The land was originally a part of the plantation of wealthy Louisiana planter Victor Fortier. Causeway Boulevard marks the original line of fortifications of "Fort John Hunt Morgan," a Confederate military camp named after the Kentucky war hero. The camp itself was at Causeway and the river. The Native Guards were among many valorous regiments which trained at Camp Parapet and made their base there. In 1862, with the fall of New Orleans to the Union Army, the fort was occupied by Federal troops, who renamed it "Camp Parapet." Camp Parapet was a large site with a blacksmith, grocery, and chapel. Soldiers who died of illness or injury at Camp Parapet were buried in the post's cemetery.
Since the time of the Civil War, the cemetery has been used primarily by local residents. The two church congregations were given Square 131 of the Town of Harlem to use as a cemetery on March 25, 1867, by Berthier N. Fortier, son of the original land owner. It was accepted by the Rev. Henry Parker, pastor of Zion Chapel, and Caleb Hill, president of the Ross Chapel congregation.
They later sold the New Orleans & Mississippi Valley Railroad Company thirty feet of land on each side of their railroad track bed. The transaction was made for $135.00 on June 2, 1883. The Rev. John Brown represented Zion Chapel. and Mr. Anthony Lawson (trustee) and the Rev. Thomas Jackson Johnson (pastor) represented Ross Chapel. As early as March 11, 1872 the residents petitioned to have the cemetery fenced. Nothing was done in response. On December 3, 1883 three police jurors were assigned to check on the state of the graveyard.
Finally, on January 2, 1894 the Honorable Mr. Deckbar reported that he would have the cemetery fenced. On June 22, 1934 the two congregations sold another portion of the square to the City of New Orleans for use of the Public Belt Railroad. Money was given to the churches to exhume bodies in the area.
Camp Parapet also was a very large contraband camp, where large numbers of former slaves sought refuge. They were hired on as laborers, assistants, and many joined the service. They were fed and housed in the camp. All the slaves of the nearby plantations journeyed to Camp Parapet. This allowed for the founding of their church, Picket Shanny Ross Chapel in 1863, two years before the end of the Civil War on nearby Elmwood Plantation. The church was named for its beloved first pastor the Reverend Anthony Ross. It was called “picket shanny,” because it was built from pickets from nearby swamps. Another church, First Zion Baptist Chapel was established in 1864.
In 1867-68, the graves of 7,000 Union troops were moved from civilian graveyards and those of various other camps (including Camp Parapet) to Chalmette National Cemetery. Former slaves were buried in the camp‘s cemetery.
After the war, the name Camp Parapet was applied to the neighborhood as well as Shrewsbury, Bath, and Harlem. Today all that survives of Camp Parapet is the magazine, where ammunition is stored. The magazine is located at the opposite end of the block from Ross Chapel.
For years common practice has been to bury Methodists in front and Baptists in the rear although, as family members often attend both churches, the practice is not strictly enforced. Many old Creole family names can be found including Rhea, Consee, Boutte, Combre, Augustine, Casimere, and Madere. Relatives of one of Shrewsbury’s native sons, Tommy Ridgley are buried there. There are Spanish-American and World War I veterans, as well as the honored dead of all other wars, such as Paul Brown, a veteran of the Spanish American War fought at Santiago de Cuba and at San Juan Hill.
Another locally notable interment is Honorable John Pierce and his family. Pierce was a leader in Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction Louisiana government. As well as being a legislator, he also held several other offices, including a seat on the bench. He represented the area on the Jefferson Parish Police Jury.
Mar. 25, 1867 - Ross and Zion given Square 131 of Harlem by Berthier N. Fortier.
Jun. 2, 1883 - Ross and Zion sold parcel to N.O.&M.V. R.R. Co. for $135.00.
Jun. 22, 1934 - Ross and Zion sold parcel to City of N.O. for Public Belt R.R. Exhumation of bodies done.