Papa Sitges’ Meerschaum Pipe


Single piece showcase/Research in progress – I have always thought of this as my great-grandfather Sitges’ pipe, Granddaddy’s father, and have pictured him smoking it on special occasions or holidays, when it was new and its creamy clay bowl not yet aged to have the patina that it now does.aaDSCN1452

But in the summer months of ’13, I found my great-grandmother in the archives, and now I’m not so sure but what it may have come down through her side of the family.   I’ve recently found out that she was from a family of cigar makers from Cuba.  Estelle Sabater (1862-1933) was also from New Orleans, the daughter of Juan Sabater,  a cigar maker in New Orleans who had come from Cuba in 1835 with his family as a 5-yr-old boy.  I suspect that his parents were also from Menorca, but have not found proof.  Estelle’s father lived a block and a half from the Sitges coffeehouse, almost directly on the thriving wharf of the Mississippi River, and owned a cigar store a few blocks away across Canal St.  Canal St was the boundary line between the French Quarter, with its French and Spanish creole population, and the American Sector upriver, where the Americans who came after Louisiana became a state settled.  Thought of as “Kaintuck barbarians” to the old-line French community that hated them and their superior business acumen, French New Orleanians wouldn’t let them live in the Quarter.  Sabater died at 35, when Estelle was only 2, but the Garcia family who took them in were also cigar makers from Cuba who had their finger on the pulse of trade with Cuba and tobacco shipments coming into New Orleans.aaDSCN1443

While I can’t find proof of this either, I believe the Garcias and Sabaters were cousins, their families linked by marriage somewhere back in Cuba, maybe even Menorca.  They lived behind New Orleans, where the land slowly receded into the swampy marais and was probably less crowded and more pastoral, but more to the point, closer to the Old Basin Canal which connected the city with Lake Pontchartrain to the north, the preferred route of trading ships to and from Cuba.

Perhaps Granddaddy’s meerschaum pipe came from the Sabater side of the family, the side that was in the smoking business, rather than the Sitgeses.  I suspect I will never know, though.

Estelle Sitges’ maiden name was Pino, which seems to stem from Canary Islanders who settled Galveztown near Baton Rouge, but research toward that end has not gotten far.

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