For this first assignment, I started with the genealogical research that I have been pursuing for a year and a half now. I knew I wanted to look at New Orleans for the 1880 census, which ruled out my family. They lived practically everywhere else in Louisiana, except for the Big Easy during the 1880s. This gave me an excellent incentive to explore my husband’s side of the family tree. I chose to focus on Jeff’s third great-grandfather on his mother’s side, William H. Rodgers and his wife, Emilie Bailly Rodgers.
I quickly found William in the federal census from 1850 through 1910 and was surprised to find out that he was born in Camden, New Jersey in June 1841. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War for three years and three months alongside his father, John D. Rodgers. John was wounded in the arm after only nine months of service and probably had his arm amputated. The 1870 census reveals that William was working in NOLA as a steam-boatman. Though I do not have a full service record for William as of yet (I am sending away to the New Jersey State Archives for his and John D.’s records), I presume that William was probably stationed in New Orleans during its occupation and he stayed on afterwards. William married a New Orleans native, Emilie Bailly, in approximately 1869 and they had four children: three girls and a boy.
I printed out four pages of the 1880 census starting with the page that William and Emilie were listed and what I found was most interesting. The census was recorded on Franklin St. Each house was segregated by race: black, white, mulatto, but the neighborhood itself was integrated. This information corresponds to research done by historians during the colonial era of New Orleans, done most notably by Kimberly S. Hanger and Gwendolyn Midlo Hall. Neighborhood integration in the 1780s continues through the 1880s.
Of the 200 people sampled: 101 were black, of which 44 were male and 57 female; 75 were white, with 35 males to 40 females: and 24 mulattoes, with 8 males to 16 females. I discovered one interracial couple. The mulatto husband and his white wife both hailed from Cincinnati, Ohio. The most common occupation for men was listed as laborer, carpenter, or clerk. Though a few men were listed with skilled occupations such as druggist, baker, or shoe maker/fitter. The most common occupation for women was housekeeper, except for mulatto women, who were dressmakers. The census also revealed a large population of immigrants from (or whose parents were from) Prussia, 36 out of 200. The next immigrant population was Irish (12) and Scottish (7).
Using the Sanborn Insurance maps, I was able to locate Franklin Street. I quickly discovered that it no longer exists in modern-day New Orleans. The New Orleans City Hall and Poydras Plaza (right next door to the New Orleans Superdome) now occupy the location. The map supports the cultural diversity of the census: the north end of Franklin ends at Congo Square, a traditional meeting ground for African-Americans both free and slave since colonial times and the south end of Franklin ends at a Hebrew cemetery. The neighborhood surrounding Franklin was also home to a German school, a Roman Catholic church with separate Boys and Girls Schools, two Presbyterian churches, an Episcopalian church, a Colored church and school, and an Evangelical Lutheran church. In addition to this, were seven drug stores/dispensaries, scores of carpentry/cabinetry/blacksmith/locksmith shops, two coopers, a harness maker, a Chinese laundry, five bakeries with ovens, a cigar factory, a brew-house with bottling plant, two undertakers, a coffin maker, Charity Hospital, and a negro dance hall. This neighborhood also contained three boarding houses; one for females only.