5 Famous People Buried in New Orleans’ St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

5 Famous People Buried in New Orleans’ St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

Called the “Cities of the Dead” by author Mark Twain, New Orleans cemeteries are well known for the notable personages buried in them and their distinctive above-ground tombs. Out-of-town visitors often come specifically to see the graves of famous people buried in New Orleans. At the forefront of these macabre tourist attractions is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the oldest existing cemetery in the city. 

Established in 1789, St. Louis Cemetery No.1 was not, actually, the first New Orleans burial ground. That honor goes to St. Peter Street Cemetery, which occupied the space around N. Rampart, St. Peter, Burgundy, and Toulouse Streets. As the city grew, a burgeoning population necessitated a new solution for burials, particularly as disease epidemics in the late 18th century increased the number of dead needing a final resting place. Thus, St. Peter Street closed, and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, located a bit farther from residential areas, came into being.

Today, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1’s elaborate tombs line its narrow pathways like elegant and silent mansions. Indeed, they are home to several figures who became as entwined within New Orleans’ history as the cemetery itself. Here are a few of the notable (and notorious) denizens buried at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

Marie Laveau

One of the most iconic individuals buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 — and certainly one who represents the city’s distinctive cultural and religious traditions — is Marie Laveau, more popularly known as the “Voodoo Queen” of New Orleans. Born in 1801, Laveau was considered a free woman of color within the city’s cosmopolitan French Quarter. Married to Jacques Paris and later a common-law wife of Christophe-Dominick Duminy, Laveau had fifteen children and a successful practice as an herbalist and midwife. 

It was Laveau’s association with Voodoo, however, that earned her fame in both the white and Black New Orleans communities. A mixture of African, Catholic, and Native American traditions, Voodoo served as the conduit for Laveau to perform various rituals and ceremonies. Both practical and spiritual in nature, these services ran the gamut of mediating domestic disputes to offering protection against evil unseen energies. Today, Laveau’s tomb remains a highly popular site for visitors.

Homer Plessy 

Born on March 17,1862 in New Orleans, Homer Plessy would go on to make history as the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson. Born a free person of color in New Orleans, Plessy grew up in a French-speaking Creole family and worked as a shoemaker. In 1892, Plessy refused to move from his seat in the whites-only section of a train car and was summarily arrested. 

During the subsequent case challenging his treatment, Plessy argued that his Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. The Court’s decision formally established the “separate but equal” doctrine that underlied state segregation policies in the American South for decades after. Plessy passed away in relative obscurity in 1925 after working as a laborer, clerk, and insurance premium collector. Regardless of the case’s outcome, Plessy is remembered as an early advocate of civil rights for Black Americans, which makes his burial spot a must-see for many St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 visitors.

Bernard de Marigny 

Bernard de Marigny was a notable New Orleans figure. As a wealthy nobleman, politician, and land developer, Marigny played a significant role in shaping modern New Orleans. Born in 1785, Marigny — who was often described as flamboyant — inherited an impressive fortune, which he used to develop the Faubourg Marigny. This neighborhood transformed what was initially a plantation into a vibrant community adjacent to the French Quarter.

Filled with well-preserved Creole cottages, classic Queen Anne houses, and diverse architectural styles, the Faubourg Marigny also boasts a rich musical heritage, with musicians like Sidney Bechet and Jelly Roll Morton having performed in the area. In his later years, Marigny struggled financially due to extravagant spending and gambling habits. He died in 1868 and was buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

Paul Morphy

Known as the one of the greatest chess players ever, Paul Morphy was born in New Orleans in 1837 to a wealthy family. His father served in many political positions, including as Louisiana State Supreme Court Justice. At only nine years old, Morphy was considered one of the best chess players in New Orleans after defeating General Winfield Scott in two games.

From 1858 to 1859, Morphy beat all other players on the chess European tour circuit, which made him the unofficial World Chess Champion (the title didn’t actually exist until 1886). Earning the nickname “The Pride and Sorrow of Chess” for his unexpected retirement, Morphy struggled with his mental health and died at the age of 47 from a stroke. He was buried in his family’s crypt at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. His style of play continues to influence modern chess strategists to this day for its highly aggressive and tactical nature.

Etienne de Boré

When it came to agricultural and economic development in the New Orleans region, Etienne de Boré stood at the center of it all. Born in 1741, Boré came of age in the colonial period of Louisiana’s history. After the Louisiana Purchase resulted in New Orleans’ incorporation as an American territory, Boré served as the first mayor of the city. For better or worse, Boré adopted and popularized new techniques for harvesting sugarcane that transformed the area’s economy.

Initially a cultivator of indigo, Boré benefited from the work of Antoine Morin, a Black chemist who innovated a process for producing granulated sugar. Boré profited immensely from Morin’s work and led Louisiana into an era of relative prosperity. In 1820, Boré died and was interred at St. Louis Cemetery No.1, where his complicated historical legacy in Louisiana lives on.

Visit the Resting Places of Famous People Buried in New Orleans

Whether you’re passing through New Orleans for a day or embarking on a longer stay in the Big Easy, a visit to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is an absolute must. History buffs, students, and people simply curious to learn more about Louisiana’s past will be fascinated by the stories etched into the cultural fabric of the cemetery’s stately mausoleums. For more information on booking a tour, visit our website today!