Now an empty lot and the site of two pop-up restaurants, this corner was once the location of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart church. It was here, on Sunday, October 17, that the cartoonist George Joseph Herriman was baptized by Father Antoine Borias. George Herriman Sr. served as his grandson’s godfather, while young Herriman’s godmother was Eliza Ebel, his mother’s mother.
It’s not known why Herriman’s parents chose to bring their son to Sacred Heart instead of the customary St. Augustine, but it’s not surprising that they did not remain at this parish. Five years following the baptism, white parishioners at Sacred Heart petitioned for the removal of their parish priest, complaining that he “takes more intent in the negroes than is due to them.” Borias was sent to the Texas frontier, but he survived his adventures there to return to Louisiana. He continued to try to find ways to serve and educate Black Catholics until his death in 1900.
George and Clara Herriman remained practicing Catholics following the family’s move to California in 1890. They educated their children in Catholic schools and observed the sacraments; crosses adorn their tombstones at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles. The cartoonist George Herriman’s own spiritual beliefs were clearly affected by his time among Native Americans in the Arizona and Utah desert, and in his will he would stipulate that his ashes should be scattered over Monument Valley. Yet themes of good and evil, and sin and redemption, would frequently enter into his comics, reflecting his years attending Catholic services in New Orleans, as well as his Catholic education at St. Vincent’s College in Los Angeles.