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PREFACE

THIS book comes in response to a long-felt wish of an humble student of Louisiana history to know more about the early actors in it, to go back of the printed names in the pages of Gayarr’ and Martin, and peep, if possible, into the personality of the men who followed Bienville to found a city upon the Mississippi, and who, remaining on the spot, continued their good work by founding families that have carried on their work and their good names.

It has been a pleasure to follow the traces they impressed upon the soil two hundred years ago, and to look through the vista of years that opened before them when they crossed the seas, trusting their names, their fortune, their faith to a new country.

Their genealogical records bear witness to their good blood; their “maintenances de noblesse” are still in existence, brought with them from France, in simple accord with what they considered a family necessity, as much so as a house and furniture. Traditions are still carrying a pale reflection of coloring and wavering outline of them. Little stories of them are still to be met hanging on a withering memory like shriveled berries on a tree that the next blast will rend from their twigs and scatter on the ground.

Some of the little houses they built are still standing; vital statistics—their baptisms, marriages



OLD FAMILIES OF NEW ORLEANS

and deaths—are still distinct in the old registers of St. Louis Cathedral. Bits of old furniture, jewelry, glass, old miniatures, portraits, scraps of silk and brocade, flimsy fragments of lace can yet be picked up scattered among the houses of the old streets they trod.

Much was in existence to ease the work of the chronicler, but much, alas! was found lacking. In some instances the trail grew too indistinct to be followed with confidence. Too late! Too late! The chronicler came too late. Family papers, so one excuse ran, had been destroyed in the ^^great fire” (of 1788). According to another the old trunk in which a careful grandfather had packed his documents had gone astray in the panics and flights of the family during the Civil War and had never been heard of since; or, sadder still, the faithful memory which carried the family record, grown aged and feeble, had lost its grip on the past, and had dropped its jewel out of its human setting, as many a fine stone has dropped from its setting, to be swept out with the debris.

The plan traced in advance for the chronicle was a modest one; comprised in time between Bienville and Claiborne, containing only the names mentioned in the historical reports of the period. But as the work and the pleasure of it progressed these limits had to be disregarded. Families ramified and prolonged their lives in an unforeseen way. The children of the best men under Bienville became the French heroes under Ulloa; and their children, pushing on through the Spanish Domination, became the strong men of the city under the American flag and fought with Jackson in the War of 1812. And still further their children fared on bravely to wear the gray of the Confederate Army, and onward still another generation advanced soaring higher and higher, and to-day we see them, as in the famous picture in the Paris Pantheon marching across the sky of glory, these fine old French names of Louisiana in the last (and may it be the last!) world war; speeding back to France in defense of their ancestral motherland to fight, suffer and die, and be buried there, giving back to French earth its dust!

The chronicler held her way through it all, too well pleased with the story confided to her to realize the end before her—the end of the book, not the end of the story. In truth, like the horizon, the end seemed to recede before her as she advanced, and so the last page of the book caught her unawares, as the last day of life does us all.

And so at the end of her book, the author finds, as doubtless she will do at the end of her life, that what she has accomplished bears but

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