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5055 Canal Street

Click on the plaque above for the Odd Fellows Rest photo album

The Catholic Church never tolerated segregation, so if you were African American and Catholic, you could buy a tomb in a Catholic cemetery and bury your dead right next to the white folks. But there were a lot of protestant cemeteries that wouldn't allow African Americans to be buried in them. So benevolent societies like the Odd Fellows bought land just outside of town for a cemetery so African Americans would not have to worry about having a place to spend eternity. This cemetery is surrounded by a ten-foot wall, and is probably the least explored of the cemeteries at the foot of Canal and was named Odd Fellows Rest. It was dedicated on Feb. 29, 1849. It was created by a secret society called the independent Order of Odd Fellow.

The first burials here began with a splendid ceremony and a grand procession parade led by two circus bandwagons, one pulled by 16 horses. There was also a funeral car carrying a sarcophagus of "quite imposing appearance." The membership had gathered the remains of 16 deceased members from other cemeteries in the city. These were carried in the funeral car and were the first burials in the group's new cemetery.

Odd Fellows Rest contains many monuments. One of the most interesting is the centrally located society tomb which bears a plaque with the German words “Freundschaft, Liebe and Warheit” which translates as Friendship, Love and Truth. The Howard Association Memorial has a bas-relief on its façade commemorating the organization’s founder. The bas-relief art form is not seen in most New Orleans cemeteries. The monument memorializes an organization that was active in1853 in aiding indigent yellow fever victims. The cemetery also has cast iron tombs. Odd Fellows Rest has been described as the most verbally expressive cemetery. Many of the tombs contain poetic passages. Examples are “In the midst of life we are in death” and “Weep not for me, I am not dead/I am only sleeping here.” The cemetery has escaped proposed demolition in the past; however, no Odd Fellows Lodge remains in New Orleans and the cemetery shows evidence of neglect and vandalism.

Within three years, the cemetery had erected 200 vaults and the tomb of the Teutonia Lodge No. 10. There were also walls laid out named for past grand masters of the Order. Walls on two sides enclosed the cemetery, and most of the plots were filled by 1930.

New Orleans was originally a swamp and still exists below sea level. The land of Odd Fellows Rest is located is relatively high by New Orleans standards. When the backwaters of the "Crevasse of 1849" poured in, Odd Fellows Rest remained intact.

Odd Fellows Rest houses a sculptured memorial of John Howard, an English philanthropist, Yellow fever activist, and prison/Lazaretto reformer.

Two important memorials in the cemetery are the tomb of the Howard Association and the society tomb of Southwestern Lodge No. 40, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. This is believed to be the original Teutonia Lodge No. 10 tomb. On it you can see the German inscription Freundschaft, Liebe, und Wahrheit, which means Friendship, Love, and Truth.
The Howard Association tomb was erected by a group of 30 young men who came together for the purpose of aiding victims of yellow-fever plagues. They named themselves in honor of John Howard, an 18th-century English philanthropist and social reformer.

Today, OddFellows Rest shelters a busy bus stop; in mid-facade lies a health food hut; and its once vividly painted cast iron gates are now black. And the black cast-iron gates that are incomplete. At one time they were painted in bright colors. Forty years ago the panels were intact, but today the two panels on the left have been vandalized. You can still see, however, the symbols of the society: the mother and her children, a beehive, the Bible, the cornucopia, the world, the eye of the Deity, the five-pointed stars, the initials "I.O. of O.F."

 

courtesy of hauntedneworleans.com