Fire, murder and robbery all hit the Winkler family in 1918. After losing a bartender to murder and his saloon to arson, is it any wonder that the family patriarch, Peter Winkler, simply turned around after finding his home ransacked in June of that year and checked into the Monteleone Hotel?
But, first, the murdered bartender: poor John Sexton. He worked the railroad before settling down in New Orleans to tend bar for the Winkler family. A hammer blow to the head ended his life while he slept in his bed.
I came across his death in Orleans Parish coroner’s records. Intrigued, I pulled the newspaper article about his death. That’s when I learned of the Winkler family’s misfortunes.
The Winkler saloon was on Urquhart Street, which is in the St. Claude section of New Orleans. Just off the railroad tracks, it’s a rougher part of the city but certainly very populated now.
In 1918, it was home to the saloon – a popular gathering spot for dances. Newspaper articles describe it as being in a sparsely populated part of the city.
John was the son of another John Sexton. He had a sister named Mrs. J. N. Kalife.
It seems that John was asleep at the bar when robbers broke in and killed him so they could steal the cash that had been withdrawn from the bank in anticipation of a busy Saturday night of dancing and drinking.
He was buried in St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery.
Peter Winkler’s son, L.C., found the body. L.C. was Leopold Charles Winkler. He died in the 1980s at age 91. He banged on the door of the saloon but got no answer. Thinking this was strange since John the bartender was a light sleeper, he forced his way in and found the murdered man in a cot. A gun still was tucked under the man’s pillow.
You’ll find no trace of the saloon if you travel to Urquhart Street. A few months after the murder, the saloon burned to the ground. The theory at the time was that the murderers burned it.
Not long after the murder and the fire, the saloon’s owner, Peter Winkler, left his vacationing family at Little Woods and discovered their home at 1419 Feliciana Street had been ransacked. Robbers pried open a kitchen door and stole money, a gold watch, clothes and jewels.
Peter Winkler saw the mayhem and left. He called police from the hotel later that day.