About 1957, I saw and made a picture of the death mask of Napoleon in New
Orleans. While in Chicago three years ago, my husband and I were at the Art
Institute and what do you think we found there....another death mask of
Napoleon. I made another picture. So, if you are in the windy city drop in
and see the death mask.
While in Paris (many years ago), my daughter and I visited Les Invalides,
where Napoleon is entombed. It was extremely crowded and circular with
people walking within the circle. You looked down to see the tomb and it
was in the middle projected upward. The most unusual thing I noticed was
with all the people walking the circle, one could hear a pin drop.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Bill" <wnoliver(a)worldnet.att.net>
Sent: Sunday, September 25, 2005 11:02 AM
Subject: [ILJACKSON] Little Egypt Heritage, 25 September 2005, Vol 4 #36
Little Egypt Heritage Articles
Stories of Southern Illinois
© Bill Oliver
25 September 2005
Vol 4 Issue: #36
Osiyo, Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen of Little Egypt,
How does one travel from cemeteries to the death mask of the French
Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in one article? Well, by carefully changing one
letter at a time to form a new ‘trail’. That is the way this week’s
readings began and ended. A reader wrote to inform me that she had used
pictures of grave stones of her ancestors to mark the trail of migration
of her family. This rather intrigued me, so off I went to jot down some
notes to see where they led me. They eventually led me to just that – the
death mask of Napoleon.
First one has to find the correct cemeteries, which is not always as easy
as it might look. One looks for obituaries and death certificates for
clues. Also, consulting funeral home records will divulge the answer.
There might be a Card in a family Bible, used as a book mark, which gives
details of an individual’s vital facts – hatch, patch, and dispatch –
Consecrated ground may not always be the safest place; thus care must be
taken when visiting cemeteries. Overgrown burial sites may be home for
snakes or other rather dangerous critters, even the possible two legged
variety. If the cemetery is on private land, the owner might be quite
unhappy about trespassers.
If one is to make a migration record by using photographs, then one needs
a camera. Then to get a clear readable picture, one has to carefully plan
the taking of the picture. Shadows aid in the reading of inscriptions on a
The tombstones of our ancestors were meant to be lasting memorials to the
lives of those buried beneath. Because we arrive at the resting places of
ancestors who died a hundred and/or more years ago, we may find that
headstones are not in their best condition – time, weather (including
ice), tree roots, turf, and vandals affect them. They may have been broken
or fallen over and are now buried beneath the ever expanding turf.
Hopefully, the stones have been recorded somewhere, sometime, by someone.
Due to these things, we, the collectors, need to think about the access to
our information of other family members and future descendants. This led
me to think about the expenses of replacing or refurbishing monuments,
which in turn reminded me that headstones and markers are provided by the
Department of Veterans Affairs – at their expense – to mark the burial
sites of eligible veterans buried in any cemetery.
My McMAHAN-OLIVER families migrated from Virginia, to North/South
Carolina, to Kentucky to southern Illinois. However, 3rd Great Grandma
McMAHAN married an OLIVER in Kentucky. Recently it was discovered by
tracing them through census records that 2nd Great Grandpa OLIVER’s father
and mother were born in Alabama. That apparent [though not yet proven]
relatives who remained in Alabama served under Forrest in his cavalry at
the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads where another 2nd Great Grandpa, who
served in the Union Army, was wounded and in a few months died as a result
of those wounds. This records that kin opposed each other.
Alabama was on the migration pattern of another branch of my ancestry –
the CRENSHAWs. They also traveled from Virginia, into both Carolina’s,
through Georgia and some settled in Alabama. From there they migrated to
New Madrid, which was, at the time of a 3rd Great Grandpa’s birth, still
the Louisiana Purchase territory. This is the family which decided that
earthquakes weren’t much to their liking, thus, migrated then into
Louisiana has been in the news of late. The aptly named Sala Capitular is
considered one of the most prestigious rooms or setting for official
ceremonies by Louisianans. Maybe this is so due to the fact that the final
transfers of the Spanish Colony was transfered to France on 30 November
1803, exactly 107 years before the birth of my Father. Then, twenty days
later, it was the setting of the transfer of the Louisiana Territory to
the United States of America.
The Sala Capitular was a courtroom for the cabildo [city hall] from 1799
to 1803 under the Spanish Flag, and the superior court during the
territorial period of 1803 to 1812. Then it became the Louisiana Supreme
Court after the Civil War until 1910.
Had not the twelve-year revolt in the French colony of Santa Domingue
succeeded, France would have completed a bargain [The Treaty of Ildfonso]
which was to give Spain a kingdom in exchange for the return of Louisiana
The young United States wanted the territory around New Orleans to protect
its rights to sail the Mississippi River, as well as provide territory to
American settlers and merchants who were already settling in the region.
In discovering the transfer of Louisiana from Spain to France the U.S.
began attempts to purchase the region. Due to the collapse of Napoleonic
plans - the loss of Haiti - Louisiana was no longer an asset, but rather a
liability. Napoleon sold Louisiana to Thomas Jefferson [the United
The Sala Capitular was host to the Marquis de Lafayette in April 1825.
Lafayette, who assisted the Americans in the War for Independence, was a
hero of the French Revolution. For this the Sala Capitular [The Surrender
Room] was converted into a lavish drawing room where Lafayette could meet
with various delegations during his stay.
During the time that the cabildo [city hall] was used for the Louisiana
State Supreme Court, two very famous cases were heard here and in the
Supreme Court of the United States of America. One, the case of Homer
Plessay established the doctrine of “separate but equal” which legalized
segregation for more than an additional fifty years.
The longest running lawsuit in the United States ran between 1834 and
1890. This was known as the Myra Clark Gaines Case that involved her
claims to her father’s estate. It was awarded to Ms Clark posthumously,
five years after her death. In suing for this, she spent her husband’s
fortune and died penniless.
Legends always contain some fact and are expanded by fiction. In the
memorabilia of things, Louisiana has the legendary death mask of the
French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. According to ‘legend’, Napoleon was to
be swept away from exile imprisonment on St Helena and brought to
Louisiana. However, Napoleon died three days before a ship manned by
Louisiana pirates was to set sail for the New World.
The legendary artifact [death mask] was displayed in the Cabildo. In 1853
it was moved to the offices of the City authorities when they moved. It
was lost or misplaced during the Civil War. In 1866, as the story goes, a
former city treasurer eyed the mask in things to be hauled to the dump in
a junk wagon.
The story ‘thickens’ – did the good citizen return the relic? No, Nelly,
he took it home to display it there. By the early years of the 21st
century, it was in the hands of the president of the Mexican National
Railroad, Captain William Greene Raoul. Upon reading about the missing
mask he offered it back to the city of New Orleans in exchange for
Today, it is displayed in the Louisiana State Museum.
Ah, yes, the Louisiana Purchase! And, that is how one can go from
cemeteries to death masks.
e-la-Di-e-das-Di ha-wi nv-wa-do-hi-ya nv-wa-to-hi-ya-da.
(May you walk in peace and harmony) and
Other sites worth visiting:
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