Milo Creekmore

Our family bad boy: Milo Creekmore

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My great-grandfather Milo Creekmore. He’s the gentleman standing. He doesn’t look like a bad boy, does he?

We went to the movies the other night to see “True Grit” (the original version). The movie follows a young girl who goes to Fort Smith, Ark., and then heads into the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) with John Wayne to track down her father’s killer. It’s a great film.

Watching it, I realized I’ve never blogged about the most interesting person in my family tree.

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Milo’s first wife was Cora. She was not my great-great grandmother.

My great-great grandfather Milo Creekmore lived in Fort Smith, Ark., and often ventured into the Indian Territory during the 1890s. Milo killed his girlfriend’s father, served time in prison, got into a gunfight with Ned Christie while working as a U.S. marshal, joined the Henry Starr Gang after leaving the U.S. marshal service and robbed a couple of stores. I’m not glorifying any of that (except for the U.S. marshal part). I’m just saying he led a full life in his 61 years and ended up as a character in a Larry McMurtry novel.

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Here’s Loss Runyan, the man Milo killed.

If you Google Milo, the first thing that pops up is a forum discussion about the murder he committed. According to the newspapers of 1893, Milo fell in love with a “very pretty Cherokee maiden” named Cora Runyon and killed her father, Loss Runyon.

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Hanging Judge Parker

Apparently Loss Runyon didn’t approve of the relationship, confronted the couple and ended up dead. Cora stood by Milo, and it was a good thing. The judge in Fort Smith was Judge Parker, better known as the hanging judge. In “True Grit,” there’s a scene in which Judge Parker sits on top of the courthouse’s front porch and watches the simultaneous hanging of three men.

I’ll blog more about Milo in the future.

 

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Assumption Parish Genealogy

1878 Epidemic Deaths in Assumption Parish

The Nov. 30, 1878, edition of the “Pioneer of Assumption” listed a number of deaths from an epidemic.

The scribe, Prosper Davaine, apologized for the delay in reporting them. In making the list, it seems he caught ill himself.

“I send you the general list of the sick and the victims of the epidemic that we have in the 5th district only. I would have liked to send it to you a little earlier, but as I was kept in bed for a few days, I was obliged to wait until this day. You will oblige me a lot by publishing it in your journal. At the same time, please send me a copy of the diary when it prints.”

Dead at Labadieville

Widow Joseph Graziani
Alfred Crechou
John Stephens
Arthur Francioni
Dr. Paul Verriere
Mme Fabien Ducos
Jean Saintenac
Sidney McNeil, child
Stephens McNeil, child
Joan Ducos
Jean Lemo
Emile Delaune, child
Vve Leafroi Chedotal
—- Boudreaux, deaf-mute
L. Lovinsky Aucoin
Aline Lavilvaresse
Jean Marie Gantz
C. Francois Rendo
Moise Muller
Mme Auguste Delaune
Celestin Reynal
Arthur Gauthier, child
Isidore Muller
Arthur Naquin, child
Jn-Bte Bertin

Deceased at Brule Labadie

Mme Adrien Barilleaux
Vve Francois Boudreaux
Angela Barilleaux
Emile Talbot
Francois Jor. Boudreaux
Laurent Boudreaux
Clairville Peltier
Mme Clairville Peltier
Andre Hebert
Leo Hebert
Trsimond S. Boudreaux
Amedee Richard
Rosemond Lagrange
Augustine Boudreaux
Edouard Olivier
Alexandre Delaune
Emilie Gauthreaux, child
Mme Theodule Gros
Augustin Boudreaux
Mme Augustin Boudreaux
Ernest Peltier
Francois Angelloz
Pierre Thibodeaux
Victorine Arsement, child
Mme Francois Jor. Boudreaux
Ozemee Boudreaux
Sylvere Gauthreaux
Edouard Peltier
Oscar Olivier
Merile Olivier
Emile Boudreaux, child
Evela Richard
Marcelite Olivier
Augustine Olivier, child
Emilie Blanchard, child
Philomene Hebert, child
Zulma Joseph
Alcida Barbier
Louis Richard
Mme Emile Talbot
Jn Bte Gros
Ozemee Richard
Adrienne Richard
Philomene Boudreaux
Mme Louis Talbot
Mme Alexandre Blanchard
Anatole Talbot

Deceased in the district

Edouard Prejean
Mme Edouard Prejean
Edouard Quatrevingt
Louisiane Delaune
Emilie Prejean, child
Telesphore Prejean, child
Ernest Use, child
Alcee Bergeron, child
Marie Melancon, child
Victoria Bergeron, child
Alcee Melancon, child
Eva Melancon, child
Levy Melancon, child
4 children of —- Miller, of Garner
Azelia Use
Leonore Dugas
Narcisse Martinez
Mme Edouard Martin
Eugenie Larose
Leonard Martin
One child of Jos. Robertson
Gustave Maillet, child
Evelie Boudreaux

 

Early Louisiana, Uncategorized

Early maps of Fort Balize/Balise

I love looking at old maps, and the Library of Congress has a nice collection. Even better, they’re online.

Here’s the handy dandy link: https://www.loc.gov/maps/collections/ 

Early maps capture a moment in time. It’s amazing how quickly things disappear. Not one of my mother’s childhood homes still exists. One of my own childhood homes was reduced to rubble not long ago. Outdated maps will show that they once existed.

Maps can tell you a lot of things. Historical, rural maps sometimes denoted landowners.

The maps below are of Fort Balize/Balise, an old Spanish fort that once existed at the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana. I like the color of the first map and the detail of the second map. You get a sense of just how exposed to the elements this fort was – and why it’s no longer in existence.

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The fort was at the very bottom righthand corner.
Montet Family

In search of the Montet Plantation in Assumption Parish

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A mention of Aurelie in the National Real Estate Journal.

Family legend has it that my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Montet Giroir, came from a well-to-do family who lost everything with the conclusion of the Civil War. Certainly, they didn’t have any money after the war. The family lived very hand to mouth.

I wondered if the Montets really were prosperous and dug through old newspapers and succession records to find out. The succession records talk of a sugar house and property (this was after the Civil War so no slaves at that point). Newspaper accounts refer to an Aurelie Plantation in Assumption Parish that belonged to the Montets.

I’m pretty familiar with the swath of bayou road between Plattenville and Thibodaux. I travel it regularly to see family. The big plantation home in the area is Madewood, which belonged to the Pughs. I’d never heard of Aurelie.

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To this day, there’s a Montet Street in Assumption Parish. Could this have been the Montet property of the 1800s? Montet Street is a dirt road.

At this point, I should point out – once again – that the mention of the word “plantation” in the family tree likely doesn’t mean that your family once lived at Tara. Plantation is another word for farm. Sorry.

But I went in search of Aurelie anyway. Elizabeth’s father came from a large family who lived near Plattenville. One of his brothers was Zephirin Montet. It was Zephirin who launched Aurelie, which he named for his wife.

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Zephirin Rosemond Appolinaire Montet now rests in the Plattenville cemetery. Nearby is the final resting place of my great-great-grandparents, Joseph Augustin Giroir and Elizabeth Montet Giroir.

Zephirin was actually Zephirin Rosemond Appolinaire Montet. He was a prosperous planter in Assumption Parish. His grandson Numa Montet was a U.S. congressman.

It appears that the extended Montet family called Aurelie home. The Assumption Pioneer – still in circulation to this day – recorded Zephirin’s sister-in-law Pauline Truxillo Montet dying at Aurelie in 1886.

I don’t know if Elizabeth grew up on Aurelie or if she grew up on a neighboring property. I remember my grandmother talking about the Montet home, but she never clarified if it was the Florentin Montet home, the Zephirin Montet home or the home of Florentin and Zephirin’s father.

What I suspect is that Aurelie originally was the property of Elizabeth’s grandfather (father to Zephirin and her own father, Joseph Florentin). It seems likely that the property got divvied up when the old man died, and Zephirin called his portion Aurelie for his wife. Perhaps Zephirin’s portion was a real money-maker – or maybe he added to it and expanded the acreage.

A similar arrangement happened after my husband’s grandfather died. Each child got a portion of the family farm. The entire farm still is in his descendants’ hands to this day, but it’s not really intact. Instead, it got sliced up into thirds for his three children. One of those thirds has been more profitable than the other two-thirds. It’s the luck of the draw.

From the succession records, it seems that the Montets shared a sugar house (where sugar was boiled into syrup). It appears that Zephirin and Florentin got shares in the sugar house when their father died. I’ll have to dig up Joseph Philippe Montet’s succession record, which most likely is in French, for clarity.

In 1912, Aurelie changed hands. The National Real Estate Journal described the sale as one of the biggest real estate deals of the month. The Montet Company Ltd. sold the plantation on Bayou Lafourche to Joseph Webre. At that time, the plantation included 600 acres, including 500 acres in cultivation, residences, cabins and a sugar house. The sale was speculated to be $50,000.

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Could this be Aurelie? That dirt road to the left is known as Montet Road.

Other accounts name the buyer as John Webre, who died in 1915. It looks like Numa Montet bought the family property back temporarily and then sold it to an Edmond E. Webre.

I’m still in search for more on Aurelie. An old map of Assumption Parish probably would help.

 

 

Newnham Family

The sad story of Susan “Vashti” Newnham

You know how family stories go. They could be true. They could be embellished. They could be pure fiction.

There was a story passed down through the generations of my family that my grandfather’s Granny Newnham’s kin went to California for the Gold Rush and encountered tremendous tragedy. The story was that a girl named Vashti Newnham (Granny Newnham’s aunt) was killed by a jealous boyfriend and that her brothers then hunted down the boyfriend and killed him.

I never found any indication that Vashti even existed until I plugged the name Newnham into a California newspaper search engine.  The search engine is completely free and can be found here.

What I found was an advertisment for a book on a murder that was the sensation of the time:

susan

Intrigued, I dug further into the archives and uncovered a story that I thought had been lost to the passing of time. The family story was true, more or less.

Vashti wasn’t Vashti. She was Susan Newnham, the daughter of my grandfather’s great-great-grandfather Benjamin Newnham. Maybe Vashti was a family nickname since the rest of the story is true. Susan had the misfortune to meet a man named Jeremiah Crane who killed her as Susan’s mother tried to beat him away with a stick.

Jeremiah had no business romancing Susan. He had a wife and kids back East. But modern communication didn’t exist in those days so a man could move out West and pretend he was single.

Here’s the whole story from the “Sacramento Daily Union” in 1855:

We have made use of every exertion to obtain full and complete particulars, from the most reliable sources, concerning the horrible and astonishing tragedy near Ringgold, (and at a distance of two miles from this place) on Friday morning, Aug. 10th. The most intense excitement having pervaded the entire community for miles around during Friday and Saturday, (and which, Sunday afternoon, is not yet allayed) we have delayed the publication of the Advocate for the purpose of obtaining the information presented below, deeming that the same will be at least a matter of satisfaction to our readers here and elsewhere.

In the forenoon of Friday last, Jeremiah V. Craine, armed with a Colt’s revolver and bowie knife, proceeded to the residence of Mr. Benjamin Newnham, one half mile above Ringgold. Stopping at the gate opening into the yard around the house, he sent for Mr. N.’s daughter, Miss Susan M. Newnham, to come out and see him. She did so; whereupon Craine asked her if she intended to “go and live with him.” She replied: “No, I will die first.” He responded, “then die you must,” seized hold of her, and a scuffle ensued, during which one of her eyes was considerably injured. (It is believed, but we are not certain of it, that during this scuffle Craine endeavored to stab her with the knife.) She having freed herself, her brutish assailant immediately drew his revolver and fired, the muzzle of the pistol being but a few inches from her person. The ball book (stet) effect above her right breast, and passing through, lodged under her right shoulder blade. (This wound, though painful, would not be likely to produce death.) It seems that a further scuffle here ensued, during which the pistol was again fired, but the ball did not take effect, the young lady knocking the weapon upwards as the trigger was pulled. She then fled into the house. Craine following, and just as she stepped into the door, a third shot was fired. The ball took effect in the back of her head, penetrated the brain to an extent unascertained, and caused the lady to fall senseless to the floor. During a part of the time consumed in the enactment of the tragedy, Mrs. Newnham, (then the only third person in the house — a young man having fled when the first shot was fired) assailed Craine with a stick, but he kept her off by presenting the pistol to her breast. Mrs. N. then hastened to the nearest neighbor.

Mr. Stainer, that gentleman, arrived in about fifteen minutes, and found Craine standing over the lady (still lying on the floor) bathing her head with water, the two then lifted Miss N. up and placed her on the bed, after which Craine continued to bathe her head, speaking to her and of her in the most endearing manner. (Stainer was in bad health, and unable to either punish or detain the murderer.) Craine informed Stainer that he was going away to do some writing, and would return in about half an hour.

While in the house, it is stated that Craine made a demonstration either to kill himself or finish the work of murder with the knife, and that the lady, (having recovered her senses,) told him not to kill her and not to kill himself, and that she would yet live to be his companion in this world and the world to come. But we have not had sufficient evidence of this to publish it as a fact. About fifteen minutes after the arrival of Mr. Stainer, Mr. Brock, (son-in-law of Newnham) appeared at the gate with a loaded rifle, which he had provided himself with, on hearing of the tragedy, for the purpose of shooting Craine. The latter however presented hid pistol, and declared to Brock he would shoot him if he did not put down his gun, or if he attempted to enter. Craine having a bowie knife and revolver, and Mr. Brock only one shot for him, the latter declined going into the home.

Craine then made his escape through a back door, and fled to the hills. (Craine maintains that he went out at the front door.) A general alarm was immediately given, and in a short time several hundred men had collected and started in different directions in pursuit of the murderer. Ringgold, Weberville, Gold Hill, Coon Hill, and Placerville furnished a large number, and the mining community for miles around, turned out en masse. The hills and ravines were thoroughly scoured in every direction, and no fear was felt but that the murderer would be captured without difficulty and in a short time. It was thought impossible for him to elude the vigilance of so many pursuers for even a single hour.

But he had the start of them all, and kept out of harm’s way. (His capture on Friday would have resulted in his speedy execution, without judge or jury — the privilege of shooting him would have been considered an honor.) Many of the pursuers did not return until late at night, and a watch was kept up all night in the neighborhood of the scene of the tragedy, it being supposed that the murderer might return to see if his deed had resulted fatally, or for the purpose of committing further butchery. Early on Saturday morning the search was resumed; and it being thought very likely that he had escaped to Carson Valley, two gentlemen — Messrs. Stevenson and Jewett — started across the mountains, and had the murderer, taken that direction, would have followed him to Salt Lake, if necessary, in order to capture him.

It appeared also that Meesrs. Springer and — had started the evening previous in the same direction, and reaching Iron Mountain without discovering any trace of him, concluded they were on the wrong track and returned. The search, however, (on Saturday, at least,) was unnecessary; for it appeared that Craine had been traveling about the neighborhood all night, and about daylight concealed himself in some brush only a few rods from the house of Mr. Newnham. During the forenoon he deliberately walked under the shade of a pine tree, in an open lot and mill nearer to the house, and laid himself down on a blanket Being discovered, Mr. Newnham took a loaded rifle and was about to shoot him; Craine rising on his knees, presented his bared breast and exclaimed — “Shoot, for we both want to go together.” Mr. N. was, however, prevented from shooting by the cries of his wife and daughter, and the murderer was taken charge of by a few gentlemen who happened to be present. Craine says that during the night he passed very near to some of those on watch.

The news that the murderer had been captured — or, rather, that he had surrendered himself— spread like wildfire, and by 12-1/2 or 1 P. M., a large and excited crowd had collected. Not to be wondered at that they were excited, and ready for any act of violence having the least semblance of propriety. Only a few rods distant was the house of Mr. Newnham, and in it lay the wounded young lady, ill a condition of intense suffering, and but a bare possibility of recovery. Such was the opinion of Dr. Cooke, the attending physician, agreed to by several other medical men who had been called in. A considerable quantity of brain had oozed from the bullet-hole in her head, and any attempt to extract the ball, which must be near the center of the head, would be certain death. Under such circumstances nothing short of a seeming miracle can save her life.

At about one o’clock the murderer was removed out of view of the house, and a vote was taken, Mr. Geo. Shaffer putting the question, whether he should be delivered over to the authorities, or tried and dealt with at once by the people on the ground. Tho latter proposition prevailed by a large majority. A sheriff and assistant were immediately appointed, and a committee of three named, to act with one person chosen by the prisoner, to confer with him and receive and prepare any defense he might have to make, or any request or confessions he might desire to make at a time when his speedy execution seemed inevitable. Meantime a rope was duly prepared and brought to the ground by the time the committee had got through with him. As an evidence that there did not appear to be any doubt as to his speedy execution, we may state that the first resolution passed after the election of a sheriff, was that the prisoner should have a fair trial, followed by … that the jury should be selected from those voted in favor of the people taking the law into their own hands. It is proper to remark, however, that no notice was taken of this last resolution in the selection of a jury. We believe Sheriff did not even know of its existence; moreover, the prisoner was allowed all the challenges to the jury he desired. But we digress. As given to the Committee, the following in substance was:

J. V. CRAINE’S CONFESSION: Two weeks ago he conceived the idea of killing , Susan. Disgraceful reports that had been circulated was the cause. Did not know who had started them; heard it was Susan’s father, but found out afterwards it was not. Susan first formed an attachment for him fifteen or eighteen months ago, and then it became reciprocal. He always thought a great deal of her. About a year ago they had been married; there was no ceremony, but they had signed a marriage contract, and God Almighty had married them. Another person was a suitor for her hand, and her parents favored him. This was the cause of all the difficulty. He had a wife (or had had) in the Atlantic States, and this was the reason why he could not marry Susan according to law. More than a year ago he had anonymous letter, which he believed, and still believes, are true, stating that his wife in the Atlantic States had deserted him and married another person. But he had not yet obtained a divorce. He had told her previously that he would kill her and himself, and that they would live together in the next world; but she did not know that he was going to kill her there. He had provided himself with a pistol and knife to commit the deed. After wounding Susan, the pistol would not revolve, and he could not kill himself. After leaving the house he threw it away. The knife was rusty, and he did not like to cut himself with it on that account.  He had nothing left but a rope, and not liking to apply that himself, he concluded to come back, expecting to meet the fate that awaited him. Nobody knew that he intended to commit the crime. . Susan and him will yet live together and be happy in the next world. He is over thirty years of age, and has four children near Lexington, Fayette Couutv, Kentucky. The eldest is Melissa, assistant teacher in a school, though not yet quite grown; the others are Campbell, Jeremiah and Frank ; John, a fifth one is dead. He has read and studied Andrew Jackson Davis’ work, and thinks it by far the greatest work in existence.” Immaterial portions of this statement or confession, are omitted. It will be seen that his story is the offspring of a diseased mind, or of a most barbarously wicked and deceitful heart. One or other of these conclusions must be arrived at; and while charity would lead one to hope for the former, indignation at the most outrageous crime he has committed is well calculated to obscure all other considerations.

The crowd continued to increase, and the selection of a jury commenced amid the most intense excitement Hang him! Hang him !” “Swing him up!” “Put the rope around his neck” and similar exclamations rent the air.

Craine said he would ” prefer to be shot, rather than hung if they would furnish him with a pistol he would save them all further trouble with him in two seconds.” Some time afterwards, in answer to some expression from the crowd, he exclaimed : “Come on  with the rope, and I will show you how a Kentuckian can die.” It was proposed for the jury to try him in the midst of the crowd. Two motions to remove him to a cabin at some distance, for trial, were voted down uproariously, bat a third prevailed unanimously. [What a comment on the character of excited assemblies.]

At the cabin, the following officers took their places, and the following jury was agreed upon:

Judge: John Lamb

Sheriff— Sim. I. Smith.

Jury: E. Ramsey, R. C. Barnes, K. Burress, W. Selby, A. D. Still, E. M. Haskins, J. Rogers, C. G. Barry, H. P. Deskins, S. R. Compton, J. O. Stand- ish, J.O. Shafer.

The excitement grew more and more intense, and about the time the trial commenced, David E. Buel, Esq.. Sheriff of the county, arrived on the ground, having been telegraphed at Coloma; and being only one hour and ten minutes on the way. He immediately made his way to the door and demanded admittance, when a scene commenced that lasted half an hour, and utterly beggars all description. Screaming and yelling, pulling and hauling, &c, with every indication of serious conflict, were the order of the time. Buel kept, his place at the door, quietly assisted by some who were willing to maintain law and order, not withstanding they were as deeply incensed against the prisoner as those who favored his execution without law. The door was firmly barricaded inside, the same being supported by six or eight strong men ; nevertheless, it was finally forced — literally torn to pieces — and the Sheriff, with the apparent strength of a giant, and utterly regardless of all danger, crowded into the room. The rope was seized, and an attempt to put it about the nock of the prisoner was almost successful. The Sheriff, whose person had been seized by as many as could get around him. with one almost superhuman effort freed himself from their grasp, and seized the prisoner.

He literally dragged him through the crowd until he reached a spot where a horse was prepared, then drawing a revolver, the crowd immediately about him involuntarily made an open space, when in “less than no time” the prisoner was assisted to mount, and before the multitude had half time to think, the prisoner and Deputy Sheriff Larkin were many rods distant galloping up the hill, at full speed. An involuntary shout from the law and order men went up for Buel.

So ended the whole transaction, and Craine is now in jail, awaiting his trial for the most dastardly crime that has ever been committed in El Dorado county. The expressions of admiration at the conduct of the Sheriff were universal and unbounded. He was doing his duty and well did be do it. For intrepid daring and calm determination — eliciting the admiration of all even in the midst of the highest pitch of excitement at which a mob is capable of arriving — his conduct was worthy of all praise. We could not mention the names of any of those prominent in assisting him without appearing invidious; and have only to say that they were certainly in the line of their duty to the government from which they (and all others may have occasion to claim protection.

Some complaint has been uttered against those who were active in endeavoring to have the prisoner turned ever to the authorities; but the “sober second thought” will bring a verdict in their favor. When excitement dies away then it is a matter of rejoicing that law has been sustained. If our laws cannot be enforced, then we would be better without any. To our minds, those who remained calm and did what they could, without violence, and without questioning the motives of those who acted otherwise, may fully console themselves with the reflection that they had the moral courage to stand by the laws of the land without regard for a little ephemeral popularity. The fact that the law was permitted to take its course, under the circumstances we regard as a credit to the neighborhood and the county, and even to the fair fame of California abroad.

The story that the Sheriff appointed by the people snapped a pistol at an officer of the law is not true. That gentleman snapped his pistol three times at the head of the prisoner as he was carried away, and had it been discharged, it is probable the county would have been saved some expense.

We present the documents that will be found below because they will be interesting to the public. Of course every man will put his own construction upon them.

Craine was born in Kentucky. He has been in California since ’49, and from all we can learn has always heretofore borne an irreproachable character. This is one reason why the community has been so shocked, for the crime he has committed is of a character so outrageous and entirely inexcusable, that it finds few equals in criminal records. He had a brother in this country, who, we understand, died a madman near Ringgold in 1850.

Miss Newnham is a young lady against whom not a whimper of slander has been heard, and no remarks that have been made by Crane since the tragedy will in the slightest degree tarnish her reputation. The hope of the community is that she may recover, but there is not much hope. No reaction has yet taken place, and it is almost a moral certainty that as soon as this transpires, inflammation and death will follow.

The following statement was received on Saturday, by a Justice of the Peace and Attorney, from Miss Newnham. Our readers can come as near understanding it as we can :

STATEMENT OF MISS SUSAN M. NEWNHAM. August 11th, 1858. About one year ago, Mr. J. V. Craine commenced paying attention to me. There was no engagement between us except the oath, here filed as follows, marked

(A) “I now declare before high heaven and call God to witness that I never will marry any one but you, not if all the world is against you. I am yours in life and death, and it shall be the business of my life to obey you in all things, and to do all in my power to make you happy; (so help me God.) Susan M. Newnham. This is from the bottom of my heart.

She stated further that she had a paper of a similar character from him, (Craine) and that about eight months ago Craine snatched the paper binding him from her and tore it all to pieces in her presence. She then asked him for her’s (which is above mentioned) and he refused to give it up at that time, but did give it to her about two or three months ago.

She also stated that Craine did not force her to sign the oath, but just worried her out of it.

About one week ago, Craine threatened to kill her, William and himself. No one was connected with Craine in the crime, to her knowledge. Her mother know of the engagement, but did not know any thing of the oath, as she termed the paper marked (A.)

The following letters, as would appear from the dates, were written by Craine three days before the tragedy. They were found in a valise, in his cabin:

August 7th, 1855. Mr. Newnham: ] wish you to bury me and ‘Susan together. She has been my wife for almost a year. I could not live to hear her disgraced. She is too dear to me for that. We both go together where we can be happy, and all can see our motives. The ring I gave her, leave it on her finger; it is her bridal ring. Pull all the rest off. Let our coffin hold us both; none have loved as we have. Oh, pardon us for not letting you know we was husband and wife. Do not weep for us; we are forever happy and will watch over you and yours. You will shortly be with us, and then you will know how fondly we have loved. I love you all for her sake, and pardon all you have said and done against me and mine. We both hare suffered ten thousand deaths on account of our situation. Let none blame us too harshly, for they cannot tell our feelings. ‘God only knows how we have loved. I know according to the doctrine of the world we have acted wrong; but the world cannot judge correctly in mutters of the heart. I have some letters that would throw some light on this subject, but I will burn them; they would injure others, and I do not wish to injure any one. I should have told you long ago, but it was contrary to Susan’s wish. She thought it would make you unhappy, and she preferred suffering herself, rather than her father and mother should be unhappy on her account. She told me all, nothing that passed was hid from me. for she knew that I could never prove unfaithful. Our union was no common one; our very souls were united and are still, and will be so throughout eternity. We were made for each other. Had you have known this you would have acted different; but you could not know it, so do not blame yourself for it We pardon you fully, and we ask your forgiveness, and also the foregiveness of our mother and all the rest. Do not I pray you separate our bodies, but let my virgin bride rest in my arms, and we both will bless you and watch over you in this and the spirit world. I die coolly and deliberately and without fear, for I have lived a life that I am not ashamed of, and I die with a firm hope of a better country. And again I say do not weep for me or Susan, for we are happy — more happy than mortal tongue can express. Brock and Sarah I wish them a long and happy life, and freely forgive them for what they have done to bring about a marriage between in own darling wife and a man that I will not here mention. Let this be a lesson to all in regard to matches. Where two are united in heart and soul, let not any one try to separate, for God sanctions such unions. Read this to all that none may slander our memories. Farewell, farewell, a long farewell. Jeremiah V. Craine.

To Benjamin Newnham. August 7th, 1855. Dear Friend: I bid you farewell; our friendship has been warm on earth; I trust that it will continue so in our spirit-home. You know some of the causes that prompt me to this act; but you do not know half, nor will I trouble you with a recital; but rest assured that I hare never wilfully and maliciously injured any human being. No man, I believes, loves his race better than I have, but I have been misunderstood by some. I forgive them all, for I now go where there can be no misunderstanding. Give Brax and lady my best wishes. Tell Mrs. Eaton that I cherish her memory to the last, for her sisterly kindness while I boarded with her; and tell her also that I never done her an intentional wrong; I know she thinks so, but she is mistaken. Give Eaton, Irish and Mrs. Irish my best wishes. And yourself; our friendship is or has been like Jonathan’s and David’s; but I must leave you for a while; I promise if I can do you any good I shall certainly do so. Do not think me insane; this act is cool and deliberate. I am tired of the world, for life to me is a burden. When you get this I shall be at rest. Yours truly, Jeremiah V. Craine. P. S.: I wish you to get my breast-pin and ring and send them to my daughter. Direct to Melissa D. Craine, Midway, Woodford county, Ky. Write her a few lines and tell her all. I will write her a few lines and let her know that I intend to shorten my earthly existence.  J. V. C.

Addressed on the envelope: “Brazz’ll Davenport, Jackson, Amador County, California.”  August 7th, 1855. Dear Friend: I leave you the “Great Harmonica” — read it and study it, for it will make you wise and happy. You have been my constant friend in all this trouble, and you have my best wishes. See that me and Susan are put in each others arms in death. We have been married almost a year, but it has been kept secret from the world for reasons that I shall not name. Now, John, do not let them separate our bodies but bury us in one coffin, in one grave. Let her rest in my arms, where she has often pillowed her head in life, and whispered eternal love and constancy to my willing soul. We could not live separate, und we have concluded to die and live again in heaven, where none can slander us. Good-bye, John. Remember me to all the boys— Ike, Jim, Donahoe, Beek, und all that were friends to me while here ; and Bill Evans toll him I have not forgotten him. Farewell for ever, your friend, even in death. Jeremiah V. Craine.

To John R. Newham. August 7th, 1855. Dear Daughter: — Farewell; when this reaches you I shall have quitted the earth forever. I could not live any longer, my troubles were too much for me. I send you a breast-pin and finger-ring — pure gold; wear them for my sake, and pardon all my seeming neglect. Tell all the children farewell. You will get a letter from Mr. Davenport explaining all, and he will send you the breast-pin and ring. I have been offered fifty dollars for the pin often, but I kept it for my girl. Farewell, dear Melissa, a long farewell. I am going to the world of spirits, where I can watch over my child. Your father, even in death, Jeremiah V. Craine

Melissa D. Craine. [Addressed on the envelope : ” Miss Melissa D. Craine, Midway, Woodford county, Ky.” August 7, 1855. Mr. J. W. Barron:  l wish you and Jas. Donahoe to make our coffin and see that we are buried decently. I have lived long enough; my sorrows have overwhelmed me. I go to a better country. I have no explanations to make to you, but rest assured I have lived honestly and uprightly and die without fear. Send for Plummer and Brazzill Davenport if you possibly can, and let them once more see the wreck of a true friend. I leave the world cheerfully and coolly ; my mind is sound — perfectly so. Tell Tom Bothwell to cheer up and get well. Tell Eliza there is one thing I wish her to do for me, and that is to have something clean to put  me. Good by, good by, my good friend. Yours, truly, Jeremiah V. Craine

August 7, 1855. Mr. J. L. Sargeant: — The unsettled account between us I hope will be forgiven on your part, for it will appear a very small item when you are as near another state of existence as I am ; and the twenty dollars that I owe Juke, I hope he, too, will forgive.  I owe nothing more that I am aware of, except a little debt to Mr. Plummer. I have enough coming to me from others to pay all, if you can come at it; if not, I hope you will not think the less of me. I should like to sleep on the hill at the graveyard, close to Susan. Farewell forever, Jerimiah V. Craine.

August 7th, 1855. Farewell Doc.— Do not judge me harshly. I leave you and owe you something, but I hope when you come to consider my situation, you will pardon me. I should like to have lived to paid up all my debts, but it is impossible, I cannot live any longer. I trust to your generosity for a pardon. I hope you will have every success in life, although it has been denied to me. Tell Henry farewell. And to you, I once more say farewell, a long farewell. Jeremiah V. Craine.

 

Genealogy tools, Succession Records

Finding wills in court documents

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Judge Hubbard’s will in the Assumption Parish Courthouse.

I’ve known about succession records for years. In some states, they’re known as probate records. In Louisiana, they seem to be called successions. Basically, they’re what’s filed after someone dies in order to make a legal record of how their property was distributed.

You can find out useful information from succession records. They usually spell out which children were living at the time of a parent’s death, the death date itself and an inventory of the deceased’s property. Often times, the record notes the spouses of the daughters.

I was reading through an ancestor’s succession record a few months ago when I came across the mention of a will. I looked through the entire file and couldn’t find the will. At first, I assumed it just wasn’t included in the record. Then I thought to ask someone at the Clerk’s Office.

The answer to my question taught me another new word: conveyance. Conveyance records are basically property records. There, tucked into the conveyance records at the St. Mary Parish courthouse, was the will of my great-great-great grandmother. Alas, it’s in French so I’m still in the process of translating it. But how cool is it to find something that expressed her final wishes?

Assumption Parish has a will book with wills from the 1800s.  It’s been scanned in and shared here.

Here’s one that I transcribed from Judge Bella Hubbard‘s will:

In the name of God amen! I Bela Hubbard of the Parish of Assumption and State aforesaid, sound in body and mind, being desirous to dispose of my property, which Providence has been pleased to bestow on me, solemnly declare, this present instrument of writing, to contain my last will and testament, and which I have been induced to make from my own voluntary movement and written and signed the same without the persuasion or suggestion of any person whomever and in matter, manner and form as follows to wit:

First, I desire that my body shall be committed to its mother earth without any vain show of ostentation.

Secondly, I bequeath and leave unto Melanie alias Mary Verret, my beloved wife, the daughter of August Verret and Mary Bijol his wife, of said Parish, the whole of my property, both moveable and immoveable, instituting her, my sole and universal heir and who on my demise shall be of full right, immediately seized, of all my property as aforesaid and which property she shall purely and simply enjoy until the day of her decease, which property shall then return to my legal heirs – the said Mary my wife, being bound to discharge and pay of all my debts.

Signed September 14th, 1841

———————————————————————————————————————————-

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Thomas Pugh built Madewood Plantation and wrote his will before dying of yellow fever.

Thomas Pugh first wrote his will in 1837, but he added to it over the years:

In the event of my death to which we are at all moments subject, I desire that this document so far as it goes to be my last will and testament.

My faithful negro man Slave Homer, I wish to set free comfortably supported as long as he lives.

I desire that three thousand dollars be given to my wife Eliza Pugh over and above her rightful portion of my Estate. She will understand the purpose for which this is intended and I trust cause it to be faithfully executed.

My old Negro woman Lucy, the mother of Homer, I wish comfortably supported from my Estate, free from labour for the balance of her life.

W.W. Pugh, my son Edward Pugh, I make my executors to settle up and close the whole of my Estate

Dec. 13, 1837

Addendums to the will:

This 7 day of June 1841:

I give to my wife the carriages and horses and Nathan the coachman and all the household furniture or so much of it as she chooses to take and I recommend to her to keep the property together at least till such time as the debts are all paid. I recommend her also to get W.W. Pugh to become tutor to our children, indeed this I earnestly desire.

June 8, 1841

In case of my incapacity or want of inclination on the part of my wife to execute the trust involved on the bequest of the three thousand dollars mentioned in the second paragraph of this instrument, then I request W.W. Pugh to take the said sum in charge and appropriate it to the support of a free colored boy named Henry Harrison now living in New Orleans under the care of an old yellow man named Essep or Isaac Taylor. When the boy Henry Harrison becomes to be 25 years of age, I desire the said W.W. Pugh to give up the said sum to him.

And now upon further consideration I associate my brother-in-law Arthur M. Foley with W.W. Pugh as administrators to my Estate and request both these gentlemen to have the kindness to accept the trust.

 

 

Montet Family, Succession Records

Death in the Montet family

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Florentin Montet Sr. with his wife, Marie Colette Pothier.

My Granny’s great-grandfather Joseph Florentin Montet died on Jan. 20, 1886. His son and namesake, Joseph Florentin Montet Jr., died just a few weeks later at a young age. I have no idea if they died of the same illness. They died before death certificates, and the local newspaper didn’t record the causes of death.

This much is clear: It was a bad time for the Montets. Florentin Sr. died first. His wife’s half brother died five days later. Then Florentin Jr. died quickly followed by Florentin Sr.’s sister-in-law.

Here’s how The Assumption Pioneer summed it up (I’ve clumsily translated the French to English): “In a calm and epidemic-free time, these consecutive and close trials seem to represent a fatality of which only God knows the end – our compliments and condolences to this respectable, honorable and honored family. Hope that providence will put the reward next to the misfortune.”

Successions were filed, and it’s clear from them that Florentin Jr.’s death was unexpected. Court officials just tacked his succession onto his father’s, giving it a 1/2 to differentiate it from his father’s succession number. Florentin Jr. was a young father when he died.

From Joseph Florentin Montet Sr.’s succession, here is the inventory of what he owned when he died:

  • The lower divided and separate half of a certain sugar plantation situated in the said parish of Assumption on the left bank of Bayou Lafourche, measuring six arpents and a quarter, more or less, front on said Bayou Lafourche probably by a depth of 40 arpents, bounded above by land of Bazile Ben and below by land belonging to the succession of Narcisse Templet, together with the double concession belonging thereto, said double concession measuring 222 3/100 arpents more or less.
  • The lower divided and separate half of lots No. 3, 4 and 5 of fractional section No. 55 in township No. 13, Range No. 15 East, which lower half of said lots contains 165 superficial acres, more or less, and is situated in the rear of the double concession of the above described plantation and is appraised by the said appraisers at the full sum of $820.
  • The one undivided half of the sugar house on the above described plantation and its machinery and accessories of two arpents of land on the center of which the said sugar house is situated, of the stable near said sugar house, of the cookhouse, harness house and cabin also near said sugar house, and of the corn mill on said plantation, appraised by the said appraisers at the sum of $2,000.
  • Seven mules, appraised in block for $1,050.
  • One mare and colt, $40.
  • One cow and calf, $20.
  • One stubble digger, $50.
  • Three No. 2 plows, $25.
  • One No. 1 1/2 plow, $5.
  • Three sets gears, $8.
  • Two spades and two shovels, $3.
  • Three hoes and two picks, $1.25.
  • Two three mule carts, $100.
  • Two cart saddles, $1.50.
  • One bagasse cart, $15.
  • One harrow, $4.
  • One croplut saw, $2.
  • One buggy, $20.
  • Corn seed, $75.
  • One old boiler now on land of the succession of James O’Keane on the Attakapas Canal, appraised at $20.
  • Cash on hand left by deceased, (unreadable) of crop of 1885, $1,673.56.

Grand total: $10,278.39. 

 

Murder and mayhem

Murder in the (extended) family tree

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Joseph Ashley Schwartz – AKA John Collins – racked up two marriages, two babies and a trail of blood in his 25 years.

According to Family Tree Maker, Joseph Ashley Schwartz is related to me thusly: He’s the brother-in-law of the brother-in-law of the first cousin three times removed. It’s not a very solid connection, and I guess I should be thankful. Joseph lived a rather sordid life.

Joseph was the son of Robert Schwartz and Cora Talley, who settled in New Orleans. His father sold newspapers at night and worked for the city at day. Robert and Cora divorced when their youngest child was just a baby. Both quickly remarried and built blended families of step siblings, half siblings and full siblings that made the Brady Bunch look like a small clan.

Robert’s second wife was Mary Louise Boote. She was still a teen-ager when she fell in love with a traveling salesman named Snodie Munsell. Snodie stuck around long enough to father daughters named Rose, Ruth and Ruby before abandoning the family. Distraught, Mary Louise disappeared for a short time – just long enough for her worried mother to contact the police and the newspapers – but she pulled it together, found Robert and remarried.

But back to Joseph, who would die by the hangman’s noose in New York. Joseph married Mary Louise’s daughter Ruby after she got pregnant. They had a son whom they named Joseph Ashley Schwartz Jr. Shortly after the birth, Joseph left his wife and new baby. He wrote Ruby from Mobile and told her he’d found another girl.  Apparently the new romance didn’t stick.

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Joseph married first to his stepsister Ruby.

Joseph kept heading north until he ended up in New York.

In New York, Joseph was booked for assault and robbery. He managed to escape the Tombs in 1933, but got into a gun battle with detectives that left his friend William Clark dead. Soon, Joseph would have more blood on his hands.

Despite the wife and child back home in New Orleans, Joseph struck up a romance with clerical worker Anna Downey (some newspapers identified her as Helen Downey) in New York. Anna would describe Joseph as a perfect gentleman who wouldn’t let her say the word ‘damn’ because it wasn’t something a lady said. Joseph and Anna had some kind of a sham wedding. Then Anna got pregnant, and they decided to get married for real. There was just one problem (besides the wife back in New Orleans).

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A jailhouse wedding.

Joseph was in prison for murder and robbery. He supposedly held up a beer garden and killed a man named Charles Theuner.

The wedding took place at the prison with Anna’s sister and a newspaperman serving as witnesses. Newspapers loved the story of the condemned man and his beautiful bride. Pictures of the wedding were published across the country, including in New Orleans.

Ruby saw the photos and showed them to her stepfather. Then she raced across town to show them to her mother-in-law. One thing puzzled them.

The papers described a marriage between Anna and a John Collins. John looked very much like Joseph Ashley Schwartz.

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Anna and her baby

Ruby went to the newspapermen, who seized upon the fresh angle to the story. John Collins denied from prison that he was Joseph Ashley Schwartz, and Anna said it couldn’t be true. Anna also threw in that – by her math – John couldn’t possibly be the father of Ruby’s baby or the man that Ruby had to marry because she got in trouble.

Anna also minimized John Collins’ criminal record. By her reckoning, police get your name for one little thing and then pin everything on you. Poor Anna.

Joseph’s family was left wondering if John Collins was their Joseph – although they couldn’t have scratched their heads for too long. Joseph had written his sister letters and signed them John Collins. Although … how did she know who that was when she got the letters? Did he sign them “John Collins (you know, Joseph Schwartz)?” Curiouser and curiouser.

Ruby sent a letter to Joseph in Sing-Sing. The warden returned it, explaining that John Collins denied knowing anyone named Joseph Ashley Schwartz. Ruby decided to let the matter drop. After all, she reasoned, Joseph was condemned to death so she’d soon be a widow with no reason to pursue a divorce.

If you look up the list of people executed in New York, you won’t find Joseph Ashley Schwartz. Instead you’ll find the name John Collins, who was one of four men to go to his death in the electric chair on May 29, 1936.

Joseph – or John – was 25 when he died. He supposedly told the guards “Let’s go” as they strapped him to the electric chair. At the prison gates, Anna clutched their four-month-old baby and sobbed.

Later, upon being woken and told about the execution, Ruby was unsympathetic. She reportedly shrugged her shoulders and showed no emotion. She also told reporters that Anna had fixed her own little red wagon.

Early Louisiana

A lost fort on the Louisiana coast

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Look closely (to the right of the map), and you’ll see the French fort that once sat near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Did you know that a French fort used to sit at the mouth of the Mississippi River? That’s not terribly surprising given the French and Spanish history of Louisiana. It’s also not terribly surprising that you won’t find a trace of it today given Louisiana’s ever shifting and disappearing coast.

La Balize disappeared for the first time around 1740 but resurfaced more than once. Hurricanes kept knocking it down, and it kept being rebuilt. It was important to control the mouth of the river — and to guide ships.

A few years ago, we went on a cruise that took us from New Orleans to Mexico (and back). We set off from New Orleans, and everyone got out their phones to pull up Google Maps and track the progress past Plaquemines Parish and into the Gulf. We hadn’t gotten too far when a small boat pulled up alongside the giant cruise ship. A man jumped from the boat through an open door in the side of the cruise ship. He was a river pilot, arriving to guide us out the mouth of the river just as his predecessors did hundreds of years ago.

But back to La Balize … today, it’s completely gone. Pilottown is several miles from the original site of La Balize.

La Balize was substantial enough that the Catholic Church established a parish there in 1722. That got me wondering about what the church records could tell me about the little settlement.

I learned a few things. First, there was never a church at La Balize. The priest must have just visited from time to time. Also, the parish only lasted 30 years before those pesky hurricanes prompted the Catholic Church to scrap it.

Wikipedia (I know – not the most reputable of sources) gives a good timeline for the fort’s history:

  • 1740 – La Balize was destroyed in a hurricane. A new island arose which was called San Carlos. The village was built again on San Carlos.
  • October 7-10, 1778 – La Balize was destroyed, but was rebuilt at this location.
  • July 25-28, 1819 – Ships anchored near La Balize suffered through a 24-hour gale, but only three were grounded.
  • 1831 – La Balize suffered major damage.
  • April 3-4, 1846 – This was the most damaging storm since that of 1831. It was a hurricane-like storm but likely not of tropical origins, given the time of year. It cut a new channel between Cat Island and its lighthouse.
  • By 1853 La Balize had been relocated to the Southwest Pass, where it was built on the western bank about five miles (8 km) northwest of its first location.
  • September 15-16, 1855 – At Cat Island the lighthouse keeper’s house was destroyed and the lighthouse imperiled. Almost everything else was swept away in the storm surge.
  • August 11, 1860 – In the first hurricane of the season, trees were uprooted and up to 10 feet (3.0 m) of water flooded the region of La Balize.
  • September 14-15, 1860 – The second hurricane struck at the mouth of the Mississippi and destroyed La Balize. Tides were six feet above the high-water mark. The village was abandoned and rebuilt upriver at what became Pilottown.
  • October 2-3, 1860 – In the third hurricane of the season, there was widespread damage as far inland as Baton Rouge.
  • September 13, 1865 – Although La Balize had been abandoned since 1860, this hurricane destroyed the last traces of the village.
benjamin
Benjamin LaTrobe designed the U.S. Capitol but wasn’t impressed by La Balize in Louisiana.

In 1819 architect Benjamin LaTrobe visited Balize and was less than impressed.

He wrote: “The building gives its name to one of the most wretched villages in the country … The regular population consists of 90 men and 11 women. The tavern, which is the principal building and a few other houses are built on the United States land … There is nowhere a more convenient spot from which smuggling may be carried on and connived at.”

In 1858, a steamboat left New Orleans every Tuesday and Friday for Balize.

I turned to census records for a more thorough telling of La Balize’s story.

In 1727, La Balize was home to:

  • Father Gaspard, commander at Balize Capuchin.
  • St. Michel, a storekeeper.
  • Baldie, a surgeon.
  • Francois Friou, chief pilot with a wife and two children.
  • Pierre Triet, second pilot with a wife.
  • Pinault, second pilot.
  • Mathurn Lebas, a carpenter.
  • Resin Delauriers, a knacker.
  • Francois Ligny, a knacker.
  • Jean Bureau
  • Joseph Gay
  • Vincent Baugremont, a knacker.

Next, I turned to the records of the New Orleans Diocese for hints about the people who once lived at La Balize. Here’s what I found:

  • Marie Chaterine De Monlion, daughter of Henry and Marie Elizabeth De Gauvery De Monlion, was a native of La Balize. She married Charles August De Lachaise on Feb. 4, 1765, at St. Louis Cathedral.
  • Baltazard Ricard de la Chevalleray, son of Sieur De Villier and Marie Jouarist, was the commandant of the Fort of La Balize. He married Francoise Voisin on Aug. 12, 1760 at St. Louis Cathedral.
  • Heleine Charlotte Voisin, daughter of Jacque and Francoise Bonaventure, was born at La Balize on Dec. 18, 1757. Ten months later, she was christened at St. Louis Cathedral.

 

 

Fun facts about Louisiana, Murder and mayhem

Mary Miles Minter’s Alexandria roots

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The Garner House in Alexandria. This home was built by a captain’s widow – not by the captain himself. He had long been dead.

A beautiful home is for sale in Alexandria, La., for a bargain basement price. The 1908 house supposedly was built for a riverboat captain. It has five bedrooms, original molding and pocket doors. It’s available for less than $70,000. And it has ties to Mary Miles Minter.

Minter was a famous actress of the silent film age. She was immensely popular until her involvement in a still unsolved murder in 1920s Hollywood.

maryBorn in Shreveport at the turn of the century, Minter was the granddaughter of a Louisiana country doctor.  Her aunt and cousins are buried in Mansfield.  The cousins include the one whose name she swiped for her film career. Mary’s real name was Juliet Reilly.

I have no idea if Mary ever visited this house in Alexandria. She left Louisiana at a very young age although she was known to come back for visits. Most certainly, her mother and grandmother visited the Garner House.

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Inside the Garner home. Doesn’t it look like a doll’s house?

Sue Garner was Mary’s great aunt. She lived in and built this beautiful home at 103 Bolton Ave. in Alexandria.

In 1921, Garner told “The Town Talk” that she was interested in newspaper and magazine articles that mentioned Mary. Sadly, Garner died in her beautiful home in 1940. Her body wasn’t found until the next day.

This branch of the Garner family left no descendants (Mary and her sister didn’t leave descendants either). Sue Garner was the widow of a ferry boat captain – not quite a riverboat captain – who used to take people between Alexandria and Pineville. His name was James Garner. The couple had two sons. The eldest boy died young. Their second son, Nathaniel Branch “N.B.,” became a dentist and had his practice in the Bolton Avenue home that he shared with his mother at some point during his adult life.

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N.B. Garner was an Alexandria dentist who advertised frequently. Apparently gas was a big draw for those in need of painful dental work.

The Garners were a big deal in Alexandria society. The local newspaper devoted tremendous copy to their social visits and deaths. The reading of Mrs. Garner’s will got reams of copy.

N.B. Garner had an apparently ill-advised marriage. He wed a Shreveport widow named Mamie Luke, but they soon divorced. Mamie was ordered to pay the costs associated with their divorce. N.B. died in 1914 after struggling with health problems. He was only 42.

Interestingly, given Mary’s career-ending murder problems, N.B. also was connected to a murder case.

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Tony Curero immigrated from Italy and built up a grocery business only to die in front of the Garner House.

In 1902, a murder happened within sight of the Garner House. Grocer Tony Curero (or Corea) was driving his horse and cart laden with fruits and groceries when someone came up to the wagon and shot him in the face. N.B. heard the shot and ran to the victim only to find him unconscious in the roadway. The man later died.

But back to the Garners. There were tons of mentions in the Alexandria newspapers of yesteryear about the Garners’ connection to Mary Miles Minter. I wondered, though, exactly how they were related.

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The Ragan-Minter-Miles family tree. Note: This is not a complete tree.

Sue Garner was born Susie Emilie Ragan on June 14, 1849. Newspapers record her son N.B. as being born on the family plantation in Sabine Parish that belonged to his grandmother Mary L. Branch on April 7, 1872. They moved to Alexandria when N.B. was 7.

There is also much mention of Sue Garner’s connections to the Shelbys of Kentucky. I don’t who the Shelbys were, but they must have been an impressive family. Mary’s mother later renamed herself Charlotte Shelby.

Mary_Miles_Minter_&_Grandmother
Mary Miles Minter and her grandmother, Julia Ragan Miles.

A Julia B. Ragan (Julia Branch, perhaps?) married Elbert Miles on Feb. 27, 1873, in Sabine Parish. Julia was Mary Miles Minter’s grandmother. She moved with her daughter and granddaughters to California for Mary’s movie career.

And there you have it. Julia and Sue were sisters. Mary and N.B. were second cousins.

juliamilesIt appears that Julia and Sue were close. When N.B. Garner got ill for the last time, Julia traveled from New York to Alexandria and stayed until he died. The newspaper dutifully recorded her visit.

Julia also visited in 1896. In fact, she visited twice in 1896, staying with her sister in January and October of that year.

Sue outlived Julia by more than a decade. She died in 1940.  A friend became alarmed when Garner didn’t answer the door and called the mayor who advised her to call a police officer. It was the officer who found Garner dead in her bed.

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Another shot of the interior of the Garner House.

Interestingly, watchmen were assigned to watch the house night and day until relatives could arrive to take possession of valuables in the house. What did she have in there?

The coroner found papers on a bedside table and placed them in a satchel that he delivered to the court. A judge authorized attorney John W. Hawthorn of the law firm of Hawthorn, Stafford and Pitts to open the bag. Inside it was a will. It all sounds very Agatha Christie.

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The Garner family plot in Pineville’s historic Rapides Cemetery.

By the time Sue died, her children were both gone, and there were no grandchildren. She left her estate to her niece Hazel Minter Jordan (Mary’s cousin) and Hazel’s children, Joseph Lafayette Jordan and Charlotte Shelby Jordan. Hazel was Julia’s granddaughter by a daughter who married and quickly died after bringing Hazel and the original Mary Miles Minter into the world.

Mary’s mother traveled to Alexandria for the funeral. Mary did not make the trip.