The Secret Garden Tombs in Lafayette Cemetery #1
In the Uptown Riverside corner of Lafayette Cemetery #1 in the Garden District of New Orleans, there is a sort of “VIP Section” of four almost-identical tombs that Save Our Cemeteries calls “The Secret Garden.” According to SOC, the tombs were built for childhood friends who formed a secret club called “The Quarto” and wished to remain together in death. The legend that is told by New Orleans walking tour guides (like me) every day is that these four friends – Dupuy, Ginder, Palfrey, and Griswold – did anonymous acts of kindness in New Orleans. The explanation for our lack of details about the activities of the Quarto is that the last member alive destroyed the book of notes of their meetings as was agreed upon by the members.
How fascinating! One pictures these four boys meeting and scribbling in a notebook, sharing their dreams and growing into men who did secret kindnesses to the people in the community, finally dying and remaining together forever. The purchase of the corner of the cemetery, the sturdiness of the tombs, and the image of men in the 19th century doing anonymous charitable acts suggests that these men were reasonably wealthy.
This week, after finishing my Garden District tour in Lafayette Cemetery #1, I visited the Secret Garden for a closer look, and I started to piece together the relationship of these four friends. My interest growing, I returned home and did some research and I can now share a little information with you:
–The tombs are, left to right: Dupuy, Ginder, Palfrey, and Griswold
–They died in this order: Arthur Breese Griswold (1877), George Palfrey (1891), C.L.C. Dupuy (1895), Henry Ginder (1922). When he died at the age of 91, Ginder was (according to his obituary) “one of Louisiana’s oldest citizens.” Henry must have been responsible for destroying the notes of the Quarto meetings, if the legends are true.
–C.L.C. Dupuy was a lawyer and an accountant, member of the New Orleans Stock Exchange, and a Confederate veteran. The only other inscription on his tomb is that of John Adams Taylor (1877-1923).
It is worth noting that when Dupuy died, the reporter covering the funeral noted that the old men gathered at the service among the hordes in attendance “looked at each other as if to say ‘which will it be next?'”
–Henry Ginder lived to the ripe old age of 91, making him the last surviving member of this little club. According to his obituary, TAPS was played at the Confederate veteran’s service.
He was a jeweler, a Presbyterian deacon, and a member of the Howard Association of New Orleans, a group who provided relief for victims of Yellow Fever during our frequent epidemics. The only other name on his tomb is that of his wife, Martha Tucker. They had no children.
–George Palfrey suffered many losses in his life. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Minnie, his wife, Gertrude (followed 19 days later by the death of their baby daughter, Gertrude Elizabeth), another baby girl by his second wife, Augusta, and his young son, Walter. George’s wives, Gertrude and Augusta Wendell, were sisters from Brooklyn, NY. George was a New Orleans native and was educated at Yale. His Garden District home at 2330 Camp Street remained in the Palfrey family for 115 years.
–Arthur Breese Griswold, the first of the four to die, was perhaps the most well-known. Born in New York, Arthur moved to New Orleans at the age of 13, and, we can guess, made friends with Dupuy, Ginder, and Palfrey. He became a silversmith, and the guns, swords, scabbards, and sabers manufactured by his firm and stamped with his name are among the most prized Confederate memorabilia today. He had a large, prosperous store on the corner of Canal and Royal. He was the first to enter his family tomb, followed years later by his wife, two daughters, one son, and a grandson.
–Griswold named one of his sons George Palfrey Griswold and Palfrey named one of his sons Arthur Griswold Palfrey. One can imagine that this custom would have continued among the friends, except that Griswold and Palfrey were the only two who had children.
–Ginder and Griswold were in the jewelry and silver business and Ginder was the president of A.B. Griswold & Co. for 61 years. According to the legend of the Quarto, the only remaining evidence of the secret club is two brooches in possession of two of the descendants of the four men. According to Save our Cemeteries, the pins were fashioned from the keys to the notebooks that held the minutes of the Quarto meetings. If the legend is true (and I think it is very possible that it is), one can imagine Ginder, a jeweler and the grieving last survivor of his boyhood friends, burning the secret notebooks of their friendship as agreed upon many years before, then lovingly crafting two brooches from the keys to those notebooks and giving them to the children of Palfrey and Griswold.
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