The Cazelars: Wealth Preservation in a Racially Mixed Family

Jean Pierre Cazelar was the wealthy patriarch of a prominent free family of color in 19th century New Orleans. He intended that his real estate, possessions and slaves all be inherited by his five children. However, the Louisiana Civil Code of 1808 prevented descendants of color from inheriting more than one third of his estate. The Cazelar family was able to maintain their wealth through the 19th century despite legal restrictions by defying societal expectations and even subverting the law. This is the site of their former house, though the original building no longer stands.

Jean Pierre himself was a white man of French descent born in New Orleans in 1764. He formed a life partnership with Charlotte Wiltz, a free woman of color also from New Orleans. Together, they had five children: four daughters and one son. Jean Pierre owned a large plantation in Algiers, about three miles downriver of the French Quarter on the opposite bank. The plantation included the great house, some smaller buildings, a bridge and a mill. Jean Pierre Cazelar also owned dozens of slaves, which were included in his estate.

Remarkably, Jean Pierre Cazelar made sure he was recorded as the father of all his children in their Baptismal Records, ensuring his paternity was part of the official record. Jean Pierre never married, had children with no other women, and lived with his children on his plantation. Historian Lawrence N. Powell identifies the public nature of interracial relationships like Jean Pierre and Charlotte's as what "set New Orleans apart from the Chesapeake and the rest of the American South" citing their freedom from "the fact that men did not lose status for transgressing racial boundaries set by slavery."

The Cazelars owned several properties in the French Quarter. Five years later, he sold the lot to three of his daughters: Marie Felicite, Marie Louise “Tonton”, and Isabel Pouponne. Jean Pierre probably purchased the lot on St. Ann because his family already had property in the neighborhood. About a hundred steps away, just around the corner, were two houses owned by his partner Charlotte and his daughters Adelaide and Marie Felicite. By 1823 the entire family owned homes in the Quarter that were only several dozen steps from one another. It is no wonder that Jean Pierre Cazelar desired his children inherit his estate, which included other properties in the Quarter and his plantation.

Jean Pierre Cazelar wrote three wills. The first was in 1797, so only included his daughters as heirs because his son, Jean Pierre, Jr., was not yet born. His estate included his plantation, two dozen slaves, and property in town. Cazelar wrote his own second will in 1829. He was unaware of the 1808 Civil Code that prevented him from leaving all of his estate to his children, though. In this self-authored will, Jean Pierre took care to name his daughter Adelaide specifically. He left her all of his silver, furniture and books out of gratitude for taking care of him in his later years. Jean Pierre must have learned this will would not be executed under the law, though, and made a final will in 1836.

In the end, Jean Pierre Cazelar was was able to skirt the 1808 Civil Code by leaving all of his wealth to a man named Emile Sainet. Sainet was the white partner of one of his fourth daughter, Marie Louise. Sainet and the Cazelars then organized auctions and sales of Jean Pierre’s former estate, and the property was “bought” by Jean Pierre’s children. We know this scheme worked and the Cazelars maintained their wealth through subsequent generations because a record of Jean Pierre’s son, exists in the 1866 New Orleans Directory. Jean Pierre, Jr. is listed as “planter, Tunisburg, Algiers,” indicating he lived on the Cazelar Plantation. Also, his reported wealth in 1860-61 was $41,000 equal to about one million dollars today. The Cazelar Plantation remained in the family until at least 1878, when it was listed as part of Jean Pierre, Jr.’s succession in an advertisement in the Times-Picayune. Because of his determination to take care of his children even in death, no matter the means, the Cazelars remained a wealthy New Orleans family even after the Civil War.

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Baptismal Record of Adelaide Cazelar

Baptismal Record of Adelaide Cazelar

This is Adelaide Cazelar's baptismal record. She was the first child of Jean Pierre Cazelar and Charlotte Wiltz (FWC). Adelaide was born in 1787. | Source: Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Libro de bautizados de negros y mulatos, 1786-1792 View File Details Page

Marie Felicite Cazelar's Baptismal Record

Marie Felicite Cazelar's Baptismal Record

This is Marie Felicite Cazelar's Baptismal Record. She was born in 1788 and was the second child of Jean Pierre Cazelar and Charlotte Wiltz. | Source: Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Libro de bautizados de negros y mulatos, 1786-1792 View File Details Page

Baptismal Record of Marie Louise Cazelar

Baptismal Record of Marie Louise Cazelar

This is Marie Louise Cazelar's Baptismal Record. She was born in 1793. Marie Louise was Jean Pierre Cazelar and Charlotte Wiltz's fourth child and youngest daughter. | Source: Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Libro quinto de bautizados negros y mulatos de la parroquia de San Luis de esta ciudad de la Nueva Orleans: contiene doscientos treinta y sieta folios utiles, y da principia en primero de octubre de mil seteceintos noventa y dos, y acaba [en 1798] View File Details Page

Baptismal Record of Isabel Pouponne Cazelar

Baptismal Record of Isabel Pouponne Cazelar

This Baptismal Record belongs to Isabel, or Elizabeth, Pouponne Cazelar. She was born in 1791 and was the third child of Jean Pierre Cazelar and Charlotte Wiltz. | Source: Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Libro de bautizados de negros y mulatos, 1786-1792 View File Details Page

Jean Pierre Cazelar, Jr.'s Baptismal Record

Jean Pierre Cazelar, Jr.'s Baptismal Record

This is Jean Pierre Cazelar and Charlotte Wiltz's youngest child and only son's baptismal record. He was named after his father, and born in 1800. This is a significant baptismal record, because it is the first instance of a white father in New Orleans included within the record as the father of a free child of color. The record states that the baby, Jean Pierre Cazelar, is "the natural son of Don Pedro Cazelar and Carlota Wiltz." | Source: Archives of the Archdiocese of New Orleans St. Louis Cathedral Baptisms of Slaves and Free Persons of Color, 1798-1801 View File Details Page

Map of New Orleans French Quarter in 1808 with properties owned by the Cazelars marked.

Map of New Orleans French Quarter in 1808 with properties owned by the Cazelars marked.

Marked on the map above are the properties owned by the Cazelars on St. Ann Street and Dauphine Street in 1808. Adelaide and Marie Felicite purchased 823-824 Dauphine and their mother purchased 821 Dauphine in 1804. Jean Pierre Cazelar owned the properties on St. Ann, lots 813-815, 817-813, and 823. He purchased them in 1806. Later, he would give the St. Ann property to his daughters Marie Felicite, Isabel Pouponne, and Marie Louise. | Source: Title: Plan de la Ville de la Nouvelle-Orl©ans avec les noms des propri©taires (pour copie conforme) Date: August 18, 1808 Creator: Joseph Pili© - surveyor Courtesy of: The Historic New Orleans Collection, The Collins C. Diboll Vieux Carre Digital Survey Provenance: The Historic New Orleans Collection View File Details Page

817-819 St. Ann Street

817-819 St. Ann Street

This portion of the lot belonged to Marie Louise. She lived here with her life partner, a white man named Emile Sainet, and their children. Upon her death in 1854, the house was passed in succession to her son, Jean Francois Emile Sainet. When he died in 1883, the property went to Charlotte Sainet Chaviere. | Source: New Orleans Historical Collection, The Collins C. Diboll Vieux Carr© Digital Survey | Creator: Photograph taken by Caitlin Rudin View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Caitlin Rudin and Editor: Kate Mason, “The Cazelars: Wealth Preservation in a Racially Mixed Family,” New Orleans Historical, accessed July 26, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/1346.
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