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Document of the Month Pages

Begun in April of 2012, Document of the Month highlights interesting documents, photographs, and other images from the holdings of the Louisiana State Archives. This page features documents for the current year. To see documents for prior years, click on the links below.

2021 Documents

Murphy James Foster (1849-1921)

(6/1/21) Murphy James Foster served two terms as Governor of the State of Louisiana from 1892 to 1900. He was part of the codification of Jim Crow to separate blacks and whites in daily life. He was partly responsible for limiting voting rights in the Constitution of 1898 to literate men who owned property and to men whose grandfather or father had been registered to vote in 1867, effectively disenfranchising most black voters. Foster called out the state militia in New Orleans to break a labor union strike with military force. He passed legislation establishing the forerunner of Louisiana Tech and built temporary camps to house flood victims. Foster was re-elected in 1896 with the help of somewhat questionable returns from north Louisiana, but to his credit, the governor ended the prison lease system and regulated railroads whose practices hurt agriculture in Louisiana. Foster faced the beginnings of the populist revolt against the democrats, but joined the populists in opposing the Louisiana Lottery, which finally abandoned the state during his term. The Louisiana Legislature elected Foster to the U.S. Senate the day after his term as governor ended. President Woodrow Wilson later appointed him collector of customs in New Orleans. Foster died on his plantation near Franklin on the 12th of June 1921. His death certificate is on file at the Louisiana State Archives (Statewide Deaths, 1921, vol. 14, #7116). His parents were Thomas Jefferson Foster and Martha Murphy.

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Robert Andrew Hart (1858-1939)

(5/1/21) Robert Andrew Hart held numerous public offices in Baton Rouge including mayor from 1898 to 1902. He was generally believed to be the wealthiest man in the city, having accumulated most of his wealth from real estate holdings. During his term in public office, he was an advocate for schools, roads, sewers, and other improvements. In his private life, he contributed to numerous charities and was responsible for sending many students through the state university. Towards the end of his life, his health and vision were failing, but according to one newspaper article, there was no indication of what he would do the morning of May 25th, 1939. According to his death certificate, he died from a "pistol wound of the head (suicide)." He was 80 years old. He was buried in Baton Rouge's Magnolia Cemetery in the plot with his parents, Samuel Hart and Sophie Martin. He never married, and only his nieces and nephews survived him. His death certificate is on file at the Louisiana State Archives (Statewide Deaths, 1939, vol. 15, #6333).

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Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (1818-1893)

(4/1/21) On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces commenced bombarding U.S. Army forces at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, marking the beginning of the American Civil War. Leading the attack was General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, a native of Louisiana and graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. P.G.T. Beauregard, as he became known, served in the Corps of Engineers, and during the Mexican-American War, he built fortifications. Later, he was in charge of federal engineering projects in Louisiana. When Louisiana seceded from the Union, he resigned and was commissioned as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He participated in many campaigns and battles during the war. Afterwards, he had a successful career as an engineer and served as adjutant general from 1879 to 1888, among other positions. He died February 20, 1893, at 255 Esplanade Street in New Orleans. Cause of death was heart disease, insufficiency of aortic valve, and probably myocarditis. He was 74 years and ten months. His death certificate is on file at the Louisiana State Archives (Orleans Deaths, 1893, vol. 103, p. 738)

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Frank G. Yerby (1916-1991)

(3/1/21) Frank Garvin Yerby was an American writer best known for his 1946 historical novel, The Foxes of Harrow, a Southern historical romance. Born in Georgia in 1916, Yerby earned his bachelor's degree in English from Paine College and a master's from Fisk University. He served briefly as a professor of English at Southern University in Baton Rouge where he met Marcus Christian, a Louisiana writer and historian. Le Comité Board Member Audrey Nabors Jackson was a student of Yerby in his English class at Southern University Demonstration High School. She recalled that he was writing The Foxes of Harrow at the time and often discussed it with the class. This month's document is his marriage record to his first wife, Flora H. C. Williams. They were married in New Orleans 1 March 1941. The document indicates he was the son of Rufus G. Yerby and Willie Smythe, and Flora was the daughter of Leroy Williams and Flora Bousquet. The document is on file at the Louisiana State Archives (Orleans Marriages, 1941, vol. 55, p. 1316)

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Opelousas Bicentennial

(2/1/21) Although much controversy exists regarding the date of the establishment of Opelousas by Europeans, the date of its incorporation as a town is well established. An act of the Louisiana Legislature dated 14 February 1821 authorized all free white male persons above the age of 21 who had resided in St. Landry Parish one year preceding the passing of the act, and who were residing within a half mile of the court house, to meet and elect five persons for the purpose of serving on "The Board of Police of the town of Opelousas." The act sets for the mode of election, oath of officers, penalties for neglect by election superintendents, how to fill vacancies on the board, powers of the board, powers of the president of the board, and appointments of a constable, clerk, and treasurer. The act also divested the St. Landry Parish Police Jury of jurisdiction within the incorporated town limits. This month's document is the first page of the four-page act taken from the Acts Passed at the First Session of the Fifth Legislature of the State of Louisiana, published in 1821 in New Orleans. The Louisiana State Archives has a nearly complete set of these books.

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Jules Lion, Master Lithographer

(1/1/21) Jules Lion was a master lithographer in antebellum New Orleans. Born in Paris, France, around 1810, he came to New Orleans in 1836 or 1837 and produced a series of portraits of Louisianians which are still reprinted today. In 1840, he introduced the new daguerreotype process, the forerunner of photography, but went back to lithography. The 1850 census of New Orleans lists Jules Lyon, age 34, race not indicated, a portrait painter. In his household was Armantine Lyon, age 15, a mulatto. Biographies about him indicate that he was a free man of color. He died at the age of 56 at No. 507 St. John the Baptist Street in New Orleans on the 9th of January 1866. His death certificate, recorded under the name Jules Leon (Orleans Deaths, 1866, vol. 31, p. 124), is on file at the Louisiana State Archives.

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