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New Orleans, Louisiana – Metairie Cemetery – Lucien Napoleon Brunswig

26 Jul

Entrance Brunswig Mausoleum

Metairie Cemetery, in New Orleans, is one of those fascinating places that will capture your imagination even if you don’t have one!  The tombs are very interesting and many are great examples of various types of architecture, which always provides for a great cemetery visit.  On the other hand the tombs hold individuals and many of those individuals led distinguished and productive lives. Their stories are sometimes lost amongst the grand views of the tombs.

One of the most visited and photographed places in Metairie Cemetery stands near the rear of the older part of the cemetery.  The outstanding Egyptian influences of the Brunswig Mausoleum are very worthy of attention. The pyramid mausoleum  has attracted visitors for over a century.   A woman and a sphinx figure stand on either side of bronze gates that seal the tomb and they have been photographed a million times. Those figures have become synonymous with the tomb , but  what about the man that lends his name to this well known tomb – that man was Lucien Napoleon Brunswig.

Lucien Napoleon Brunswig was born in Montmedy, France, in 1854, and was educated at the  College of Etain. Apparently Brunswig thought his future lay in the United States and he came to the U.S. in 1871.  He found work as an apprentice to a U.S druggist. In 1875 Brunswig opened his own drug store in Atchison, Kansas. After a year of business he sold his drug store and moved to Fort Worth, Texas.

In Fort Worth Brunswig opened a new drug store that not only sold retail but also dealt with wholesale pharmaceuticals.  Within 5 years the business was producing $350,000 in annual sales.  Business took Lucien to many places and one of those places was Independence, Missouri.  There he met and married  Annie Mercer. The newly married couple made their home in Fort Worth and they soon added children.

In 1882, George Finlay, the owner of a well-established wholesale drug firm in New Orleans invited Brunswig to join him as a partner. Brunswig sold his Fort Worth business and joined Finlay in the firm of Finlay and Brunswig.  In 1885 Finlay died and Lucien Brunswig took over the entire wholesale drug firm which then became L. N. Brunswig and Company. In 1887 he took on a partner by the name of F.W. Braun.

Lucien and Annie had 5 children – 3 girls and 2 boys.  The year of 1892 became a pivotal year for Lucien N. Brunswig.  That year marked the death of one of his young sons – a son who also bore the name of Lucien N. Brunswig.  This death was a terrible blow to Annie Brunswig.  The child’s death was too much for her to handle.  She declined in health and within a month she too was dead.

Lucien Brunswig moved on with life. Prior to the death of his wife and child Brunswig had been looking toward the west.  In 1887 Braun was dispatched to Los Angeles, California, and within a year a prosperous business was established.  In 1890, while Brunswig was still in New Orleans, he sent Braun to San Diego to set up a branch office.  In short order another prosperous branch office was operating under the name of F.W. Braun.

Braun believed that the future of his company was in the west.  In 1903 Brunswig, and his family, which included his second wife and another child, moved to Los Angeles so he could preside over the company.  In 1907 Bruswig bought out Braun and the business was renamed Brunswig Drug Company.  At this time he also sold his company in New Orleans.

Established in Los Angeles the Brunswig Drug Company grew at a phenomenal rate.  The company became the leading pharmaceutical distributor in the western U.S.   The company also eventually expanded to many countries in the Pacific realm.  His company also took on new products such as cosmetics.  The business would boom during World War 1 due to its geographical location.

In 1917 Brunswig found himself too old for military service in World War 1 as he was 63.  Still he went to his native France and served 8 months for the “Friends of France.”  On his return from France he continued to be involved with helping those that had been impacted by the war.  This was just the tip of the iceberg in his service to his local community and to his country and to his homeland.  While in Los Angeles Brunswig served as Director,  Bureau of Americanization; Director of a number of Franco-American Relief Societies during World War 1; Chairman, Pacific Coast States American Field Ambulance Service; Chairman, Pacific Coast, Fatherless Children of France;  Chairman, American Committee for Devastated France; President, Alliance Francaise;  President, Lafayette Society of California; Delegated by the Minister of Public Instruction in France to co-operate in the scholarships for young French students to American Universities and Colleges; Director of the College des Etats Unis, in Paris; and he served as Chairman for the Sunshine Houses of France for the U.S.A.

While he lived in New Orleans he served as a Police Commissioner in New Orleans from 1895-1899; Vice-president, Anthenee Louisianais; Member, Louisiana Historical Society; President, French Society; and served as Vice-President for the Board of Trade.

While in Los Angeles he also co founded the Pharmacy Department at the University of Southern California.  He traveled extensively in Europe and to other places in the world.  While traveling he amassed a personal library of over 6,000 volumes.  Some of these were original transcripts obtained from monasteries in Europe and he even collected an original transcript from William Penn.  Brunswig donated over 1,000 volumes from his collection to the University of Southern California.

Lucien Napoleon Brunswig died in 1943 and his body was interred in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. But what happened to his Drug Company?  In 1969 Brunswig Drug Company merged with Bergen Drug Company to form Bergen-Brunswig.  This company in turn merged with the AmeriSource Health Corporation in 2001 to from AmerisourceBergen.  Last year AmerisourceBergen ranked 24th on the Fortune 500 list and employed 10,000 employees.  Sales for the Corporation were $78 billion.  What a testament to Mr. Brunswig!

Today we marvel at the structure in which Lucien N. Brunswig is interred but very few of us know anything at all about his life.  Indeed the tomb now houses his body but no tomb could ever house his accomplishments in business nor his service to his fellow man.  The next time I am in Metairie Cemetery I will make a point to visit the tomb of Lucien Napoleon Brunswig.  This time I will not go to view his tomb but rather to pay my respects to his life.  What a man!

Lacombe, Louisiana – All Saint’s Day – La Toussaint

10 Nov

Cleaned and Painted Graves, Flowers, and Candles are All Part of the All Saint's Day Observance in Cemeteries in Lacombe, Louisiana

Louisiana is a place of contradictions – or at least it may appear that way to the outsider.  Many of us that live here even have a hard time figuring it all out but as time goes on we learn.  The great river, The Mississippi River, has sculpted and shaped our landscape but is also responsible for shaping our culture and even our lives.  The river brought many cultures together along its banks.  These diverse cultures found a way to live together and to create a unique common culture.  This blended culture at times appears to be contradictory in many respects but in fact it is the glue that keeps us together.

In Louisiana we have a hedonistic celebration called Mardi Gras but then we also have observances that I would classify as very spiritual. New Orleans, and south Louisiana, have become the cradle of Mardi Gras but this location is also famous for its All Saint’s Day observance.  Louisiana is a very spiritual place and these roots run deep among most of the cultures that call this place home.  So, many people and cultures that have come to this place have seen their customs and traditions blended over time.  Many of those cultural traditions are expressed through religious venues.

A religious tradition associated with south Louisiana is the observance of All Saint’s Day.  November 1st finds many cemeteries clean and sparkling and filled with beautiful flowers and with people.  Some communities even have night-time observances, with the lighting of candles, in their cemeteries.

Priests Prepare to Bless the Graves

In the community of Lacombe, Louisiana, the newly cleaned and painted and whitewashed tombs welcome visitors on the first of November.  Most of the graves have also been decorated with lovely flowers and other expressions of love.  However, as dusk approaches more solemnity comes over the people and it is not long before the priests are there with robes and water and are walking through the cemetery blessing the graves.  After the procession of the priests through the rows of pretty graves it is time for the candles. White candles are placed around most of the graves and are lit.  As evening and night become established the cemeteries take on a beautiful glow from the many candles.  Children, usually relatives of the deceased, hurry to light the candles at some plots.  At others it is more of a ritual.

Although many of those that come to the cemeteries on November 1 are observers, the occasion is for the living family members that have relatives buried there.  They perform their rituals, or observances, and it matters not if people are there to watch.  What is done is between the relatives, the living and the dead, others are welcome to watch but those participating pay them little mind until the proper time.

At LaFontaine Cemetery, in Lacombe, the relatives of the dead tell the stories of their family members that have died.  They relate the hardships and joys that their families have experienced through the generations.  They young children listen intently.  The children also have participated in preparing for this day and they look eager to help when the candle lighting starts.  In a few years some of them will be standing where their parents and grandparents are now standing and telling the same stories about their families.  They will become the guardians of a great tradition and of family knowledge.  It is a wonderful thing to see those that are living honor the lives of those that have died.

Woman Relates Family History, and Some Personal Notes, About Her Relatives in LaFiontaine Cemetery in Lacombe, Louisiana

I guess in some respects many people think that this night is an observance of the dead.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The night is to honor and to remember the lives of family members that have departed – what a great way to honor the memory or relatives and to pass on that memory and respect to future generations.   Those in attendance, just to observe, learn of the things that are important to the families from this region.  Things like what brought their relatives to this place, and the hardships and triumphs that the family has faced.  After listening to many stories and looking at the decorated graves it seems somewhat odd to me that World War 2 has now become a part of the past.  It was so real to my generation.  Many of the graves have pictures of the deceased placed on them and the pictures are of soldiers that are wearing the uniforms of the  United States Military.

Many of the men and women in the cemeteries served in the United States armed forces and all seem to have been honored to serve and many are still honored for their service on this occasion.   If one listens carefully they will understand that most that came to this place had different backgrounds and cultures.  However, they blended into one culture over time but at the same time retained elements of their own family’s cultural heritage.

The cultural heritage of south Louisiana is unique in many respects.  The Mississippi River attracted people from all over the world yet the people lived among each other.  In New Orleans there weren’t strictly Italian neighborhoods, or German neighborhoods, or French neighborhoods among the immigrants.  They lived among each other. There was a gradual blending of the cultures but at the same time families of different cultures maintained some of their own cultural expressions.  There was cultural give and take.  That explanation is a little simplistic and leaves out the problems and hardships that took place among different groups but in the end it resulted in a common blended  culture, sort of like a gumbo, with all the ingredients mixed but at the same time separate.  In a good seafood gumbo the oysters and shrimp and the crabs all retain their distinct identify but they are in that gumbo together.

Both Flat and Tapered Candles Adorn This Grave

The observance of All Saints has changed down through the years.  I have read and heard stories of how great and important the observance was in New Orleans and yet I am not sure what goes on during All Saints in the city these days.  The lighting of candles, in New Orleans, has been forbidden because of the threat of fire.  At one time it was a great religious and social tradition.  So many people were going to the cemeteries that vendors offered special foods and treats and had carts outside many of the cemeteries. Women gathered and prayed and talked and of course there was plenty of peer pressure to keep the family cemetery plot clean and decorated.

A Cleaned and Decorated Plot is Ready for a Night of Candle Light

In the region around New Orleans, and in French influenced areas, All Saints is also called Le Toussaint.  Le Toussaint and/or All Saints has been observed in Louisiana for over 200 years.  It is still with us.  Much of the drama and the tremendous throngs of people in the cemetery has slipped into the past.  In New Orleans it was not uncommon to have thousands of people in one cemetery.  In Lacombe the crowds in some of the cemeteries may approach 100. In the areas outside of Lacombe there are tens or maybe dozens of people. Small scale stuff compared to the past. I have to remind myself that this is an important family observance for the local people and not for me – the outsider. This observance would take place regardless if outsiders attended or not.

Although All Saint’s Day is not the social occasion that it once was in south Louisiana it is still an important ritual and observance.  In my opinion the candle lighting will go on for more generations in Lacombe and other areas around the state.  Mums will continue to decorate many graves on November 1st.  As mentioned earlier many things in Louisiana are spiritual in nature and that spirit is alive and well for the time being in Lacombe, Louisiana.

Natchez, Mississippi – Routh Cemetery

20 Jul

Behind the brick wall was a well kept cemetery of some age

In April my wife and I had a visitor from England and we decided that a day in Natchez would make a nice trip.  We didn’t realize though that we would spend so much time in Lorman, and in Rodney, and at Windsor Ruins.  Earlier in the day we even stumbled upon what appeared to be the last resting place for fleets of school buses.  All of these places begged to be photographed and appreciated and we happily obliged.

The time soon got away from us and by the time we arrived in Natchez it was getting late.  Our first stop in Natchez was the Natchez City Cemetery.  Again more photos were needed and more time spent but it was worth it.  The cemetery is a very pretty and historic place and worth a visit in itself.  However, a visit to an antebellum home is a necessity when in Natchez and the sun was going down.  Now there is not a shortage of antebellum homes in Natchez but there is a problem in selecting just one, for a picture, and hopefully before the sun goes completely down.

We headed for Dunleith.  It is very open there and good pictures can be taken from the street and as luck would have it there was an empty parking lot for a business that had closed for the day fairly close to the the house.  My wife opted to stay in the car but Sally and I headed toward the house.  As we approached the house I noticed a brick walled area on a small hill on the other side of the road.  It appeared that this may be a cemetery, which meant I had to check it out.  The pictures at Dunleith went quickly as the sun was already behind the beautiful columned house.  The westward light was on the brick walls across the street.  We made our approach in haste and then up the steps to what indeed turned out to be a cemetery.  This was a complete surprise to me.  A very nice cemetery it was too and the graves appeared to be fairly old as indicated by the wear on the tall stones and vaults.  One thing very special caught my eye and that was a large black dog statue that appeared to be sitting beside a larger tomb. It was near the rear of the cemetery and since it appeared to be a private or family cemetery we did not enter  All of this was a mystery so when I arrived home I went to work searching for clues to the mysterious cemetery that we had mysteriously stumbled upon.

Image taken from the front of Routh Cemetery

It didn’t take long to start unraveling the mysteries via the Internet.  It was the Routh Cemetery and as I studied along it became clear why the cemetery was at that location.  Dunleith was at one time named Routhville and it was the Routh family that first established Routhville/Dunleith.  Most of the inhabitants of the cemetery were the old time owners of Dunleith and their relatives. It was interesting to learn the history of the family and the house but I soon discovered there was a story about the dog statue in the cemetery.

The dog was a life size Newfoundland made of iron.  It was next to a tomb and one of the persons interred there was a man named Walton Pembroke Smith.  He was married to Mary Routh if I remember correctly and he was originally from Virginia.  As a child he fell into the Potomac River and was in danger of drowning.  His dog, a large Newfoundland, jumped in and saved him.  When Smith became an adult he described his beloved dog to a New York iron works.  The result was a treasured statue that resembled his well remembered dog.  After Smith died the family was left with the statue.  It was decided that the best thing to do with the statue was to place it in the family cemetery next to the vault of Mr. Smith.  Today the statue, of the dog that once saved Walton Smith’s life, now guards him in death.

A Friend in Life and a Friend in Death

Being an ignorant traveler can be a disaster, however, I do not believe I would have appreciated that cemetery as much had we not discovered it by accident.

There are many places with unknown stories all along the course of the Mississippi River.  I hope to post many more such “discovered places” in the future.

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.

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.