The murder of little Walter Lamana

walterfuneralIn 1907, a horrible crime captured the attention of New Orleans newspaper readers (and newspaper readers across the country).

On June 8, 1907, little Walter Lamana was lured away from his home at 624 St. Philip Street with a promise of candy and held for a $6,000 ransom. He was strangled to death within a few days and dumped in a swamp. The motive for the kidnapping itself seems to have been tied to an Italian crime mafia that was causing problems in New Orleans at the time.

Little Walter was only 8. He was born in New Orleans on May 17, 1899, to Pietro (Peter) Lamana and Carolina Favalora. He had a twin sister, Olivia Mariana. He also had brothers Frank, Joseph, Charles and John and sisters Ida and Stella.mrslamana

Walter’s father was an undertaker. This being the early 1900s, he was known as the Italian undertaker.

Little Walter was last seen at 7 p.m. on a Saturday in the stable that adjoined his parents’ home. He was discovered missing when he was called to dinner and didn’t appear.

Peter Lamana thought his son might have jumped onto a tallyho driven by his older son John to the West End resort. But a search turned up no sign of the child.

A few days later, the mailman brought a ransom note written in Italian. A reporter dispatched to the Lamana house found the mother upstairs sobbing and neighbors downstairs talking about reprisals.

The crime was blamed on the “Italian ‘Black Hand,’ which organization has for the last three years threatened and terrorized the ‘Little


Leonardo Gebbia would die for the crime; his sister avoided the noose

Italy’ of the Crescent City.” Nine Italian residents were arrested, including Nicolina Gebbia, who initially refused to say much because she was in love with “Frank,” another implicated Italian. 

Police “sweated” the suspects to get a confession out of them. A man named Ignazio Campigciano was taken into the woods by police and vigilantes until he confessed and implicated four others.

According to Ignazio/Ignacio (the spellings weren’t consistent in newspaper reports for any of these names), the boy cried and begged to go home. Frightened by the noise the child was making, one of the kidnappers strangled him to death. The body was bundled into a blanket and taken to the swamp near St. Rose.

ignazioSix were indicted: Ignacio Campisciano, Callegero Gendusa, Leonardo Gebbia, Anthony Costa, Nicolina Gebbia and Mrs. Ignacio Campisciano.

mrs ignacio

Ignacio was thought to have been the killer according to some reports. The Gebbias were brother and sister.

Initially, little Walter was laid to rest in Greenwood Cemetery in an unmarked grave. His body was placed into a snow white casket a year later and moved into a tomb.


By this time, defense attorneys were trying to save their clients from the gallows as the case proceeded to trial. One theory raised was that Walter was still alive and the body found in the swamp wasn’t his.



This theory angered Peter Lamana, who said his wife was distraught enough without having to hear this. Peter also was angered that influential women in New Orleans circulated a petition to save the life of Nicolina Gebbia.


“Any woman who signs such a petition cannot have the love or


Peter Lamana later went missing temporarily and was thought to have been murdered after a chopped up body was found floating in the river. It wasn’t his corpse.

tenderness of a mother and is without sympathy for one who has been robbed of the only thing in life she cared for the most. I don’t think that there are many women in this city who will take a hand to save that wretched woman from the gallows. She knew that my child was in the hands of her lover, and that her brother was one of the conspirators. If she is a human being, why did she allow them to take it away and kill it? She could have saved its life by telling the police where the child was. When I spoke to the Gebbias, they sympathized with me, said they wished they knew where the child was and came to my house to spy,” Peter Lamana told a reporter.


Peter Lamana later made repeated visits to the state prison in an attempt to see Campisciano, Mrs. Campisciano, Tony Costa, Giandosa and the Gebbias. He was always turned away and then briefly went missing after quarreling with his wife.

It was ultimately decided that Leonardo Gebbia lured little Walter away from home by offering him candy. Leonardo handed off Walter to the kidnappers and later ordered his death.


Mrs. Ignacio Campisciano (who, oddly, is never referred to by her own first name) and Nicolina Gebbia. Mrs. Ignacio is holding the baby.

Or maybe it was Tony Costa, “a worthless loafer … of Little Italy,” who took the little boy by the hand and led him away from his home by promising him ice cream. Then Walter was placed into Stefano Monfre’s wagon. The newspaper accounts vary.



Tony Costa, who died in prison.

At the Gebbias’ trial, testimony was given that Leonardo went to the home of the Monfres the Sunday before the abduction and that Leonardo told Mrs. Monfre to go away while he talked to her husband in the street. The night the child was abducted, the Monfres’ horse and wagon were gone until the next day. Mr. Monfre himself later vanished.

Ignazio Campigciano (again, an inconsistent spelling) testified at the Gebbia trial that another man related to him that Leonardo Gebbia told the fellow kidnappers that the jig was up and the kid needed to be murdered because the case was attracting too much attention. He also denied that the child was ever at his house and insisted that he only saw him after he was dead.

Nicolina told the courtroom that her boyfriend, Frank Lucchesi, was in the business of stealing children for ransom. She said Lucchesi worked with Campigciano and that she was afraid of her boyfriend.

The jury returned a guilty verdict within minutes for the brother and sister. The judge himself seemed stunned at the guilty finding for Nicolina Gebbia.


Little Olivia, with her sister, always seems to have been cross when her picture was taken. She was said to have looked very much like her twin brother. 

Walter Lamana’s father reacted to the verdict by clapping his hands and giving the mailman a steel fork from the dinner table. “I had intended to put out their eyes with this,” he told the mailman. “I would have killed them.”

Leonardo hanged, insisting his innocence and clutching a rosary until the very end.

The consensus seems to have been that the child was hidden in the Campisciano home in Pecan Grove and that Mrs. Campisciano coolly told neighbors that the child was just a visitor and that he was crying because his pet animal was lost.

At trial, the child’s mother wept at the sight of his Buster Brown breeches and called the defendants “dirty wretches” and “hounds.”

Tony Costa died in prison. Nicolina Gebbia avoided the gallows but went to prison.

Ignacio Campisciano, his wife, Mary, and Cologera “Frank” Gendusa were released from prison in 1918 and told to leave Louisiana. Their children were brought to them at Angola, and they reportedly immediately left for New York.


A body in the river

The Town Talk – Sept. 7, 1896

New Orleans – Peter Lamana, the New Orleans undertaker, made his appearance at his home here last night, much to the delight of his friends. He is the father of the little Italian boy, Walter Lamana, who some months ago was kidnapped and murdered by a band of Italian murderers.

Peter Lamana had been absent ten days from home, and his wife not hearing from him supposed that he had been foully dealt with and notified the police.

Peter Lamana, when questioned by the reporters as to where he had been, told them it was none of their business. To other parties, however, he stated that he had been to Chicago and St. Louis to buy some mules. It is supposed that he and his wife had had a spat, and for that reason he did not keep her posted as to his whereabouts.

When the police started an investigation as to his whereabouts, they heard that he was last seen in Baton Rouge on Aug. 28th, when he paid a bill at the hotel where he stopped while there.

What first lead to the belief that Lamana had been murdered, was the fact of the finding of a body in the Mississippi river in a cypress box. Persons on the steamer J. E. Trudeau yesterday say (sic) a box floating in the Mississippi river, near Jamestown, in St. James parish, and had it towed to shore. When the box was opened, it was found to contain the dead body of a man who had evidently been murdered. The deceased was a large man, and the murderer, in order to get the body in the box broke the legs and cut off an arm of their victim in order to squeeze the body in the box. The body was partially decomposed and had on a sweater and blue trousers. He was a large, dark complexioned man. The identity of the body has not been ascertained, although the authorities are working to try and clear up the mystery.

An 1894 Murder Mystery in Thibodaux

The Times-Democrat (New Orleans) – Feb. 20, 1894


Claudet Plantation in Thibodaux: Site of a murder and 1800s “forensic” crime solving.

Thibodaux was in a state of repressed excitement yesterday over the dastardly murder of Mr. Julien Vergnole, an event unprecedented in the history of that section of Lafourche and one which has stirred up the wrath of its citizens to such a pitch that summary vengeance is threatened the perpetrators in the event of their being apprehended. The account of the murder was published in The Times-Democrat of yesterday, and was a correct statement of the principal facts in the case.

Claudet plantation is situated three-fourths of a mile above the town of Thibodaux and was purchased a little over two years since by Mr. Vergnole, he removing at once to his purchase and making his home at the plantation. During the two years Mr. Vergnole resided on the Lafourche his genial manner and kindly disposition made him a host of friends. The business training he had acquired as a merchant of this city stood him in good stead in his new vocation as a sugar planter, and while he was very firm in his dealings with his employees, he was also generous and just. Some time after taking possession of Claudet he discharged the overseer and replaced him with the present manager, Mr. Thompson Barillieux. The new overseer, ascertaining that a number of the resident hands were indolent, and as he terms it, “spoilt,” he immediately proceeded to order them from the plantation. This action on the part of Mr. Barilleaux (sic) caused considerable feeling among the employees, they attributing it altogether to the new owner, and their dismissal was in all probability the cause which led to the killing of Mr. Vergnole.


The murder victim

The morning following the murder found numerous parties of men scouring the neighborhood of the plantation in a search for the assassins. A number of footprints were discovered in the rear yard and were followed for a short distance, when all trace of them was lost. Deputy Sheriff Rich Frost made accurate measurements of the footmarks, which from their size and shape led a number of searchers to believe they belonged to white men. This theory was soon abandoned by the majority, although this idea is still held to by a few.


Deputy Sheriff Frost, a few hours after daybreak Sunday morning, arrested and jailed three negroes named Jos King, Jos Crossing and Cornelius Crawford, the latter being the old man who put in an appearance in answer to the agonized screams of Mrs. Vergnole a few minutes after the shooting, and the others were arrested on suspicion, they being two of the former laborers on the plantation discharged by the overseer.

Later in the day, Mr. Frost arrested three white men, tramps, they being seen in the company with the negro, Crossing, near Dr. Meyer’s office when the messenger arrived from the plantation. The man Crossing was also witnessed at 9 o’clock the night of the murder in company with Jos King and the negro Crawford walking through the streets of Thibodaux. These facts, together with Crawford’s opportune appearance so short a time after the shooting, were considered so peculiar that the entire lot were arrested. Dr. Meyers said, however, that Crawford assisted him in his examination of Mr. Vergnole and showed no traces of excitement or fear.

Who was Julien Vergnole?

He married Emma Marie Aimee Riondel in New Orleans on June 27, 1891. He had arrived in New Orleans after sailing from France at age 35 in 1878. He initially settled in New Orleans, where he made his living as a commercial merchant.

Julien and Emma had one child: Jeanne Laurance, born July 28, 1892, in New Orleans. This was the child who was with her mother when Julien was shot. Little Jeanne was not even 2 when her father died.

After her husband’s death, Emma and her daughter Jeanne moved in with Emma’s stepfather and mother at 629 St. Peter St. in New Orleans.

Emma and Jeanne later moved to California but soon returned to Louisiana. It appears that Jeanne never married.

What is probably the correct clew (sic) to the murder, and one which will receive a thorough investigation, is a report of a conversation which took place fully two months ago near the market place in Thibodaux and which was overheard by a resident of that town. The conversation did not appear of much importance to the listener, she thinking it mere idle talk, and consequently thought no more of it until it was vividly brought to her remembrance by the murder of Mr. Vergnole. It appeared that several negro men and women were discussion (sic) that gentleman and evidently becoming excited by the subject of their discourse, spoke very loudly. One of the women, her feelings getting the better of her discretion, cried out: “I don’t care. This man Vernole comes up from the city and wants to play big and smart out here in the country with the people on his plantation. He’s mighty smart, he is, and ought to be killed.” One of the men answered to the woman, saying: “You shut up and never mind about that. We are the ones to attend to that part of the business.” The party then walked away and the rest of the conversation the listener did not catch.

Acting on the information received, Deputy Sheriff Frost arrested three negro julien2women named Eva, Dora and Melinda King, but subsequently released them, they not being identified by the person giving the information. It was also ascertained that a former employee of the plantation by the name of Joe Ellis had been disputing some months ago with Mr. Vergnole about a lot of hogs belonging to the former which were damaging the land and which Mr. Vergnole had ordered off, together with their owner. Ellis is at present, or was, living in a neighboring parish and had been in the neighborhood of Claudet recently.


In company with Mr. Frost, the reporter drove out to the Claudet homestead to view the scene of the assassination and get such additional facts as would throw some light upon the motive for the killing. Many rumors were rife in the town of Thibodaux and the opinions were equally divided, some attributing the crime to a purpose to rob, and others to a fiendish desire for downright and premeditated murder.

Reaching the residence and ascertaining the willingness of the bereaved widow to receive him, the reporter entered the house and was shown the room wherein the killing took place, and the broken blind and window through which the fatal bullet was fired. In the rear of the bedroom is a small gallery, accessible by a series of high steps leading into the yard and separating the main dwelling from the kitchen and cistern. The murderers were evidently acquainted with the location of the rooms and the familiar with the habits of the inmates and entering the yard, secured a bar of iron from a scrap pile near the house, reaching the gallery by the steps described and at once attacking the window blinds made an aperture, breaking the glass and firing the first shot. What followed can best be described by the statement of Mrs. Vergnole, who, with tears streaming down her face, told the horrible story of a loved husband’s assassination and her sudden and terrible widowhood.

“My husband had retired a little earlier than was his usual custom, as he was feeling tired from a day of considerable worry. He was shortly aslepp and tiring of remaining up alone, I took my little girl and also went to bed. This was about 9:30 o’clock. Falling asleep, I was suddenly aroused by a crashing noise and as I opened my eyes and raised up from the bed I saw the flash from the pistol and heard the report and the next instant the glass from the window, shattered by the impact of the bullet entering the sash near the foot of the bed, fell to the floor.

“I at once sprang to the floor, and seizing my child ran into the adjourning room, expecting every moment to be shot. My husband also jumped out of bed, and grasping his pistol, although I tried to keep him away from the window and follow me, approached the window and asked: “Who is there: what do you want?” A man’s voice answered him, saying: “We will show you” and at that very moment the second shot rang out, breaking a second pane of glass and my poor husband crying out: “Wife, I am shot and badly” ran into the next room and sank on the floor.

“I was crazy. I knew not what to do. My husband lay there dying and the men were still hammering at the window blinds. I felt that we were lost and I called out for help as loud as I could, although I knew there was no one in the house but an old colored woman who slept upstairs. My screaming must have frightened the men away, for the noise ceased and I heard their footsteps going off the gallery and into the yard.

“By this time, the old woman up stairs was aroused and came down, and after a little while her husband, Cornelius Crawford, came to the house from the levee. He said he had heard the shots as he was on his way from Thibodaux and also my screams and came to see what was the matter. I sent him to awaken the overseer, Mr. Barilleaux, and when he came, with one or two of his men, I sent him to Dr. Meyer at Thibodaux.


In May, the governor issued this proclamation so the murder evidently wasn’t solved. By the way, that isn’t a typo. There have been two Gov. Murphy Fosters in Louisiana. The one above is the ancestor of the more recent one.

“When I first awoke I distinctly heard the men talking, and I think the voices were those of negroes, and if I could hear them again I believe I would know them. There was a light in the room during the shooting.

“It was horrible. I am sure they tried to kill us while we were asleep, and the one who fired the shot was kneeling on the gallery as the first ball struck the window sash quite high and at an angle from the broken blind. I do not know why anyone should have done this, as to my knowledge my poor husband had not an enemy in the world. The only person with whom he had any altercation that I know of is not in the parish and if he were I would never suggest the idea of his committing the deed.”


Dr. Meyer said to the reporter that he had been called to attend Mr. Vergnole, the summons reaching him several hours after the shots had been fired. He had diagnosed the wound as fatal and endeavored to sustain life as long as he could. The pain from the wound was very intense and he had administered opiates to quiet the patient.

Dr. Stark, the coroner, made an examination and found that the bullet had penetrated the abdomen, severing the intestines and lodging in the spine. At the request of the relatives, Dr. Stark did not make a more extended examination.

From information gathered in Thibodaux there is every indication that a large reward will be offered by the planters of Lafource and also by the police jury, for the apprehension of the murderer. An effort was made by the sheriff to procure a pair of bloodhounds to follow the track of the men, but his efforts to secure the dogs were unavailing.

In connection with the death of Mr. Vergnole it is interesting to note that many of the dwellings in the French quarter of this city are decorated with crepe in respect to his memory.

Mr. Vergnole was a very handsome man and was about fifty years old.


The body of Mr. Julien Vergnole, merchant and planter, who was assassinated at his plantation near Thibodaux in Lafourche Parish reached the city yesterday morning on the California express of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The remains were accompanied by his father-in-law, Mr. Bouchoux; his brother, John M. Vergnole. When the train pulled into the depot, there were a large number of the dead man’s relatives and friends present to take charge of the body. It was removed from the baggage car, placed in an undertaker’s wagon and driven to the residence of his father-in-law, 196 Royal street, from which place his funeral will take place at 10 o’clock this morning.

A reporter visited the house during the day. The body, encased in a handsome metallic casket, was in the front parlor. Around it sat the grief-stricken relatives and numerous friends. The high esteem in which the murdered man was held in New Orleans was demonstrated by the large number of friends who visited the house with expressions of condolence for the family and take a look at the features of their friend who had been so suddenly and brutally robbed of his life by the assassin’s bullet.


Mr. John M. Vergnole, brother of deceased, who left New Orleans and hastened to his brother’s home upon receipt of the telegram notifying him of his critical condition, was interviewed by the reporter. He said that when he reached the bedside of his brother the latter was speechless, consequently all he could learn of the assassination was what his frightened sister-in-law had heard and seen during the few moments that intervened between the time they were awakened by the breaking of the shutter and the shooting of her husband before her eyes. Of course the work of the murderers was so quick and the lady’s excitement so great that she saw or heard but little. When they were awakened by the breaking of the shutter with the piece of iron her husband jumped out of bed and rushed to the window. His advance in that direction brought forth the first shot from the assassin’s pistol. Evidently intending to see if possible who the midnight marauders were, and undaunted by the first shot, he went close up to the window. As he did so he exclaimed: “What do you murderers want; you assassins, what are you trying to do?” A voice from the outside replied, “We will show you what we want when we get to you.” His sister-in-law did not recognize the voice that made these remarks. “The piece of iron,” continued Mr. Vergnole, “which was used in breaking the shutter, and which was left by the assassins in their flight, proved to be a portion of an old pump on the plantation.”

He did not believe that the object for the murder of his brother was robbery. He is


The widow died in the 1930s, leaving one child: daughter Jeanne. Jeanne grew up and attended Mount Carmel.

convinced that his life was taken in a spirit of vengeance and by persons well acquainted with the habits of his murdered brother and his wife. They knew that both were in the habit, except in grinding season, of retiring very early. His brother was in the habit of going to bed about 8 o’clock, and his wife would follow him as quickly as she could get her baby to sleep. Both were generally in bed by 9 o’clock. Of this fact, Mr. Vergnole was satisfied the assassins were aware, otherwise they would not have been at their bloody work as early as 10 o’clock, but would have waited for a later hour. After all that medical skill could accomplish was done to save his brother, and leaving his last hours to be watched by other relatives, he started out to do all in his power to learn, if possible, some clew that might run to earth the assassins. The reason for believing that there were three in the murdering party was because of the sound of the different footsteps that Mrs. Vergnole thinks she heard as the parties left the gallery after firing the fatal shot.

“Three negroes,” said Mr. Vergnole, “were arrested because they had been discharged a week ago off the plantation.” He did not think that they were prompted to commit such a crime as they were discharged by the overseer of the place and his brother had nothing to do with the transaction. His next move was to notify the sheriff of the parish of the shooting of his brother. The sheriff did not appear in person, but sent a deputy to his brother’s house to represent him. The deputy upon his arrival looked around the place, examined the footprints on the gallery where the murderers were supposed to have stood when they fired the shots. He then conversed with a number of persons and left, promising to return with blood hounds to see if they could get on the scent of the murderers. Up to the time that he left yesterday morning with his brother’s body for New Orleans neither sheriff nor dogs had put in an appearance.


Claudet plantation still stands. It’s now known as Bouverans Plantation. It’s a private home located near Lockport.

As he was leaving with his brother’s body for New Orleans yesterday morning he was informed that a white girl had made a statement that some time since, while marketing in the Thibodaux market she saw a negro girl conversing with two negroes. As she approached the trio she heard the girl remark, “Vergnole has got to die.” One of the men answered, “And we are the two that are going to do it.” The white girl said she was not acquainted with either the negro girl or the two negro men, but was satisfied that she would be able to identify all of them if she saw them again. The neighbors, who were doing all in their power to


Hmmmm … the historic marker makes no mention of the murder!

ferret out the murderers, had heard of this story and were investigating it for what this statement was worth. In conclusion, Mr. Vergnole said that he was convinced that his brother’s murder was the result of a conspiracy and he believed that he knew who was at the bottom of it. He knew the motive, but in the absence of any direct evidence he would not mention names until the proper time in his opinion arrived.

A Christmas-time drowning


The Weekly Times-Democrat on 29 Dec. 1893

Jennings, La., Dec. 22 – Passengers on the trip of the steamer Olive from Mermenteau to Grand Cheniere, Dec. 20, bring news of a very sad accident that occurred in Grand Lake, 30 miles south of here, during the heavy windstorm of Friday night, Dec. 15.

When the Olive reached a point in Grand Lake one half mile east of Grass Point, the crew and passengers were horrified to find floating in the water the dead body of a woman, who proved to be Mrs. D. Thibodaux, of Mermenteau, who had left home some days previous on a visit to friends at Cheniere Pardieu, 40 miles south of her home. The party consisted of herself and husband, a Mr. Miller, Widow Thibodaux and her three little girls, who had made the trip in a skiff, as has been the custom among the old residents of the river and lake country.

The same day the corpse of Mrs. Thibodaux was found in the lake, a hunter, A. Nunez, came across her husband, D. Thibodaux, on the east shore of Grand Lake, about three and a half miles from where his wife’s body was recovered. Mr. Thibodaux was half starved, his feet terribly swollen from exposure and he was in a half dead condition, having been four days and nights alone on the bleak lake shore without food or shelter, and exposed to several days of cold, windy, frosty weather. His sufferings had been greatly increased by his continued wanderings in vain search for some trace of the rest of his party.

He was taken on board of A. Nunez’ boat, and after receiving all possible care was able to give an account of the terrible ordeal through which himself and companions had passed.

The party had left Cheniere Pardieu on the return trip to Mermentau the morning of the 15th in their skiff, and went along without hindrance until the wind rose about 2 p.m. to a high gale, and they were compelled to land near the south end of Grand Lake to await calmer weather. About sundown, the wind calmed and they pushed out into the lake. All went well until about 10 p.m. when the wind suddenly rose from the west and blew a gale. The skiff was running about half a mile from the west shore and the lake became very turbulent in a few minutes, so that the skiff became unmanageable. In spite of every effort to keep the boat clear with her head to the wind she soon began filling with water. Not long after the boat filled and swamped, throwing all the party but Mr. Miller in the water. Thibodaux caught his wife and attempted to swim toward shore supporting her. Soon he became worn out with exertion and beating of the waves and lost hold of his wife, who could not have survived many minutes in the rough sea. It is remarkable how Thibodaux managed to weather the stormy lake, but in some way he managed to swim and float until he touched the east shore.

The searching party this week found Miller in the skiff on shore, frozen to death or drowned, it cannot be told which. Up to date the bodies of Widow Thibodaux and children have not been found.

A hurricane in Monroe?

I’ve heard of evacuating to Monroe to escape a hurricane. I’ve never heard of a hurricane making it all the way to Monroe (or of a hurricane hitting in March).

From the March 28, 1882, edition of the Plain Dealer:


Out of curiosity, I went in search of some of these plantations. If you’re picturing Tara when you hear the word “plantation,” you might want to dial back your expectations. My ancestors had plantations. I’m pretty sure they were just farms. No one’s ever made any mention of sweeping staircases, verandas and whiling away afternoons with mint juleps and flirtatious laughter with the Tarleton twins.

But back to the Monroe hurricane.


From a Monroe history book: The Red Cross built a flood refugee camp at the McGuire Place in 1927 when so much of Louisiana flooded.

McGuire place: As it would turn out, West Monroe Mayor Thomas McGuire purchased a plantation in 1879. He renamed it McGuire’s Traveler’s Rest.

cooperCooper plantation: I’m fairly certain this home burned in the 1960s, and these gateposts are all that remains. Aren’t they rather majestic?

J.W. Scarborough: I’m fairly certain this was a prominent citizen. I know nothing about his house.

ludelingLudeling place: Most likely John Theodore Ludeling, a Louisiana Supreme Court justice. There’s a rather interesting, sad story about the Ludeling place.


The New York Times was fascinated with the murder.

Oliver plantation: There is an Oliver farm to this day in Monroe. Whether it’s the same one mentioned in the 1800s newspaper article is anyone’s guess.

Carpenter plantation: I’m pretty sure the land associated with this still exists as the Carpenter Plantation. Whether there’s a historic home still standing, I’m uncertain. The gin house clearly is gone.


Sometimes, you make mistakes.  And then, if you’re me, those mistakes are compounded by Ancestry, and you feel just awful.  Let me explain.

Between the French and Spanish priests in early Louisiana, figuring out what my ancestors actually named their children can be a challenge. Few of my ancestors probably could read and write. So the priest guessed, and if it was a Spanish priest (as there often was between 1762 and 1802), then the priest not only had a bit of a language barrier but he also Spanishized names (is that a word?; well, it is now).

Marie became Maria. Joseph became Josef. Paul became Pablo. And those are the easy names.

My great-great grandmother’s mother was named Felonise (or something like that). According to the 1850 census, she was Phrlouise. 1860 had her as Mrs. Leufroy. 1870 marked her as Felonese. Her succession record lists her as Telonise.

So I had to figure out which of Francois Marie Gautreaux and Felicite Jeanne Hebert’s daughters she was. And I goofed. I thought she was Amarante Felicite until I realized today – decades into researching – that I goofed.

Amarante – or Emerante – married and died young. She certainly didn’t live long enough to bring 13 children into the world. Instead, she gave birth to a boy who died shortly after birth and she quickly followed him to the grave.

Except I have in my Ancestry tree that Amarante married Leufroy Aucoin and had many, many children. I goofed. It’s more likely that Leufroy’s wife was Philomin (which probably was supposed to be Philonise or Felonise). And, again, I’m guessing although the years match up. The bad thing is people have grabbed that information from my Ancestry tree (which is why you should never, ever, never, ever, never, ever) just copy someone else’s research. I know it’s tempting.

I source as much as I can, but genealogy is very much like putting together a puzzle. Sometimes you reason it out and make a guess to put the pieces together. And sometimes you’re just wrong.

I can’t tell you how bad I feel about this. And I can’t tell you how stressed I am about figuring out how to fix this in Family Tree Maker.

How in the world did I overlook Emerante’s marriage record and burial record? How?



My granny had the dubious distinction of being named after a dead child.

Joseph Augustin Giroir and Elizabeth Montet had 15 children, and all but one lived to adulthood. They lost Monique Florence at five months. I have no idea what killed her although it wasn’t uncommon for babies to die in the 1890s.

Last year, we lost a baby in my family. It was horrible and devastating, and I take some comfort in that.  Nowadays, it’s uncommon to lose a baby unless it’s in the early stages of pregnancy. No one should have to go the section of the funeral home where they keep the tiny coffins.

But back to my granny. She was one of the first grandchildren so she got saddled with the dead baby’s name: Florence. Her father always thought it was morbid so he insisted on calling her by her middle name: Gertrude. Her mother and her mother’s family supposedly always called her Florence. On the 1930 census, when she was living with her mother’s sister, she was recorded as Gertrude so who knows what the truth was.

I wonder if her father thought it was morbid or just bad luck to be named after a baby who died. I was thinking about that when looking at the descendants of Marie Heleine (or Helena) Babin.

Helena died at age 33 in 1873. She left behind Cordilier, 14 (my ancestor), Aladin, 11, Adea, 8, Olivia, 5, and Adrienne, 2. All were her children with Desire Gautreaux.

Helena had two full brothers: Melite and Anatole. The Gautreaux/Babin families apparently liked unusual names.

Because she died so young, there aren’t any family stories about Helena that I’ve been told. But her relatives attempted to carry on her name.

Her daughter Adea christened her first daughter Marie Helena. The baby died at age 2.

Her brother Anatole also named a baby Helena. That baby grew up only to die as a young woman.

Personally, I think Helena is a lovely name.