Article of the Month - April 2023

The Surveyor Pirate of the Caribbean

John BROCK, Australia
John Brock

This article in .pdf-format (19 pages)


It appears that in the early days of the settlement of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, a career change from the profession of land surveying and architecture meant venturing into the more lucrative, albeit less legal, undertaking of a privateer, which is actually a more polite word for pirate! Land surveyor and architect, Barthelemy Lafon, who had hailed from France, built up an impressive portfolio of land surveys combined with an equally extensive corpus of buildings attributed to his designs. Who knows what influenced this locally reputable pillar of the community to join with fellow Frenchmen, the notorious brothers Jean and Pierre Lafitte, the enigmatic pair who had a spurious agreement with the English and US overlords to sack Spanish vessels (and any others which ventured into their territorial waters?) and skirted with a death penalty to loot these hapless captains. It was indeed ironic that this duo of treacherous characters avoided execution by rendering courageous support to US General Andrew Jackson in conquering a much larger English force in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, virtually being the last concerted effort by the homeland to suppress the rebellion of their northern American colonies on US ground. This paper presents an excellent sample of surveys and edifices attributed to Lafon, along with tales of some of his raids of piracy.