The initial pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in New Orleans, the Reverend Father Samuel Joseph Kelly, S.S.J., was a man of incredible zeal and vision, who served his large flock in downtown New Orleans for a decade, from 1916 to 1926. He personally founded the Josephite parishes which exist along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, before arriving in the Crescent City.
With the largest colored parish in the country and hundreds of parishioners who were seeking to build up their Seventh Ward neighborhood, Father Kelly was able to develop initiatives which reached far beyond the church grounds. These initiatives included a cooperative grocery, newspaper, and plans for a real estate company and credit union, the latter of which would later materialize with much success.
In 1922, Father Kelly began the Corpus Christi Grocery Store at the corner of Saint Bernard Avenue and North Johnson Street, which was a co-operative grocery store managed and supported by parishioners of Corpus Christi. The grocery offered staple and “fancy” groceries, as well as a confectionery department which served ice cream and other treats. The store was managed by Mr. Joseph V. Nicholls.
The store was readily advertised in The Courier, which was a newspaper within the parish, beginning in 1922 as well. The paper was published each week on Fridays with yearly subscriptions being $1.25 in advance. The newspaper was not simply a large-scale parish bulletin – it featured notices of births, marriages, and funeral notices. Advertisements were accepted from a wide variety of businesses. News of local church parishes, political news, and coverage of baseball games and boxing matches were included as well. For example, the 21 March 1924 issue featured a lengthy obituary of Louis Charbonnet, Sr., an architect and builder, whose greatest achievement, the Corpus Christi School Building, still stands. The next week’s issue (28 March 1924) highlighted the confirmation of Walter L. Cohen as Comptroller of Customs at New Orleans, an influential political office.
With a masthead motto of “With Malice for None and Charity Towards All,” The Courier reported a special meeting between the Reverend Henderson Howell Dunn and other colored leaders with school board officials, to address concerns that the sciences and other college preparatory subjects would not be offered in the city’s sole colored public high school, McDonogh No. 35. Items were reported from as far away as Natchez, Mississippi (Holy Family Parish), which had its own column of community news.
Father Kelly served as The Courier’s publisher, while Mr. John B. Verdun, Jr. served as Managing Editor. Verdun was a World War I veteran and printer who also worked for the Illinois Central Railroad, and was the son of a printer as well. Mr. John J. Coffey was in charge of soliciting advertising and Miss Oslenda Ferrouillet (pictued below), the Circulation Manager, was in charge of the newsboys and adult distributors who helped sell the paper.
A young Miss Oslenda Ferrouillet, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. John Ferrouilllet, who served as Circulation Manager of The Courier in the 1920s.
The Courier seems to have come to an end when Father Kelly was reassigned away from Corpus Christi Parish in 1926; its publication was also likely terminated due to the rise of The Louisiana Weekly, which was begun in 1925. During its brief but interesting run, The Courier could be obtained from the following persons and locations across the city:
Mr. Edgar Chapron, 548 Vallette Street, Algiers
Mr. Angelo Lainez, 519 Diana Street, Algiers
Mr. Walter Hubbard, 231 Howard Avenue
Mr. Louis L. Laveaux, 331 North Derbigny Street
Mr. Edward W. Cooper, 2103 Fourth Street
Mr. John B. Verdun, 231 Dryades Street
Mr. George C. Thomas, 439 South Rampart Street
Corner of Saint Bernard Avenue & North Johnson Street
The Cut Off Shaving Parlor, corner of Old Roman and Aubry streets
Source: At present, only one complete copy of The Courier has been located, being located in the Charles Barthelemy Rousseve Papers (Box 1) at the Amistad Research Center. The Rousseve Papers also contain a partial issue of the paper, both copies being from March 1924. The author has photocopies of another partial issue in his private possession. The photograph of Miss Oslenda Ferrouillet is from the private collection of Lolita Villavasso Cherrie.
Jari C. Honora