Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Girl's Life In New Orleans

Once On Esplanade by Frances Parkinson Keyes details events in the life of Marie Louise (Villere) Claiborne, who lived on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana. The author attended a tea in New Orleans given by Mrs. Alfred Grima [nee Clarisse Claiborne] on St. Charles Avenue and met Mrs. Grima's mother, Mrs. Fernand Claiborne who was "receiving" with her.

In 1900, still living on Esplanade Avenue, were Ferdinand Claiborne (b. Aug 1854), his wife, Marie Louise (b. Nov 1869), whose life story is told in "Once On Esplanade," their children Omer (b. Sept. 1893) and Clarisse (b. Jan. 1895), as well as Marie Louise's father, Alcee Villere (b. Apr 1831) and a servant. Ferdinand (the grandson of Governor Claiborne) & Marie Louise had been married 8 years in 1900.

The book began as Marie Louise Villere's older sister, Helmine, married James Dupas who had come from Paris to serve as French vice counsul in New Orleans. The famous caterer Lopez supervised the wedding feast.

Marie Louise was given special attention by "Tante," who was "...papa's only sister and who also lived at the pleasant home on the Esplanade, [and] was by far the most pious member of the family... ." Her brothers, especially and Omer, doted on Marie Louise. Brother Georges, whom Marie Louise adored, gave the family a scare when he was wounded in a duel; and that was not the last time Georges Villere was involved in a duel. Was it this Villere family involved in this court case? Probably.

Cousins Arcadie, Regine and Anatole also lived in the Villere household; their father was Alcee Villere's brother and their mother was Madame Villere's sister who died in childbirth. Arcadie and Regine moved to Chicago to teach at the Kirkland School and Tante was already in Chicago staying with other relatives.

The Cenas Institute, where Madame Cenas and four of her five daughters taught school, was attended by Marie Louise Villere. The fifth daughter had married Rene Beauregard, the son of the General. "Her (Alice Beauregard's) mother-in-law had been a cousin of Marie Louise's father...".

Marie Louise attended the French Opera at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse Streets "...from the time she was a very little girl." "In many ways the French Opera was the social center of the city...". "Moreover, when a young lady was presented to society, she sat for the first time in the front of a box, with her bouquets around her, and this counted as a formal debut; and the captains of the various Krewes, ostensibly present to enjoy the music, made a careful survey of the debutantes thus presented, with their suitability for future Carnival queens more or less secretly in mind."

Winnie Davis, the daughter of Jefferson Davis, was a member of a sailing party near Biloxi, Mississippi, along with Marie Louise Villere. During their venture, their boat capsized. After they were rescued, Marie Louise spent the night at the Davis Home where she and Winne became good friends.

The Villere Family in the 1880 census in New Orleans:

Alcie VILLERE Self M W 49 LA Lawyer LA LA
Delphine VILLERE Wife M W 45 LA Keeping House LA LA
George VILLERE Son S W 26 LA Clerk In Store LA LA
Homer VILLERE Son S W 24 LA Lawyer LA LA
Elinnior VILLERE Dau S W 21 LA LA LA
Sydney VILLERE Son S W 19 LA Clerk At French Consul LA LA
Septoim VILLERE Son S W 16 LA l LA LA
Octave VILLERE Son S W 14 LA LA LA
Louise VILLERE Dau S W 12 LA l LA LA

The cousins in 1880:

A. VILLERE Self W Male W 46 LA Rice Broker LA LA
Artardee VILLERE Dau S W 21 LA LA LA
Rigina VILLERE Dau S W 15 LA LA LA
Anatole VILLERE Son S W 19 LA LA LA
Jas. DUPAS Nephew S W 23 LA LA LA
Eda DUPAS Niece S W 14 LA LA LA
Luticia DUPAS Niece S W 17 LA LA LA

A history of the Villere family from France to Canada to Louisiana can be found here; some of the Villere history is recounted in the "Esplanade" book.

Once on Esplanade reminded me of two houses; the Beauregard-Keyes House where Mrs. Keyes wrote the novel and the Jefferson Davis House (Beauvoir) where once again we were thwarted from a tour. The first time we got as far as the gift shop in Beauvoir and decided to come back later because there were umpteen tour buses there. Katrina then ravaged the house so we waited until this year (2009) to visit. We were chased out of Biloxi by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ida, and didn't get to Beauvoir again. It is still on our Bucket List; a visit to the Beauregard -Keyes House is "Mission Accomplished."

No comments: