A Flower for the Gypsy Queen

Roberteaux

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Hey y'all! :wave:

The last time I posted at any length, I told you guys that I was heading for New Orleans, for the Upper 9th Ward and The Bywater-- specifically, to the St. Claude neighborhood of that storied town-- in order to take another stab at locating the tomb of a Gypsy woman named Marie. This was the only tomb I have ever sought in the cemeteries of New Orleans that I was unable to find, as it happened-- and this, despite several attempts over the years.

So I've been meaning to tell you guys what-all I found-- if anything-- since I got back. And as a matter of fact, I actually did write up the results so as to present them to you-- and wrote 'em up twice. Unfortunately, the first effort turned into a sixty page post-a-thon, too long and ridiculously detailed to be appropriate for this site. And then the next post, which was much shorter, text-wise, still had to be broken into three chunks because I meant to include close to sixty images, and the default limit on this site is 20 per post.

But a three-part post is much too much-- even for me. Figuring that I should save that sort of work for a more suitable venue, I finally sat down and created *this* post, which, though it does not contain the abundance of information I originally meant to inflict upon y'all, does at least get directly to the point, to wit:

I FOUND IT!


Yes indeed! The above image is the tomb of a woman named Marie Boscho, feted in the mostly-forgotten folklore and legend of New Orleans as a "gypsy queen"... and whose tomb is to be found in section number one of an old cemetery on Louisa Street that is known as the St. Vincent de Paul cemetery.

One of my MLP brothers, lespaulguy, sent a PM to me to advise me that he had gone digging around in the Internet to look for some mention of this tomb, and found nada. For him-- and for those of you who might also be curious about this matter-- I will reveal the only two written references to this tomb and its occupant that I have ever found...

Okay, so the first reference came by way of a book that was begun during the Great Depression by the WPA Writer's Project in New Orleans. The book itself is an anthology of folklore entitled Gumbo Ya-Ya, and what it represents is a collection of chapters that deal with the folklore of Louisiana, and especially that of New Orleans from its inception as a city in 1718 to the time of the creation of the book itself.


As it happens, this book may be found in its entirety online, and may be read or downloaded for free. For those interested, here's the link:

Full Text Gumbo Ya-Ya

The information concerning the tomb of Marie is to be found in Chapter 18, which is subtitled as The Cemeteries, and it is a very brief, six-paragraph description that concerned itself more with the funeral of the Roma woman, Marie, than it did with the actual tomb or its whereabouts.

Because this book is a volume of folklore and should not be misconstrued as being a reliable account of history, it occurred to me that it might be the case that no such event as described ever took place, and that the whole thing might just be a tale of some sort. However, since the date given for the event was 1916-- and since the book itself was compiled a relatively short time after that year-- it was also equally possible that the story was true, and that the tomb might exist. However, since the assistant editor was one Robert Tallant-- and because Mr. Tallant has been repeatedly excoriated by truly responsible and professional historians for his tendency to make things up and then deliberately present them as matters of historical fact-- it was still possible that the whole legend of the Gypsy Queen and her tomb might have been bunk.

However, the second reference to the tomb that I was able to find came by way of a purveyor of genuine history named Leonard V. Huber, who is as reliable as Charles Gayarre, John Smith Kendall, or Carolyn Morrow Long. And because Huber wrote two books on the history of the cemeteries that were both absolutely reliable, I exulted to find Huber speaking very, very briefly of the tomb of Marie.

In other words, because Huber said the tomb existed, I had full confidence that indeed, it did. I was just about to hang up the pursuit of that particular tomb after two years of searching, when I managed to discover the writings of Mr. Huber. Needless to say, Huber's statement that the tomb does exist energized my search. And even though it took another four years to actually find the sucker, I never again doubted its existence and instead figured my inability to locate it might have something to do with the fact that all identifying marks on the tomb itself might have succumbed to the ravages of time. Thus obscured, it might have been the case that nobody could find it.

But I kept looking anyway...

For those interested, Huber's book is also online. Here's the link:

[url=http://books.google.com/books?id=7FlJubkDKxUC&pg=PA32&dq=gypsy+tinka+huber&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Guy5T6-fM4Gi8gThoqC_Cg&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false]New Orleans Architecture: The Cemeteries - Leonard Victor Huber, Peggy McDowell, Mary Louise Christovich - Google Books[/URL]

And as it happens, I set the link so that it would open to the very page that the mention of the tomb is to be found on.

But it wasn't much information. Actually, all Huber said was:

...and a large marble tomb of the Tinka-Gypsies holds the remains of their queen, Marie, who died in 1916.
The photograph that is referenced directly after this mention of the tomb is given as Figure 48, but the photo itself does not show the tomb in question. Also not mentioned by anybody was which section of the cemetery the tomb might be located in. And as each of the sections of that cemetery are nearly as big as one square block in the French Quarter-- and because the tombs are really packed in there tightly-- I had literally hundreds of tombs to examine in order to find the right one.

And that's why it took several years to find it. You see, I had to travel from Florida to New Orleans, and though I had been spending several weeks per year in the city-- and have made numerous trips to the St. Vincent de Paul cemetery-- the process of elimination was very, very slow. But in the end, all the work paid off: I finally found it.

Now, it has been pointed out that Roma society tends to be strongly patriarchal and that there are no gypsy "queens" per se, only very influential senior matrons. I dedicated quite a bit of verbiage towards attempting to reconcile this fact with the fact that Marie is designated as a queen of some sort by the furnishings that are part of her tomb, but this was all just speculation on my part and will not be included here.

Likewise, there was a bit of consternation produced by the fact that nobody has heard of a tribe of Roma who called themselves as "Tinka" except in New Orleans, it would seem. Thermionik and LPSGME were kind enough to point these things out to me, and once again I was able to come up with some strong theories as to what this "Tinka" designation was all about-- but again: this is just speculation on my part and is not really germane to this particular post.

However, I will say this: on the stelle of the tomb does appear the term "Tinka-Gypsy" and the three urn holders that I found on the stoop of the tomb carried the words, "QUEEN", "MARIE", and "MOTHER". Here are the photos I took of those aspects of the tomb:



***************


Which was all very interesting to behold. What was also interesting was that of the four bits of information from Gumbo Ya-Ya that I was using as I attempted to track down that tomb, three were incorrect. That is, the stelle on the tomb refers to a tribe called "Tinka", not Tinker; in addition, her date of death was March 19, 1916 and not November 9, 1916. Finally, her last name-- given as Bosche in the book-- turned out to actually be spelled as "Boscho".

Eh, whatever-- everybody makes mistakes. And at least Huber got the group's name straight. But I am elated that I finally located that elusive tomb, got my photos, and thus successfully ended my quest. Thus, I am now pretty much DONE with all the field research part of my project. I still have a little bit of research to do into certain archival records-- and by the greatest stroke of good fortune, I managed to gain access to those very archives by coming to the personal attention of a professional historian who is actually in custody of the physical records themselves. But in the main, I am done with the hardest part of the task and soon enough, will begin to prepare a very formal record of my findings.

I have to laugh. When I began this project eight or nine years ago, I was still a semi-sleek middle-aged dawg, and though I was no longer the young ruffian I had been before that, at least I wasn't the overweight, chain-smoking old fart I am today. This is me in 2004:


But it's been a long eight years, and time has had its way with me. This is what I looked like a couple of weeks ago, on the day that I actually found the tomb:


And so there you have it, my friends. Purposefully left out of this account is a summary of certain folkways that accompany various funerary traditions of New Orleans, and other information that might have been interesting to those who are curious about such things... but enough is enough.

I will say this: I was electrified unto paralysis when I found that tomb, and startled enough that I had a hard time telling my bro Phil-- who came along to serve as a sort of bodyguard, aide-de-camp, and touristy companion for me as he did last November-- and he was greatly amused to find that my ordinarily glib, ever-talking self had been silenced as if by a shot of Novocaine directly into my tongue.

It was an overwhelming sort of experience, bordering on one of spiritual evocation. I was very grateful to have found the tomb, but found that the experience was more humbling than triumphant; I was at one point overcome by a very strong and poignant sense of melancholy, awash in the mists of time and history, and contemplating all the curious phases that the search itself put me through. To say that this was, for me, the discovery of a lifetime is not an exercise in vanity or hyperbole. The chances are now excellent that I will die as a happy man.


:):):)


EPILOGUE

In order to reward Phil for his most excellent services, I took him to Bourbon Street for yet another night of drinking and wenching. However, my heart wasn't in it at all; and believe it or not, I didn't even drink enough to catch a buzz. I think the whole time I was there, I drank about three Sazaracs, two Hurricanes, and one Boilermaker. And mind you: in the years when I drank heavily, that would have been what I put down in about an hour for starters. So for me to say that this is all I drank over a four day period is almost the same as saying I didn't drink any liquor at all. Somehow, I think my days of heavy boozing are just as over as all the rest of the really stupid crap I used to do for fun as a younger man.

Likewise, the fleshpots full of pros and abundance of easy-meat tourist girls didn't serve as much of an allure to me, even though ol' Phil managed to get next to an attractive, blue-eyed Latina at one point in the game and I ended up hitting the bricks alone to give them a bit of privacy. While that was going on, I just headed over to Woldenberg Park, to puff on a cigar and stare at the Big Muddy while thinking my private thoughts, only returning to the hotel after Phil bugled me up on the cellie to tell me the coast was clear for my return. I slept like a dead man that night.

After giving Phil a tour of the Metairie Cemetery the next day, he wanted to go out carousing once again. He had purchased something like eighty bucks worth of plastic beads, and wanted to find a gallery from which to beg for boobies, with the beads themselves being the big payoff for the women who were willing to air their bozos. I went up there with him, mainly to keep his back safe, but was otherwise pretty bored by the whole business and just sort of leaned against the railing, puffing a cigar and daydreaming all the while.


But then I saw a couple of horse cops coming towards us at a near-canter. Anybody who has been to Bourbon Street knows that the equestrian officers do not tend to trot their horses unless they're in a hurry, and I suspected that somebody was about to go to Tulane and Broad for a little fun in Orleans Parish Prison; turns out that I was right about that, too. Leaning over the balustrade to see what was going on down there, I ended up taking this photograph:


Meanwhile, Phil got plastered and expended his enormous sack of beads during his survey of mammary glands. I was able to persuade him to return to the hotel, so that he could get some sleep before we split for Florida the next day, warning him that he was probably going to be really hung over for the flight.

And he was! :laugh2:

--R :)

 

Tim Fezziwig

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Great tale. The wife and I ate at Commander's Palace> Mischief Night 1999. We were right next to the cemetery. Ghosts aplenty. Nawlins will turn a person wild. I started staying up ALL night. Now I'm hooked on it. The Night Time is the Right Time.
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nrh8FGaBiyE]Creedence Clearwater Revival - Night time is the right time - YouTube[/ame]
 

Mindfrigg

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[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4J8VrprrGE]Dr. John - Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya - YouTube[/ame]
 

huffdaddy

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[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2Z29QmwiZk]april wine - sign of the gypsy queen(canadian) - YouTube[/ame]
 

LPG

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Hey Robert

I'm glad you found what you were looking for and, it seems, you found what you were searching for as well....:thumb:

Fascinating pictures of the tomb.....I found myself nose first to the screen looking for detail...:laugh2:. Were those coin markings visable to you?

You mentioned before that the place was a little dangerous but it didn't really hit home until I saw you packing in that picture.

I CAN tell you, with no doubt, that I would likely have been in on helping Phil float that boat.

One thing I love about visiting new cities is taking in the night life...the music scene. Did you find anything interesting in that regard?

Later man.
 

Mindfrigg

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Hey Roberteaux, I'm sorry but I am not familiar with your research. What's the subject specifically, religion, folklore, regional history, genealogy?:)
 

Roberteaux

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Hey Robert

I'm glad you found what you were looking for and, it seems, you found what you were searching for as well....:thumb:

Fascinating pictures of the tomb.....I found myself nose first to the screen looking for detail...:laugh2:. Were those coin markings visable to you?
Heya, bro!

You know, I went back and reviewed what Gumbo Ya-Ya had to say about the funeral itself, and found that it was on day one of that two-day soiree that the coin impressions were made. But, it seems that on the second day, yet another coating of cement was made over the tomb's seal, and this would have obliterated the coin marks completely. However, on that second day, the tribal elders came forth and pressed signet rings into the grout, and so those would have been the key impressions to look for, had the marble stelle cracked and fallen away (as so many have done over the years).

So consider this: during my previous scrounging, I was looking for the wrong marks when it came to tombs that were missing a stelle! :laugh2:

Also, hoping you'll laugh as hard as Phil did: I was stuck looking at every little dimple I could find in tombs with no stelle... hoping to find some evidence of a signet's impression... and cursing bitterly the whole time! Meanwhile, Phil enjoyed the sight of me fuming like that.

He had actually become a bit distracted after finding his (Germanic) surname on several of the wall tombs, and I was right in the middle of telling him a bit about the history of the St. Claude area-- that the area was flooded with immigrants from Southern Germany right after Delphine Lalaurie and her siblings sold off the Macarty plantation-- when I spotted Marie's tomb. Right in mid-sentence, I just suddenly stopped talking.

Phil has known me long enough to know that it's hard to get me to shut up when I'm in a talkative mood, and immediately sensed that something was up. He asked me, "Did you..?", letting the sentence trail off like that.

All I could do was nod. I couldn't even speak. I finally just pointed at the tomb, and Phil took that photo of me standing there, literally dumbstruck, a couple of moments later...

Now, as to the neighborhood itself: here is what the murder situation looked like in 2010:



For each of those murders, there were about three to five other shootings that were not fatal, and so didn't end up on the map. And mind you, about 90% of those shootings took place on the street. I couldn't find a map for 2011, but from what I understand, murders and shootings were up by over 10% in 2011-- and St. Claude was hotter than hell.

This year all the really bad new seems to be coming from the 7th Ward, around the St. Roch neighborhood, and not so much from the 9th Ward. The other major combat zones are Central City and Hollygrove, both of which are uptown. Hollygrove has been so bad for so long that its own residents tend to refer to the place as Hollygrave and I will tell you: in the years when I was working in the sites to be found up there, I was more than just careful. I was almost like some kind of ninja version of a tomb rat... the real game then was to simply avoid being seen-- at all.

However, things have improved considerably. This year, there were only three murders (so far) in St. Claude:



Which was a relief, but not a thing that caused me to lapse into complacence. New Orleans was one of the top five per capita cities for murder in the world from Katrina until just this year, when St. Louis finally knocked her out of her #3 spot. I think that the city is still in the top ten, but am cannot say that for sure.

We went in there really early. One thing I know from doing this sort of work for about the last thirty years is that when you see a lot of kids and old people out and about, the thugs are still sleeping off whatever they smoked, drank, or shot up the night before. But when you see nobody except for groups of younger men-- and no kids or elderly residents at all-- then you know the area is not cool.

When we got there at about 8:15am, there were kids and old folks out and about. But when we slipped back out at about 3:00pm, the area appeared to be deserted. We hooked a right off Piety Street and onto Viliere Street a few minutes later, and found exactly what I am talking about coming down the sidewalk: about eight younger men, all dressed identically, eyeballing us pretty hard as we rolled by. However, I also rented a Ford Crown Victoria, as this is a favored cop car in NOLA, and I think they bought the ruse because they didn't do anything other than just spit and glare at us while we went by. Meanwhile, we paid them no real mind, which is exactly what two plainclothes types would do in that situation.

I generally carry concealed when on the streets, thinking it is impolite to exhibit one's weapons. However, once inside we tucked our shirts for a quicker draw AND so that people could see we were strapped. As a matter of fact, the NOLA police website usually carries the advice to not enter any cemetery except as part of a tour group because there have been so many robberies and violent assaults in the such places. But the only two cemeteries anybody takes tours to are St. Louis Number One, on the edge of the French Quarter on Basin Street, and the Metairie Cemetery, which is probably the safest cemetery in the entire city.

You'll never see a tour group in St. Claude, though. Not unless things change drastically. And this, despite the drop in violent crime in that neighborhood.

Now, as for the music scene in NOLA:

Most of the bands one will find are pickup groups. There's a large sort of population of musicians in that city, all of whom seem to know one another, and they tend to organize in a sort of loose fashion. This is especially true of the groups on Bourbon Street.

If one wishes to see groups that actually perform together regularly, these guys are more to be found on the uptown side of Canal Street, in areas more well attended by local audiences. The whole Bourbon Street scene is touristy, and those groups just kind of are thrown together on a spotty basis, frequently changing personnel. To see something a bit tighter, one needs merely to go over to Camp Street, Washington Avenue, or any of the other areas where there are clubs frequented by the locals. And then you'll hear some great players, for sure.

But really, it doesn't matter. Most of the time, a musical group found playing in any venue in the city is going to consist of solid performers. This is most especially true of clubs that specialize in blues and/or jazz, where you can pretty much count on the performers being very, very good musicians.

Can't remember who was playing at the House of Blues on Decatur Street, though... it was somebody big. But Phil wanted to go goof around with women and to get drunk, and he's not really much of a musical connoisseur to begin with. If it's got a beat, then Phil is gonna like it. But if it has bewbs, then he's gonna like it ever better.

Freakin' Phil. He's one hell of a great wing man, and I trained him myself back when he was a young rookie copper. He retired after 27 years of service less than a year ago, and all this debauchery was something he missed out on. Hence, his enthusiasm when it came to Bourbon Street. It was new stuff to him, and really old hat to me. I felt like I was somebody's grandpa, taking a favored grandson to a circus or something... :laugh2:

I had to laugh. You should have seen the size of that sack of beads he bought! Man, it took him about three hours to throw them all, and that was with him throwing some about every thirty seconds!

--R :D
 

Roberteaux

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Hey Roberteaux, I'm sorry but I am not familiar with your research. What's the subject specifically, religion, folklore, regional history, genealogy?:)
Hey, bro--

My major area of concentration began with religion and the cemeteries, but then it just kind of crawled overboard and turned into something a bit more tangled than that. :laugh2:

I ended up researching pretty much everything you listed above, except that my study of genealogy was only in conjunction with some of the people whose tombs I found, which caused me to be interested in the families so that I could track down descendents I might interview so as to learn a bit more about a given subject. One of these days I might post a story of what happened when I tracked down a delightfully eccentric old boy who was related to a professional gambler named "No Smile Harrington", whose very elegant tomb in the Metairie Cemetery caught my attention.

The treatise that I wish to prepare upon my retirement next November deals specifically with the cemeteries. But along the way I ended up becoming a cemetery tour guide as well as a person who also gives historical walking tours of the French Quarter when I am in the mood to do so...

Thank you for asking-- and I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

--Robert :)
 

geochem1st

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People are still visiting her tomb and giving alms (coins)? Or was that you?


 

Roberteaux

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People are still visiting her tomb and giving alms (coins)? Or was that you?


When I got there, I found several pennies-- tarnished to the point that they were literally black. Examining the dates, I saw nothing later than 1963. Near as I could tell, this tomb hasn't been visited for years. And in fact, you'll never hear of it from any of the tour guides in the city, some of whom never heard the story until they heard it from me. Meanwhile, nobody is taking tourists down to the 9th Ward that actually lets them get off the tour bus. The area is pretty hairy, for sure.

After that, I left several coins of my own-- all nickels, in sets of three-- this is one of those customs I was gonna write about, but didn't bother with. Phil-- who finally freaked out and caught the full spirit of what was taking place-- literally emptied his pockets of change after that. We must have left about three bucks on that stoop! :laugh2:

I also performed the same salute/toast to the late Marie as what I read took place during her funeral, and then left her a white rose that I had purchased from a street vendor in the Vieux Carre the night before... girls love flowers, don't you know? Hence, the title of this post...

Thank you for asking!

--R :)
 

Roberteaux

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Praxis just loves to bust on me sometimes, Mindfrigg... he started doing that about twenty seconds after I first showed up on this site. :laugh2:

Nothing bad about it at all. Mainly, I think he just enjoys needling me because I'm such an easy target!

--R :D
 

Mindfrigg

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Praxis just loves to bust on me sometimes, Mindfrigg... he started doing that about twenty seconds after I first showed up on this site. :laugh2:

Nothing bad about it at all. Mainly, I think he just enjoys needling me because I'm such an easy target!

--R :D
:thumb:!

Why couldn't Tinka refer to the Tinker gypsies? A family or clan branch? That's the first thing I thought. Wrong ethnicity?
 

Mindfrigg

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Irish Travellers in South Carolina

Check this out.
I am a Irish Traveller from Ireland. I have been to America a few times and have met Irish Travellers from there. Most of them told me that they have been there for generations. But, back in Ireland, when I told other Travellers about them they did not believe me. I think it was because they were gone out of Ireland so long that no one remembered them. They were definitely true Irish Travellers. They called the Gammon which I speak, the Cant, I heard my grandfather say that's the original old term for Gammon. Many Travellers wonder where they came from. I have one explanation: I believe that Travellers are descended from Scottish Tinkers and Romany Gypsies. The Scottish Tinkers made their way from Scotland to Northern Ireland down thru the south. Many Irish historians think the term Tinker comes from the word tinsmith which many Irish Travellers were, but I don't. I think they were tinkers from Scotland. Many Irish Travellers have dark skin. Now a cold place like Ireland is not going to give you much of a tan. That's where Romany gypsy's come in. There are reports of gypsies in England in the 1600s, so if they went that far, what would stop them from coming to Ireland? I think they did and that's where they met up with the Scottish Tinkers, intermarried with each other. This was where the wagons came from that the Irish Travellers used to live in. How could Travellers invent a wagon so similar to gipsy wagons? Because it was the gypsies that showed them. Every night I go to bed, I wonder where my ancestors came from, and to me that's the answer. Can anyone find evidence for my explanation? If it is the case that you do find evidence that this is the truth, then you have opened Pandora's box. What I mean is that you will have rewritten the history on Irish Travellers. Thanks and all the best. Michael Delaney, Irish Traveller. May 2006
 

HARDWEAR

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Cool stuff there Robert...
btw...the 2004 pic of you.... for a second I thought it was Geoff Tate of Queensryche.....RockOn!
 




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