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Who was buried at the St. Peter Street Cemetery? (Part I)

Mar 22

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3/22/2015 2:20 PM 

The St. Peter Street Cemetery served as the City of New Orleans’ primary burial ground through most of the Colonial era, from 1724 (and possibly earlier) until 1789, when it was officially replaced by St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.  The St. Peter Street site was still occasionally used in the 1790s, whenever flooding made it impossible to utilize St. Louis #1.  The St. Peter Street Cemetery seems to have had no official designation or name; in Colonial-era documents, it is generally referred to in generic terms, as the city cemetery, the ‘Campo Santo’, or, after St. Louis #1 was founded, the old cemetery (or “antiguo cementerio”).  Although it was operated by the Catholic Church, the Church never held formal title to the land, a source of contention after the Cabildo reclaimed the property and sold it at auction in 1800.

 

The cemetery was utilized by all segments of New Orleans society in the Colonial era, or at least by anyone who was baptized as Catholic, including early European settlers, native-born ‘whites’, Native Americans, and free people of color.  Those who were enslaved were also buried at the St. Peter site, including those of both African and Native American descent.  The importance with which burial within the consecrated ground of the cemetery was held is seen in a 1738 petition to the Superior Council, in which the family of an enslaved 13-year-old girl desire to have her body exhumed and reburied at the site.  According to the family, she was buried outside of the cemetery’s boundaries, but, since she was baptized, she should have been interred within it.

 

Many of the Colonial-era Sacramental Records for New Orleans were destroyed in the 1788 fire.  An incomplete copy of the records from 1724-1734 survives in the Archives Nationales in Paris.  Beginning in 1772, there are also funeral records for St. Louis Cathedral, some of which are incomplete.  In these years, burials of whites (or ‘blancos’) are enumerated in separate registers from people of color (“gente de color”), who are broken down into a number of different categories, including “negro”, “mulato”, “grifo”, “quateron”, and “Yndio”.  Those of both ‘slave’ (“esclavo”) and free (“libre”) status are enumerated in the registers for people of color, and a surprising number of enslaved ‘Indios’ are still present in the 1770s and 1780s in the city.

 

The sacramental records are well-known as a source of genealogical information, but, because so many of the people of color in them are listed without clear surnames, they have often received somewhat less attention from researchers.  Nevertheless, these documents contain a wealth of data that is pertinent to the St. Peter site, which I’ll address in another post later…

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Re: Who was buried at the St. Peter Street Cemetery? (Part I)

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Re: Who was buried at the St. Peter Street Cemetery? (Part I)

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