Louisiana Odyssey 1

Thomy Lafon 200th Birthday Celebration

As many of you know, ever since I took my first genealogy trip to St. Landry parish to visit where my mother’s family grew up in Washington and Opelousas, and to New Orleans to discover a treasure trove of documents, I’ve been in love with the city of New Orleans. I felt a connection that made me want to come back to live.

Well, I’ve been here now about two months, since October 25, 2010, and am on my course of discovery (time permitting from the work I’m doing here, of course).

My writings for this blog will be about my genealogy discoveries, historical discoveries and all things having to do with that wonderful passion we all have for our family histories.

On Tuesday, December 28 I attended the 200th Anniversary Celebration of the great Creole philanthropist Thomy Lafon. This event was of special interest to me because my great grandmother, Silvia (Payne) Igy/Igye left Washington in St. Landry parish with her two daughters, my grandmother Beaulah and her sister Alice, to seek a better education for them in New Orleans. How they made that long trip I do not yet know but, they arrived sometime around the 1900s and stayed until about 1920. My grandmother attended the Thomy Lafon elementary school and Straight University, both of which were endowed by Thomy Lafon. At one point my great-grandmother and her family also lived on the same street as Thomy Lafon.

Who was Thomy Lafon? Lafon was the most significant African American philanthropist of nineteenth-century New Orleans. He was born as a free man of color in New Orleans. After his father’s early death, Lafon grew up in poverty, but became during his adult years a very gifted businessman who made a fortune through real estate investments. However, despite his riches, he continued to live a humble and unpretentious lifestyle. He was a very pious and devout Catholic and gave nearly all of his spectacular wealth to charitable institutions such as churches, orphanages, schools, movements for racial freedom, justice and equality, and donated generously to support the efforts of religious orders. He was especially fond of the Sisters of the Holy Family and their founding mother, Henriette Delille, whom he assisted greatly throughout his life. His last domicile was in the Faubourg Treme at the corner of Ursulines and N. Robertson Streets. He was an active member
of St. Augustine Church and numerous societies. This background on Thomy Lafon was provided by my friend, historian, educator and lecturer Ina Fandrich whom my mom and I met when we joined a genealogy society here in New Orleans.

We met at 9:30 at St. Louis Cemetery #3 on Esplanade Ave. to set up and had a small ceremony acknowledging this man’s contribution to society. Music and cake were also on hand because what’s a celebration in New Orleans without music!

T. Lafon Blog pix 1

Lenora Gobert 12.30.10

Can the Green Mansion Be Saved?
I heard about this story shortly after arriving in New Orleans. About this huge house that is being “fought” over because “they” want to demolish it to make way for a hospital for the local university. The house was in ruin for a long time, as I understand it, and was further damaged by hurricane Katrina. You’ve all seen those movies where there’s one hold-out farmer, or someone like that, who is living isolated because everything around him has been demolished but, he still refuses to move…the Green mansion is like that. The house illustrates a significant time in history of the financial prowess of many African Americans and how the signs of their significance are not being preserved. Interestingly, the mansion is owned by the nephew of Sonja MacCarty who descends from a very old New Orleans Creole family and whom my mother and I met while doing family history research in the New Orleans Public Library.
Following is a link to an article about the Green mansion and a picture.

Lenora Gobert 12.30.10

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