I heard that the guy who bought the land that is now Metairie Cemetery did it because of a social snub. He was not of a social class that was admitted to the race track, so he turned it into a cemetery so there never could be racing there again. Is that true?
Some say it's a legend, but I say it's true. Either way, the story of the rejected social climber is an interesting one.
The man to whom you refer was Charles Turner Howard. Born in Baltimore in 1832, he arrived in New Orleans in 1852. Howard was determined to be accepted by New Orleans society, and eventually he became a member of the Boston Club, the Louisiana Jockey Club and the Krewe of Rex. He served in the military and was elected to the Society of the Army of the Tennessee.
After the Louisiana Legislature created the state lottery in 1868, Howard became the lottery's first president and was recognized as its leading force until his death. He had a gift for getting favorable publicity and recruited two popular former Confederate generals, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jubal Early, to conduct drawings for the lottery. These Southern legends appeared wearing suits of Confederate gray and were supposed to ensure that the proceedings were kept honest.
In his quest for social acceptance, Howard bestowed gifts on the public schools, orphanages, volunteer fire companies and veterans groups statewide. He regularly contributed large sums of money to popular causes such as the Confederate Memorial Building.
In 1871, some members of the Metairie Jockey Club (MJC) withdrew and organized the Louisiana Jockey Club, opening the Fair Grounds Race Course in 1872. Some of the remaining members of the MJC attempted to bring in Howard, but other members refused him admittance. As a result, several of the MJC members resigned and joined the new Louisiana Jockey Club along with Howard.
Howard died on May 31, 1885, as the result of a fall from a horse. The following obituary appeared in The New York Times on June 1 under the headline "A Noted Lottery Man Dead: Career of Charles T. Howard of the Louisiana Company."
"He aspired to be a leader of society but was repeatedly foiled. The old Creole families refused to receive him, and this rankled in his mind. He was black-balled at a fashionable club to which he sought entrance, and he took pains to repay this insult by selling out the club when it got into difficulties. A noted instance of the manner in which he 'got even' with those who refused to associate with him was afforded in his treatment of the Metairie Jockey Club. He sought an entrance in the company of this association, whose race course was the most noted in the South. The club, however, refused to admit him, and he swore that he would buy out their course and turn it into a graveyard. He bided his time, and when the opportunity came he did according to his oath. The beautiful Metairie Cemetery took the place of the Metairie Race Course, and a new course was established by Howard in its stead."
Howard died in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., but his remains were transported back to New Orleans for burial. The funeral cortege assembled at his mansion at 124 St. Charles St., and more than 130 carriages full of mourners followed as he was conveyed to his awaiting tomb in Metairie Cemetery.