The records of the Clerk of Civil District Court’s Office, which date back to the 1700s, represent the rich history of New Orleans including its surrounding parishes. Our archives can be used for property, family history, architectural, and landscaping research.
Consisting of over 5,000 Plan Book Plans and numerous attached plans, the majority of these documents depict properties found in Orleans Parish. It is not uncommon to discover acts relating to out-of-parish properties passed before notaries residing in Orleans Parish. A section of the Research Center is devoted to out-of-parish volumes ranging from 1918 to 1970.
There are many reasons why out-of-parish documents are maintained by the Orleans Parish Clerk of Civil District Court’s Office. In most cases, a party to an act was a resident of Orleans Parish. Since the early history of the country, New Orleans has served as a central hub of business and commerce.
For these out-of-parish vignettes, we showcase documents related to Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes. The reader should keep in mind that these are just three of the parishes that are represented in the archives. Other parishes and states include but are not limited to: East Baton Rouge Parish, Livingston Parish, St. Landry Parish, St. Tammany Parish, Mississippi, and Texas.
St. Bernard Parish
While we recognize there are many areas and events pertaining to the parish of St. Bernard, the focal points of this post will involve the Chalmette Battlefield, the development of the Versailles community, the Battle Ground Plantation, the Chalmette National Cemetery, and the Slaughter-House Cases and Company.
St. Bernard was established in 1807. In its early history, St. Bernard played a role in the War of 1812, namely the Battle of New Orleans. After the War of 1812 was officially over per the Treaty of Ghent, the battle was fought in Chalmette, on January 8, 1815.
The Battle of New Orleans took place in the early morning hours on the property of Ignace Martin de Lino de Chalmette. His half-brother, Denis de la Ronde, was one of the leading colonels in the battle.
American troops were heavily entrenched at the Rodriguez Canal, which cut through de Lino de Chalmette’s property. It is labeled on the map featured above. In addition to the battlefield, there was a line of defense closer to the city limits of New Orleans.
Under the leadership of General Andrew Jackson, the American troops consisted of 4,732 men, including free men of color, Choctaw warriors, members of the infamous Jean Lafitte’s Baratarians, as well as militias from Louisiana and nearby states.1
During the battle, British troops burned down the plantation home of de Lino de Chalmette. The battle was fought and officially over before midday. Despite the Americans being greatly outnumbered, the Battle of New Orleans resulted in a low number of casualties and the defeat of the British.2
Development of Versailles
Due to the War of 1812, the development of the parish was stunted. One example was the community of Versailles, which is located in Chalmette and was named as an homage to its counterpart in France.3
Versailles, as pictured above, was founded by General Denis de la Ronde. He was appointed to a position in the Cabildo under the orders of his brother-in-law, Andres Almonester y Roxas, who was a city councilman and a notary. (Almonester y Roxas’s notarial acts are located in the Research Center.)
The Plan Book Plan below displays a small building and three lots of ground for sale in Versailles around 1830.
Battle Ground Plantation
Not far from the Chalmette Battlefield, Battle Ground Plantation once belonged to the late Antoine Bienvenu and is designated on the plan as lots 10-19. Bienvenu purchased the entire tract of land from Helene Fleurian, the widow of A.M. de Reggio, in an act passed before Pedro Pedesclaux on November 14, 1794.
An 1895 Times Picayune article identified Battle Ground Plantation as a landmark along the route of a purposed electric rail line. The rail line would connect Orleans Parish, the Crescent City Slaughter-House, the old parish road (three miles below Battle Ground Plantation), and the Chalmette Cemetery. The article mentions there were fifty cottages on Battle Ground property that would be available for sale or lease to the operatives of the road. After construction of the rail line, riders would be able to take a street car from Canal Street to Chalmette and back.
As indicated in this plan, the New Orleans and Western Rail Road line would run a similar route from Orleans Parish past the Slaughter House Canal to the Battle Ground Plantation. The route is denoted in red, and the foliage is indicated in black.
Chalmette National Cemetery
The Monument Cemetery Plan was created by Louis Pilie, the late city surveyor, on January 29, 1867. It was deposited into the office of Henry C. Dibble and is referenced in an act of donation. The Honorable Edward Heath, Mayor of New Orleans, donated Monument Cemetery to the Government of the United States of America as represented by Brevel Brigadier General Charles H. Tompkins.
The plan is nine feet long and depicts the tract of land to be designated as the Monument Cemetery, now known as the Chalmette National Cemetery. The camp fortifications are mentioned, and buildings on the property are indicated. Below is an elevation that illustrates the entrance to the cemetery.
The following is the act of donation to the United States dated May 26, 1868, passed before Henry C. Dibble.
Nearly twenty years later, the 1878 plan below denotes the sale of property (in the yellow wash) from Henry Thoele to Jayme Frigola on a tract of land “…on the left bank of the Mississippi River at about three arpents above the United States Military Cemetery…”
The Slaughter-House Cases
The Slaughter-House Cases were landmark cases that brought national attention to St. Bernard, making it a well-known event in the parish’s history.
New Orleans experienced outbreaks of Cholera in the mid-1800s due to runoff from the slaughterhouses. Though many of the slaughterhouses were located outside of the city, drinking water was still becoming contaminated. As a solution, in 1869, the Louisiana Legislature passed a law entitled, “An act to protect the health of the City of New Orleans, to locate the stock landings and slaughter-houses, and to incorporate ‘The Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company.’” This act of legislation created the company to be a private, centralized corporation downstream in St. Bernard. It also required independent butchers to operate under the company and give Crescent City the right to charge fees for rental space.4
These limitations and restrictions led to outcry and frustration from members of the Butchers’ Benevolent Association who then filed a suit against The Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company. They cited the company for monopolizing butchers’ rights to practice their trade and infringed upon certain clauses specified in the Fourteenth Amendment. These cases were taken to the Supreme Court and infamously become known as the Slaughter-House Cases.
The Slaughter-House Cases were the first to review the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Butchers’ Benevolent Association sought to use the Fourteenth Amendment to show that the Slaughter-House Act abridged the privileges and immunities of citizens, denied equal protection, and deprived the butchers of due process.
In 1874, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company, deciding that the Fourteenth Amendment applied solely to federal citizenship.
The majority opinion stated that the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment is to liberate formally enslaved African-Americans; thus, the amendment could not apply to the butchers in this case. Moreover, the amendment applies to federal citizenship and does not extend over state citizenship.5
The dissenting opinions applied a broader interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment stating that the words of the amendment cover the rights of all citizens, federal and state. Therefore, the Slaughter-House Act was an infringement on the independent Louisiana butchers’ rights.5
Though the court ruled that the rights of the Butchers’ Benevolent Association had not been violated, it was a short-lived victory for the Slaughter-House Company. By 1879, the monopoly over the butchering trade was banned and dissolved under the state’s new constitution.6
According to a resolution attached to an act passed before notary, Gustave LeGardeur, Jr., it was “requisite and necessary” for Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company to organize a new corporation under a new name due to the monopoly ban.
Crescent City Stockyard and Slaughterhouse Company Limited chartered on February 15, 1893. Article III of the charter states, “the objects and purposes of the company was to acquire, erect, own, maintain, and operate stock landings, yards, and slaughter houses for the landing yarding, sheltering, and slaughtering all kind of livestock…,” carrying on much like its parent organization but without the monopoly-like control.
On April 11, 1893, the Crescent City Live-Stock Landing and Slaughter-House Company sold much of its property in Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes and all tools, implements, furniture, and movables of the company to the limited company. The legal description of the property in St. Bernard states that it was located “…about three miles below the City of New Orleans on the left bank of the Mississippi River, according to the sketch of the survey made by Geo. H. Granger, Civil Engineer and Surveyor, on the 31st day of March 1893, and hereto annexed for reference, four arpents ten toises, and four feet, French measure, front on said Mississippi River, by a depth of 120 arpents on the upper line…from the river between parallel lines running North 23 degrees, 15 degrees East, is bounded above by tract of land formerly known as the Lesseps Plantation and below by the Le Beau’s property…”
An arpent is a French unit of measure in both length and area. One arpent is nearly an acre in square feet and nearly 192 feet in length. A toise, also a French measurement, is equal to six feet.
The following is a portion of the act of sale. This property was previously acquired from the Live Stock Dealers and Butchers [Benevolent] Association by an act passed before the late notary, Joseph Cuvillier, on April 5, 1871.
The Clerk’s Office has a rich amount of history pertaining to St. Bernard Parish. If there are any particular interests that you would like to learn more about, please contact the Clerk’s Office. We are happy to assist.
4. Slaughter-House Cases, 83 US 36 – Supreme Court 1873. Library of Congress. http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep083/usrep083036/usrep083036.pdf