The story of Julia Brown stands today as one of the most well-known Louisiana voodoo legends. "Aunt Julia" was the community healer for the tiny town of Frenier, LA. Although she was their healer, many people believe she put a curse on the town.
Frenier, located just east of New Orleans along the shores of Lake Ponchartrain, was completely wiped out by the Great Storm of 1915 on the day of Brown's funeral. It's rumored that Aunt Julia placed a voodoo curse on the town that leveled the community when she passed.
Much like it is today, voodoo was a widely misunderstood faith in the early 20th century. Although voodoo priests are generally healers who believe in doing good in their communities, many perceive them to be practitioners of curses and black magic. So, did Brown curse the town, or is it merely a folk story? We may never know.
The Storm Hit Louisiana On September 29, 1915, And Wiped Out Everything In Its Path
It began to rain on the night of September 28, 1915 - the same day Julia Brown passed. By 5:30 pm on September 29, the full brunt of the hurricane hit Louisiana. The storm swept into the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean, bringing winds reaching 130 mph, 8.2 inches of rainfall, and a 13-foot storm surge. The weather cleared the following day, but by then the storm had claimed the lives of an estimated 275-300 people and caused about $13 million worth of damage.
In Frenier and the surrounding towns of Ruddock and Napton, the storm was disastrous. The storm surge flattened every building in the area, washed away railroad tracks, and knocked over cypress trees. Twenty-five Frenier residents perished while attempting to weather the storm in the railroad depot when the building collapsed.
There Was No Way To Warn Residents About The Incoming Storm
Frenier was a very small village established along a train stop between New Orleans and Ruddock, a logging town to the northwest of New Orleans. Ruddock's population numbered about 1,000 people and was much larger than Frenier's, but it, too, was not prepared for a major hurricane.
Without electricity or roads, there was no way to communicate the incoming storm to any of the small towns along Lake Pontchartrain. It was a 5- to 10-mile trek through the swamp to get to the city of La Place.
When the storm hit, it took out both Ruddock and Frenier.
Two Hurricanes Devastated The American South In 1915
The American South experienced two significant hurricanes within a month of each other in 1915. The first hit Galveston, TX, in mid-August, and the New Orleans hurricane hit in late September. The Galveston hurricane claimed 400 lives; the Great Storm of 1915 slammed Southern Louisiana for an entire day. Three hundred lives were lost in the New Orleans region. Some sources report that all but two of Fernier's residents perished - the two survivors happened to be out of town that day.
Both of these storms occurred during the Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts from June through November. But while those in New Orleans were warned a few days ahead of the storm's approach, there wasn't enough time for the warning to reach Frenier and surrounding towns.