JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT

THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS

Dueling Oaks in City Park

Dear Julia,
A recent article from The Historic New Orleans Collection reminded me that dueling was very popular in New Orleans “in the early part of the 19th century,” and that only one of the Dueling Oaks in City Park still stands. As a local tour guide, I point it out to visitors regularly. Yet City Park didn’t exist until some time after John McDonogh’s death (1854?). So how were the trees identified to duelers and spectators? And wasn’t it private property at the time? I would so welcome clearing this up.

Julie Cornwell
New Orleans


Philanthropist John McDonogh died in 1850 and his estate helped establish City Park 1854.

Like so many bits of New Orleans lore, I think the official explanation for the identification of those two specific oak trees as a preferred “field of honor” has been lost in the mists of time.

Tradition, while sometimes difficult or impossible to verify in its entirety, often contains elements of truth and tradition certainly holds that numerous duels were held at that specific location.

Picture postcards from the turn of the 20th century, as well as the Picayune Guide to New Orleans, a series of visitor’s guide from the same era, both actively promoted the Dueling Oaks as quaint sights of Old New Orleans. City Park’s own historic plaque, painted by park benefactor Joy Luke not long after the turn of the century, is quite vague and reads, in part, “This site history tells us was a favorite site for many duels fought by hot-blooded young blades in the romantic Antebellum era of the South.”

Greetings Ms. Street! 
I’m trying to establish some connection for my paternal grandmother’s family.

I do have memories of seeing the Camors florist on St. Charles Avenue as well as seeing a posted article about the origin of The Court of Two Sisters having a connection to two Camors sisters.

I was also aware that the Camors family came to New Orleans from what is now France.

Again, thanks so much for any help you can give on the Camors family of New Orleans and any connection to those in Baton Rouge.

Paula McGraw
Baton Rouge


I am sorry that a significant portion of your family history has been lost, but the Camors family of Louisiana is rather large and it’s well beyond the scope of this column to run down the answers to such broad and far-reaching genealogical questions. While I was unable to locate any information about your great-grandfather, Camille Camors, I can help clarify a couple of your other recollections.

Yes, there’s a connection between The Court of Two Sisters and two Camors siblings. On Feb. 2, 1966, Times-Picayune want-ad reporter Maud O’Bryan relayed a request from the owner of The Court of Two Sisters, asking if anyone had photographs or information about sisters Emma Camors Musso and Bertha Camors Angaud Noblet. The sisters, O’Bryan reported, ran a shop in the courtyard at 613 Royal St. from 1886 and 1906.

John B. Camors, a native of Nay in the Pyrennes, was one of New Orleans’ most prominent merchants and exporters. He died Nov. 8, 1907, at the age of 71. Unfortunately, the obituary that The Times-Picayune ran the following day doesn’t mention his parents; it was said he had a blind brother who had remained in France, but no other siblings were noted. At the age of 17, Camors reputedly had arrived in New Orleans. Wishing to learn English, he attended school in Louisville, Kentucky, before returning to New Orleans, where he established a successful flour-exporting business. J.B. Camors was laid to rest in Metairie Cemetery.


Dear Julia,
I recently moved to New Orleans and purchased a house. As I stared exploring my yard, I came across a beautiful, but aggressive, climbing fern. Do you know anything about it? Is it native to this area?

Best regards,
Flora Merryweather
New Orleans


It is a native plant, but it’s native to Japan. According to the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, Japanese Climbing Fern (Lygodium japonicum) was imported as an ornamental during the 1930s. It has since spread to northern and western Florida southern sections of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

While it’s attractive, it’s aggressive and can produce fronds as long as 90 feet. It spreads both by underground rhizomes and by small spores, which the plant produces in late summer and early fall.

Even when it dies back in winter, its thorny and wire-like stems form a lattice on which new growth can climb. Hand pulling and herbicides can control it, but the small spores spread very easily so, even if you think it’s gone, you’ll need to remain vigilant.

The Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service is another great source for information about native and non-native plants.

You may reach their Orleans Parish office at the following address and telephone number: 1300 Perdido St., City Hall Room BW15, New Orleans, LA, 70112, 658-2900.


Dear Julia,
I recently heard somebody mention that live cowans used to be offered for sale at the St. Roch Market. Can you please explain to this non-native what type of creature that was? I’m not familiar with the term “cowan.”

Sincerely yours,
Harry McBee
River Ridge


Cowan is a variety of freshwater turtle traditionally used to make turtle soup. It is a scarce commodity and seldom seen for sale these days. Veal is frequently used as a substitute.

 

Win a Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch
Here is a chance to eat, drink and listen to music, and have your curiosity satiated all at once. Send Julia a question. If we use it, you’ll be eligible for a monthly drawing for one of two Jazz Brunch gift certificates for two at The Court of Two Sisters in the Vieux Carré.

To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are: Julie Cornwell, New Orleans; and Paula McGrew, Baton Rouge.

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