April 1, 1764
This week in 1764, the first Acadians to arrive in the Louisiana territory consisted of
twenty-one people in four families who arrived in Mobile from Nova Scotia, by way of
Savannah. Based on church records, we know that this group included Jean Baptiste
Poirier, Madeleine Richard and their children; Jean Baptiste Richard, Catherine
Cormier and their children; Jean Baptiste Cormier, Magdeleinee Richard and their
children; and Olivier Landry, Cecile Poirier and their children. They made their way to
New Orleans, and were settled along the west bank Mississippi River on what was to be
called the Acadian Coast in the first week of April 1764.
April 2, 1963
This week in 1963, 149,044 persons in New Orleans received the new Sabin oral polio
vaccination. Dr. Dennis H. Groome, Jr., chairman of the KO Polio Campaign, said that
a total of 738,351 people in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes had received
the vaccine over the previous two weeks. This total reflected 80 percent of the area’s
population at the time, and officials were confident that they would be able to reach
almost everyone by the time final totals were published on April 8th. A second type of
the vaccine would be offered to the public beginning on April 28th, and a third
beginning June 2nd.
April 3, 1889
Hammond became a town and elected its first officials today in 1887. Peter Hammond,
said to be the “father of Hammond”, was born in Sweden in 1798 and left home in his
early teens to become a rigger, sailmaker, and sailor. He was captured by British while
on way to United States in War of 1812, escaped from prison and made his way to
Louisiana. He settled near present-day Hammond where he established a commissary
and naval stores industry in the 1820’s. When the New Orleans, Jackson and Great
Northern Railroad crossed Hammond's property, the area became known as
Hammond's Crossing and later changed to Hammond.
April 4, 1859
Paul Charles Morphy of New Orleans was proclaimed as “the best chess player who
ever lived” at a special banquet held in his honor in Paris today in 1859. Morphy had
learned to play by watching games between his father and uncle. His family soon
recognized his talents, and by the age of twelve, he defeated a visiting Hungarian
master. He was soon recognized as the best player in America, and went to Paris in
1859 to test his skills against European masters. In Paris, Morphy fought a severe bout
of intestinal influenza and still managed to defeat Adolf Anderssen, considered by
many to be Europe's leading player.
April 5, 1944
"Le Grand Orange," Rusty Staub, played his first game for the Houston Colt 45s this
week in 1963, four days after his nineteenth birthday. Daniel J. “Rusty” Staub is one of
the most accomplished baseball players ever to come out of New Orleans. His
distinctive red-orange hair was the source of his lifelong nickname, Rusty. During his
years with the Montreal Expos, French-Canadian fans dubbed him Le Grand Orange.
In twenty-three major-league seasons, Staub was an All-Star six times. His uniform
number was the first ever retired by the Montreal Expos, and he was a key member of
the New York Mets team that won the National League championship in 1973.
April 6, 1937
This date in 1937 was the second day of a three-day celebration on the LSU campus in
Baton Rouge at which several of the campus’s most iconic buildings were dedicated,
including the law school building on Highland Road named for Governor Richard
Leche; the Parker Agricultural Center; La Maison Francaise and five women’s
dormitories. After Leche resigned in disgrace, the law school building would be
renamed for Paul M. Hebert, who had been the longest-serving dean of the school
from 1937-77. The Parker Agricultural Center is still in use and housed the LSU
basketball team until the LSU Assembly Center (now the Maravich Assembly Center)
opened in 1972.
April 7, 1981
A Confederacy of Dunces by New Orleanian John Kennedy Toole won the Pulitzer
Prize for Fiction this week in 1981. The book was the first publication of a university
press to win the fiction prize. New Orleans native Toole suffered from paranoia and
depression, due in part to the continued rejection of his work, ended his life at the age
of thirty-one in 1969. The efforts of his mother, Thelma Toole, to get his work
published after his death was were finally rewarded when the LSU Press published the
book in 1980. Eventually, A Confederacy of Dunces would sell over two million copies
in eighteen languages.
April 8, 1972
The first Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival was held this weekend in 1972. The festival
board was organized in 1971 and started planning for the first festival to be held in
April 1972. The location of the festival comprised of the first block of North Sixth Street
and had only eleven booths. The first annual parade made its way through
Ponchatoula with sixty-five units from all over the state. The festival was co-sponsored
by the Ponchatoula Jaycees and the Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce and
attracted 15,000 festival-goers. By 2017, the festival would attract more than 300,000
visitors during its three-day run and become the largest attraction in Southeast
Louisiana after Mardi Gras.
April 9, 1942
Senator Jesse Knowles of Lake Charles was beginning to learn the art of survival today
in 1942 as he was one of 60,000 or more American and Filipinos who were forced onto
the infamous Bataan Death March. The march was characterized by severe physical
abuse and wanton killings, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be
a Japanese war crime. Knowles was held in a number of prison camps for 1,228 days.
Returning to Lake Charles after the war, he was elected to the Louisiana House of
Representatives in 1960, and in 1964, he was elected to the first of four terms in the
Louisiana State Senate.
April 10, 1864
Union gunboats on the Ouachita River reached Monroe today in 1864, the day after
bloody battles had been fought at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill in Northwest Louisiana.
In order to deny reinforcements to the Rebel army, the gunboats opened fire on the
city of Monroe, destroying dozens of buildings in the blocks closest to the river. The
courthouse, jail and railroad station were destroyed, along with forty rail cars and five
locomotives belonging to the Vicksburg, Shreveport and Texas Railroad. The railroad’s
bridge over the Ouachita River, which had been built in 1859, was also destroyed and
would not be replaced until 1882.
April 11, 1963
Today in 1963, the New Orleans Public Service, Inc. (NOPSI) announced that it would
ask the New Orleans City Council to approve a $4.2 million plan to replace the
dilapidated forty-year-old Canal Street streetcar line with “clean, modern, air-
conditioned busses.” One of the advantages of the plan was that it would consolidate
the old Canal Street, Canal Blvd. and West End lines into one continuous route,
eliminating time-consuming transfers at the corner of Canal Street and Canal Blvd.
“Our objective in this proposal is simply to serve the city with the best possible transit at
reasonable fares,” said NOPSI President Clayton L. Nairne. Streetcars would return to
Canal Street in 2004.
April 12, 1944
11,500 Easter eggs were “hunted” at the East Louisiana State Hospital in Jackson this
week in 1944. 4300 patients participated in the festivities and were later treated to 260
gallons of ice cream, 4500 cookies and 385 pounds of candy arranged by the dietary
department of the hospital. The East Louisiana State Hospital was created by the
Louisiana Legislature in 1847 and commenced operations in 1848, originally known as
the "State Insane Asylum." The location was chosen because Jackson is situated in an
upland well-drained location that is relatively free of disease-bearing mosquitoes, which
plagued asylums in New Orleans. Today, hospital provides more than 500 psychiatric
Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873
The Colfax Massacre, the largest racial massacre in U. S. history, broke out today,
Easter Sunday, in 1873. This event marks the largest racial massacre in U.S. history.
Southern Whites saw recently freed people as threats to Democratic hegemony. In the
wake of the contested 1872 election for governor and local offices, a group of white
Democrats overpowered Republican freedmen and black state militia defending the
Grant Parish courthouse in Colfax. Estimates of the number of dead have varied,
ranging from 62 to 153. Three whites were killed, but the number of black victims was
difficult to determine because bodies had been thrown into the river or removed for
April 14, 1825
The most popular man in America this week in 1825 might have been a Frenchman,
Gilbert de Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Honoring the fiftieth anniversary of the
American Revolution and his own participation in it, Lafayette returned to his adopted
country visiting every state during a thirteen-month visit. On April 10th, he landed in
New Orleans and was treated to five days of balls and receptions in his honor. On the
16th, he paid a one-day call in Baton Rouge, where he was feted at a reception and
led a parade up Second Street (which was renamed in his honor) to the recently-
completed Pentagon Barracks to review the troops.
April 15, 1957
Shreveport’s Evelyn Ashford born today in 1957. During the course of her career, she
would win four gold medals and one silver medal in Olympic competition. Had the
United States not boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980, her total might have been
higher. Her first medal came in Los Angeles Olympics of 1984, where she took the gold
for the 100-meter dash in 10.97 seconds, the first woman to run the race in less than
eleven seconds. In 1988, she would take the silver in the 100 meters in Seoul, where
she was elected by her team-mates to carry the Stars and Stripes at the Opening