On September 4, 1846 — just one year after the New Orleans Archdiocese constructed this church adjacent to the Old Ursuline Convent — George Herriman Sr. and Louisa Eckel arrived here to be married by Etienne Rousselon, a French missionary who had arrived nine years earlier and in 1841 had become the founding pastor of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, where the Herriman family customarily attended sacraments and, most likely, weekly Mass.
Herriman Sr. and Eckel were cartoonist George Herriman’s paternal grandparents. Although Herriman Sr. listed the white riverboat captain Stephen Herriman as his father in the sacramental records for this wedding, there is no evidence that Stephen attended his son’s wedding, even though it was just blocks from his house on Esplanade Avenue. Witnesses for the wedding included Herriman’s brother Frederic, as well as members of the Chessé family. Herriman Sr.’s bride, Louisa Eckel, was a mixed-race native of Havana, Cuba, whose father, William Eckel, traveled as a merchant between Cuba and New Orleans.
The couple had many daughters, including one who died during the yellow fever epidemic that also claimed Frederic Herriman. They only had one son: George Herriman Jr., the cartoonist’s father.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church would become known as St. Mary’s Italian when it began serving the Italian immigrant population. It remains open, although weekly Masses are no longer celebrated.