Women’s History Month

The records of the Clerk of Civil District Court’s Office, which date back to the 1700s, represent the rich history of New Orleans and its diverse communities. Our archives can be used for property, family history, architectural, and landscaping research.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Clerk’s Office would like to highlight free women of color as property owners in the early history of New Orleans.

Women in Louisiana, a Civil Law state, were able to own property in the 18th-19th centuries (1700s-1800s) contrary to popular belief. Women typically acquired property by means of inheritance, donation, marriage, and their own industry. There were advantages granted to women and their property under Civil Law that others under Common Law did not have. Namely, women retained their legal identity, personal property, and right to their own money such as from labor or inheritance. A woman would be entitled to half of the property acquired during marriage, while having the option to own or retain separate property.1 These rights were not limited to one particular race; women of color also owned and administered property.

However, ownership was affected by the “Lord-and-Master” rule in Civil Law, which stated that “the husband alone is authorized to manage community property.” This rule has since been terminated as it had been ruled unconstitutional for its gender-based discrimination.2 Further, if a woman was unmarried, she would be solely in control of her property.

Below are a few examples of such cases of free women of color who owned property.

Julie Brion and Modeste Foucher

Julie Brion was an enslaved “mulata” (which meant she had one Black parent and one white parent) received her freedom in an act of emancipation from her owners, Rene Brion and Marianna Piquery Brion, which was executed by notary, Juan Baptiste Garic, on October 12, 1776. In an act of emancipation, an enslaved person receives his or her freedom from his or her owner and is granted rights that enslaved people were not permitted, such as the right to own property.

Garic, Juan Baptiste. 1776, October 12. Vol 7, Folio 270v

The act states that Julie Brion was 21 years old with three children: Benedict, age 4, Achilles, age 3, and Modeste, age 1. All were to receive their freedom.

After her emancipation, Julie Brion began acquiring property in New Orleans for herself and for the enjoyment of her domestic partner, Joseph Foucher, and their children.3 Since her relationship with Foucher, who was an officer in the Spanish Army and a planter, was not legally recognized on the basis of race, Brion’s property was hers alone to manage.

Unfortunately, Brion passed away at approximately age 49 in 1804. In an adjudication executed by notary, Pedro Pedesclaux, on September 13, 1804, the estate of Julie Brion was divided up among her surviving family and was valued at $14,345.

Pedesclaux, Pedro. 1804 September 13. Vol 48, Folio 938v

Modeste Foucher, identified as a “quadroon” (which meant she was one quarter black from her mother and three quarters white from her father) in her mother’s succession, acquired property on Chartres Street. The act states that Foucher would acquire “a lot of ground situated in this city on Chartres Street, having 60 feet front by about 90 feet in depth, a two-story house on the lot, joined on one side of the lot of Mr. Destrehan and on the other to the ground of Mr. Simon Cucullo.”

Pedesclaux, Pedro. 1804 September 13. Vol 48, Folio 939r

During her lifetime, Modeste Foucher acquired her own property though she was known to be the longtime partner of renowned and lucrative city surveyor, Barthelemy Lafon.4 Notarial acts show that Foucher owned property on Bourbon and Orleans Streets, in addition to her property on Chartres Street.

Pictured below is Modeste Foucher’s exchange of property on Bourbon Street to Francoise and Etienne Marie de Flechier for property on Orleans Street. The act was executed on October 9, 1805, by notary, Pedro Pedesclaux.

Pedesclaux, Pedro. 1805 October 9. Vol 51, Folio 809r

One of Modeste Foucher’s children was Thomy Lafon, a free man of color who “…amassed great wealth in real estate and became one of America’s first African American philanthropists, donating to numerous charitable causes.”5

In an 1854 act of sale for Foucher’s property on Orleans Street, executed by notary, Alexandre Bienvenu, Lafon was named as executor of her estate. The act below reads, “Personally appeared Mr. Thomy Lafon, of this city, hereby asserted in the capacity of executor of the late Modeste Foucher, f.c.l [femme de colour libre/free woman of color], his mother, who declared that he had said this quality and by virtue of an order of The Honorable Judge of the First District Court of New Orleans, dated last May 21, 1853…”

Bienvenu, Alexandre. 1854 May 13. Vol 8, Act 78

Likely in preparation for the sale, a Plan Book Plan was created to denote the dimensions of the property and what the façade looked like. The plan was created on May 30, 1853, by architect, Antoine Billard.

Plan Book 74, Folio 43. Created by Antoine Billard on May 30, 1853

Foucher’s property at 416 Chartres Street was most recently K Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, the restaurant of the late renowned chef, Paul Prudhomme.

Google Image. January 2019

Modeste Foucher’s final resting place is located in St. Louis Number 3, directly in front of her son, Thomy Lafon’s mausoleum.


Victoire Dutillet

Another example of a free woman of color selling property occurred on June 18, 1811, executed in an act of sale by notary, Narcisse Broutin. Identified as a “nigresse libre”, (of full African ancestry) Victoire Dutillet sold property located on the corner of Orleans and Dauphine streets at about thirty feet from the front and seventy-two feet in depth with all buildings and support buildings.

Victoire Dutillet sold her property to Francois Darby, a free man of color, identified as a “mulatre libre” (having one black parent and one white parent).

Broutin, Narcisse. 1811 June 18. Vol 24, Folio 159v-160v

When Dutillet acquired the property in 1783, the building was described as being “built of wood and bricks, planked high and low with its doors and windows bordering on a side with the land belonging to Juan B. Delmas.” The description, pictured below, was part of an act executed by notary, Fernando Rodriguez, on September 19, 1783.

Rodriguez Fernando. 1783 Sept 19. Vol 1, Folio 830v

The detail of the front elevation in Plan Book Plan 55.36 below depicts a wood and brick 1820s storehouse at the adjacent corner of Dutillet’s property on St. Peter and Dauphine Streets. It is featured to show a similarly crafted structure located in the vicinity a mere four years after Francois Darby sold the property in 1816.

Plan Book 55, Folio 36

The Plan Book Plan is of the same storehouse in the 1830s but gives a clearer picture of the proximity to Dutillet’s property in Square 73 below.

Plan Book 81, Folio 30

The detail of the elevation below shows the façade from the corner view and demonstrates a wood and brick combination similar to the description of Dutillet’s two-story dwelling. Note the differences in the appearance of the storehouse over the course of about ten years.

Detail of Plan Book 81, Folio 30. Wood and brick storehouse.

Based on the 1810 Census, V. Dutillet, denoted in the red box below, is listed as having one free person and one enslaved person in Dutillet’s household on Dauphine Street.

Year: 1810; Census Place: New Orleans, Orleans, Louisiana; Roll: 10; Page: 257; Image: 00218; Family History Library Film: 0181355

The property of Victoire Dutillet is located at the present municipal address of 716 Dauphine Street in the French Quarter. The building on the property is known as the Gardette-LePretre House but is sometimes referred to as the Sultan’s House for a local legend surrounding a crime supposedly committed on the property and recognized for its picturesque and iconic wrought iron balconies.6

Photo by Frances Benjamin Watson. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress via https://www.nola.com/entertainment_life/home_garden/article_03fe9808-22b8-11ea-bd26-6fa625d09750.html

Madeleine Clemence Oger

Another example of women as property owners in post-colonial New Orleans is Madeleine Clemence Oger. Before the 1830s, Oger, a free woman of color, immigrated to New Orleans from St. Domingue (present-day Haiti) with her lifelong partner, Henry Glaudin, the father of her six children.

Since Oger and Glaudin did not have a legally recognized marriage, Oger was free to lease and purchase property on her own. Her first venture in New Orleans was leasing property and building a cigar shop located 175 Tchoupitoulas Street, between Julia and Girod Streets.

The lease was executed by notary, Louis T. Caire, on May 6, 1831. Madeleine Clemence Oger agreed to a nineteen year lease with John Fitz Miller and Jacob Levy Florance.

Caire, Louis T. 1831 May 6. Vol 15, Act 473

Oger agreed to the conditions of the lease, which required her to pay $300 each year of the lease, and she agreed to construct a two-story building and its dependencies within two and a half years from the date of the agreement.

Caire, Louis T. 1831 May 6. Vol 15, Act 473

In the image below, the reader can see the signatures of Florance and Miller. Note that Madeleine Oger signed with a mark, indicating that she was unable to sign her name.

Caire, Louis T. 1831 May 6. Vol 15, Act 473

On October 6, 1831, Madeleine Oger contracted with Andrew Gregory for the building of the two-story dwelling as specified in the lease. The four-room brick building was to be built with a kitchen and store on the lower level with pine planks and a residence on the top level. The specifications are written in French as pictured from the act below.

Caire, Louis T. 1831 October 6. Vol 17, Act 930

A few years later in 1838, Oger’s sons, Jean Nicholas Glaudin, Jean Baptiste Glaudin, and Joseph Gregoire Glaudin, created a partnership in an act executed by notary, Louis T. Caire. The act states that the three free men of color were residing at 175 Tchoupitoulas Street in the Faubourg St. Marie, and they formed a company together called “Glaudin Freres” (Brothers Glaudin) for the manufacture and sale of powdered tobacco and cigars.

Caire, Louis T. 1838 October 27. Vol 67A, Act 732

The reader can infer that the living quarters on the second story were for the family. The first story would be for the cigar shop.

Making it a family business, the Glaudin brothers named their father, Henry Glaudin, as arbiter within the act pictured below.

Caire, Louis T. 1838 October 27. Vol 67A, Act 732

Article 11 reads, “All the difficulties which could arise between the partners on the subject of the company or of liquidation, will be judged definitively and a last resort by a single arbitrator and this arbitrator will be Henry Glaudin, father…”

Madeleine Oger’s next venture would be the building of two Creole cottages on Carondelet Street, the first built in 1841 and the second in 1847, as indicated in the Plan Book Plan below.

Plan Book 42, Folio 46. Created by Adrien Persac and Eugene Sturgi.

Oger contracted with William Kincaide, a free man of color and a master builder, on April 10, 1841 in an act executed by the family’s notary, Louis T. Caire.

Caire, Louis T. 1841 April 10. Vol 80, Act 194

The contract was to be for the building of a one-story main house, a garret or attic space divided into rooms with plastered walls, and two kitchens. The house was “to have 21 openings, four doors finished with sash shutters inside…The two kitchens to be twenty four by twelve feet and two stories high divided into four rooms…[Kincaide was] to make two wells and two cisterns holding each eight hundred gallons and also to build a fence around the lot and to pave the gateway and yard between the house and kitchen.”

Caire, Louis T. 1841 April 10. Vol 80, Act 194

Oger agreed to pay $3,350 for the work to be completed.

Caire, Louis T. 1841 April 10. Vol 80, Act 194

On April 14, 1847, notary, Louis T. Caire executed another building contract for Madeleine Oger to have the second Creole cottage built. It would be constructed in the same style as the first cottage, which would “serve as a pattern.”

Caire, Louis T. 1847 April 14. Vol 106, Act 144

Three years later, based on the 1850 census below, Oger’s family dynamic appears to have shifted somewhat. Henry Glaudin, age 70, is listed first, followed by Madeleine (recorded as Glaudin), age 60, and family members: Celeste Glaudin, age 20, and Clemence Glaudin, age 11.

Year: 1850; Census Place: New Orleans Municipality 2 Ward 4, Orleans, Louisiana; Roll: 237; Page: 239b

The remaining two children are listed on the top of the next page of the census. Marian Glaudin is marked as age 7 and Henrietta Glaudin as age 9.

Year: 1850; Census Place: New Orleans Municipality 2 Ward 4, Orleans, Louisiana; Roll: 237; Page: 239b

Note that Henry Glaudin is listed as a sailor, and he and Madeleine Oger are recorded as born in St. Domingue. Madeleine Oger is marked as Black whereas the rest of the family is denoted as Mulatto (mixed), and she is exclusively listed as having real estate valued at $5,000.

Oger drafted a will on April 10, 1851, executed by notary, Felix Percy. The will gives additional insight into her family life, beginning with “Je ñ’ai jamais été mariee,” or “I have never been married.”

Percy, Felix. 1851 April 10. Vol 34, Act 29

Oger continues, “I have five natural children named Jean Glaudin, Jean Nicholas Glaudin, Jean Baptiste Glaudin, Joseph Gregoire Glaudin, and Celeste Glaudin. All five are adults and a granddaughter named Elodie Glaudin, a child of the late Victor Glaudin, my natural son.”

This snippet of information allows the reader to infer that the other young girls in the household are likely granddaughters.

Oger later states in the will, “I give and bequeath to Mr. Henry Glaudin, residing in this city, of my three houses, the two front facing Apollo Street (now Carondelet Street) and the other facing Clio Street.”

Madeleine Oger passed away in 1859 based on probate court records. Her will entered into probate, the court-supervised process of authenticating a last will and testament.

After Oger’s passing, the 1861 New Orleans City Directory indicates that her husband and sons continued on with the family business of cigar making at various locations.

Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [dtabase on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/imageviewer/collections/2469/images/15443924?usePUB=true&_phsrc=cUC105&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&pId=991373087

Today, a culinary supply store sits on the square where Madeleine Oger’s Creole cottages once stood.

Google Image. January 2019.

As property owners, these women exercised their independence and tenacity. This allowed them to provide comfort and in some cases income and wealth for themselves and their families.

Plan Book 42, Folio 46. Created by Adrien Persac and Eugene Sturgi.

The Clerk’s Office has a rich amount of history pertaining to women and property ownership. If there are any particular interests that you would like to learn about, please contact the Clerk’s Office. We are happy to assist.


  1. Sundberg, Sara Brooks. “Women and the Law of Property Under Louisiana Civil Law, 1782–1835. (lsu.edu).” Louisiana State University, 2001.
  2. https://definitions.uslegal.com/h/head-and-master-rule/
  3. Edwards, Jay D., et als. “Barthelemy Lafon in New Orleans 1792-1820.” https://www.crt.state.la.us/Assets/OCD/hp/grants/NPShistoricfunding-2019/Barthelemey%20Lafon%20in%20New%20Orleans_Final.pdf
  4. Edwards, Jay D., et als. “Barthelemy Lafon in New Orleans 1792-1820.” https://www.crt.state.la.us/Assets/OCD/hp/grants/NPShistoricfunding-2019/Barthelemey%20Lafon%20in%20New%20Orleans_Final.pdf
  5. https://www.ohlinc.org/history
  6. https://www.nola.com/entertainment_life/home_garden/article_03fe9808-22b8-11ea-bd26-6fa625d09750.html

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