Established in the late 1700′s, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest extant cemetery in New Orleans and is still the site of several burials a year. The cemetery is the final resting place of many prominent New Orleans families, particularly the Creole population. Upon initial development, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 was divided into sections for Catholics, non-Catholics, and “Negroes,” possibly referring to slaves since gens de couleur libres were buried according to their religion.
In 1796, a canal was installed next to the cemetery for the purpose of transporting goods as well as draining the swamp around the city. The turning basin was located at the intersection of Basin and St. Louis Streets. The location of the canal led to industrial development in the area, including warehouses and depots, and eventually led to the development of the Tremè neighborhood.
Due to its location in a swamp, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 was constantly threatened by flooding. To combat the rising waters, sand and shells were continuously added to the site, particularly along the pathways. In 1816, the waters of Macarty Crevasse flooded the cemetery to the extent that the site was closed, and burials took place across the river.
Marie Laveau (c. 1794-1881) was the reigning Voodoo priestess of the nineteenth century. New Orleans Voodoo as a social phenomenon came into its heyday during the 1800’s. Under Marie Laveau’s guidance Voodoo thrived as a business, served as a form of political influence, provided a source o[f] spectacle and entertainment, and was a means of altruism. But what Voodoo is in its pure form is religion: forms of worship brought to Caribbean and American colonies through the slave trade.
New Orleans voodoo Legend says when at the Voodoo Queens white washed tomb to awaken Marie Laveaus Powerful Voodoo Magic, one should: Knock three times (to wake her from her sleep of the dead) upon the face of Marie Laveaus' tomb. Mark the tomb with XXX in chalk or brick, knock three times again then make your wish. Then you must leave an offering.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 was founded in 1789, and it is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. Located at the corners of St. Louis and Basin streets. At one time the cemetery was much larger (300 square feet) but today it is much smaller due to development around it. Like most cemeteries in New Orleans, most of the graves are above ground tombs or wall vaults.