, there would be nothing the Commissioners to do but resign...An unfavorable report was made of the ordinance”. It is possible that McDonogh's reputation as an unsociable tight-wad (known as “McDonogh the Miser”) still weighed on the commission’s mind. Friedrich was a realtor also made a fortune in land and a street in the park is named for Friedrichs. It runs from Wisner Boulevard to Henry Thomas Drive as it passes Christian Brothers School.

Top photo from the New Orleans Public Library. Text from New Orleans City Park and Metaiire, both by Catherine Campanella.  

To receive an update for each day in New Orleans history,  join our facebook page - Today in New Orleans History

Photo -- Delfeayo Marsalis presents a lecture on the history of jazz recording and the record album on October 26, 2004.. He utilizes the record collection that Ellis Marsalis (his father) donated to the African American Resource Center. 

New headquarters for the Art Project, 718 Toulouse St., October 26, 1939. This photograph shows the courtyard behind 718 Toulouse. The property later was purchased by General and Mrs. L. Kemper Williams. It is now part of The Historic New Orleans Collection's complex of historic buildings in the Royal/Toulouse section of the Vieux Carre  .[New Orleans Public Library]

L.B. Landry High School, 1200 Whitney Ave., was dedicated on October 26, 1938 as a high school for African-American Algerines. The school was named for Lord Beaconsfield Landry (1878-1938), a physician who practiced medicine in Algiers for nearly 30 years. While attending Fisk University, Landry was a member of the famous Fisk Jubilee Singers and, back in Algiers, organized and directed the Osceola Five, a vocal group specializing in educational and religious musical programs. Shown here are the "favorites" of the Class of 1953, among them a young musician we now know as Clarence "Frogman" Henry. The principal of Landry at that time was I.M. Augustine, the father of the late judge Israel M. Augustine.  [The Buccaneer, L.B. Landry High School yearbook, 1955]

Mahalia Jackson, one of America's greatest gospel singers, was born in New Orleans on October 26, 1911 to Charity Clark, a laundress and maid, and Johnny Jackson, a Baptist preacher, barber and longshoreman. She attended McDonogh School No. 24 until the eighth grade. Influenced by the music of the Sanctified Church she began singing at the young age of four in the children's choir of Plymouth Rock Baptist Church. In 1927, Mahalia migrated to Chicago and while working as a maid, laundress and date packer studied beauty culture at Madam C. J. Walker's and Scott Institute of Beauty Culture. She opened a beauty shop after this training. When the director of the choir at Greater Salem Baptist Church in Chicago heard her sing she became the choir's first soloist. Her beautiful voice made her popular. During the 1930s, she toured the "storefront church circuit" singing to congregations. Jackson bridged the gap between the sacred and the secular in her performances, often using scriptures to justify her use of hand clapping and stomping while singing. The next two decades found Mahalia recording songs and touring the United States and Europe. She became closely associated with the civil rights movement during the 1960s often singing at benefits for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the boycotters and student sit-ins. Jackson died of heart failure at the age of sixty on January 27, 1972 in Chicago. She was honored with funerals in Chicago and New Orleans and is buried in Providence Memorial Park in Metairie. From the New Orleans Public Library.

A city ordinance Designated Claiborne Avenue neutral ground from Canal to Julia Streets and the triangle at the corner of Tulane and Claiborne. Opened as a playground on October 26, 1909.

October 26, 1882 Records from the New Orleans City Insane Asylum:
Daniel Sawyer, black, about 35 or more years of age, single, native of U.S., recommended his commitment to Insane Asylum, he being in a state of Stupidity on October 26th/82.This Negro is an automaton. Wherever you bring him to, or wherever his legs carry him before stopping, there he remains never speaking, never moving, never addressing anyone. If spoken to, he seems un-able to understand, and it is with the greatest difficulty that a monosyllable is obtained from him, & even then, not always a propos. He was in the City Insane Asylum, where he remained for over a year. Though he seems to have no life in him, we find his heart beating 100 times to the minute. Died at 4 p.m., autopsy made at 5 p.m. Was apparently well all day up to 4 o’clock when, after having been sitting up for several hours, he laid down on the floor as if to rest, dying without a murmur or a movement. Cranial Cavity – Brain anaemic & indurated, seemed heavier than usual normal weight. Some adhesions of meningies to skull, and a few of Pia-Mater to Brain-Conjunctives. Yellowish – Abdominal Cavity. A portion of small bowels ecchymotic under pentoneum. Intestinal tract almost empty. Liver slate color & normal size Gall-bladder filled with bile. Spleen slate color & small. Advanced degeneration (hob-nail) of kidneys, which are atrophied. Large amount of fat under skin of abdomen and in smentum*; this adipose tissue is of a very pale color. Thoracic Cavity – Heart and Lungs perfectly healthy. Nothing particular in other organs of body Bones rather soft.*This word is hard to read.
King Robinson, black, about 55 years of age, married, native of the U.S. recommended his commitment to the State Insane Asylum, on October 26th, 1882, finding him suffering from Religious Mania.  He imagines that he sees Jesus-Christ, God Almighty, the Spirits, etc. & that he is ordered now to destroy, then to protect. He conversation is very incoherent but always on religious subjects. Whatever you say to him or ask him, he attempts to preach to you, in answer  Same as the preceding case, only she is noisy and turbulent in her assertions that the spirits are in her, have taken away her children, etc. . 
Louisa Edwards, black, about 40 years of age, widow, native of N.O. La. recommended her commitment to the State Insane Asylum, on October 26th, 1882, finding her suffering from Religious Mania. N.B. One Her husband insisted upon taking her back to his home, against my consent. She was re-arrested on the same charge of insanity, two or three days ago, and to-day, Jan’y 3rd, 1883, I recommend her commitment to Jackson, finding her suffering with Religious Mania, as above stated. She is no better to-day than she was 3 months ago.  (From the New Orleans Public Library)

New Orleans had an African-American newspaper, L'Union, even before Abraham Lincoln issued his final Emancipation Proclamation at the beginning of 1863. Paul Trevigne served as editor of L'Union and later edited its successor, The New Orleans Tribune. An October 26, 1867 Tribune includes at least three references to local black occupations during the early Reconstruction period. The article in column one refers to the employment of black police officers (well over a year prior to the establishment of the Metropolitan Police as a biracial force). A "thank you" in the second column refers to C.S. Sauvinet, an African-American employee of the Freedmen's Savings Bank. And, finally, column seven includes an advertisement for St. F. Casanave, a black broker and agent. Casanave later was an agent for the Louisiana State Lottery.

Francois Robert Avart, husband of Amelie Delassize, owner of a plantation situated above Faubourg Bouligny and measuring eight arpents front on the River, had acquired the property from his mother, Julie Allain, widow  of Valentin Robert Avart, by act before M. de Armas, Notary Public, on March 15, 1815. Mr. Avart had a plan made by H. Maulhauser, Surveyor, dated October 26, 8141, whereby he subdivided his plantation and called it “Faubourg Avart”. Its boundaries were Upperline Street  on the lower side and Valmont Street on the upper.

The October 26, 1805 session of the Conseil de Ville includes a reference to a petition from several of the city's butchers complaining that rain water leaking through the roof of the meat market was spoiling their meats. The Council directed the Mayor to ask the city surveyor to examine the roof and present an estimate of the cost of the most urgent repairs. Apparently, the job of repairing the roof was given to one Charles Laveau, who tackled it quickly and, at the end of November, presented his bill for $101.7 "bits." Charles Laveau, a free man of color, was the father of the famous Marie Laveau. His work must have been found satisfactory, because in later years he made other repairs to city property.  The meat market referred to here is not the current meat market on Decatur between St. Anne and Ursulines. That building, the oldest of the current French Market structures, was not built until 1813. The market that Laveau repaired was completed in May, 1790 by contractor Augustin McCarty and located on the levee approximately where the current meat market stands today. [From the New Orleans Pu lic Libary Miscellaneous French and Spanish Documents, #354, Item 19]

Teddy Roosevelt in New Orleans
October 26, 1905


 The ferry boat A.M.Halliday, photographed at dock during the visit of President Theodore Roosevelt to New Orleans, October 26, 1905. The river played a key role in the festivities that day. The President entered the city by ship, was greeted at the Stuyvesant Docks by Governor Blanchard, Mayor Behrman and other dignitaries and taken on the S.S. Comus for a river up to Audubon Park and back around down to the Algiers Naval Station. The river was packed with sightseers in every describable kind of vessel out to catch a glimpse of TR--among them the passengers of the A.M. Halliday. After an address and luncheon at the St. Charles Hotel, the President ended his visit--again at the river, as he sailed away to the Gulf on the Magnolia. The Daily Picayune reported that Roosevelt was delighted with his visit, impressed by the activity and extent of the Port and by the enthusiastic welcome given him by the residents of the Crescent City.

On a "normal" day, the ferry provided the only public access between New Orleans and Algiers. In the absence of a bridge, even passenger trains had to be floated across the river on huge railroad ferryboats. The Southern Pacific Railroad trains crossed the river by ferry from the Southern Pacific yard in Algiers to the line's terminal at the foot of Elysian Fields.  [New Orelans Public Libary David Barrow Fischer Steamboat Collection]

For much of the 19th century, the right (or west) bank of the Mississippi, including the city of Algiers, was governed by its own Police Jury, entirely separate from the government in New Orleans. Algiers was incorporated into the City of New Orleans in 1870 as the 5th Municipal District, but this legal merging of the two sections could not erase the very real barrier that the great river had inevitably created between New Orleans and Algiers. Although ferries have provided access to the West Bank of the river from earliest times, the river has historically served as a divider between the city's two shores. While New Orleans boomed into a thriving metropolis in the years before the Civil War, Algiers--less than a mile away as the crow flies--stayed small and kept itself relatively isolated from the hustle and glitter on the east bank. Many Algiers residents rode the ferry to work each day, but many more remained on their side of the river, earned their livings on or near its banks, and valued the calmer pace of small town life offered on the West Bank. It was not until the twentieth century and the opening of the Huey P. Long Bridge in 1935 and, more significantly, the Greater New Orleans Bridge in 1958 (renamed the Crescent City Connection when its second span opened thirty years later) that the wide expanse of water separating the East and West banks metaphorically narrowed. In spite of the increased ease of movement between the east and west bank today, however, old habits and attitudes die hard, and the two banks remain in many ways distinct and separate--by choice now, perhaps, rather than by necessity.

Algiers' first public ferry was established in 1827, when the Louisiana legislature granted August Coycault and Barthelemy Gosselin a contract to operate a steam ferry from the foot of Patterson Street on the west bank to Jackson Square on the east bank. In 1834, a second ferry was added, its dock at de la Ronde Street and its east bank landing at St. Louis Street (moved later to Canal St.). And in 1858 a third ferry--the Third District Ferry began to run from Verret Street to Esplanade Ave; this later became the ferry that transported railroad cars across the river. The location of the landings of these three ferries shifted from time to time and additional routes were added, and the ferry business prospered until the Greater New Orleans Bridge opened in 1958 and the boats lost their practicality. Today, only the Canal Street Ferry remains of the original three and the "Lower Coast" of Algiers is now being served by the Chalmette Ferry.

Photo and text from the New Orleans Public Library.

To receive an update for each day in New Orleans history,  join our facebook page - Today in New Orleans History

If you have enjoyed these daily updates, you might also enjoy these books by Catherine Campanella:



You Can Support this Site by Clicking on & Shopping from the Amazon Ad/Link below -- and it won't cost you a penny more:

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).

Shushan Airport
To receive an update for each day in New Orleans history,  join our facebook page - Today in New Orleans History.