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Document of the Month Page

Begun in April of 2012, Document of the Month highlights interesting documents, photographs, and other images from the holdings of the Louisiana State Archives. This page features documents for the current year. To see documents for prior years, click on the links below.

Claiborne Williams' Death Certificate, 1952

(10/1/19) Born in Assumption Parish in 1868, Claiborne Williams was a talented and versatile musician, band leader, and music teacher. Working in and around Donaldsonville, he was the leader of the St. Joseph Brass Band and the Claiborne Williams Band. His musical career extended into the 1940s. After suffering a fall at his residence in Donaldsonville, Williams died in Charity Hospital in New Orleans on the 1st of October 1952 at the age of 83. This month's document is his death certificate, on file at the Louisiana State Archives (Orleans Deaths, 1952, vol. 0, #5833). It indicates he was the son of McClem Williams and Aliska Auro, both from Assumption Parish. In 2018, Williams' deteriorating home at 507 Opelousas Street in Donaldsonville, was targeted for demolition. Efforts to save house are still underway.

certificate

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A teacher sues a parent in September of 1819

(9/1/19) Two hundred years ago, public education was almost nonexistent in Louisiana, so parents who could afford it hired tutors to educate their children. In January of 1819, John Champion entered into a contract with several residents of St. Landry Parish to teach their children reading, writing, and arithmetic over a term of six months. Among them were Daniel and James Ferguson, Mary Hay, John Montgomery, Catharine McDaniel, and Wade Kimball of Grand Prairie. When Kimball didn't pay Champion for educating his six children, Champion sued for $124 and received a judgment. This month's document is Champion's two-page petition filed on the 16th of September 1819. It is found in the collection of St. Landry Parish civil records entitled Genealogical Society of Utah Microfilm: 1766-1929 (Accession P1985-4), Reel 16, on microfilm at the Louisiana State Archives.

partial letter

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Survey of Land in the Neutral Strip Circa 1811

(8/1/19) This year marks the Bicentennial of the Adams-Onis Treaty between the United States and Spain. Among other things, the treaty defined the Sabine River as the U.S. border with Spanish Texas. That boundary had been in dispute for several years, resulting in a lawless no-man's land in western Louisiana and eastern Texas. This month's document is a survey map of a 207,360-acre tract of land acquired in 1805 by the trading firm of Samuel Davenport, William Barr, Edward Murphy, and Luther Smith. This firm freighted merchandise across the "Neutral Strip" from Louisiana to Texas, and transported peltries, furs, and livestock back to Louisiana. Known as the "Las Ormigas" grant, it extended eastward from a road crossing the Sabine River at a place called by the Spaniards "Las Ormigas" (the word "hormigas" meaning ants) in present-day Sabine Parish. The survey was conducted by William McLester, Deputy Surveyor, assisted by chain carriers Peter Young and Thomas Ford, between July 2nd and August 14th. The year of the map is not indicated, but the description of the survey indicates that Murphy, Barr, and Davenport were deceased. By 1810, only Davenport was still living. Additionally, McLester is recorded as having done surveys in the Opelousas area in December of 1811. An undated and less detailed Spanish map of the Las Ormigas Grant can be found on the Library of Congress website. This rare 24x30-inch map can be found at the Louisiana State Archives in the collection of State Land Office records (Accession P1990-13, Drawer 75).

map

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Text on map: In conformity with the request of Arnaud Lauve as heir of Edward Murphy decd., and Agent of William Barr and Samuel Davinport, I have surveyed for said Arnaud Lauve & Co. a tract of land, situated on the Sabine River: Beginning at a Sweet Gum marked or branded with the Letters M.B.D. standing on the East bank of the said River, in the road leading from Natchitoches to Nacogdoches, which road crosses said River at a place called by the Spaniards, the Ormigas & running from thence down the River, with the meanders thereof, so far as to make nine miles on a straight line, and cornering on a Red Oak marked with the letters M.B.D. thence north 66º East, eighteen miles and seventy four chains, to a Red Oak marked with the letters M.B.D. thence north 24º west, crossing two roads, eighteen miles to a Post Oak marked with the letters M.B.D. thence South 66º west eighteen miles and fifty eight chains to a Holly Tree, marked with the letters M.B.D. on the bank of the River aforesaid; thence down the River with the meanders thereof, to the beginning: containing two hundred and seven thousand three hundred and sixty acres, and having such shape and marks both natural and artificial as are represented on ____ Platt: which tract of Land was granted to the above claimants by the Spanish Government.

Surveyed from July 2nd to August 14th

/s/ Peter Young Chain Carriers
Thomas Ford
/s/ Will. McLester

Malcolm Rebennack, Jr.'s (Dr. John), Marriage Certificate

(7/1/19) Born Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr., "Dr. John" was a New Orleans music legend. The six-time Grammy award winner gained fame in 1973 with his hit single, "Right Place, Wrong Time" and is known for his distinctly New Orleans style of rhythm and blues music. He worked for decades in the music industry and his music was featured in television, radio, film, and advertising. Dr. John died on the 6th of June 2019 of a heart attack. This month's Document is the certificate of marriage for his first marriage to Lydia Cecile Crow. They were married 1 January 1963 in Chalmette. The couple was divorced in 1974 and Lydia died in 1995. The record is found at the Louisiana State Archives in the Orleans Marriages (1963, vol. 0, #8).

certificate
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Algiers Tricentennial

(6/1/19) Algiers is celebrating its Tricentennial this year. Established in 1719 across the river from New Orleans, it was annexed to the city in 1870. This month's document is a letter dated from Algiers a little over two weeks after Confederate forces had fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Lieutenant A.W. Morrison of the Continental Guards, a detachment of the Washington Artillery, writes to Brigadier General G.L. Tracy, Commander of the 1st Brigade of Louisiana Volunteer State Troops, that his detachment of 18 men took a ferry across the river to Algiers, where they captured the steamship Wm G. Hews. The newspaper reported the next day that, on orders of Governor Moore, three vessels were taken possession of–W.G. Hewes, Texas, and Tennessee of Morgan's Texas Line and registered as belonging to New York. Morrison reports that the officers are gentlemen and do everything in their power to make them comfortable. There is no cooking on board and they get their rations from the Hotel. The original document is found at the Louisiana State Archives in the Rebel Archives Collection (Accession P2003-25), Box 4, Folder 59. A detailed finding aid for this collection is available on the Members' Page of the website.

partial document
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D.B. Napier Death Certificate, 1934

(5/1/19) Few people will recognize the name Daniel Bryan Napier, known as the "Butterfly Man." In 1934, he murdered a 15-year-old girl named Maggie Mae Giffen in Shreveport, and was suspected of another killing in Georgia. He was quickly tried and hanged, and has the distinction of being the last person legally executed in Caddo Parish. His death certificate featured here notes his alias of Fred Lockhart, which is how he was referred to in newspaper articles of the time. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Greenwood Cemetery. The document is on file at the Louisiana State Archives (Statewide Deaths, 1934, vol.13, #5097). His victim's death certificate (not featured) indicates that she was the daughter of Charles Giffin of Lake Girardeau, Missouri, and Maggie Mae Burnett of Texas (Statewide Deaths, 1934, vol. 10, #3919).

death certificate
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Albert Estopinal Death Certificate, 1919

(4/1/19) Albert Estopinal was a sugar cane planter from St. Bernard Parish who served in both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature and in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also served as Lieutenant Governor from 1900 to 1904. He was born on the 30th of January 1845, and died one hundred years ago this month in his home parish of St. Bernard. His death certificate shown here identifies his parents as Joseph Estopinal and Felicie Gonzales, both of Canary Island heritage. It can be found on file at the Louisiana State Archives (Statewide Deaths, 1919, vol.10, #4941).

death certificate

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Emile Zatarain Death Certificate, 1959

(3/1/19) Zatarain's is a well-known Louisiana spice brand. The company was founded in 1886 as a grocery by Emile Antoine Zatarain, a New Orleans native with Basque roots. After leaving the grocery business, he founded the Zatarain Food Products Company and formulated Papoose Root Beer. He then expanded into other New Orleans and Cajun style flavorings and spices. His five sons followed him in the business, which was sold in 1963. Zatarain died 60 years ago this month at the age of 93. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans. His death certificate can be found on file at the Louisiana State Archives (Orleans Deaths, 1959, vol. 0, #2135). It identifies his parents as Jules P. Zatarain and Elmire M. Lafrance.

death certificate

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Ada Bonner LeBoeuf Death Certificate, 1929

(2/1/19) Ninety years ago, Ada Bonner LeBoeuf and her purported lover, Dr. Thomas Dreher, were executed in Franklin, Louisiana, for the contract killing of Ada's abusive husband, James LeBoeuf, in July of 1927. The pair, along with shooter, James Beadle, were arrested and tried in St. Mary Parish. The trial was a sensation and made national headlines. "Ada and the Doc" were sentenced to death by hanging and Beadle received life in prison, though was released years later. The case has been the subject of two books and several articles. Controversy still lingers today. The author of the second book reportedly had difficulty finding local venues to give presentations and was told prominent people whose lineage related to the case would be angered. This month's document is Ada's death certificate. It states she was born 14 September 1889 in Jeanerette, the daughter of Charles E. Bonner of Ohio and Virginia Bossuet of Louisiana. It can be found on file at the Louisiana State Archives (Statewide Deaths, 1929, vol. 8, #3216).

death certificate

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Grace King Death Certificate, 1932

(1/1/19) Grace King was a New Orleans novelist and historian. Her writings included short fiction, novels, memoirs, biographies, and history. Louisiana genealogists will recognize her 1921 work, Creole Families of New Orleans, as a chronicle of the histories of numerous prominent New Orleans families. She was born in the city in 1852 to an aristocratic family and received an impressive education. She died in New Orleans on the 14th of January 1932 at the age of 78. Her death certificate, featured here, indicates she was single, a writer, and the daughter of William W. King and Sarah A. Miller. It can be found at the Louisiana State Archives (Orleans Deaths, 1932, vol. 203, p. 320).

death certificate

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