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  • Writer's pictureNOLA

Tales by NOLA: Sacred Places

St. Louis Cemetery #2, New Orleans, La

From its conception, Nouvelle Orleans has had to deal with the prospect of death and how to best deal with proper disposal of the body. Some would go even further and describe the Crescent City as a living-breathing ghost town, due to the amount of individuals whose lives were forever lost either fighting bravely for their freedom, or their newly adopted homeland. Local legend Dr. John sang a song about "being in the

right place at the wrong time".

Celtic Cross
Tribute to the Irish who died digging the New Basin Canal.

During the 18th and 19th centuries in particular, thousands of inhabitants lost to the reaper as the city struggled to find itself amidst the death and despair.

Between the years of 1796 and 1905 "Yellow Jack", or the "Saffron Scourge" as it was commonly called, would pay annual visits to the newly Americanized territory. In 1804, the Territorial Governor of Louisiana, William C.C. Claiborne and his family were all infected by Yellow Fever. Although the governor eventually recovered, both his wife and daughter died from Yellow Fever. His 2nd wife a mere 5 years later also succumbed to the virus. Unfortunately, the worst epidemic occurred in 1853 when 1/10th of the population of the city of New Orleans perished from Yellow Fever.

Additionally, very little recognition is ever given to the 20-30,000 Irishmen who perished digging the now defunct New Basin Canal between the years of 1832-1838. By 1905, the culprit of the fever (the Aedes aegypti mosquito) had been identified and dealt with. However successful these efforts may have been, they would be short lived for on the horizon was that of another more sinister contagion. In 1912, the Bubonic Plague would reach out to claim more victims and in 1918, the Spanish Flu would kill at least 50 million people worldwide.

But through it all, New Orleans have always risen to each natural disaster and epidemiological challenge with grace, compassion, and resolve. As we now find ourselves afflicted by yet another unforeseen threat labeled CORVID-19, we should be encouraged to know that although we’ve seen our fair share of death, and disease, we have also been blessed to see our fair share of deliverance.


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