History of Waggaman

Louisiana Area named for U.S. Senator George Augustus Waggaman

The Waggaman area was named for U.S. Senator George Augustus Waggaman (1782–1843) who settled in the area with his wife, Camille Arnoult, who inherited a large tract of land there. The two built a considerable plantation which they named Avondale.

Today the Avondale area, also an unincorporated community and which abuts Waggaman, is home to Avondale Shipyards, one of the largest employers in Jefferson Parish.

Avondale, built in 1839, was considered to be one of the finest examples of Greek Revival. Avondale was built on the cut-bank of the Mississippi River and the constant encroachment of the river caused the levee to be moved back many times at the sacrifice of the front lawn. In the early twentieth century, it became necessary to move the levee to the rear of the house, and the river was allowed to take Avondale.

  • George Augustus Waggaman
  • Senate Years of Service: 1831 — 1835
  • Party: Anti-Jacksonian

WAGGAMAN, George Augustus, a Senator from Louisiana; born in Caroline County, Md., in 1782; completed preparatory studies under private tutors; studied law; admitted to the bar in Caroline County, Md., in 1811; served in the War of 1812 under General Andrew Jackson at New Orleans; settled in Baton Rouge, La., and commenced the practice of law in 1813; attorney general of the third district of Louisiana in 1813; judge of the third judicial circuit court in 1818; assistant judge of the criminal court in New Orleans in 1819; interested in sugarcane growing; secretary of state of Louisiana 1830–1832; elected as an Anti-Jacksonian to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Edward Livingston and served from November 15, 1831, to March 3, 1835; resumed the practice of law in New Orleans and also again engaged in sugarcane planting; participated as a principal in a duel and received injuries from which he died in New Orleans, La., March 31, 1843; interment in Girod Cemetery.

There is a collection of Waggaman family history located at Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University, Houston, TX. This family collection was donated by George Augustus’s great, great-granddaughter, Camille Waggaman.

Camille Waggaman was born in Houston, Texas in 1895 and was the youngest of five children. Along with her sister, Adele, she attended and was one of the first graduates of Rice Institute (est. 1912) in 1917. Two years after completing her education, she married Major Roy Stuart Brown of the U.S. Army Air Force who immediately took her off to the Philippines where he had been posted on a two-year tour of duty. Camille was content to follow the major on his military wanderings until his retirement at the height of the depression (1932) forced her to seek additional income in the work-a-day world.

She reported the news for the Alabama Journal for a brief time until she successfully competed for a job as the hostess of a local radio talk show. Around the Town with Camille Brown became the longest running sponsored program of its day lasting exactly thirty-one years. By virtue of her radio popularity and active social life, she was regarded as among the most respected citizens of Montgomery.

That same respect was accorded her in Houston, where her family had been long time residents. Originating in Louisiana of French-Canadian and Spanish stock, the Waggamans were wealthy plantation owners. The family home, Avondale, was built in 1840, thirty years after Camille’s great great-grandfather had arrived in New Orleans. Her great-grandfather came to Texas with the army. He was decorated for gallantry and meritorious conduct at the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in 1846 and retired from active service in 1861. Camille Brown died in 1974.

The Camille Waggaman/Waggaman Family Collection consists largely of photographs and newspaper articles but also includes some personal correspondence and memorabilia. The bulk of the material regards Camille Waggaman and focuses upon her radio career (1932–1963) and upon the years after her retirement. Regional or local historians may find these of interest since the Waggamans were among the most prominent plantation families of Louisiana.

Waggaman located on state of Louisiana mapLocation of Waggaman, Louisiana on state map Waggaman is located at 29°55′47″N, 90°13′48″W (29.929856, –90.230053)GR1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 17.0 km² (6.6 mi²). 14.5 km² (5.6 mi²) of it is land and 2.5 km² (1.0 mi²) of it (14.94%) is water.

Demographics

As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 9,435 people, 2,999 households, and 2,483 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 652.8/km² (1,690.2/mi²). There were 3,096 housing units at an average density of 214.2/km² (554.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 41.92% White, 54.44% African American, 0.49% Native American, 0.73% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.29% from other races, and 1.12% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.15% of the population.

There were 2,999 households out of which 39.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.7% were married couples living together, 21.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 17.2% were non-families. 14.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.14 and the average family size was 3.45. In the CDP the population was spread out with 30.3% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 23.2% from 45 to 64, and 7.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 93.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.1 males. The median income for a household in the CDP was $33,084, and the median income for a family was $34,639. Males had a median income of $30,957 versus $19,477 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $12,078. About 15.1% of families and 18.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.5% of those under age 18 and 21.5% of those age 65 or over.

The following is a wonderful article published in The States-Item on Friday Oct. 3, 1975 which includes a history of the Thomas Jefferson Park Area.

Saving the Jeff Oaks

By JOHN POPE

The quiet, stately stretch of live oaks is a sharp contrast to the commercial development along the Waggaman section of the River Road. While the rest of the area has been snapped up for homes, schools and business–present and planned–these two large city-block size tracts of trees stand in the place they have occupied for more than a century.

Originally, the massive oaks were part of a plantation. When the property was broken up, nearby residents had to protect them from destruction by the weather and by business developers, but the gnarled trees now have another guardian angel: Jefferson Parish.

The parish has acquired the land for Thomas Jefferson Park, which will be dedicated at noon tomorrow as part of a weekend of celebration in Waggaman. In addition to the park dedication, there will be a “Miss Thomas Jefferson Park” beauty pageant at 8 p.m. today in Waggaman Gymnasium and a weekend long fair featuring a “beautiful baby” contest and the Jefferson Parish Horseshoe Championship.

The fair will be held on the park grounds—land that used to belong to a famous gambler, Bernard de Marigny, who gambled away a fortune playing craps. Though he owned the Waggaman tract, he also had a plantation just outside the French Quarter, and he divided it into lots—the origin of Faubourg Marigny—to try to recoup his losses.

After de Marigny, the land’s owners included T.H. Saul, whose Live Oak Plantation took its name from the stately trees. The plantation is gone, but the name lingers; the road bisecting the park is named Live Oak Manor Boulevard.

Another owner was Alvin Schroeder, whose chief delight was the large stretch of oaks. “He always said, ‘I’ll never cut those oaks down,’” says Annie LeBlanc, a teacher at Live Oak Manor Elementary School. “And he never did. He did not destroy one oak.” “As one fell, another grew in its place. The big ones protected the little ones.”

THE PLANTATION house was grand, Mrs. Schroeder says, with an expansive front porch facing the levee. “There were other buildings, too, and they were all in a straight line along a road that ran into the River Road.”

But life in the manor west of the oak grove was not for Schroeder, says Mrs. LeBlanc, a lifelong resident of the area. Instead, he lived in a house made of mud bricks.

In his day, the grove featured more than oaks. “There were little trees—hackberries and the like—but he cut them back when they got too near an oak,” Mrs. Landry says. “He also had some wild roses by the fence along the River Road.”

While Schroeder and his family lived there, she says, “He wanted it clean under those trees. We had Tulane students drawing pictures of the trees from the levee; that’s how clean it was. They did that for hours on Saturdays, with their easels and their little snacks.”

The plantation houses and Schroeder’s mud-brick house withstood the weather, but not developers who razed them to build subdivisions. But they didn’t cut the oaks.

“I THINK THEY were afraid of what citizen reaction would have been if they had cut them,” says Mrs. LeBlanc with a giggle. “We on the road would have killed them.” The oaks were saved and nearby residents took care of them and the grounds. Mrs. LeBlanc’s husband used to cut the grass with his own tractor. But even this situation couldn’t last for long, says Landry Camardelle, another area resident. “About two years ago, some contractors bought the ball park and the playground and said they were going to tear down the oaks. We offered to buy them, but they wanted more than we could afford. At that point, we went to the Parish Council.”

The council put up $256,000 to save the oaks and will dedicate the area as a park as part of its sesquicentennial activities. Now it would seem, the oaks are home free. Draped with Spanish moss and an occasional rope swing, they appear to be likely candidates for immortality.But Mrs. LeBlanc is still a little worried that the parish will be too scrupulous in cleaning the grounds and inadvertently scrape up acorns that could grow into oaks. “I hope,” she says, “that when they see a little seedling, they’ll let it grow to replace those that have been blown down…. It’s the most beautiful place in the world.”