Weird Louisiana: Cemeteries Part 2

Scattered around the cemetery are many monuments to those men who lost their lives in the Civil War. Although the cemetery opened seven years after the War ended, there are plenty of individuals whose families brought them back to New Orleans for internment. Near the Moriarty monument stands a tumulus – a place of burial built into a hillside or earthen mound – dedicated to the Army of Tennessee, Louisiana Division. Atop the hill stands a statue of General Albert Sidney Johnston astride his horse Fire Eater. On a pedestal at ground level at the entrance to the tomb is a Confederate soldier calling the roll of the honoured dead. A total of 48 soldiers are interred within this mound.

As I drove along the road which would have been the back-stretch of the race track, I encountered a huge black structure. It is the mausoleum for the Dibert family. This massive neo-classical, domed building is crafted of Quincy granite. The urns that flank the entrance and the door are made of cast bronze and the floor inside is Alabama marble. John Dibert pioneered the lumber business and was also owner of a lage foundry specialising in sugarhouse machinery. His wife was one of the foremost philanthropists in the city, heavily supporting Charity Hospital and the public schools.

Over the years, New Orleans has been known for a wide variety of vices. Included among those was prostitution. For many years it was a vice that ran rampant throughout the city. In an effort to reign in, yet not totally wipe out, prostitution, the city leaders designated a section of the city just north of the French Quarter to be the “red light” district of New Orleans. Though most often refered to simply as The District, it was also called Storyville in honour of Sydney Story who wrote the legislation designating where the district would be.

One young woman who quickly rose to prominence within Storyville was brothel madam Josie Arlington. For many years, Josie ran the most oppulent house in the District – aptly named The Arlington – and retired in 1909 after more than twenty years in the business. She died in 1914 and was buried in Metairie Cemetery in a beautiful red marble tomb. It was often said that a red light could be seen in the vicinity of the tomb indicating that Josie was still in business, however that soon came to an end when the railroad spur near the cemetery (built specifically for transporting the granite for the Moriarty monument) was removed. It quickly became a tourist attraction, which mortified the family so her body was moved elsewhere in the cemetery. The figure standing at the entrance to the tomb is thought to symbolize a virgin being turned away from Arlington’s establishment. Josie strongly believed that no girl’s innocence would be taken on her property. It is also believed by some that the statue also leaves her post at night to wander the cemetery. Today the Morales family occupies the tomb.

The most interesting monument I photographed was that of the Brunswig family mausoleum. It is one of a collection of Egyptian-inspired design in the cemetery. Lucien Brunswig was the head of a local wholesale drug firm. The family emmigrated to the United States from Germany and the design was copied from a tomb in the largest cemetery in Munich. The structure sits on an elevation of about three feet on the circle around the Army of Northern Virginia mausoleum. It is a true pyramid with a grilled bronze gate at the entrance portal. To one side of the entrance is a female marble sphinx and the other side the figure of a woman holding a libation urn stands tall.

As I drove among the resting places of so many individuals, I was awed by the tranquility that seems to permeate the area, considering that the I-10 runs along one side of the cemetery. There were few others around, though I did notice tents set up for at least two funerals and I glimpsed at least one female using the cemetery as a jogging ground. Though I cannot remember where his plaque rests on the ground, I did say a brief hello to one of my uncles who is also buried here.