Dictionary of Louisiana Biography – I

Dictionary I

IBERVILLE, Pierre Le Moyne d’, soldier, naval officer, colonizer. Baptized, Ville-Marie de Montreal, Quebec, July 20, 1661; son of Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil de Chateauguay and Catherine Thierry (Primot). Reared in the wilderness town of Montreal, formal education being rudimentary at best. Family’s fierce patriotism led him toward a career in the military where he rose rapidly, displaying a talent for leadership. Early manhood spent largely in the war against England, a protracted conflict in which he made his mark as both soldier and seaman. Most brilliant action was during Hudson’s Bay campaign of 1697, the results of which made him, at the age of 36, New France’s most celebrated hero. After Hudson’s Bay, served in France. Following the peace of Ryswick, Louis XIV determined to secure the claims of Robert Cavelier de la Salle (q. v.) by fortifying entrance to the Mississippi River, which he hoped would help stem English advance from Carolina and set the stage for colonization of the interior. Iberville, by virtue of chance and reputation, was assigned command of the new mission and sailed from Brest on Octo­ber 24, 1698, with two frigates, the Marin and the Badine, and less than one hundred men. The expeditionary force reached Pensacola Bay in January 1699. There Iberville found the Spanish firmly entrenched but, moving on, he located anchorage at Ship Island just out from Biloxi Bay. Using Ship Island as a base, Iberville and his younger brother, Bienville (q.v.), began a survey of coastal Louisiana. In March, the two brothers discovered the entrance to the Mississippi River, and penetrated several hundred miles into the interior. Searching for a fortification site, Iberville considered locations on the lower Mississippi (near present-day New Orleans) and at the mouth of the Pascagoula River, but ultimately chose a narrow elevation on the east bank of Biloxi Bay (now Ocean Springs, Mississippi). There in April 1699 he constructed a small, wooden fort which he named Fort Maurepas. Iberville sailed for France in May, leaving Ensign Sauvole (q.v.) in command of Fort Maurepas, with a garrison of 70 men. He arrived the next year and added a smaller fort (Fort La Boulaye) on the lower Mississippi. The succeeding winter he returned on his third voyage, this time with permission to transfer fortifications to the Mobile River and to proceed with plans for colonization. The execution of these plans he entrusted to a coterie of cronies and kinsmen, led by his brother Bienville. Iberville left lower Louisiana in April 1702, having established a servicable fort and town, and a shaky Choctaw-Chickasaw alliance. In France, Iberville found his Louisiana enterprise interrupted by the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession. After shipping a sizable group of colonists to Mobile aboard the Pelican, Iberville launched an ambitious campaign against the English in the West Indies. He readily despoiled the English-controlled island of Nevis, but while planning an assault on Carolina he died of a fever (no doubt yellow fever) at Havana harbor on the night of July 8-9, 1706; interred Havana. J.H. Sources: Guy Frégault, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville (1968); Marcel Giraud, Histoire de la Louisiane, Vol. I La Règne de Louis XIV (1953); Jay Higginbotham, Old Mobile: Fort Louis de la Louisiane, 1702-1711 (1977); Richebourg G. McWilliams, Iberville’s Gulf Journals (1981); Charles E. O’Neill, Church and State in French Colonial Louisiana (1966).

INGRAHAM, Joseph Holt, author, clergyman, teacher. Born, Portland, Me., January 25 or 26, 1809. Married Mary Brooks, daughter of a wealthy Mississippi planter. He told Longfellow he had written eighty novels. His titles include The Quadronne, in three volumes, 1840, with Louisiana subject matter, and Lafitte, two volumes, 1836, a fictitious chronicle of the pirate. He is listed as editor (though somehow with hints of actual authorship) of The Sunny South, published in 1860 but reportedly from letters in the Saturday Courier in 1853-1854. The elaborate subtitle reads: “Or, the Southerner at home, embracing five years experience of a Northern governess in the land of sugar and cotton.” This volume and his anonymous work The Southwest by a Yankee (1835) contain vivid, extensive, personal accounts of plantation and urban culture in Louisiana. Died, December 18, 1860. B.L. Source: The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (1900).

INNESS, George, artist. Born, Newburgh, N. Y., May 1, 1825; son of John William Inness and Clarissa Baldwin. Education: Newark, N. J., schools. Studied drawing under John Jesse Barker, ca. 1841, and was apprenticed to a firm of map engravers in New York City. His only formal technical training in painting came around 1843 under Régis François Gignoux, a French landscapist who had a studio in New York. Married (1), 1843, Delia Miller (d. ca. 1844) of Newark, N. J. Married (2), 1850, Elizabeth Hart of New York. Four children, three of whom were Elizabeth (b. 1851), George, Jr. (b. 1854), and Helen (Mrs. Jonathan Scott Hartley). Inness traveled extensively in Europe and in the states, painting. He exhibited throughout the U. S. and in Europe. In 1878 he and his family settled in Montclair, N. J., where he spent the rest of his life, occasionally traveling. During this time he visited New Orleans at various intervals in the 1880s and 1890s. Exhibited in 1884 at the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition. Also exhibited at the Seebold Art Gallery and lectured on Impressionistic Art in New Orleans. Died, August 3, 1894, Bridge-of-Allan, Scotland, while traveling. Funeral at the National Academy of Design in New York, August 23, 1894. K.W.H. Sources: The Historic New Orleans Collection, Encyclopaedia of New Orleans Artists, 1718-1918 (1987); Barbara Novak, American Painting of the Nineteenth Century (1969); Alfred Werner, Inness Landscapes (1973); LeRoy Ireland, The Works of George Inness (1965).

IRBY, William Ratcliffe, banker, philanthropist. Born, Lynchburg, Va., 1860. Removed to New Orleans with family at early age; parents died in 1878 yellow-fever epidemic. Formed a tobacco company with his brother. Company expanded and became affiliated with the American Tobacco Co. in 1904; was a branch of Ligget and Myers until 1920. In 1905, German-American National Bank organized with Irby as president; this bank became the Canal Bank and Trust Co. and he became chairman of the board. One of the city’s wealthiest men, he quietly donated large sums to various charities. Received the Times-Picayune Loving Cup in 1916 for donations to Tulane where he was a member of the board of administrators, Charity Hospital, and the Home for Incurables. Purchased several Vieux Carré buildings to save them from demolition and was interested in preservation. Financed Cloverland Dairy Products Co. Member, Boston Club, Country Club, Bankers’ Club of New York. Committed suicide, New Orleans, November 20, 1926. Surviving son: Robert G. Irby. P.D.A. Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune, November 21, 1926.

IRION, Alfred Biggs, attorney, jurist, congressman. Born near Evergreen, Avoyelles Parish, La., February 13, 1833, son of Robert R. Irion and Anne B. Audebert. Education: local public schools; Franklin College, Opelousas, La.; University of North Carolina, graduated, 1855. Studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1857 and commenced practice in Marksville, La. Married Caroline King (d. 1878), daughter of Valentine and Nancy King of St. Landry Parish. Children, C. H., Henry, Percy, V. K., Robert R., Emma (Mrs. A. J. Lafargue), and Enola. Delegate to the state secession convention, 1860, and was opposed to secession; during the Civil War served in the Confederate Army, attached to General Walker’s division under Colonel Randall. Member of the state house of representatives, 1864-1865. Resumed practice of his profession; editor of a local newspaper in Marksville, La., 1866-1874; removed to Evergreen, La., in 1870, and engaged in planting; continued the practice of law and also engaged in literary pursuits, writing articles for newspapers and magazines. Member, state constitutional convention in 1879. In 1879 married (2) Alice Mort of New Orleans. Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals of Louisiana, 1880-1884. Elected as a Democrat to the Forty-ninth Congress (March 4, 1885-March 3, 1887); unsuccessful candidate for renomination; discontinued active pursuits and lived on his plantation near Eola, La. Died at the home of his son in New Orleans, May 21, 1903; interred Baptist Cemetery, Evergreen, La. J.B.C. Sources: Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1949 (1950); Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwest Louisiana (1890); New Orleans Times-Picayune, obituary, May 22, 1903.

IRVINE, John Francis, businessman. Born, Jessamine County, Ky., February 17, 1828; arrived Bayou Sara, West Feliciana Parish, La., prior to October 1852. From 1860 to 1912 Irvine Enterprises included wharf boat, ice house, cotton compress, sawmill, hotel, general merchandise, coal company. Dominated Bayou Sara business scene. Mayor of Bayou Sara, 1874-1898. Married (1) Therese Ann Burton (1834-1874); (2) Emma Henshaw (1842-1921). Died, Bayou Sara, February 4, 1898; interred Grace Church Cemetery, St. Francisville. E.K.D. Sources: West Feliciana Parish Records; New Orleans True Democrat, February 12, 1898.

IRVINE, Sarah Agnes Estelle (Sadie), artist, educator. Born, New Orleans, July 21, 1877; daughter of Agnes Estelle Wales and Robert William Irvine. Education: Newcomb College, New Orleans; Art Students League, New York. Affiliated with the Newcomb Pottery from 1903-1952 as student, craftsman, instructor, and head of ceramics department. In the opinion of ceramist Paul E. Cox. Sadie Irvine was “the greatest of the decorators in the history of the [Newcomb Pottery] enterprise.” Awarded Byron Holley Medal for watercolor, Mary L. S. Neill Medal, Scholarship to Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Ellsworth Woodword Prize for pottery, New Orleans Art Association Prize for block print, Binns Medal Nomination. Also received numerous exhibition prizes including two annual shows of the New Orleans Art Association, and Three Man Show, Delgado Museum of Art. Died, New Orleans, September 4, 1970. M.A.D. Sources: Suzanne Ormond and Mary E. Irvine, Louisiana’s Art Nouveau (1976); Paul Evans, Art Pottery of the United States (1974); The Historic New Orleans Collection, Encyclopaedia of New Orleans Artists, 1718-1918 (1987).

ISABELLA, slave woman, litigant. Born Africa ca. 1815. Brought into Texas as part of a cargo of slaves ca. 1830 by Captain Fannin. Passed through several hands before becoming property of Letitia Gates of Harris County, Tex., 1834. Child: mulatto girl (b. ca. 1831). Described as “short and thick set and very black” with a lisp or speech impediment. At the time of the “runaway scrape” (when Texans fled from the Mexicans) in 1836, Letitia Gates and her husband, Thomas, took Isabella and fled to Louisiana. Soon after Gates, a blacksmith, became insolvent and Isabella and her daughter were sold, 1837, to Milton Johnson of Louisiana to satisfy Gates’s debts. In 1840 sold to William C. Dwight of St. Mary Parish, La., for $700. When he defaulted on an installment payment, Isabella was seized and sold to Peter Pecot, also of St. Mary Parish. Isabella sued in the Fourteenth District Court of St. Mary Parish for her freedom, on the grounds that she was imported into Louisiana illegally, contrary to the congressional prohibition of importing slaves from foreign countries (1808). She also claimed she was not a slave, since the law of Mexico (of which Texas was a part) prohibited slavery. The case went to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which held that Isabella was not free, that even if she was illegally imported (which the court doubted because the Gateses fled as refugees to Louisiana) she was not entitled to her freedom. J.K.S. Sources: Isabella, f.w.c. v. Pecot, 2 La. Ann. 387 #373, New Orleans, April 1847.

ISABELLE, Robert Hamlin, clerk, dyer, politician. Born, Opelousas, La., to free parents, 1826. Apprenticed as a dyer and clerk. Married Jamesetta E. Warren in New Orleans, November 5, 1863. No children. Civil War service: enlisted in Union forces after being commissioned by Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler (q.v.), commander of the Department of the Gulf, October 12, 1862, and was honorably discharged on March 3, 1863; re-enlisted July 10, 1863, and honorably discharged on August 6, 1863; rose to ranks of second lieutenant, Company H, 74th United States Colored Volunteer Infantry and captain, Company A, Seventh Louisiana Volunteer Infantry. After the war, he served in many political posts during Reconstruction: corporal in the New Orleans police force, 1867, delegate to the constitutional convention, 1867-1868, member of the state house of representatives, 1868-1870, where he was speaker pro-tem; United States Pension Agent at New Orleans, 1871-1877. Later president of ex-Union Soldiers and Sailors B. A. of Louisiana and Adjutant of Farragut Post, Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Louisiana and Mississippi during the 1880s and 1890s. As a legislator, he probably made his greatest contribution in revamping Louisiana’s educational system. Urged integrated education, and authored several civil rights bills, as well as a law to make it easier for former slaves to legitimize their children. Received a law degree from Straight University in 1876 and was a practicing attorney for many years. Died, New Orleans, February 18, 1907. C.V. Sources: Civil War pension files, Record Group 56, National Archives; American Misionary Association, Louisiana files, AMA Archives, Amistad Research Center, New Orleans.

ISENBERG, Anthony Francis, clergyman, prelate, superintendent of Catholic schools, editor. Born, Treve, Germany, May 25, 1879. Education: American College, Louvain, Belgium, where he was ordained for the Diocese of Natchitoches, La., 1902; incardinated at New Orleans, 1903. First assignment, St. Joseph Catholic Church of Baton Rouge until his transfer/incardination to New Orleans, where he was appointed assistant pastor of Mater Dolorosa Church and assistant editor of The Morning Star, a regional Catholic publication. Appointed editor of The Morning Star in 1906. Assigned to Saint Michael Catholic Church, Crowley, La., 1909; incardinated to the newly established Diocese of Lafayette in 1918. Became the first diocesan superintendent of diocesan schools, 1919; served in that capacity until 1943. Was a member of the diocesan school board from 1919 until his retirement in 1954. Named dean of the Crowley deanery, 1926. Named honorary canon of St. John the Evangelist Cathedral, Lafayette, La., 1927. Appointed pastor of St. John’s Cathedral, 1929; remained pastor of St. John’s until his retirement on June 1, 1954. Named domestic prelate, 1934. Appointed to the diocesan tribunal, 1947. Supervised construction of St. Anthony Chapel, Lafayette, 1934; Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Lafayette, La., 1949. Was largely responsible for bringing to the Diocese of Lafayette the Franciscan Sisters of Calais, who direct Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center. Died, Lafayette, La., July 27, 1954; interred St. John the Evangelist Cemetery, Lafayette. B.A.C. Sources: Beaumont Enterprise, November 10, 1927; Lafayette Daily Advertiser, July 30, 1954; Parish History Collection in Archives of the Diocese of Lafayette.