Sometimes you stumble across something truly surprising while researching your family tree.
I was looking through a newspaper index the other day when I saw an entry in the Thibodaux Sentinel for Alexis Benoit’s son. I figured this referred to one of the children of Alexis Celestin Benoit and Marie Adelaides Clement. I was right.
Looking up an 1868 edition of the Thibodaux Sentinel – a paper I didn’t even know existed – on microfilm in LSU’s special collections, I found a murder in the family tree. Fortunately (I guess), my ancestor’s son was the victim.
Here’s what the newspaper said:
“The village of Houma was the scene of a most unjustifiable murder on last Sunday afternoon about 5 o’clock.
Our informant states that two brothers named Conner who were working on the Opelousas Railroad rode into Houma during the day, one of whom became much intoxicated and whilst passing along the street fired wontonly of some person walking along ahead of him, but missed him. A few minutes after he met a Mr. Benoit and without any words struck at his face, and as Benoit warded off the blow he shot him, killing him instantly. Turning round, he fired at the third party without effect and mounted his horse and rode off.
The unfortunate victim of this tragedy was residing just out of town and had not spoken to his murderer and it is doubtful if the two knew each other at all.
Mr. Benoit was a son of Alexis Benoit of the Chackbay settlement and we hope the murderer may be arrested and suffer the penalty which such an unprovoked crime richly merits.”
The victim was Clairville Silvin Alexis Benoit. He died at age 36 in Terrebonne Parish, and I had just assumed that he died of the usual type of disease that killed people in the 1800s. I had no idea that he was shot dead on a city street by a drunk. Poor Silvin!
More from the New Orleans Commerical Bulletin:
“Mr. Sylvain Benoit was killed last Sunday evening on Main street, in front of Mr. Berger’s stable, by a young man name Cornelius O’Conner. The former was an industrious, hard-working Creole, in the employ of Mr. Pierre Portier and living near Houma, on the Wade plantation. He leaves a wife and four helpless orphans in an almost destitute condition. A subscription has since been gotten up for their benefit, and we are pleased to learn that our citizens have subscribed liberally.
We have also been informed that Mr. Michael O’Conner, an elder brother of Cornelius O’Connor, has contributed liberally to the relief of the family and given them assurance that they shall never want.
It is supposed that young O’Conner was laboring under a temporary fit of insanity. His actions a few minutes before the occurrence had attracted the attention of his friends as being very strange. He met Mr. Benoit for the first time, in the street, jostled him or pulled at him, when a scuffle ensued.
Mr. Benoit then struck him, or struck at him, when O’Conner drew his revolver and shot him. The shot entered in front, near the left side, ranged upwards and lodged near the region of the heart. He died immediately.
Some persons running up to interfere, he fired at John Bacon (clerk in Franis’ store) who made a narrow escape. His brother approached him, when he threatened to shoot him.
Before a writ could be made for his arrest, he made his escape and has not since been heard of.
A profound feeling of regret pervades the community. The brothers O’Conner were well thought of in the community, their deportment being courteous and gentlemanly. The elder brother is a master of a section of the Opelousas Railroad.
Cornelius O’Conner, we learn, was living with his brother and assisting him in his duties.”