Cypress Grove Cemetery
In time, other societies joined the volunteer firemen in building impressive monuments for their members at Cypress Grove. Leading architects and craftsmen were called upon to design and build tombs commemorating the lives of New Orleans’s most prominent citizens. Crafted in marble, granite, and cast iron, tombs at Cypress Grove are among the nations leading examples of memorial architecture.
James H. Caldwell (Theatrical impresario and entrepreneur). James Caldwell was a theatrical impresario who built the first English-speaking theater in New Orleans, The St. Charles. The ornate five tier and 4,100 seat theater was considered the finest theatrical facility in America. Caldwell sent to England for a gas machine to light his chandeliers. Eventually, Caldwell would not only light his stage but all of New Orleans. His New Orleans Gas Light Company illuminated streets and houses, making New Orleans the fourth American city to have gas, right behind Baltimore, New York and Boston. The most consequential entrepreneur of his era, Caldwell went to his grave in Cypress Grove known as New Orleans’s Father of Light.
John R. Conway (Mayor of New Orleans, 1868-1870). A successful wholesale grocer during the Civil War. After the war, he became the first chairman of the reorganized Orleans Parish Democratic Committee. His election as mayor marked the end of military control over local government. During his administration, the city took shipment of American sculptor Hiram Powers’s statue of Benjamin Franklin.
Irad Ferry (Leading businessman and a volunteer fireman with Mississippi Co. No.2). He served as treasurer of the Firemen’s Charitable & Benevolent Association. He died fighting a fire on Camp Street on New Year’s Day 1837. He was the first of many Association members and among the many brave volunteer and professional firemen to lose his life in the line of duty. His remains were moved to the new cemetery during its dedication ceremony in 1841. The Irad Ferry monument in Cypress Grove symbolizes a life cut short a broken Doric column planted atop the classical sarcophagus. The stone coffin depicts a 19th Century fire engine in crisp relief. It was designed by the famed architect Jacques de Pouilly, who modeled the Ferry memorial after a monument in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Charles L. Leeds ( Mayor of New Orleans, 1874-1876). His administration succeeded in passing an act in the state legislature empowering the city of New Orleans to take over drainage projects. During his tenure a drainage canal on Nashville Avenue was completed to drain the low area between St. Charles Avenue and the Mississippi River. Leeds also extended the street railways, extending the line running out to the Lake Pontchartrain Summer Resort. Mayor Leeds died in 1898 at the age of 75 and became the first Mayor of New Orleans interred in Cypress Grove.
John T. Monroe (Mayor of New Orleans, 1860-1862 and 1866-1867). A native of Virginia and blood relative of President James Monroe, he came to New Orleans before his 21st birthday with only three dollars in his pocket. Working as a laborer on the levee, he learned the business of stevedoring. He became a labor leader and drifted into politics. In 1858, he was elected to the Board of Assistant Aldermen and was placed on the important committee of Streets and landings. Two years later, he was promoted mayor. His administration was noted for moving the street car tracks from the sides of Canal Street to the neutral ground. He also connected the city to the Carrollton suburb with the Carrollton Railroad. Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, the city fell into the hands of Federal authorities and General Butler ordered Mayor Monroe sent to prison. After the war, Monroe was re-elected Mayor in 1866. Signs of the city’s recovery from the war were noted in Monroe’s second term with the operation of the first street cars on St. Charles Avenue and Carondelet Street and the opening of the Tchoupitoulas line.
Maunsel White (Veteran of the Battle of New Orleans and notable merchant). A prominent businessman in antebellum Louisiana, better known among epicures for his creation, Maunsel White Peppersauce. White was among the first in the nation to market a sauce of Tabasco chiles. White’s secret recipe of mashed and strained chiles mixed with vinegar and salt cultivated appetites around the world. Maunsel White is entombed in a fine marble memorial designed in the Greek Revival style by architect Jacques de Pouilly.
William J. Behan (Mayor of New Orleans, 1882-1884). The son of Irish immigrants, Behan was educated at the Western Military Institute in Nashville, Tennessee. His military training prepared him for service as an artillery officer in the Confederate Army. He was the youngest artillery officer under General Robert E. Lee’s command. During the Civil War, he rose from the rank of non-commissioned officer to general. After the war, Behan returned to New Orleans where he engaged as a merchant, manufacturer, and sugar planter. He became first mayor of New Orleans under the new city charter. Behan declined to seek re-election and later broke ranks with the Democratic Party when they proposed to put sugar on the free tariff list. He joined the Republican Party during the Cleveland Administration served as chairman of the Republican State Executive Committee from 1900-1912. He was the Republican candidate for Governor in 1904.