Today in New Orleans History

October 9

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 St Augustine Church at 1210 Governor Nicholls Street is Dedicated
October 9, 1842


French Architect, J. N. B. de Pouilly's, design drawing of St. Augustine, circa 1840. 
de Pouilly also designed New Orleans's St. Louis Cathedral.
Text and photo from St. Augustine's website

St Augustine Church at 1210 Governor Nicholls Street was dedicated on October 9, 1842.  When free people of color organized it in the 1830s and received permission from Bishop Antoine Blanc to build a church, the Ursuline Sisters donated the property, on the condition that the church be named St. Augustine, after one of their patron saints, Augustine of Hippo. 

From St. Augustine's website:

The property on which St. Augustine stands was part of the plantation estate which had been a tilery and brickyard headquarters built in 1720 by the province of New Orleans’ supervisor, the Company of the Indies, as an economic stimulus for the province. After the Company of the Indies left in 1731, the plantation was sold to the Moreau family, eventually coming into the possession of Julie Moreau, a manumitted slave, in 1775. Claude Treme, a Frenchman, married Julie Moreau, thus taking title to the property. Seeing a chance to make a profit, the husband and wife subdivided the estate and sold off many lots on a first-come-first-served basis to free people of color and others pouring in from the Old Quarter jammed with Haitian immigrants fleeing the bloody 1791 revolution in Haiti.

After selling 35 lots, Claude and Julie Treme left their plantation home for a more peaceful life in 1810. In 1834, Jeanne Marie Aliquot purchased the Treme’s former home and property from the city of New Orleans and brought in the United States’ first Catholic elementary school for free girls of color and a few slaves. This school had been started in 1823 by Marthe Fortier, a onetime postulant of the Hospital Nuns. Jeanne Marie Aliquot became a major catalyst in the origins of St. Augustine Church.

Under economic duress from her social ventures, Jeanne Marie sold the house to the Ursuline Sisters in 1836. They in turn sold the property to the Carmelites in 1840, who then took over the little school for colored girls and merged it with their school for white girls. The Carmelite Sisters used the Treme home for their motherhouse until 1926 when they moved out to Robert E. Lee Boulevard in the West End section of New Orleans.

In the late 1830s, when free people of color got permission from Bishop Antoine Blanc to build a church, the Ursulines donated the corner property at Bayou Road (now Governor Nicholls St.) and St. Claude which they had bought for $10,000, on the condition that the church be named after their foundress, St. Angela Merici. However, circumstances dictated that the church was named St. Augustine.

A few months before the October 9, 1842 dedication of St. Augustine Church, the people of color began to purchase pews for their families to sit. Upon hearing of this, white people in the area started a campaign to buy more pews than the colored folks. Thus, The War of the Pews began and was ultimately won by the free people of color who bought three pews to every one purchased by the whites. In an unprecedented social, political and religious move, the colored members also bought all the pews of both side aisles. They gave those pews to the slaves as their exclusive place of worship, a first in the history of slavery in the United States.

This mix of the pews resulted in the most integrated congregation in the entire country: one large row of free people of color, one large row of whites with a smattering of ethnics, and two outer aisles of slaves. Except for a brief six-month period when its sanctuary was enlarged and blessed in time for Christmas 1925, St. Augustine Church has been in continuous use as a place of worship until the present time.

In the midst of all these things, Henriette Delille, a free woman of color, and Juliette Gaudin, a Cuban, began aiding slaves, orphan girls, the uneducated, the sick and the elderly among people of color around 1823. Their particular concern for the education and care of colored children aided greatly in the founding, financing, staffing and administration of the city’s early private schools for the colored. At the urging of Jeanne Marie Aliquot and the wise counseling of Pere Etienne Rousselin, the two women knelt publicly at the altar of St. Augustine Church on November 21, 1842 and pledged to live in community to work for orphan girls, the uneducated, the poor, the sick and the elderly among the free people of color, thus founding the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family, after the Oblates of Providence founded in Baltimore in 1828, the second-oldest African-American congregation of religious women.

Historical figures such as Homer Plessy, of Plessy vs. Ferguson fame from the U.S. Supreme Court decision on May 18, 1896, and Alexander P. Tureaud, Sr., a giant among the civil rights attorneys of the stormy sixties, were members of St. Augustine Church.

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Oretha Castle was born on July 22, 1939 in Oakland, Tennessee and moved to New Orleans with her parents in 1947. After graduating from Joseph S. Clark High School she enrolled at Southern University in New Orleans where she joined other students in the struggle for civil rights, eventually becoming the head of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in New Orleans. In 1967, Oretha married fellow CORE member Richard Haley. Mrs. Haley served as deputy administrator at Charity Hospital where she instituted better health care for the Black Community. While at Charity, she helped organize the New Orleans Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation. In 1972, she directed the political campaign of Dorothy Mae Taylor who became the first Black woman legislator in the state.  After a lengthy battle with cancer, Oretha Castle Haley died at the age of 48 on October 10, 1987. She is buried in Providence Memorial Park. From the New Orleans Public Library.

The Terrytown Library opened on October 9, 1974.

The Liberty ship William Hackett was launched on October 9, 1944 by Delta Shipbuilding Company.

Ronnie Barron (born Ronald Raymond Barrosse on October 9, 1943 in Algiers) was known for his work as a session musician for many artists including Paul Butterfield, Canned Heat, Ry Cooder, Tom Waits, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, and New Orleans' own Dr. John (Mac Rebbenack). He played keyboards, organ, and sang.  Barrosse passed away on March 20, 1997.

Harrison Avenue
October 9, 1939 

A Works Progress Administration crew constructs the walls of the second WPA-built fire station in the city.
The WPA program provided additional fire protection for suburban New Orleans - - here, in Lakeview, on Harrison Avenue at Memphis Street.

In Louisiana, state headquarters of the WPA was located in New Orleans. The agency also operated district offices around the state.   WPA projects in the Crescent City ranged from street paving and bridge building to bookbinding and adult education. A considerable amount of the agency's varied activities in New Orleans and throughout the state was documented by WPA photographers.  The New Orleans Public Libary holds a large collection of their work. 

On December 4, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered an end to WPA activities as the nation's war effort eliminated most of the unemployment that the agency had been designed to combat. This photograph was taken on October 9, 1939.  It and the descriptions are from the New Orleans Public Library.

Ernest Nathan "Dutch" Morial was born on October 9, 1929.  A civil rights advocate and the first black mayor of New Orleans, serving from 1978 to 1986, he was the father of Marc Morial, a subsequent New Orleans mayor.  "Dutch" Morial died on December 24, 1989.

The New York Times reported, on October 9, 1909, news of the upcoming Louisiana Good Roads Convention in New Orleans which was to convene on Novemeber 19 followed by two days of automobile racing on "the world's record mile fair grounds race track", under the auspices of the New Orleans Automobile Club.  Governor J.Y. Sanders and the New Orleans Progressive Union were enlisting 500 delegates representing every parish in the state.  Sixteen races were scheduled, from 5-mile heats to a six-hour endurance competition.  Proceeds from the event were dedicated to the state-wide Good Roads Fund.  The Times reported that "The officials of the New Orleans Automoible Club are working to provide a programme that will surpass their famous Mardi Gras offering whena New Orleans world record will be broken by star drivers".

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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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