Archive | June, 2010

New Orleans, Louisiana – Mississippi River

26 Jun

Crescent City Connection at Sundown. On the Mississippi River.

Years ago I visited Lake Itasca in Minnesota to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  As the water leaves the lake and flows toward the Gulf of Mexico it is a narrow and shallow stream – one can jump or wade across and only get his feet wet.  A short way down from the beginning is the first bridge.  It is a split log, which means it is pedestrian only. One hiker at a time.

A Heavy Laden Ship Passes Under the Crescent City Connection

The Mississippi River is a rich part of America’s history and wealth.  The delta region abounds in a history of wars and discovery and trade and new cultures coming to this country. Jazz, the Blues, Rock and Roll all came from this region.  Ships from around the world continuously head for docks from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. How rich a heritage!

Container Ship on the Move Down the Mississippi River

When looking at a map or reading a book it is easy to conjure up images in your mind about all these things.  However, how many of us have actually been out on the river around New Orleans?  I’m not talking about a ferry ride but in some type of boat or ship?

Loading and Unloading Containers

Last year a friend and I put in a boat above New Orleans and traveled down the river just past the city.  The reason was that he is an artist and wanted to photo some images to use as studies for future work. All the mind’s conjured images of river history and culture are soon lost as one starts to think about actually surviving while out on the river.

Grain Elevator Loading Ships on the River

We spent much of the first day getting familiar with things and snapping pictures and trying to find a good place for a sunset image. The light was not good that November day as a front was pushing its way through.  There was just not enough light in the right places. Any photographer knows what I mean.  We identified some good things to take in the morning light and traveled on to Algiers Point to spend the night and wait for daybreak.We tied up and it was near dark when a strange light was bearing down on New Orleans.  It appeared odd and neither one us knew quite what to think.  What was this sight?  It was a storm, and rain hit us from all sides and angles.  We had a covering on the boat but the wind was blowing sideways so much that it didn’t matter.  The temperature started dropping and we outfitted ourselves in warm winter gear and brought out the stuffed sleeping bags. To make a long story short all our gear did was absorb water and by morning we were two freezing boaters wrapped in wet everything.  I wish we would have measured the water we squeezed out of our gear just so I would know how much it was that made me so miserable.

Jackson Street Ferry

The morning brought a different world.  Ships, tugs barges and anything else that would float was on the river.  It is sobering to see a fully loaded tanker riding low in the water headed straight for you. Then a quick glance over the shoulder sees another one coming up from behind.  Thank goodness there is a wake zone through New Orleans or we would have been knocked out of the water as we scooted around trying to get out of the way and take pictures at the same time.  After a while though we settled down and things became manageable.

Large Ship Above New Orleans Headed Down River

We were impressed by the large ships, loaded so much that their hulls were sunk well down in the river.  The skill it took to steer one of those things and to go under the bridges and make the curves in the river is not appreciated by most of us.  It was magnificent to see those ships skillfully maneuver to position for a shot through the curves and then to straighten out and “Thread the Needle” under the Crescent City Connection and then to maneuver again to make the curve in the river below the city.  A ship did this every few minutes and ships continued coming up the river and tugs and barges and ferries were all active.  All of them seemed to be at home and doing his part.  However, each one had to have someone very responsible and very alert at the helm or disaster would have been inevitable. One has to be vigilant 24 hours a day and 7 days a week on the river.

Ship Passes Under the Boutee Bridge

For the first time I began to appreciate the river for the great economic engine that it is.  Those ships were carrying cargo containers, grain, oil, refined petroleum, sugar and no telling what else.  Ships were being built at Avondale and cargo was going in and out of ships all up and down the river.

We saw grain being loaded though elevators on a number of ships.  The loading capacity of the Port of South Louisiana is around 1 million bushels per hour.  Grain elevators were a common sight and every one of them was very busy.

Containers were being unloaded and loaded near New Orleans.  They were coming in on railroads and on trucks and were leaving by the same modes of transportation.  Large ships were being loaded with containers as well.

Moored Ships Waiting Their Turn to Load or Unload

A number of tankers were headed up river to various refineries.  Others were returning loaded with something that had been refined or made in Louisiana.
The Exxon refinery complex in Baton Rouge uses about 500,000 barrels of oil a day.  That is barrels and not gallons. Marathon, Shell, Texaco and others down river use tremendous amount of oil too on a daily bases.  A million barrels of oil used every day on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is probably a low estimate.

Military Ships Being Built at Avondale Ship Yards

For years I have thought that most of the activity in New Orleans was on Canal Street or perhaps the French Quarter and Super Dome.  I was wrong. The pulse of New Orleans is on the Mississippi River.  It always has been that way and it will be that way always.

My mind was forever changed by the experience.  Skill and bravery are exhibited every day and it has been that way since the first ship of explorers sailed up the river.  New Orleans was created because of the Mississippi River. It is now my belief that New Orleans is the river and the river is New Orleans in this part of Louisiana.

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New Orleans, Louisiana – Garden District – Col. Short’s Villa

23 Jun

Prytania Street View of Col. Short's Villa

Located at Fourth St. and Prytania, in the Historic Garden District of New Orleans, this beautiful home has  a number  of items of historical interest attached to it. It was designed by Henry Howard  and built by Robert Huyghe for Robert Short in 1859.

One of the most unique features of this home is not the house itself but the fence.  It is a cast iron fence with a design of intertwined morning glories growing with the corn stalks. The fence was erected by Wood & Mitenberger, the New Orleans branch of the Philadelphia foundry of Wood and Perot.  Wood and Perot also cast the corn fence located in the French Quarter.

Legend has it that Col. Short’s wife was lonely for her native Iowa and so Short had the fence made for her.  Another source says that the Short’s simply ordered it from the company catalog. Outside of the two corn fences in New Orleans and I am not aware of another in the U.S. or one that is at least a tourist attraction.

Fourth Street View of Corn Fence at the Col. Short Villa

Before the occupation of New Orleans, by the Union Forces, Col. Short returned to his native Kentucky.  As a result his property was seized on September 1, 1863.  Short was classified as an “Absent Rebel” even though his wife still occupied the house.

Close Up View of Col. Short's Villa

She was ousted from the house in March of 1864 and General Butler turned it into the Executive Mansion for newly elected Federal Governor Mr. Michael Hahn.  Two weeks later The U.S. Commander, Department of the Gulf, Major General Nathaniel Banks and family became the new residents.

On August 15, 1865 the property was returned to Col. Short by the U.S. Government.  He remained a resident here until his death in 1890.

New Orleans, Louisiana – Around Town

22 Jun

Well, I thought I would make a post of nothing but images from around New Orleans. When in the city there are plenty of unique and pretty signs, houses, people, and everything else one could think of to take a picture.  However, getting these images formatted on a blog page as I would like them to appear has turned out to be much more difficult that I thought. In the beginning I had wanted these pictures spaced nicely in a tight arrangement. For now they will appear centered and in a neat line.

Good Eggs Are All Over New Orleans

In The Quarter

Falstaff Beer Brewery

Buttered Up In Some Parts of Town

If You Like Olives!

Taking a Rest in Metairie Cemetery

Only Female Women of the Opposite Sex Admitted Here

Andrew Jackson Does Not Ride Off Into The Sunset

New Orleans, Louisiana – Cemeteries – Lafayette Cemetery Number 1

21 Jun

Washinton Street Entrance to Lafayette Number 1

Lafayette Number 1 Cemetery is located in the middle of Historic Garden District, one of the best known historic districts of New Orleans.  For restaurateurs it lies across the street from the world famous Commanders Palace. The Historic Garden District of New Orleans boasts some of the grandest and most colorful houses in New Orleans, and one of the worlds best restaurants and one of the cities best known cemeteries. All of these areas are all accessible by the historic St. Charles Street Car Line if you are so inclined.

In the Garden District one will find streets and homes with park like settings along with good sidewalks and easily crossed streets that offer a relaxed visit.  In the middle of this setting one can stroll upon the Lafayette Number 1 Cemetery and while browsing these grounds one can discover a well planned layout of graves and Magnolia Tree lined streets.  Indeed a city of the dead.

Angel With Broken Wing in Lafayette Number 1

Lafayette Number 1 is one of the older cemeteries in the city.  It was surveyed by Benjamin Buisson a Lieutenant of artillery with the army of Napoleon. Bussion arrived in New Orleans in 1817.  He served as Parish Surveyor, and was a prominent civil engineer and architect.  At the start of the Civl War Buisson was placed in charge of city fortifications in New Orleans.  He was appointed Brigadier General of militia in 1862.  After the war he resumed his practice as a surveyor. His designs and surveying are still carried forward in Lafayette Number 1.
The cemetery derives its name because at the time it was established, in 1833, it was in the municipality of Lafayette and not New Orleans.  This part of town was referred to as the American Sector as opposed to the Creole sector in the French Quarter (known as New Orleans) on the other side of Canal Street. Later Lafayette would become a part of New Orleans.  Most of the residents here were American and Protestant as opposed to Catholic in the Creole sector.

Tunes Among the Tombs in Lafayette Number 1

The cemetery is officially dedicated to Theodore von LaHache, the founder of the New Orleans Philharmonic Society, who by the way, compiled the Catholic Hymnal. Well, not to be outdone the Protestants have interred here Mr. Staunton S. Burdette, who by the way, was the composer of the Baptist Hymnal.  Only in New Orleans, I am inclined to think.

New Orleans is paradoxical in many ways, even in it’s cemeteries.  In future postings I  will discuss some of the people buried here, some of the tombs and other facts related to Lafayette Cemetery Number 1.

Vicksburg, Mississippi – Margaret’s Grocery & Bible Class

17 Jun

The Reverend H.D. Dennis "God Sent You Here Today!"

“God sent you here today” said Reverend Dennis as he looked at me directly in the eyes with a peaceful and confident stare.  He then looked over to my friend Paul to include him. Margaret stood behind the counter and smiled at us.  She knew that she would have to remain there and interpret as the Reverend began to talk.  Rev. Dennis could not hear well at all, and I was convinced that the battery was always dead in his hearing aid.  It was not long before he was obtaining some loud Amens from Paul and me.  We had to almost yell for him to hear us but he knew he was getting a response and that was invigorating to him.  Since the Rev. could not hear hardly at all his speech was somewhat, okay mostly, garbled.  This is when Margaret would interject her interpretations of his speech.

Margaret was one of the most kind a gentle people that I have ever met.  Her gentle voice was soothing and always pleasant.  Occasionally she was humorous.  On a previous visit with another friend she told me how enjoyable it was to have some country folks to talk to.  She said that even though she loved the many people that stopped most of them were from the city and she felt that country people had a unique richness about them because they were close to the land to other people that worked the land.  I guess she could tell both of us were piney-woods bumpkins from our speech and the things about which we talked.

As the Rev. carried on with his mostly incomprehensible sermon Margaret showed us some items around her place and took particular pleasure in showing us some pictures of her mother.  We did not ignore Rev. Dennis because he did say something we understood every once in a while and we acknowledged that he indeed was correct and that we agreed with him totally.

He told us how the City of Vicksburg had given him an old school bus and that he had turned it into a sanctuary in order to preach the gospel.  I am hesitant to call the bus a church but the Rev. would place people in the seats of the bus and deliver a short sermon to them.  he stood near the drivers seat and left no doubt he was in charge of the occasion.  He was the driver and those in the seats were the students. In fact his whole place along old US Highway 61 was the Church and the bus served its duty as he needed it.

Main Sanctuary at Margaret's

A Typical Southern Grocery and Bible Class Place

As he showed us around his wondrous place he talked that day mainly about the colors of his creation.  His “place” had grown to be world known and everyday people from all around the world would stop and visit.  “Just like those people, said Rev. Dennis, that come here from all over they are of different colors.  The Lord made it that way”.  He talked about the many beautiful colors that God had used in his creation.  “That is why there are different colors here at this place, they are to show that God likes things of different colors and that there is no difference between the black man and the white man and there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile.”  In fact Reverend Dennis encourage all people to drop by his place and take a visit and to hear a little of the Gospel.

Margaret was always near with her loving smile and gentle voice.  Her voice always had a tone of encouragement and love for all who would listen.  Despite their trials in life the Dennis’ were filled with love for other people.

Margaret was first married to another man.  I think she loved him very much and he was married to her when she started with the grocery business.  She said that he had gone through World War Two without a scratch but had come back home and was murdered during a robbery.  The Reverend Dennis was her second husband.

Margaret told us that the parents of Rev. Dennis had died when he was young and that he had to live with a close relative.  She said either a grandfather or an uncle I think.  In any case the man treated Rev. Dennis badly and when he had all that he could stand he sneaked a ride on a train to escape.  He had ridden on the front of the train on top of the “cow catcher” and that he always remembered that ride of 19 miles because it was very cold that night.

Margaret died last year at the age of 94.  She lived a full life and had seen the extremes of sacrifice and the joys of love.  The Rev. Dennis is now in a care facility in Vicksburg.  I have read that a church is supposed to preserve the Dennis place but I do not know if that is possible. It takes a special person to keep a place like that up.  Once his spirit is removed there will be nothing there to keep things in order.

Beautiful Margaret Waved Good Bye As We Left

There are some things I will never forget about Margaret and the Rev. Dennis.  Margaret would never let us leave without a hug and a kiss and a kind comment.  I have to smile though when I remember one thing that the Rev. talked about.  Once he spoke you understood fully why Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans with such fury.  I will not tell you why but my guess is that he thinks that the terrible oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is for the same reason!.

I am thankful for the times that I stopped and visited with Margaret and the Reverend.  Things do not stay the same forever and now I know that a colorful part of our Southern heritage has gently faded into the past.

Rodney, Mississippi – Presbyterian Church

16 Jun

Just getting to Rodney can be an adventure.  We had no idea where we were but we turned up in Rodney. It was easy though to see how isolated and difficult it can be to find this place. Rodney is in Loess hills that are on the edge of the Mississippi River and valleys and gorges have formed that can be confusing and treacherous. The small roads cannot be much larger than a single vehicle and I say that because in going there and coming back I did not encounter another vehicle so I am just estimating. The small town was mostly the remains of an older town with some buildings in decent shape but with most not suitable for visitation. A few people do live in Rodney as do some loud mouth barking dogs.

Articles and books about Rodney abound so I will not go overly in depth in this post. In the future I plan to make a number of postings about Rodney. For this posting I will limit my discussion to the Rodney Presbyterian Church that proudly displays a cannon ball in it’s facade.

There is a historical feeling about this church and that was very apparent as I circled the church looking in the windows. Despite all the history associated with Rodney, and this church, my thoughts could not stray far from the events that happened on Sunday September 13, 1863. Those that did not attend church that day missed the most exciting day in the history of the church. Some of those that first attended that day probably wished they had never set foot in that church.

The US Gunboat “Rattler” was on duty in the Mississippi River to prevent activity at the port of Rodney and to report on Confederate activities in the area. Seems like duty on that ship was growing routine and the sight of nicely dressed women going to church must have created excitement on the boat that day. On the other hand there was a passenger on board from Red Lick, Mississippi that was headed back North. Mr. Baker had just resigned his position as the Presbyterian Pastor in Red Lick. He was a Northern sympathizer and was on the ship as the guest of Master Fentress awaiting passage to the North. Knowing that Mr. Baker was on board the Rattler the Pastor of the Rodney Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Robert Price, invited Pastor Baker to deliver the message on that day. Pastor Baker accepted the offer and extended an invitation to Captain Fentress and Ensign Strunk. They with about 20 sailors set out for services with Rev. Baker.

Cannon Ball Lodged in Front Facade of Rodney Presbyterian Church

The call of duty should have prevented the acting master and some 20 odd crew from abandoning ship for the pews of the Church that day. It seems that the Union sailors had just settled down into their pews for a day of worship and were finishing the second song. Then in walked Lt. Allen of the Confederate Calvary. He was not looking for a seat but strolled up to the pulpit and after apologizing to the minister he announced to the congregation that the church was surrounded by his men and that the Union sailors were under arrest. A small melee broke out and some shots were fired. Most of the congregation sought safety under the pews while some fled from the church. One elderly woman stood on her pew shouting “Glory to God!”

Once the skeleton crew on the Rattler learned of this fiasco they began lobbing shells into town. As the cannon balls flew through town one of them hit the church and stuck into the exterior. Not to be out ordered and out gunned Lt. Allen sent word to the Rattler that he would start hanging his prisoners if the shelling did not stop. He informed the Rattler that the towns people had in no way played a part in his actions.

The next time that Master Fentress was heard from he was in a prisoner in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. He had written a letter to Admiral Porter explaining the events of that fateful day. The Rattler became a laughing stock and it’s fate was spread far and wide. However the ships notoriety did not last that long because on December 30, 1864, the Rattler hit a snag in the river and sank.

I wonder if Pastor Baker delivered a message that historic day and if he did what did he talk about? A interesting day I must say. Having half the congregation arrested, others diving under pews and some even firing shots. Then on top of that having cannon balls rock the Church. I guess that would drive an elderly lady to stand in a pew and shout “Glory to God.” One thing for sure is that the Spirit does work in mysterious ways in Rodney.

New Orleans, Louisiana – Cemeteries – Metairie Cemetery

14 Jun

Angel of Grief - Hyman Tomb

Some of the most interesting sights and people can be found in the famous cemeteries in New Orleans. Many books have been written about the people, the architecture, the history, the art and many other things associated with the world famous burial places of the city.  In this blog some of the tombs and cemeteries will be presented for your enjoyment.  I have always been awed by Metairie Cemetery every time that I visit.  It has become like a familiar town and I can recognize certain tombs and find my way around.  I know who some of the tombs commemorate and some of the history of some of those interred there.  I find myself a return visitor to many of the splendid tombs – they never grow so familiar so that they become common.

One of my favorites is the Chapman Hyman Tomb, which contains The Angel of Grief or The Weeping Angel.  At times, if the light is just right, the statue will be bathed in a beautiful blue light.  At other times it appears white but if you are fortunate enough to obtain an image it will be beautiful in any light.  More recently I have found this tomb locked but it is for the safety of those that will be drawn in for a closer look at the Angel.  Water has found its way into the ceiling and there is a danger of the ceiling collapsing.  However, if you can find a caretaker they may have a key and they can open the door.  A picture can be obtained in a safe manner.  The caretakers are helpful and knowledgeable and very friendly.   Remember they are there for the benefit of those interred there and not necessarily the casual tourist.

One of the many statues found in Metairie Cemetery

Every time I have been to the Hyman Tomb I have noticed that one or both of the side windows are always broken. On my last visit I noticed glass missing from one of the side windows and it was open.  It was later that it dawned on me that maybe the windows were being broken so that individuals could obtain photos of the Angel statue.  I hate to think this is the case – I am a slow learner.  The tomb is not a tourist attraction but rather holds the remains of the Hyman family and one should be respectful while at the tomb.  If the family lets us see the beautiful statue then desecration at the site shows a lack of respect for the family.  Breaking the windows is very disrespectful to family and in fact puts all the magnificent structures there of being off limits to the general public.

Metairie Cemetery is part of the Lake Lawn Cemeteries and the main office of Lake Lawn will provide one with information on thematic tours in Metairie Cemetery.  It is best to obtain these materials from the main office which is located in the front of the complex which faces the Interstate.  The side entrance is for those visiting families of the deceased.  A book about Metairie Cemetery can be purchased from the Lake Law office.  The author is Gandolfo and in fact I obtained my copy from the Internet.

I am posting a few pictures that I took at the cemetery with this entry.  In the future I will post more and perhaps write a little about the various thematic stories that are told by the cemetery.