The 1811 Kid Ory House in Laplace, Louisiana has an amazingly diverse history. It’s the birthplace of an early jazz legend. But it’s also the place where enslaved people attempted a rebellion to gain their freedom.
John McCusker recalls that the old plantation house near the Mississippi River in Laplace, Louisiana, had been in disrepair for much of his life. But when the plantation house, which dates from 1793, got a new owner in 2016, the structure and its history were restored. McCusker said the owner contacted him, “because I had written a book on Kid Ory and asked me about putting a museum in the space”. Although he had no experience in creating a museum, McCusker said he agreed to do it. The 1811 Kid Ory House Museum has a rich and varied history. The plantation was the birthplace of jazz musician and band leader Edward “Kid” Ory in 1886. But years earlier, in 1811, enslaved workers began a violent rebellion on the plantation in an effort to gain their freedom.
Renovations revealed that two of the rooms in the 1811 Kid Ory House were part of the original plantation house built by Manual Andry in 1793. McCusker described how enslaved workers rebelled in 1811. The ill-fated attempt at freedom began in Andry’s bedroom. “He awakes being struck by an ax to see Charles Deslondes, his head slave driver, and a number of the enslaved from the adjoining plantations in his room at midnight,” McCusker explains. The attackers wound Andry, but his son Gilbert is killed in the struggle.
attempt at freedom has fatal ending
The enslaved begin their march toward New Orleans as people from nearby plantations join the rebellion. By the next day, the rebellion comes to a violent end. Manual Andry and the local militia attack the protestors near present day Kenner. “They kill 40 to 50 in the field,” McCusker explains. “During the coming days, they round up all the other people involved. They are shot at their home plantations and they are beheaded.” And in a warning to the enslaved, McCusker says, “The heads of these rebels are put on posts between here and Jackson Square.”
jazz legend begins at the 1811 kid ory house
Kid Ory showed an interest in music while he was working as a teenager using a mule cart to bring water to workers in the sugarcane fields of the plantation. “He has a barbershop harmonizing group made up of kids in the plantation quarters,” explains McCusker. And he makes his own instruments out of cigar boxes. Ory then develops an interest in brass band music and buys an old trombone at a bar in nearby Garyville. The 1811 Kid Ory House Museum has an early valve trombone that Ory played.
Kid Ory moved to nearby New Orleans where he joined Buddy Bolden’s jazz band. Then Ory organized his own band which was the launching pad for trumpeter Louis Armstrong. McCusker says, “Kid Ory is our connective tissue from our earliest jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden and our ultimate jazz master Louis Armstrong.”
1811 kid ory house featured on tv
The 1811 Kid Ory House Museum opened in February, 2021, but has struggled to pay its expenses. Both the pandemic and Hurricane Ida have impacted its operations and attendance. McCusker says he has created a non-profit organization to oversee operations and fund-raising efforts. But without a major source of funding, the museum will close October 1, 2022.