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My Family History in New Orleans

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New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, intended to become nothing more than a trading camp off the Mississippi. By 1721, they brought more than 2,000 of my people over as slaves. We come from the western “Slave Coast” of Africa, but what they don’t know is that we brought something over too. We brought our magic.

My mother called her my many greats grandmother. Adella Ramsey was one of the richest and most beautiful women in the state of Louisiana in the early 1800’s. They say each time she married, and she only married rich men, they ended up dying suddenly from strange diseases, and each time left her a fortune that only grew wider and wider. The men she married had no previous children, and every child she had was a daughter until her very last husband whom she had her one and only son with, therefore there was never anyone but her to give the fortune to. She had six gorgeous daughters: Mabel, Della (after herself because that baby had a full head of hair when she came out just like her mother did), Edna, Agnes, Cora, and Ida. All from different men, but sisters none the less. Then her son, Benjamin Charles, was born shortly after Ida had turned the age of 3. The seven children would grow up on a lavish plantation Adella had her last husband build her after a fire had destroyed his own home right before their marriage.

Her last husband, Cyrus Ramsey, was a railroad tycoon of sorts. He grew up the son of a plantation owner, but was much more interested in traveling the land than putting crops on it. He started in the steamboat business, building his career and his fortune quickly, then jumped into the railroad business as it started its take off around the 1820’s. By the 1830’s, Cyrus and Adella were married and were said to have lived a happy and full life. My mother also said that Cyrus was the only man Adella ever truly loved, and it was why the sudden deaths of her husbands suddenly stopped. Cyrus adopted all of Adella’s daughters, giving them the last name Ramsey. He said he liked them all having the name because it made them a true family, and so was founded the famous Ramsey last name that lives on today as a wealthy last name to have in these parts.

My name is also Adella Ramsey, after my many greats grandmother because like her and her daughter Della, I also came out with a full head of hair. My dark mahogany swirls of hair comes almost to my elbows now, my hair being my pride and joy. I’m actually a descendant of Agnes’s, who had a child out of wedlock from a one night stand with a man that worked with her father. They didn’t know what the mans name was, seeing as though he disappeared a week later, and her father surprisingly never recalled missing a man from his crew after the disappearance. Reports say that Cyrus claimed everyone showed up to work following the disappearance, and that the man simply couldn’t have been working for him and it was just false information. Agnes’ baby boy was named Cashile, an African name meaning hidden, or child or a concealed birth. His name suggestion was given by Adella’s best friend, Marie Laveau. The Marie Laveau. Many say that the reason Adella was able to live the life she did was all because of Adella.

Marie was an illegitimate daughter of a plantation owner and his slave mistress. She married twice, both times to free colored men, however only had children with the second. They had fifteen children together, but records weren’t well kept of Marie, so no one really knows what happened to them. Marie found her own fortune as a hairdresser for New Orleans social elite. Her clientele was said to have wanted more than just Marie’s cosmetic abilities. Marie had been introduced to many voodoo doctors while growing up, easily building up her tricks of the trade while bouncing between the people who knew the practice best. By the time she became known for being the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, she was already well trusted among those who mattered most.

Adella didn’t meet Marie by accident. Charles Laveaux was the father of Adella Laveaux, who named her son after her him. Marie Laveau was Adella’s half sister who no one knew about. Told that the girl was cared for by Charles and his wife out of pity, New Orleans never blinked an eye as the girls grew up together as an unlikely duo.

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