I dug further into the death of Paulin Benoit, my g-g-grandfather’s brother.
It turns out that Paulin and Joe Benoit were at a ball celebrating an upcoming marriage in Lafourche Parish when Paulin – who apparently liked to fight – got into a tussle with Texon Vicknair. According to one witness, Texon said he was tired of being made a buffoon, which spurred Paulin into action. Paulin punched Texon. A knife was drawn. Paulin ended up dead. Joe Benoit was injured.
Unfortunately, Joe Benoit was too ill to testify. I would love to have heard his account if only to get a better sense of him.
I found these records at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. The university has the early criminal court records as well as coroner inquests for Lafourche Parish. It’s a treasure trove!
Texon was found not guilty. Here are the witness statements, which I transcribed. In some instances, I couldn’t decipher the chicken scratch.
Saw when his uncle Paulin (Benoit) came in contact with and struck one another.
That was last Saturday night.
When asked in what parish, stated in the parish of Lafourche.
It was on the gallery of the house of Mr. Neuville Hebert.
It was between 9 and 10 o’clock p.m.
His uncle Paulin struck the accused first with his fist, a little after that the accused responded with a knife or dagger he saw in the accused’s hands.
The two licks were nearly simultaneous.
When asked whether he had heard words between his uncle and the accused , at the time, he states that he did not.
He happened to arrive there just when the first lick was given.
When asked whether he saw whence the accused took the dagger or bowie knife, he states he did not and only saw the same, when he was in the act of striking.
It was a little dark on the gallery at the time. When asked whether he had heard the accused warn Paulin that he would strike him with a knife replied that he did not hear him say so. The blow with the fist did not knock down the accused. Paulin was a little more robust but not as tall as accused. Paulin was about 24 years of age.
After the accused struck Paulin, Paulin started towards the road and called upon the accused to come on the road. After Paulin struck he made two or three steps and fell.
He states that he did not see what became of the accused afterwards, so he at once followed after Paulin. When Joe Benoit saw that his brother was struck, he stood in his place. He struck the accused with a stick. The stick was a bout ½ inch in diameter. The accused was not knocked down by the lick.
Witness has had the stick in his hand. It is not very heavy.
He believes Joe Benoit struck the accused twice with his stick.
Joe Benoit was stabbed by the accused.
It was on the same day and place the other difficulty occurred.
He does not know whether the accused stabbed Joe Benoit after he had struck accused once or twice. He caught a glimpse of the knife or dagger the accused used. The blade was about 4 inches long – could not say whether it was a pocket knife or dagger. Witness is certain Paulin died of the effects of the wound then received.
Witness is certain that the accused now in court inflicted said wound.
The wound was in the left breast about 4 inches below the armpit.
Does not know whether Joe or Paulin Benoit was armed that night.
Does not know the cause of the difficulty between the parties.
Joe Benoit was smaller than Paulin but stouter and lower than witness.
Joe Benoit is younger than Paulin B.
Witness only became acquainted with accused on the night that act was committed.
Witness knew of no reason to expect a dispute between the parties.
The stick with which Joe Benoit struck accused had a ball of tar at the end.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY QUESTIONING
Witness states that Paulin died immediately. He believes he died starting up and falling down dead. He is certain in that he died from the effect of the wounds inflicted by accused.
Was on the gallery of Neuville Hebert’s house in the parish of Lafourche … last Saturday. Arthur Naquin leaning on the ? on my right and Paulin Benoit on my left side. Arthur Naquin called out to Zenon Vicknair. Accused answered: “Present. I am tired of being made a buffoon of.” Paulin Benoit got up sparring with his arms and went forward towards accused and struck him with his fist. Accused came forward and then went back to the upper part of the gallery. Witness heard strikings with a stick on accuser. He saw no knife nor did he see accused stab nor did he afterwards see the wound.
About three minutes after he saw Paulin strike accused, he saw Paulin dead in the yard.
Did not hear Paulin make any remark nor call out for the accused to go out on the road. He does not know the cause of Paulin’s death. Paulin is slightly shorter than accused but not taller. Paulin struck the accused with his fist, but did not knock him down.
Did not hear accused warn Paulin that he would cut or stab him with a knife.
Did not hear a word.
This difficulty occurred in the parish of Bayou Lafourche in the house of Mr. Neuville Hebert last Saturday between 10 and 9 o’clock p.m.
All he saw was Mr. Benoit who struck accused with his fist. That is all he saw. He followed Mr. Paulin Benoit in the yard and was by his side when he fell. When he reached him he was falling dead. Does not know what killed Paulin Benoit.
He was wounded in the left side by a stab with a knife or a dagger. He did not see any arm. The wound was bleeding. The wound was about 0-4 inches below the armpit on the left side.
I did not see any arm on Paulin’s body. Did not see any arm. He examined him as soon as he fell. Did not see Joe Benoit strike the accused with a stick. The blow Paulin struck accused did not knock him down.
Paulin Benoit was about 24-25 years old. Paulin was about of the heighth of witness but a little stouter. He was not quite as tall as accused.
Did not hear accused warn Paulin that he would strike him with a knife.
Does not know what was the cause of the difficulty between Paulin and accused.
Witness states that Paulin Benoit has a good character, that he was rather quick and always ready for a fight, that he has had a difficulty with said Benoit. That he has known of Benoit having had several difficulties, but that Benoit although quick to get into a fight, had to be provoker. Witness acknowledges that at the time he had a difficulty with him, witness was in the wrong and busted up Paulin himself. They were joking and Benoit had misunderstood witness. Benoit did not refuse to fight but they did not fight.
Was present at a ball at Mrs. Louis Oncale about a year of 1 ½ years ago when a difficulty occurred between Paulin Benoit and accused. He at the time did not see of the Benoits make fun of the accused.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY QUESTIONING
He does not know of Paulin’s ever having fought.
Mr. Paulin Benoit struck witness.
Witness heard Paulin had struck others but did not see it.
Does not know much about the case.
When he heard the fuss he went towards it but all was over when he got there. It happened on the gallery of his dwelling house. He was in the house at the time. There was a ball at his house. The ball was intended to celebrate the wedding of Armogene Gros with the daughter of Baptiste Noel.
When he got to the steps he heard the words: He is a dead one.
As he was the owner of the house, he went to see and saw that he was dead. After the body was carried in the house, they examined the body to see where the wound was. The wound was in the left side. Between 3 + 4 inches below the armpit. When the clothing was taken off he did not see any arms but he knows that his arms had been previously taken off in the yard.
That he was told so by one who gave witness the scabbard of a small dagger. He was told by Emile Naquin that some one else had taken the dagger out of his hands.
Was not present when the dagger and scabbard were taken off the body of Paulin. He was told this by Emile Naquin who went into the house and gave him the scabbard. The scabbard was 3-4 inches long. He returned the scabbard to one of the brothers (Felia).
Accused was on the gallery when witness arrived. I cannot say how long he stayed there.
As soon as I arrived there and heard called out: “There is one dead.” I went out into the yard. When he came back on the gallery, accused was gone.
It was maybe a quarter of an hour afterwards.
He heard previous to the difficulty that they were tantalizing accused. Could not say whether it was Mr. Benoit or who, but there was a company of them. He heard two or three times: “Let him come here and we will break his jaw.”
He cannot say whether accused was invited to the soiree. He did not occupy himself about this matter, supposes he was invited as he was present. The wound attended to was about ¾ to 1 inch in width. The wound must have been caused by a knife or dagger.