Businessman and planter. He was most famous for his endowment to public education. The son of John and Elizabeth McDonogh, he was a native of Baltimore, Maryland and a long time resident of New Orleans and McDonoghville. He went to New Orleans while engaged in the shipping trade and decided to make it his home. He opened his own business and prospered. Some have said he was the wealthiest man in New Orleans in his time. He ran for the US Senate in 1818, but he lost. He then moved across the Mississippi River to the west bank and established his home, "Monplaisir," there. He also created the neighborhood known as Freetown for his freed slaves. McDonogh never married. He lived, many have said, like a recluse. His vast holdings of real estate and his plantations made him very wealthy. Contrary to the law at the time, John McDonogh taught many of his slaves to read and write, and he allowed them to purchase their freedom. He was at the forefront of the movement for former slaves to form their own country in Africa, and he contributed generously to that endeavor. Many of his former slaves were among those who helped establish the new country of Liberia. The United States census of 1850 for New Orleans listed John McDonogh's real estate value at $10,000,000. His will provided that the bulk of it be divided between New Orleans and Baltimore for the education of poor children. By the time it got through the courts many years later, New Orleans and Baltimore each received $704,440, still a large amount of money for the time. The city of New Orleans built at least forty-two schools which it named for him, a few of which are still in operation. Until recent years, each May the school children of New Orleans took floral offerings to be placed at his statue in Lafayette Square, which is across the street from the old City Hall on St. Charles Avenue. They now place their remembrances on his old tomb in his cemetery in McDonoghville. Although McDonogh was buried in a tomb in the cemetery he made for his slaves on his plantation, by his request his remains were later removed to the Green Mount Cemetery in his home town of Baltimore. Still later, they were removed to the campus of the industrial school in Baltimore which was his legacy to that city. His tomb is now a cenotaph near the center of what was always called the McDonogh Cemetery, but now has been renamed McDonoghville Cemetery.
Written by himself. Here lies the body of John McDonogh, of the city of New Orleans in the State of Louisiana, one of the United States of America, the Son of John and Elizabeth McDonogh of Baltimore, in the State of Maryland, also one of the United States of America.
Gravesite Details A granite tomb enclosed by a wrought-iron fence. On the sides of the tomb are the engraved "Rules for the guidance of my life." The fence is painted black, but the tomb itself has not had its markings refreshed over the years.