The St. Peter Street Cemetery served as the City of New Orleans’ primary burial ground through most of the Colonial era, from 1724 (and possibly earlier) until 1789, when it was officially replaced by St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It still appears to have occasionally been used into the 1790s, particularly when flooding made it difficult to access the new cemetery. The St. Peter Street burial ground was utilized by all segments of New Orleans society in the Colonial era, or at least by anyone who was baptized as Catholic, including early European settlers, native-born ‘whites’, Native Americans, and free people of color. Those who were enslaved were also buried at the St. Peter site, including those of both African and Native American descent.
A disproportionate number of the people whose remains have been recovered archaeologically during the two efforts to date appear to be of African descent, and at least some also show signs of mixed Native American ancestry. At this point, there is no way of knowing if this is because the cemetery was spatially segregated or if it is due to some other factor. It is also likely that at least some of the individuals were enslaved in life, something that may be indicated by pathologies suggestive of shackling on one individual’s ankle, healed parry fractures (produced when the forearm is used to ward off blows), and osteological signs of heavy physical labor and dietary stress. While we will likely never be able to link specific sets of human remains to individuals in the records, there are interesting stories that emerge from both sources.