The New York Times
June 23, 1881
(Annotated by Randy Bibb)
(Annotated by Randy Bibb)
THE DEAD VOUDOU QUEEN
Marie Laveau's place in the history of New Orleans.
The early life of the beautiful young Creole - the prominent men
who sought her advice and society – her charitable work –
how she became an object of mystery.
New-Orleans, Jun 21 - Marie Laveau, the "Queen of the Voudous" died last Wednesday at the advanced age of 98 years. To the superstitious Creoles Marie appeared as a dealer in the black arts and a person to be dreaded and avoided. Strange stories were told of the rites performed by the sect of which Marie was the acknowledged sovereign. Many old residents asserted that on St. John's night, the 24th of June, the Voudou clan had been seen in deserted places joining in wild, weird dances, all the participants in which were perfectly nude.
The Voudous were thought to be invested with supernatural powers, and men sought them to find means to be rid of their enemies, while others asked for love powders to instill affection into the bosoms of their unwilling or unsuspecting sweethearts. Whether there ever was any such sect, and whether Marie was ever its Queen, her life was one to render such a belief possible. Besides knowing the secret healing qualities of the various herbs that grow in abundance in the woods and fields, she was endowed with more than the usual share of common sense, and her advice was oft-times really valuable and her penetration remarkable. Adding to these qualities the gift of great beauty, no wonder that she possessed a large influence in her youth and attracted the attention of Louisiana's greatest men and most distinguished visitors. She was the creature of that peculiar state of society in which there was no marrying or giving in marriage; yet they were not like the angels in heaven.
Marie was the descendant of an old slave woman on her mother's side on the other had the best French blood of Louisiana coursed in her veins. She was born in the golden days of Spanish Louisiana, just at the time when the gallant boy-Governor, Galvez, co-operating with the struggling colonies in the East, had driven the British out of the Gulf of Mexico. She was 19 years old when the flag of freedom was unfurled from the flag-staff of the Place d'Armes, the flag that brought with it new prejudices against old social customs and the Black Code, which made marriage between black and white a penal offense, while the interblending of the races with a matter which the law left uninterfered with by any statutory prohibition.
This beautiful, bright-eyed intelligent little Creole, while the men who made New Orleans famous in those days were almost in daily attendance upon her, admiring her charms and enjoying conversation was lead to the altar by Jacques Paris, a carpenter of her own color. The ceremony took place at the St. Louis Cathedral. Pere Antoine officiating, and Mazereau the brilliant leader of the Bar being one of the witnesses. The union was short and a happy one. When Marie had been wedded only one year, Jacques suddenly disappeared and as no one knew where he had gone or what had become of him, she was left neither wife nor widow.
After waiting a year and still no tidings of the missing Jacques, she consented to be the bride of Capt. Christophe Dominique Glapion. The latter seems to have been a man of much character and served with distinction throughout the war of 1815 as ordinance officer in d'Aquin's gallant San Domingo battalion. When a peace was established, Marie became more sought after than ever. She lived all her life in a little adobe house covered with red tiles, situated in St. Ann between Rampart and Burgundy streets. It was built by the early French settlers 150 years ago. Not a brick was employed in its construction. The walls were formed of a peculiar combination of clay and moss. The entrances were made very low and the panes of glass in the door were of small size and peculiar make. When this interesting residence was erected, it stood on the very outskirts of the town. Rampart Street was then a wilderness, and later it became a line of intrenchment. At that time the cottage was considered the handsomest dwelling house in the place. All the other houses then existing have been torn down and more modern buildings sprung up, so that the quaint Laveau mansion, with the high, half-broken-down fence in the front and the branches of several ancient trees peeping over seems a relic of the New Orleans of long ago.
In this place, Marie received the celebrities of the day. Lawyers, legislators, planters, merchants all came to pay their respects to her and seek her offices, and the narrow room heard as much with and scandal as any of the historical salons of Paris. There were business men who would not send a ship to sea before consulting her upon the probabilities of the voyage. Marie entertained her guests in royal style. Her cuisine was excellent, and all who possessed characteristics entitling them to more than ordinary consideration were welcome at her table. Those who came from the parishes or other States were compelled to take up their quarters under her roof, for she would allow no other house to be called more hospitable than her own.
Coming in daily contact with the best informed men of that period, and possessing a remarkably retentive memory, it is no wonder that she acquired a large store of valuable information. She was by no means backward in delivering her opinions and as her predictions nearly always came true, and the course she suggested generally proved the wisest, Marie soon possessed a larger clientele than the most astute and far-seeing legal counselor. And it was not alone for advice that men and women of all conditions called on her. Her skill in medicine, already referred to, and her ability as a nurse made her desirable at the sick-bed. Marie had a large, warm heart and tender nature and never refused a summons from the suffering, no matter how dangerous the disease. Wherever she went, she labored faithfully and earned life-long friends. During yellow fever and cholera epidemics she proved herself a noble, disinterested woman going from patient to patient administering to the wants of each and saving many from death.
People were not all as enlightened and unprejudiced as they are now, and failing to understand how she arrived at her conclusions, they could imagine no better source than Voudouism. At first she encouraged this idea and delighted to cover her actions with an air of mystery. Nurses would frighten their charges into silence by the mention of the name of the Voudou Queen, and the children thus grew up in fear of her. Many older people had more real cause to dread Marie. There were very few secrets of any nature which she did not know. Wherever there was a skeleton in the family closet Marie held the key.
But she was true to the confidence reposed in her and did not turn her knowledge to any unjust advantage. She knew of many proud homes where a whisper concerning the taint of colored blood would have spread consternation, but she was silent and did not even extort money for not overthrowing their standing in society. She was often placed on the stand to testify concerning such matters but no threats of imprisonment could force her to unseal her lips. It was only where the family had become haughty and arrogant and were cruel and brutal to their dependent that she told all she knew, and her disclosures brought terrible disgrace upon those who had called forth her wrath. In moment of passion she shrieked out imprecations and curses and her relatives say, and tremble when they tell it, that even when she launched the doom of death against those who had merited her displeasure, her words came true, the victims expiring with frightful agonies at the stated time.
Capt. Glapion died on June 26, 1855 leaving Marie who had been the mother of his 15 children to mourn his loss. His death caused a great change in her life, and she turned to the Church, which she never has been accused of deserting, for consolation. Not only did she increase her own devotion, but loved to bring others into its bosom. Marie would often visit the cells of the condemned and turn the thoughts of those soon to be led out to atone for their crimes to their Savior. Her coming was considered a blessing by the prisoners because if they could only excite her pity her powerful influence would often obtain their pardon or at least a commutation of sentence.
About five years after the death of her husband she became ill and was some time confined to her bed. As she grew older her ills increased and finally she could scarcely leave her bed. She lay in a large old-fashioned walnut bedstead. In the front room of the little house which she had never left and in which her mother had lived before her. When her eyes opened in the morning, and before their closing at night, they rested on sacred pictures and crucifixes. She erected an altar in her room and tapers were kept burning night and day.
Although no more of the gay scenes of her former years were enacted in the house, it was still open to all comers who were welcome to food and lodging. She gave advice with the same willingness as ever, and never ceased in her endeavors to accomplish good. She had through her practices acquired some money, which she invested in property, the revenue of which, and the contributions of people she had befriend, served to support her in her declining years. She lay in her bed through many long days, bearing ill-will toward no one, listening to the conversation of the unfortunates who crowded her yard, for they had but to push the gate and enter, and were never disturbed.
Marie always remained true to the people of her section and during the war of rebellion she did all in her power to assist the Southern interest, biding and caring for the devotees of the "lost cause" and their property at the risk of her won goods and liberty.
Before her memory became weakened by age and illness, she was full of arch reminiscences which she delighted to relate to those who understood how to question her. A favorite subject with her was the life of her father, to whose picture she would refer her auditor. He was greatly honored and served in the Legislature of the State. She spoke of a visit of his to San Domingo and a breakfast, which he gave there upon which he expended thousands of dollars. She alluded in touching terms to Gov. Claiborne's young Tennessee bride who died soon after her arrival here, and was carried with her dead babe upon her bosom to a lonely grave in the corner of Old American Cemetery.
Mazereau was a favorite of hers. It being said by some that he was one of the most ardent of her youthful lovers. Sometimes she told of the strange little man, with the bright, glittering eyes, Aaron Burr, who spoke so pleasantly, while he was so dangerous. He sought her out and enlisted her sympathy the day after he came ashore at the levee, and though she thought him a strange, bad man, his future history always concerned her, and she eagerly sought news of his movements. She was proud of her interview with Lafayette, who, when he visited New Orleans, over 50 years ago, called at her house and printed a warm kiss upon her forehead at parting.
Marie Laveau was one of the band of colored people who escorted to the tomb, long since dismantled, in the old Catholic cemetery, the remains of the scarred and grizzly French General Humbert. The hero of the Castelbar was often a visitor at her house and she was rich with anecdotes concerning him. The pious Father Antoine, of blessed memory, met her often at the bedside of the dying, she to ease their sufferings during their last moments in this life, and he to give hope of salvation in the life beyond.
Marie Laveau, one of the most wonderful women who ever lived, passed peaceably away. Her daughter Mme. Philomel Legendre, the only survivor of all Capt. Glapion's children, who possessed many of the characteristics of her mother, Mme. Legendre's two pretty daughters, ministered to the old lady's last wants. She died without a struggle, with a smile lighting up her shriveled features. She was interred in her family tomb, by the side of Capt. Glapion. In the old St. Louis Cemetery, and with her is buried the most thrilling portion of the unwritten records of Louisiana. Although Marie Laveau's history has been very much sought after, it has never been published. Cable has endeavored to portray her in the character of Palmyre in his novel of the "Grandissimes." The secrets of her life, however, could only be obtained from the old lady herself, but she would never tell the smallest part of what she knew, and now her lips are closed forever and, as she could neither read nor write, not a scrap is left to chronicle the events of her exciting life.
 She was born in 1801, so she was actually 79 years old.
 Her birth record indicates that the was born on September 16, 1801 – She would have been two years at the time of the Louisiana Purchase.
 Their marriage contract was drawn on July 27, 1819; they married August 4, 1819. They had 2 children together.
 The fate of Jacques Paris is unknown – he was living in 1822 when their first daughter was baptized. His second daughter’s baptism in 1824 lists him as being deceased. Because of the absence of a death certificate it is assumed he abandoned Marie and family but in all likelihood he died and his death record is lost to history.
 They never married. Instead, they lived in a common law union. Although Marie Laveau went for the rest of life identifying as “Widow Paris” (and is recorded on her tomb that way) her death record calls her “Dame Glapion,” indicating that she was acknowledged as Glapion’s spouse, even though there was no wedding between them.
 Interesting to note that there is no mention of her having been a hair dresser. Had she been so, it certainly would have been in her biography.
 They had 7 children; they did, however, take in foster children which are probably, erroneously, included in the number.
 Marie’s father was never in the State Legislature, nor is there any evidence that he went to San Domingo (Haiti) nor accumulated wealth. If she actually did make this claim it was simply the over-embellishment of pride.
 There is no evidence that this is so.
 Her name is actually Philomene. The fact that this obituary says she “possessed many of the characteristics of her mother” is one possible source of the legend of the second Marie Laveau. Philomene vehemently decried voodoo and denied that her mother was ever a practitioner of it.
 George Washington Cable – noted Louisiana author.