The Besthoff family is prominent in New Orleans. Sydney J. Besthoff (1871-1926) started K & B Drug Stores with Gustav Katz in 1905. The stores were all over the southeast until 1997, when they sold to Rite Aid.
Sydney Besthoff III (1928-2022) and his wife, Walda, were known for their interests in the arts and sponsored the sculptural garden in City Park behind the New Orleans Museum of Art. I assume that Sydney was also laid to rest in the family tomb. I am unable to confirm this, but considering the love of sculptural art that Sydney and Walda have, it is logical that this would be a part of the family plan.
Chapman Henry Hyams was a millionaire stockbroker and art collector in New Orleans. Hyams built a mausoleum for his family that was designed by noted New Orleans architects, Favrot and Livaudais. The marble monument was dedicated to his sisters and is a copy of William Wetmore Story’s Angel of Grief. Blue stained glass windows bathe the angel in blue light.
I became curious about the sisters since they were not in the mausoleum. Jacabeth Caroline Hyams (1848-1859) is buried in the Dispersed of Judah Cemetery in New Orleans. Her father and other siblings are buried. I was unable to locate where the mother is buried.
Gertie Sarah Hyams moved to New York. She married Wayland Trask, a New York stockbroker, In the Louisiana census in 1872, she is listed as Sarah or S. G. By the time she moves to New York, she is identified as Gertie. She passed away in 1877 and, her final resting place is in Woodlawn Cemetery.
The markings of three exes decorate the tomb of Marie Laveau, the voodoo priestess of New Orleans. Despite being dismissed by voodoo practitioners, a rumor persists that someone’s wish would be granted by Laveau if they draw an ex on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, and yell their wish. If it was granted they had to return to the tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, circle their X, and leave Laveau an offering.
Unfortunately, this has caused great damage to the tomb. In 2013, a vandal painted the tomb pink. The tomb was fully restored. Despite increased security, the practice continues. This photo was taken in 2017 after the restoration.
Below is her obituary, which illustrates how well-regarded Marie was in New Orleans.
Transcription of Obituary
From The Daily Picayune – June 18, 1881
DEATH OF MARIE LAVEAU
A WOMAN WITH A WONDERFUL HISTORY ALMOST A CENTURY OLD, CARRIED TO THE TOMB YESTERDAY EVENING.
Those who have passed by the quaint old house on St. Ann, between Rampart and Burgundy streets with the high frail looking fence in front over which a tree or two is visible, have been within the last few years, noticed through the open gateway a decrepid old lady with snow white hair, and a smile of peace and contentment lighting up her golden features. For a few years past she has been missed from her accustomed place. The feeble old lady lay upon her bed with her daughter and grandchildren around her ministering to her wants.
On Wednesday the invalid sank into the sleep, which knows no waking. Those whom she had befriended crowded into the little room where she was exposed, in order to obtain a last look at the features, smiling even in death, of her who had been so kind to them.
At 5 o’clock yesterday evening Marie Laveau was buried in her family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Her remains were followed to the grave by a large concourse of people, the most prominent and the most humble joining in paying their last respects to the dead. Father Mignot conducted the funeral services.
Marie Laveau was born ninety-eight years ago. Her father was a rich planter, who was prominent in all public affairs, and served in the Legislature of this State. Her mother was Marguerite Henry, and her grandmother was Marguerite Semard. All were beautiful women of color. The gift of beauty was hereditary in the family, and Marie inherited it in the fullest degree. When she was twenty-five years old she was led to the altar by Jacques Paris, a carpenter. This marriage took place at the St. Louis Cathedral. Pere Antoine, of beloved memory, conducting the service, and Mr. Mazureau the famous lawyer, acting as witness. A year afterwards Mr. Paris disappeared, and no one knows to this day what became of him. After waiting a year for his return she married Capt. Christophe Glapion. The latter was also very prominent here, and served with distinction in the battalion of men of San Domingo, under D’Aquin, with Jackson in the war of 1815.
Fifteen children were the result of their marriage. Only one of these is now alive. Capt. Glapion died greatly registered, on the 26th of June, 1855. Five years afterwards Marie Laveau, became ill, and has been sick ever since, her indisposition becoming more pronounced and painful within the last ten years.
Besides being very beautiful Marie also was very wise. She was skillful in the practice of medicine and was acquainted with the valuable healing qualities of indigenous herbs.
She was very successful as a nurse, wonderful stories being told of her exploits at the sick bed. In yellow fever and cholera epidemics she was always called upon to nurse the sick, and always responded promptly. Her skill and knowledge earned her the friendship and approbation, of those sufficiently cultivated, but the ignorant attributed her success to unnatural means and held her in constant dread.
Notably in 1853 a committee of gentlemen, appointed at a mass meeting held at Globe Hall, waited on Marie and requested her on behalf of the people to minister to the fever stricken. She went out and fought the pestilence where it was thickest and many alive today owe their salvation to her devotion.
Not alone to the sick man was Marie Laveau a blessing. To help a fellow citizen in distress she considered a priceless privilege. She was born in the house where she died. Her mother lived and died there before her. The unassuming cottage has stood for a century and a half. It was built by the first French settlers of adobe and not a brick was employed in its construction. When it was erected it was considered the handsomest building in the neighborhood. Rampart street was not then in existence, being the skirt of a wilderness and latterly a line of entrenchment. Notwithstanding the decay of her little mansion, Marie made the sight of it pleasant to the unfortunate. At anytime of night or day any one was welcome to food and lodging.
Those in trouble had but to come to her and she would make their cause her own after undergoing great sacrifices in order to assist them.
Besides being charitable, Marie was also very pious and took delight in strengthening the allegiance of souls to the church. She would sit with the condemned in their last moments and endeavor to turn their last thoughts to Jesus. Whenever a prisoner excited her pity Marie would labor incessantly to obtain his pardon, or at least a commutation of sentence, and she generally succeeded.
A few years ago, before she lost control of her memory, she was rich in interesting reminiscences of the early history of this city. She spoke often of the young American Governor Claiborne, and told how the child-wife he brought with him from Tennessee died of the yellow fever shortly after his arrival with the dead babe upon her bosom was buried in a corner of the old American Cemetery. She spoke sometimes of the strange little man with the wonderful bright eyes Aaron Burr, who was so polite and so dangerous. She loved to talk of Lafayette, who visited New Orleans over half a century ago. The great Frenchman came to see her at her house, and kissed her on the forehead at parting.
She remembered the old French General, Humbert, and was one of the few colored people who escorted to the tomb long since dismantled in the catholic Cemetery, the withered and grizzly remains of the hero of Castelbar. Probably she knew Father Antoine better than any living in those days – for he the priest and she the nurse met at the dying bedside of hundreds of people – she to close the faded eyes in death, and he, to waft the soul over the river to the realms of eternal joy.
All in all Marie Laveau was a most wonderful woman. Doing good for the sake of doing good alone, she obtained no reward, oft times meeting with prejudice and loathing, she was nevertheless contented and did not lag in her work. She always had the cause of the people at heart and was with them in all things. During the late rebellion she proved her loyalty to the South at every opportunity and fully dispensed help to those who suffered in defense of the “lost cause.” Her last days were spent surrounded by sacred pictures and other evidences of religion, and she died with a firm trust in heaven. While God’s sunshine plays around the little tomb where her remains are buried, by the side of her second husband, and her sons and daughters, Marie Laveau’s name will not be forgotten in New Orleans.