The park
was once a wooded plantation, and contains 216.60 acres, only a portion of which, however, has been improved. The grove of live oaks are the wonder and admiration of botanists and scientists. These live oaks are said to be the finest in the world. The trees are draped in the ghostly gray Spanish moss, to which allusion is so frequently made by Louisiana poets.
The lake
was formed artificially by enlarging Bayou Sauvage, which fornierly ran through the park.

© 1997 -> current

Under one of the oak trees stands a tomb in saddest decay. It is the last resting place of Louis Allard, a man of letters and a poet, who owned all that tract of land extending from the Bayou St John to the Orleans Canal, and from the Metairie Road to the old toll-gate. The portion which is called the "Lower City Park," was sold by Allard, previous to his death, to John McDonogh, the millionaire miser-philanthropist, of old New Orleans. At his death, McDonogh left it by will to the cities of New Orleans and BaltimOre; the City of New Orleans acquired it in full ownership at the partition sale, and decided to devote it to park purposes. Allard, who was then very poor, was permitted, by special agreement, after the mortgage sale to continue to live at the place. He spent his declining days under his beloved oaks, dreaming of the past and reading his favorite authors. In compliance with his dying wish he was buried in this quiet spot under his favorite oak. The tomb is in full view coming from the Metairie Road. Glance obliquely to the left and the legendary oaks on the of old New Orleans rise in solemn grandeur.

Famous Dueling Ground

Their green boughs throw back the sunlight with all the brightness and elasticity of everlasting youth, and the whispering leaves tell of a time, scarcely "fifty years remote, when tragedy and gayety walked side by side in New Orleans, and it was an every day occurrence to see under those very branches a meeting of adversaries in mortal combat, with pistol, saber or shotgun, or "colichemard."

A thousand stories are told of the bloody encounters which took place in the early morning under the "Oaks." There was no compromise with honor in those days; society did not permit it With the advent of Napoleon's disbanded legions and noble "emigres" from France, there was a great renaissance in duels, and fencing masters were kept busy teaching the "jeunesse dore"" in the ancient "Salle de St. Philippe." Among the most famous masters were Marcel Dauphin, who was killed in a duel by another master, Bonneval, who was wounded by the professional swordsman, Reynard; L'Alouette, who killed Shubra, another professor; Thimecourt, who killed the famous Italian fencing master. Poulaga, and Gilbert Rosiere, called by his pupils " 'Tit Rosiere," the most popular of all the fencing masters who ever came to New Orleans. But the most famous of all was Pepe Llula; of him the most wonderful stories were told, but the following will suffice:

It happened that New Orleans was all aflame with sympathy for the filibusters who had made an unsuccessful attempt to free Cuba from the control of Spain. Pepe was an ardent Spanish partisan, and issued a manifesto, challenging all the Cuban sympathizers. Many of them took up the glove. Pepe met them, and, making use of a thrust for which he was famous - driving his colichemard into the lung and giving it a vicious twist there - killed each of his antagonists. The result was that after a while the Cubans refused to meet him.

What a troop of ghostly stories come up under the "Oaks!" Every imaginable cause of quarrel was settled under these ancient trees. Some slight infringement of ballroom etiquette, a quarrel with a rival lover, a difference of opinion in politics, the last opera, the ability of the famous "falcon" to reach a certain note, legal points, scientific questions - all came to a direct issue under these "Oaks." It was at a famous ball at Mme. ----'s, in the Rue Royale, that a gallant cavalier approached a beautitul belle as she was promenading. The dance was given for charity's sake. The girl held a little book of "raffles" in her hand. "Allow me, mademoiselle, to take some chances," asked the cavalier. Before she could reply, her companion replied grimly: "The chances are all taken, sir." "I will meet you later," said the cavalier, under breath. They met in the morning with broadswords under the oaks. An hour later the gallant cavalier breathed his last, just on the spot where Louis Allard is buried. A celebrated European scientist, who was visiting New Orleans, laughed at the Mississippi River in the presence of a Creole, saying that it was nothing but a tiny rill compared to the great rivers of Europe. "Sir," answered the Creole, "I will never permit anyone to disparage the Mississippi River in my presence." The result was a duel under the oaks at sunrise, and the scientist received a severe wound in his cheek. Oh! there are legends enough and true stories, too, of those who fought and died in this spot, and of beautiful maidens rushinjg between tne combatants just as the fatal lunge was given. There were the famous series of duels With broadswords in the year 1840, When the fencing masters themselves fought and killed one another, just to "show their art." And there was the famous duel on horseback between a French cavalry officer and a young Creole, when the Creole, by a peculiar half-circle stroke which be he had learned from his master, Pepe Llula, plunged his sword through the French officer's body.

All these, and a thousand others, are the stories inseparably connected with the "Qaks." The code was very strict. A gentleman could not fight anyone whom he could not ask to his house. Dueling is a thing of the long, dead past in New Orleans to-day. It does not matter much whether a man fights or not; men have other ways of showing themselves gentlemen. But "Killed on the Field of Honor" is a common enough legend in the old St Louis cemeteries. {The Picayune's guide to New Orleans (1904)


New Orleans History, 1897-1917