Established in 1833, Lafayette Cemetery No.1 in the Garden District of New Orleans is a unique monument to a city which has known a tremendous amount of cultural diversity. Conveniently located just 28 blocks uptown from Canal Street and the French Quarter, and only one block from the historic St. Charles Streetcar line, it is the perfect place to visit during the day. One can spend hours here, exploring and delving into the rich history of the city. Within it's walls lies the possibility to trace aspects of the city's growth from Creole settlement (1718), to American (1803), to a thriving city of immigrants and beyond. Major figures from the Civil War are interred here, and, in fact, individuals and families located here have living descendants who are active members of our community today.
Situated on a natural ridge extending upriver from the French Quarter, the land occupied by the cemetery was once part of a plantation owned by the Livaudais family, of French heritage. In 1832, Madame Livaudais decided to sell her land and the tract was subdivided to form the major portion of what was incorporated as the (old) City of Lafayette one year later. This period coincides with a massive influx into the region of (mostly European) immigrant groups-such as Germans, Irish, and Americans from the North. These newcomers were hard-working and industrious, leaving their mark in a number of different ways. Quite a few of the Americans, for example, were politicians, merchants, entrepeneurs, etc., contributing to the new age of business and culture which was rapidly changing the face of New Orleans. Germans provided the backbone of the middle class, and Irish the labor to perform often dangerous construction feats. Other groups such as Italians, English, Scottish, Dutch and Scandinavian are also represented. Because of this, the cemetery has always been non-segregated and non-denominational. A few families of African descent have tombs here, also. Many people who played a role during the American Civil War are located here, from both camps.
New Orleans was a pivotal city during this period and there were many Americans who sympathized with the Confederacy and the North alike. The city fell early in the war (1862), in a battle that was short-lived with minimal loss of life due to a mixture of these various influences (the logic was almost universal that it would be unacceptable to allow the city to be destroyed). But the local units fought until the end of the war for the South and there are numerous name plaques and headstones which reflect this by indicating specific Civil War battle sites as place of death, as well as specific military unit names. Also, noticeable is the incredible loss of life during the 19th century, due to 'yellow fever'- a mosquito-borne illness, which seemed to affect newcomers much more heavily than established residents. A multitude of various causes-from epidemics to unsanitary conditions-contributed to a high infant mortality rate. Children often died before their second birthday, and many families were completely decimated. Accidents and other hazards of life also took their toll.