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Chapter 39

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of New Orleans

by
John Kendall

published by The Lewis Publishing Company,
Chicago and New York, 1922

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 41

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p636 Chapter XL
The City's Charities

No feature of New Orleans is more characteristic and none more picturesque than its charities. Many of these are in the hands of the churches. Many others are governed by benevolent societies instituted for the purpose. There are, moreover, several funds in the custody of the city, the income from which is applied to eleemosynary purposes. The oldest of these are the Henderson and Girod funds; the latest the Delgado fund, instituted under the will of a wealthy citizen who was interested especially in the technical education of the poor. It is probable that no city in the United States has as many establishments of this order; certainly none the history of whose charitable funds is more strangely diversified with the incidents of war and reconstruction.

The Henderson Fund is a fund, the income of which is dispensed by a board of commissioners for the benefit of the poor of New Orleans. It was instituted under the will of Stephen Henderson, which bore the date of August 1, 1837. It contained the following remarkable paragraph: "I feel no obligation, however, for this act of charity. It is only done to help the poor, who, like myself, may be thrown upon the world without a penny or a friend. My greatest object is to do the greatest quantity of good, and to the greatest number of persons and to the poorest people." This object, however, was for a long time prevented by litigation. The will was probated March 14, 1838, before Judge Bermudez. A suit to annul the instrument was carried up to the State Supreme Court, where the chief justice, Thomas Slidell, handed down a decision declaring of no effect some of its most interesting provisions, particularly those arranging for the gradual liberation of the testator's slaves, provided they should voluntarily return to Africa; for the maintenance intact of the succession, and for the establishment on the Destrehan plantation of a city to be called Dunblane, after the Scottish town in which Henderson first saw the light. Involved in this litigation are some of the most famous names of the old bar of New Orleans — Grimes, Prentiss, Soulé and Briggs. Destrehan remains today a station on the railroad a few miles above New Orleans; and half a mile away, in a tomb surrounded by an iron fence, in what is known as the Red Church cemetery, lie forgotten even by those who benefit from his generosity today, the remains of Henderson, by the side of his wife.

The Henderson will provided that the estate, after the payment of certain legacies, be kept intact and administered by a board of three commissioners, to act as such during their lives; vacancies to be filled by appointment by the governor, the chief justice, and the judge of the Probate Court (Civil District Court). The executors were P. A. Rost, Stephen Henderson, Jr., and Jonathan Montgomery. The commissioners were to receive $1,500 each per annum. Rost subsequently became a member of the State Supreme Court and was acting as such when the case of the heirs vs. the executors came before that court, in 1850, when he recused himself. Later on, after the partition of the property, he became owner of the Destrehan plantation. The will p637bequeathed to the Charity Hospital, the "Orphan Boys" (the Asylum for Destitute Boys) and the "Orphan Female Society" (Female Orphan's Asylum) the sum of $2,000 each; and to "the Firemen's Fund" (Firemen's Charitable Association) $500 per annum. A legacy of $2,000 per annum during a period of five years was left to Doctor Clapp's Church; of the same amount to the Catholic Cathedral, to "Maffit's Church" and to "The English Church in Canal Street" (Christ Church). One clause provided for the payment of $2,000 per annum during a period of ten years to the authorities of the City of Dunblane in Scotland to enable them to establish a school "for the education of the poor." To the same city Henderson left $2,000 annually in perpetuity for the relief of the poor.

Henderson owned, among other important properties, the Houmas plantation. This estate was his jointly with Henry Doyal. In the will elaborate provision was made for the acquisition of Doyal's interest in this property, together with the slaves thereon. This was to be done preliminary to the enfranchisement of any of such slaves as signified voluntarily their desire to return to Africa. Those who did not elect to return to Africa were to remain in slavery. The attempt of the executors to carry out the will insofar as concerned the Doyal interests resulted in litigation. In 1850, as has been said, Judge Slidell nullified the provisions relative to the liberation of the slaves, the creation of the City of Dunblane, and the perpetuation of the estate as an entity. Meanwhile there had been a partition of the property now occupied by the Shipper's Cotton Press, constituting the square bounded by Robin, Front, Fulton and Henderson streets,1 and of other property situated below Henderson Street. This property was appraised and partitioned in a fashion such as to guarantee the legacies of $2,000 per annum to the Henderson Poor Fund, thus created; the Charity Hospital, the Destitute Orphan Boys' Asylum, the Female Orphans' Asylum, and the legacy of $500 per annum to the Firemen's Charitable Association. This was in 1841. At that time Front Street was really what its name implies; all the land in front was "batture" or alluvial deposits. The edge of the river was from 100 to 175 feet further inland than it is today. The center of the Mississippi was actually just a little beyond the edge of the present Henderson Street wharf. In the course of time all the property below Henderson Street was sold by those to whom it was assigned in the partition of 1841, and passed into the hands, first of Sam Boyd, and finally of the Texas & Pacific Railroad. Both Boyd and the railroad acquired ownership outright. The titles of the lots in the square bounded by Robin, Front, Fulton and Henderson streets established the relative interests of the various owners in the batture and all subsequent accretions in front of Front Street, from Henderson to Fulton. This arrangement has existed undisturbed from that day to this. The only change has been in the ownership of certain of the lots which were acquired by Sam Boyd, and upon which this gentleman erected the Shipper's Press.

The Press occupied the entire square. Some of the lots, as has been said, had been acquired outright by Boyd; but others were held on lease. Subsequently the Texas & Pacific Company secured in fee simple the lots held by Boyd in this square, and, incidentally, the rights p638which went with them to the batture property. The railroad eventually occupied under lease the whole of the batture and the square bounded by Henderson, Robin, Front and Delta streets. The terms of its lease were that the property be appraised at the end of each decade, and the rental established on the basis of that appraisement at the rate of eight per cent per annum. The value of this property is large — probably over $120,000. By virtue of the fact that the railroad company is itself part owner of the square occupied by the Shipper's Press, part of its rent is returned to it. The rest, however, goes to the Henderson Poor Fund, the Charity Hospital, and the other institutions mentioned in Henderson's will, in proportion to their holdings outright in the Shippers' Press Square. This fund is administered by the Henderson Poor Fund Commission, which also administers the property, on behalf of itself and the other owners.

The distribution of the Henderson Poor Fund is effected through almoners appointed by the commission. There has never been any legislation with regard to the appointment of the commissioners. None has been needed. The Henderson will furnishes ample authority. By consent and custom the chief justice of the state and the senior judge of the Civil District Court, as successor to the Probate Court of Henderson's time, endorse the governor's appointments. The only requirement under the will is that the commissioner be "moral, correct, honest and intelligent men and under a good moral character." They serve without pay during good behavior, give no bond, and are accountable to no one as to their collections, disbursements, or methods followed in effecting either collections or disbursements. There has been a remarkable harmony with regard to the management of the property. The disbursements have usually been made through women, appointed as almoners, who by temperament, training and experience are competent to place the funds where they will do the greatest good to deserving persons. Just as Henderson's will contemplated the management of his estate by men of such probity that bonds would be superfluous, so in their turn the almoners have been persons worthy of absolute confidence. Hence, no restrictions are put upon the amounts which the almoners distribute. It will be seen, then, that insofar as the appointment of the commissioners is concerned, the Henderson fund is a public institution, but insofar as its management is concerned, it is a private charity.

The Girod fund, which, like the Henderson fund, was by its founder intended to subsist as an entity, and which would, had the wishes of the testator been observed, now amount to an immense sum, was distinctly a public institution. It was established, as has been narrated elsewhere, by Nicholas Girod, the first elected mayor of New Orleans. At his death, in 1840, Mr. Girod left $100,000 to the mayor of New Orleans, as custodian, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining an institution for the support and education of orphans of French parentage. The bequest was, however, immediately made the subject of litigation. Girod had been the executor of his brother's estate; a considerable portion of that brother's property had been acquired by him in payment of debts alleged to be due by the estate; and the claim was set up by a group of heirs in Europe that these claims were not well founded.

The Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision in favor of the heirs, with the result that the amount finally handed p639over to the City of New Orleans was only a little more than $28,000.2 This sum, however, was carefully administered. By wise investments it was increased by 1870 to $75,703.43. It was then decided to carry out the provisions of the will and a group of buildings was erected in the rear of the city, on Metairie Ridge, in the rear of St. Patrick's Cemetery. These structures have now been demolished. They cost a large sum, however, and the amount of the fund remaining was so insignificant, that there was little prospect that the buildings and grounds would ever actually be utilized for the purpose which the founder had in view. For some time the place stood vacant. Then it was occupied by the city as a boys' house of refuge down to the time when the new reformatory was erected in Nashville Avenue. In April, 1894, the city council directed the comptroller to advertise the lease of the buildings and grounds for a period of ninety-nine years, the lessee binding himself to care for a certain number of orphans of French parentage throughout that period. On May 24, 1894, the bid of S. Vidalat, vice president of the French Orphan Asylum and of the Girod Asylum, was accepted. Mr. Vidalat bid $10 per annum and assumed the obligations described; but the board of health subsequently examined the premises and ascertained that they were unhealthful and unsuited to the purposes contemplated, and in consequence the council passed an ordinance releasing the society from its agreement. A few years later the buildings were turned over to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which established there a home for destitute colored boys who had been committed to the care of the society by the Juvenile Court. This arrangement was terminated six or seven years ago, when the city relieved the society of the charge of the buildings, the commissioner of public buildings being instructed to erect the new buildings which, with all modern improvements, mark the site and which are used as a house of detention for both white and colored boys. All that remain of the old buildings erected by the city with the Girod legacy are the chapel and part of the main building. These were utilized in the construction of the present structures.

The history of the Milne fund is something like that of the Girod fund in its record of the dispersal of what might have been a glorious heritage for the city. Alexander Milne was born at Fochabers, Scotland, in 1742. He started life as a footman in the family of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon. It is said that when this nobleman decided to put his household in livery, and required Milne to powder the fine head of bright red hair of which he was inordinately proud, he refused and, rather than submit, left his situation and emigrated to America. He arrived in Louisiana in 1776. It is not known what business he first followed in this city, but ultimately he established himself in the hardware trade, prospered, and then branched out into the manufacture of brick, in which business he utilized a large number of slaves. Most of the brick used in New Orleans in the latter part of the eighteenth century was his product. He is described as a small man, with hanging head, and eyes fixed constantly on the ground, oblivious to his surroundings, and dressed in such dilapidated garments that he was constantly mistaken by strangers for a beggar, but by his fellow citizens he p640was much esteemed as an honest, capable man, prudent and careful in his management of business. He resided on Bayou Road, near Robinson Street, in a singular, castellated mansion which was, after his death, converted into an asylum, or hospital, by a local French benevolent society. The building was remodeled, and in 1904 nothing remained of it except the walls, and these seem to have disappeared since then. From the Spanish Government Milne obtained large grants of land in the vicinity of the Gentilly farms. He became imbued with the idea that the swamp lands along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain would some day become valuable, and invested a considerable sum in the purchase of large tracts there until at the time of his death, in October, 1838, he owed twenty-two miles along the margin of that body of water, extending from the Rigolets all the way into Jefferson Parish. In Milne's time persons going to and from Mobile usually made their way to or from New Orleans via the Old Basin Canal or Bayou St. John to Milneburg and there caught the steamer. Milne sold a great deal of his land in this town. These lots became very valuable. At one time the town was an important place, not much smaller than the City of New Orleans. It is said that in the course of a single week Milne once disposed of property in and around the town valued at $3,000,000. He also bought land in New Orleans. At his death it is estimated that his real estate was worth not less than $2,000,000 — an enormous sum in those days, equal to not less than $5,000,000 at the present time.

In his ninety-fourth year Milne, feeling that life was drawing to a close, made his will. He sent for Carlisle Pollock, the best-known notary then in New Orleans, and to him dictated a remarkable document. "I found him in his usual state of health and sound of mind, memory, and recollection," says the notary. Milne disposed of $30,000 in bequests to relatives in Scotland. He freed his two house servants, and made liberal provisions for their support. He assigned them ground on Esplanade Avenue and directed that $10,000 be used in building thereon two brick houses, the rent from which would suffice to keep them in comfort for the rest of their days; and until these houses were ready he authorized his executors to pay to each $3 per day for their support. But the most important feature of the will was the clauses dividing the residue of his estate into five parts, of which one part, valued at $100,000, was left to found a school in his native town in Scotland. The other parts, each estimated to be worth $500,000, he left to found two asylums and to endow two which were already in existence. "It is my positive wish and intention that an asylum for destitute orphan boys and another for the relief of destitute orphan girls shall be established at Milneburg, in this parish, under the name of the Milne Asylum for Destitute Orphan Boys and the Milne Asylum for Destitute Orphan Girls; and that my executors shall cause the same to be duly incorporated by the proper authorities of this state; and to the said contemplated institutions, and to the present institution of the society for the relief of destitute orphan boys of the City of Lafayette and parish of Jefferson in this state; and to the Poydras Female Asylum in this city I give and bequeath in equal shares or interests of one-fourth to each, all my lands on Bayou St. Joseph and on the Lake Pontchartrain, including the unsold land of Milneburg."3 Milne named as executors of his will G. W. Morgan, Richard Relf and Thomas Urquhart.

p641 The will was admitted to probate October 23, 1838. Five days later the original inventory was filed. From this it appeared that the estate amounted to $913,805.94, but as a matter of fact the real estate was appraised at purely nominal values, the whole immense trace along Lake Pontchartrain, for example, being set down as worth only $43,500. The executors made an effort to comply with the terms of the will. In 1839 the State legislature passed two acts duly organizing the asylums.4 The first board of directors of the girls' asylum was composed of Mmes. Daunoy, E. A. Canon, Marigny, Andry, Merle, Nott and Preston; Misses Barnet Brunetaire, and Messrs. Claiborne, Hennen, T. W. Morgan, Pollock, Clay and Kerr. The original board of directors of the boys' asylum was composed of Bishop Blanc, Relf, Morgan, Pollock, E. A. Canon, Louis Bringer, Charles Cuvillier, W. C. C. Claiborne and Hartwell Reed. Under the acts of incorporation it was stipulated that a meeting should be held annually on the first Monday in January, at which eight directors should be elected to preside over the destinies of each of these asylums during the following twelve-month. "If for any cause whatsoever," ran the charter, "an election of directors should not take place agreeably to the provisions of acts mentioned it is declared to be the duty of the state to appoint directors for the current year and also to fill any vacancies that may occur in that direction." Provision was also made for inspection of the institutions by government officials.

There has always been some uncertainty as to the actual existence of these asylums. Among the archives of the Civil District Court in New Orleans there are, however, papers audited and approved in 1840 which show that these institutions were actually opened and operated, though it appears that there never were more than a handful of children in either the boys' or the girls' asylums. These papers list sums of food, clothing, coffins, medicine, etc., which indicate that the energies of the directors were not wholly expended in other directions, and that they did make an effort to comply with the conditions of the Milne will. These asylums remained in operation down to 1865, when they "were closed on account of lack of funds." It is said that the boys' asylum was actually closed some time earlier, when the control of the Milne fund was put in the hands of a board of directors appointed by the United States military officials then in possession of the state. Definite information on this subject is not available.

The original directors are not wholly blamable for the haphazard way in which Milne's plans were carried out. They had many obstacles to contend against. There was, first of all, difficulty in getting the estate together. There was, secondly, long and costly litigation. A suit arose over the legacy to the Town of Fochabers. The Duke of Richmond and Gordon, on behalf of that town, brought suit for the legacy and finally obtained a decision against the executors. The point was, whether the legatees in Scotland were capable of inheriting under the law of Louisiana. That law provided that bequests could be made by citizens of the state only to persons residing in foreign lands the laws of which did not debar Louisianians from acquiring similar inheritances. The Scottish law, however, contained a provision requiring heirs to be citizens of the United Kingdom. It was held that this annulled Milne's bequest to the Town of Fochabers. The payment of the legacy with p642interest and the fees made a heavy inroad on the cash of the estate. However, this portion of Milne's fortune is the only one which ever proved of any benefit to anybody. With it was established a school of a technical sort, in which students were trained for the Government civil service. For a long time it was recognized as the best institution of the sort in Great Britain. Its excellence did much to establish the reputation of Scotland for the excellence of its educational system. It still exists. In the school building in Fochabers stands a statue of Milne, probably the only authentic portrait of the eccentric philanthropist that now may be seen.

Another expensive litigation resulted from the attempt of the Milne heirs to nullify the charitable bequests in the will. This suit was appealed from the Court of Probate in 1841. A decision was finally obtained against the plaintiff.

At the end of these long contests, in which participated all four of the institutions which Milne designed to benefit, there was left only the swamp land. Part of this was alienated as a result of contentions which arose regarding the division among the institutions interested; another part was forfeited in connection with the drainage warrants cases towards the close of the ante-bellum period; and still another portion fell into the hands of the railroad companies then building into the City of New Orleans. Then came the Civil war. At last, in 1864, one of the directors went to the then acting mayor and surrendered to him a few hundred dollars, with the statement that this, with the remainder of the land, was all that was left of what, under happier auspices, should have been one of the richest bequests to charity ever made in Louisiana. Later on, a large part of the land was sold for taxes due to the state and passed to private parties, whose titles thereto were confirmed subsequently by two decisions of the State Supreme Court.

After the Civil war no attempt was made to establish the asylums contemplated by Milne. The corporation has held a checkered career. The annual meeting for the election of directors seems to have been frequently neglected, and at intervals the governor of the state exercised the authority conferred upon him by the statutes of 1839 and named the board of directors in default of that which should have been chosen by the members of the corporation. The mayor of the City of New Orleans was usually a member of the boards thus appointed. There is in existence a report which shows that Mayor Flanders was a member on the board of 1870. Governor Wiltz issued a commission as director to Mayor Shakespeare in 1881. This fact, that the mayor was usually a member of the board of directors, accounts for the fact that the funds and the property of the asylums finally passed to the city; but nothing is definitely known of the history of the Milne bequest in all this period. During his term of office Mayor Flower turned over the money, bonds, and other property which had been placed in his hands by the predecessor to the custody of a board composed of the city treasurer, the city comptroller and himself. The property thus delivered to the board, which thereafter had charge of the administration, down to 1904, consisted in November, 1899, of $2,047.30 in cash, $4,000 in city constitutional bonds, $1,500 in "premium" bonds, and two pieces of real estate situated on Ursuline Street, in New Orleans. By judicious investment this fund showed thereafter a considerable increase.

p643 In the meantime the succession proceedings of the late Alexander Milne lay dormant in the Second District Court until the '90s, when they were transferred to the Civil District Court. In February, 1900, the State of Louisiana, through the attorney general, applied for the appointment of a trustee to take charge of the property of the two Milne asylums, and Charles Louque was appointed to that position. Mr. Louque was later also appointed receiver for these institutions, and in December, 1902, was authorized by the court to proceed to organize the asylums. There was, however, some question as to the right of the court to make these appointments, in view of the provisions in the acts of 1839, which conferred this function upon the Governor. The matter was brought before Governor Blanchard by Norman Walker, and in 1904 that official appointed new boards of directors, one each for the boys' asylum and one for the girls' asylum.º To these appointees Mr. Louque turned over the property which had been put in his custody as trustee and receiver. The boards organized on August 24, 1904, with Mr. Walker as president of the boys' asylum and Miss Jean Gordon as president of the girls' asylum. The former board was composed of Norman Walker, F. J. Dreyfous, A. G. Ricks, Charles Louque, G. M. Leahy, F. F. Hansell and E. J. Hamilton. Mr. Dreyfous was elected vice president, Mr. Ricks treasurer and Mr. Leahy secretary. This organization still exists, with the exception that Mr. Louque has resigned from the board. This organization has limited its activities recovering and rehabilitating the real estate and assets of the fund. The real estate in the City of New Orleans has been sold; it holds now only the lands in and around Milneburg. The girls' asylum board also possesses considerable property at Milneburg. Under its auspices was established in 1920 a home for feebleminded girls at Kenner, La.5

One of the institutions which figured in the Milne will, but which appears not to have benefited thereunder was the Asylum for Destitute Orphan Boys. This institution is one of the oldest charitable institutions in the South. It was chartered about 1815 by an act of the Legislature. About 1865 the charter was renewed. The property of the institution is managed by a board of eight directors. Up to 1841 there was no permanent endowment but the asylum was supported by voluntary contributions from the community; in that year fire destroyed its plant and an appeal was made to the public for assistance. A legacy which was received a few years later from John McDonogh enabled the board to rebuild on an extensive scale on St. Charles Avenue, between Dufossat and Bellecastle streets. The buildings here, however, were badly damaged in the hurricane of 1915. The board thereupon sold its property in New Orleans and at the present time the asylum is located at Pass Christian, Miss., on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. The legacy from McDonogh was the principal incident in the history of the institution. It was conscientiously conserved, and has been fruitful of the good desired by the donor.

McDonogh died in October, 1850, dividing the bulk of his enormous estate between the cities of New Orleans and Baltimore, for the establishment of free schools for the benefit of the poor. Out of this bequest p644has grown in large measure the present admirable school system of New Orleans. But McDonogh bequeathed to the Asylum for Destitute Orphan Boys one-eighth of the income of the net value of his estate, with the proviso, however, that the payments under this clause in his will should terminate when they aggregated a total of $400,000. This amount was never realized by the institution. Litigation and the Civil war are given as the causes which led to a reduction in the amount intended for this charity by the testator. The McDonogh estate became the subject of contention, the effect of which was to delay the distribution of funds among the legatees. In order to put an end to these delays, the City of New Orleans, in 1857, entered a suit in the Fifth District Court against the other corporations interested, and the court directed that a partition be made between the two cities named, subject to the then value of the annuities, of one of which the asylum was a beneficiary.

An appraisement of the estate by a commission appointed by the court showed that the estate was worth $1,465,680 instead of over $2,000,000, as had been previously estimated. On this basis it was figured that the then value of the annuity due to the asylum was $84,230.27. In arriving at this result it was assumed that the annual average income of the estate for twenty-four years would not exceed $64,000. On this basis the partition was effected under an order of the State Supreme Court in 1858. But the asylum actually received a larger sum. An entry in the books of its treasurer under date of August 1, 1859, shows that the sum of $100,039.25 was handed to the officials of the asylum. From this amount $5,258.40 in fees was deducted, leaving a net total of $94,779.85. It appears also that the city owed a further sum of $3,273.90 for an annuity payment decreed by the referees to whose consideration the asylum's claims had been referred. The sum thus received was expended in the purchase of the site on St. Charles Avenue and Dufossat Street occupied till recently by the institution. The fact that the asylum figured thus largely in the McDonogh will led to its receiving popularly the name of the McDonogh Asylum. The institution, however, also benefited under the Henderson will, as related above.

The other institution named in the Milne will — the Poydras Asylum — although a private institution in the sense that the municipality has nothing to do with its management, may be briefly mentioned here. It is the oldest orphanage in the city and probably the oldest in South. It was established prior to 1817 as the result of an appeal by the mayor of the city to Dr. and Mrs. George Hunter and a little group of devoted women, to help care for twenty orphan children brought into port by a plague-stricken immigrant ship. Up to that time the city had had no need of an orphanage. The disposition of these hapless arrivals was a grave problem. Mrs. Hunter, who was a Quakeress from Philadelphia, held a meeting at her home, at which a number of other ladies were present, with the result that the children were temporarily housed in private homes. A building was soon rented on Race Street and "Sycamore Grove." A charter was secured from the state on January 16, 1817. The incorporators were Mrs. A. H. Wolstoncraft, Mrs. M. A. Hunter, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Hunter; Mrs. A. H. Finley, Mrs. S. F. Morgan, Mrs. A. Bryant and Mrs. H. H. Brand. The work aroused the interest of Julien Poydras, who gave $1,000 in cash and his home at the corner of Julia and St. Charles streets to shelter the little p645charges of the society. This site was occupied for thirty-nine years. Then, with the proceeds of the bequests of Poydras and Nicholas Girod, the present site at the corner of Magazine and Peters avenues was purchased. More than 2,000 children have been sheltered in this institution.

Still another great public charity, the fund for which, after many vicissitudes, was rescued and made to perform the splendid offices intended by its founder, is the Touro fund. On this fund the almshouse established by Mayor Shakespeare with the so‑called "gamblers' fund" is now in part supported. Judah Touro, one of the wealthiest and most philanthropic of the great merchants of New Orleans, died in 1854. In his will he left a sum of money to establish an almshouse for the relief of the poor and aged. Previous to this time the city appears to have been without an institution of this character. There is, it is true, an old map, made in 1830, on which there is located at the corner of Canal and St. Philip (University Place) an "almshouse." But as the third charity hospital occupied that site, it seems clear that the almshouse, such as it was, was not an institution such as is implied in our present use of the word. The workhouse and the jail served in its place. An indigent was accorded quarters in these institutions and made to serve time really as a prisoner. Only in the numerous institutions supported by religion was the needy assured of sympathetic and respectful treatment. In fact, not until Touro suggested the necessity, does the need of a public "almshouse" seem to have been appreciated in the community. Touro's bequest was $80,000. It was left in trust with Rezin D. Shepherd. Associated with Mr. Shepherd as co-executors were A. K. Josephs, G. Kursheedt and P. A. D. Cazenave. By judicious investments Shepherd increased the original legacy to $130,000. He then added from his own funds the amount necessary to enable the purchase of a site on the river front, between Desire and Piety streets, which cost $43,000. The construction of a splendid building 300 feet long and 60 feet deep, three stories high, in the Gothic style, was begun on February 22, 1858. In April, 1862, this edifice was substantially completed. It cost $206,000. The difference, estimated at $60,000, between this figure and the amount of the Touro bequest, is believed to have been contributed by Mr. Shepherd. The city was occupied by the Federals a few weeks later. The almshouse, not yet turned over to the city, was seized by the Federals under Butler, and used as a barracks. The date for the evacuation of the building was set at September 1, 1865. On the night before, however, fire broke out in the quarters occupied by Capt. Sylvanus Small's company and the building was completely destroyed. The flames seem to have caught inside of the structure. The soldiers had built an oven 12 feet square against a ventilator shaft which was used as a chimney. While they were baking beans the shaft became overheated and ignited. The ruins stood for some years, but gradually crumbled away and the site was subsequently turned into a coal yard.

By order of Maj. Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.E. R. S. Canby, a board consisting of three army officers was appointed to investigate the destruction of the almshouse. It met in New Orleans on September 10, 1865. It found that "the burning of the Touro almshouse on the night of September 1, 1865, was occasioned by a fissure in the ventilator, the impure air flue, used as a chimney for the bake oven erected in the right wing of the building, through which fire was communicated to the rafters." This report was p646adopted by the Court of Claims, which by some mysterious process of reasoning, found that "the reasonable rental value of said building during the said period of occupation, was $21,000, or $28,000 less than the Government had expended thereon in the completion and repair of said buildings [. . .] the reasonable value of the said building, including the expenditures so made by the Government, as aforesaid, was at the time of the destruction $94,400, which [. . .] represents the rental value and the destruction of the said building." The city put in a claim for compensation for the loss of the building. It asked $287,585, of which $206,000 represented the value of the structure itself, and the remainder was rent for the period from 1862 to 1865. This claim has not yet been settled, although recently Congress appropriated the sum of $21,000, which has been paid to the almshouse board on account.

As a result of the destruction of the almshouse the trustees of the fund found themselves with nothing but the site and $4,000 in cash. These were turned over to the city and deposited with the comptroller. The homeless and needy continued, as before Touro's time, to find a refuge in the workhouse or in the religious establishments conducted for their benefit. This continued down to 1882, when Mayor Shakespeare established the "gamblers' fund," an extra-legal system of taxation on vice, which enabled him to raise as much as $40,000 a year. With this income he purchased a site on Arabella Street, one block back from St. Charles Avenue, and there erected a handsome structure, capable of accommodating 150 persons, at a cost of about $100,000. The "gamblers' fund," in the nature of things, could not continue long; it ceased in 1886. From that date till 1900 the city council budgeted $10,000 annually for the support of the Shakespeare almshouse, as the institution was called, and finally, in that year, this sum was further reduced to $7,500. In 1901 the cost of maintenance was $901.60 in excess of the income. In 1901 Mayor Capdevielle, realizing that a necessary public institution was falling into decay, determined to take steps to reinstitute the almshouse. He appointed a new board of managers, composed of T. P. Thompson, J. P. Buckley, G. W. Roth, J. A. Pierce and G. A. Chiapella. With few changes this board has continued to manage its affairs ever since. T. P. Thompson is the president and J. P. Buckley the secretary. The board, on taking office, found itself confronted by a serious condition of affairs. The institution contained 100 inmates, the buildings required immediate repair, and the moral conditions were such as to invite sharp editorial comment from the city newspapers. It was found necessary to dismiss all employees. President Thompson discovered that there was in the hands of the city treasurer the balance left from the Touro fund, now by the slow increment of interest amounting to $14,610.85. This fund was under the management of a board of trustees, composed of the mayor and the city comptroller. He was able, with the co-operation of City Treasurer Penrose and City Comptroller Tujague, with the advice of the city attorney, S. L. Gilmore, to have this fund turned over to the board of which he was the head. With it was also turned over the site of the old almshouse. In this way under the present board the bequest of Judah Touro began at last to benefit those for whom it was intended, nearly fifty years before. In recognition of the new status, Mayor Capdevielle altered the name of the almshouse to its present form — the Touro-Shakespeare almshouse.

p647 Among the bequests designed to benefit the needy, of which the city has charge, none has served a better purpose than the Fink fund. It supports the Fink Home for Protestant Widows at 3643 Camp Street. This fund was bequeathed to the city by John D. Fink, who died in 1856. The amount set aside under his will was $215,000, which was invested in "premium" bonds, then worth 70 cents on the dollar, but now at par. The income, therefore, is between $700 and $800 a month. The Fink Asylum was opened in 1874. In 1875 the city council passed an ordinance authorizing the purchase of the present property. In 1874, also, the council provided for the appointment of a board of commissioners to manage the affairs of the institution, but with the condition that a quarterly report be rendered to it. This ordinance contained a provision to the effect that not more than $1,000 might be paid out from the fund at any one time. The board of commissioners is composed of representatives (usually two) of the different protestant denominations in the city, except the Lutherans, who are represented by one commissioner. It is not the policy of the home to care for orphan children, but children may be admitted with their mothers where such is deemed advisable.

At the present time the city has charge also of the Sickles fund, instituted in 1856, to supply gratuitously medicines and medical advice to the poor of the city. Simon D. Sickles was a druggist. He died in 1856. In his will, dated July 13, 1854, he bequeathed to the municipal authorities all of his property remaining after the payment of certain legacies. The first installment received by the city under this bequest was paid May 6, 1866, and amounted to $14,000; the second installment was paid April 19, 1867, and was $2,884.93. By an ordinance adopted by the city council in January, 1872, these sums were placed in the hands of the administrator of finance, subject to the control of the council. By successful investment the total was added to steadily until in 1897 it amounted to $66,000. But as the dispensary was not yet opened, the heirs of Sickles brought suit to revoke the bequest and recover the legacy. This suit was tried in 1893 and a decision in the United States Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana was rendered in favor of the city. The fund continues to be in the custody of the city treasurer, but the income is expended by the city board of health in the accomplishment of the purposes contemplated by the founder.6

The latest, and one of the most considerable of the beneficences which the city handles is the Delgado bequest. This fund is designed to permit of the erection and maintenance of a central industrial school in which boys of the grammar grade in the public schools of the city can be taught a trade. Isaac Delgado was a native of Jamaica, and like many of the other benefactors of New Orleans, notably Milne, McDonogh and Fink, was never married. He died in New Orleans January 4, 1912. His will, after making various bequests, including $100,000 to the Charity Hospital, provided that all the residue of his estate should be utilized for the establishment of the trade school referred to above. The fund was turned over to the city in 1913. It included $800,000 in cash and a plantation. The amount was, however, not sufficient to enable the school to be built at once and yet allow a sufficient p648income to operate it. The money was, therefore, invested. In 1914 plans were worked out with a view to putting into execution at the earliest possible moment the benevolent intentions of the testator. City Architect Christy had, in fact, drawn plans for the building when the outbreak of war with Germany caused the National Government to put its veto upon the project. Meanwhile, the fund accumulated, and at present amounts to $1,250,000 in addition to the plantation. The work of building was begun in August, 1919. The building, which was finished in 1921, cost $700,000. The site on which it stands cost $187,000. It embraces a tract of 87 acres. The ground was purchased from the city park. A plan by which the school will have a revenue sufficient to enable it to operate effectively was worked out by Commissioner Lafaye before he resigned from office. Under this arrangement the school will receive $50,000 out of the state funds for education. This is provided for by a constitutional amendment. It will also share in the appropriations of the national government under the Smith-Hughes bill and it may be necessary for the city to budget a small additional fund. The cost will be about $75,000 per annum. It was opened in June, 1921, under the direction of H. G. Martin. The boys eligible to admission are those in the eighth grade of the public school, or the equivalent. Classes are held daily except on Sunday, and there are classes on three nights per week. The fund is administered by a commission created by an ordinance of the city council, composed of five members ex‑officio and five appointed by the mayor. The present incumbents are Mayor A. J. McShane, John Koln, Wilbert Black, commissioner of public property; D. J. Murphy, president of the school board; H. C. Schaumburg, representing the school board; J. M. Gwynn, superintendent of the public schools; E. E. Lafaye, Douglas Anderson, G. J. Glover, and S. W. Weis. The secretary of the board is Louis A. Dodge.


The Author's Notes:

1 This street was named for Stephen Henderson.

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2 See Michaud vs. Girod, 4th Howard, 503‑564.

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3 See Times-Democrat, May 13, 1904.

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4 Acts 2 and 3 of 1839.

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5 Times-Democrat, May 13, 1904. In the preparation of the foregoing narrative I have also had the advantage of statements from Norman Walker and George M. Leahy.

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6 See the record of the suit of E. A. O'Sullivan vs. the City of New Orleans, as decided in the State Supreme Court.


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