December 1-15
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December 1, 1904
When the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at Saint Louis closed today in 1904,
Louisiana officials found that they had a large number of pertinent artifacts on their
hands that had been gathered to be displayed at Louisiana's exhibition at this fair. It
was decided that this collection should be stored, expanded, and displayed, so the
Louisiana State Museum was established in 1906. The Presbytere and the Cabildo
buildings, located on either side of the St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square, two of
the museum’s first homes, and it would eventually grow to thirteen properties around
the state and host an array of programs such as lecture series, tours, and musical
performances.

December 2, 1814
"In 1814, I took a little trip, along with Andy Jackson down the Mighty Mississip'..." An
awkward rhyme to be sure, but historically accurate. General Andrew Jackson arrived
in New Orleans today in 1814 to prepare the city’s defenses against the expected
British invasion. His first task would be to replace three hundred of his sick and
wounded men he had left in Baton Rouge. Before he would meet the British at
Chalmette in January, he would add militia from Tennessee, Kentucky, and
Mississippi, as well as free blacks and other volunteers from Louisiana; and he would
make arrangements to add Jean Lafitte’s privateers to his army.

December 3, 1927
The Natchitoches Christmas Parade on this first Saturday of December in 1927
kicked off one of Louisiana’s brightest holiday traditions. The Natchitoches Christmas
Festival would grow over the years to include an early afternoon parade, an arts and
crafts show, food booths along the riverfront selling famous Natchitoches meat pie,
live entertainment, and an evening fireworks and laser show. But the festival’s
highlights are more than 300,000 lights on more than 300,000 lights on more than a
hundred displays along the Cane River that are switched on at dusk. In 2013, Yahoo.
com ranked Natchitoches as the third “Best Holiday Light Show” behind the
Rockefeller Center and Disney World.

December 4, 1919
The historic French Opera House in New Orleans burned down tonight in 1919.  The
first opera performed in America had been Ernest Grétry's
Sylvain in 1796, and for
the next hundred years, New Orleans would be America’s “first city of opera.” The
French Opera House, or Théâtre de l'Opéra had been a New Orleans landmark since
its opening in 1859. It was designed by James Gallier, Jr., and stood in the French
Quarter at the uptown lake corner of Bourbon and Toulouse Streets, with the main
entrance on Bourbon. Not only opera was held there, but also Carnival balls, debuts,
benefits, receptions, and concerts.

December 5, 1721
When German settlers arrived in the Louisiana colony in 1721, they brought with
them the German custom of celebrating St. Nicholas Day on December 5th, rather
than the traditional Christmas date of the 25th. Children of German families along the
German Coast in St. Charles Parish and elsewhere put a boot called Nikolaus-Stiefel
outside the front door on the night of December 5th. St. Nicholas filled the boots of
the good, polite and helpful children with gifts and sweets overnight. Children who
weren’t good got a stick. Observing St. Nicholas Day waned during World War I, as
Louisianans of German descent opted to observe the traditional Christmas holiday.

December 6, 1942
This week in 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the dissolution of the Works
Progress Administration. It had been the largest and most ambitious American New
Deal agency, and during some years in the 1930’s its budget had employed 8.5
million people and consumed 6-7 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. In
Louisiana, the WPA would provide labor for some of the state’s most iconic buildings
including the Mississippi River bridges in Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parish, most of
the LSU campus including Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge; City Park, the Audubon
Zoo, the French Market and Charity Hospital in New Orleans; and the Barksdale air
base in Shreveport-Bossier.

December 7, 1851
St. Louis Cathedral was consecrated today in 1851. The current St. Louis Cathedral
is the third to be built on Chartres Street. According to the Times-Picayune: “An
immense number of persons attended the ceremony…of consecrating the new
Catholic Cathedral in Chartres street. The vast edifice was crowded to suffocation;
and what with the rich garments of the clergy, the imposing ritual, the striking interior
of the edifice itself, the mingling of brilliant uniforms, ladies’ silks and satins, waving
plumes, glancing steel, the mass of human faces, the fumes of incense, the solemn
music, the scene was one of the most interesting and varied we have ever seen.”

December 8, 1972
Tony Chachere's Creole Foods of Opelousas, Inc. was incorporated this week in
1972. Tony Chachere was born in Opelousas in 1905. During the Great Depression,
he started his a drug wholesale business, the Louisiana Drug Company (LADCO)
with $100. Working from this garage, he created his own elixirs, including Mamou
Cough Syrup and Bon Soir Bug insect repellent. He retired for the first time at fifty,
and started experimenting with food seasonings. Ever the entrepreneur, Tony hired
four employees and started manufacturing his seasoning blend, which he named
Creole Seasoning. He also developed an instant base called Roux and Gravy Mix,
which was an instant hit with fellow cooks.

December 9, 1928
One of Louisiana’s most lurid murder trials took a dramatic turn today in 1928. For
years rumors of an affair between Dr. Tommy Dreher and Ada Bonner LeBoeuf, wife
of James J. LeBeouf, who was murdered on Lake Palourde in 1927. Ada and Tommy
would be tried and convicted of the murder, condemned to death, and have the date
of their executions set for January 9, 1929. Ada would be the first white woman
convicted and hanged in Louisiana. Today in New Orleans, a blue steel revolver was
brought forth, rumored to be the weapon that James Beadle, Dreher’s handyman,
had used to commit the crime for his employer, but it would too late to save Ada and
Tommy.

December 10, 1957
Lafayette's iconic Tex-Mex Restaurant La Fonda opened today in 1957.  Founder
Leebob Cox, was hoping to be able to make a living selling Tex-Mex food and
charcoal-broiled steaks when he opened his restaurant in a non-descript building on
Johnston Street. At first, he struggled and wasn’t sure he was going to make it, but
the people of Lafayette found it quickly enough. La Fonda moved several blocks
down Johnston Street. In the 1960s, Cox opened a fast-food restaurant called
Yankee Doodle, selling some of La Fonda's more popular menu items. Yankee
Doodle didn’t last, and Cox was able to focus on La Fonda.

December 11, 1889
At the New Orleans funeral of Jefferson Davis this week in 1889, one of the honor
guards was an Avoyelles Parish planter named A. M. Haas.  Haas had been born in
Alsace in 1833 and immigrated to Louisiana around 1845. In the Civil War, he would
become a colonel in the Confederate Army, and after the war, he would own the
plantation on which the town of Bunkie is located. When he was negotiating with
Texas and Pacific Railroad for the right of way through his property, he agreed to
cede the rights, if the railroad would name the railroad stop for his daughter Mary
Maccie, whose nickname was “Bunkie.”

December 12, 1943
Louisiana's General Claire Chennault was Time Magazine's cover boy this week in
1943. Claire Lee Chennault was born in Texas and grew up in the Louisiana towns of
Gilbert and Waterproof. He attended LSU, entered the ROTC program and got
interested in aviation. By early 1941, Chennault was commanding the 1st American
Volunteer Group, nicknamed Flying Tigers. Chennault was able to recruit some three
hundred American pilots and ground crew, posing as tourists, who were adventurers
or mercenaries, not necessarily idealists out to save China. But under Chennault they
developed into a crack fighting unit, always going against superior Japanese forces.
They became the symbol of America's military might in Asia.

December 13, 1935
The Bonnet Carré Spillway in St. Charles Parish was dedicated this week in 1931. In
response to the catastrophic flooding on the Mississippi River 1927, work was begun
on the spillway, which would release high river waters into Lake Pontchartrain when
New Orleans was threatened. 11,000 65-75-foot timbers were erected and 600,000
square feet of steel sheet pilings and been driven in the project. Despite predictions
at the opening of the spillway that it would never be used because flood control
measures upriver and on the Atchafalaya River would control floods in the New
Orleans area, the spillway has been put into operation on eleven occasions since
1931.

December 14, 1959
LSU’s Billy Cannon won the Heisman Trophy this week in 1959. Cannon was born in
Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1937, and he moved with his family to Baton Rouge after
the outbreak of World War II. He was a star at Istrouma High School and went on to
LSU, where he was unanimously named an All-American twice. He helped the 1958
LSU team to the national championship, and his punt return against No. 3 Ole Miss in
a 7-3 Tiger victory on Halloween night in 1959 is considered by fans and
sportswriters to be one of the most famous plays in LSU sports history.

December 15, 1792
Jean Noël Destrehan de Tours purchased a plant his father-in-law’s plantation this
week in 1792. Destrehan had been born in New Orleans in 1754, was educated in
France and returned to Louisiana in 1771. With his brother, Jean-Baptiste Honoré
Destréhan de Beaupré, he purchased a plantation in St. Charles Parish that became
solely his upon death of brother. He married the daughter of a St. Charles Parish
neighbor and purchased the home now known as Destréhan Manor from the estate
of his father-in-law in December 1792. Later, he would serve as a member,
Legislative Council of the Territory of Orleans and served as its president, 1806,
again in 1811.