28 March 2018

News Articles on the Life and Assassination of George Starks

newsreport-gbstarksAs was already reported here recently, George Breckenridge Starks was born about April 1860 in Louisiana to Christian Starks and Rebecca Nugent.  He married Bobbie Lincecum in 1881, and later died in 1914.

A few years after the Lincecum – Starks marriage, when George was about age 24, he got into a bit of trouble by murdering his cousin.  The crime was committed the first part of March 1884, and word of the deed slowly made its way across Louisiana with published accounts in local newspapers.

One such blurb was found in the 29 March 1884 Donaldsville Chief under the headline Items of Interest Gleaned from the Louisiana Press

John Starks was shot and killed in Grant parish by his cousin, Breckenridge Starks.  Both were white men and neither bore a very high reputation.

OK.  In-Law or not, that's not something you enjoy reading about a family member.  Even 134 years after the fact.

A month after the killing, Breckenridge was still at large.  Another article describes the community's desire to have him caught, as well as the tactic of trying to run the pioneer Lincecum and Starks families out of town – "to protect them from indignity or harm" and "for a few days."

Times-Picayune1884-04-11Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Friday, 11 April 1884 - pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]

The Homicide in Grant.

The Colfax Chronicle, of April 5, says:  On Sunday, the 2d day of March, there was an affray in ward five of this parish, between two cousins, in which Breckenridge Starks killed John Starks.  We gave a limited account of the affair three weeks ago.  Since that time Breckenridge Starks has been hiding out and a large number of the citizens of Grant, assisted by a dozen or more of the citizens of Winn and Catahoula parishes, have been searching for him.

The desire was universal among all the good people that the perpetrator of the deed should be apprehended and held to answer the demands of law.  A posse was formed and search begun, fully 75 or 80 men joining in the hunt.  To prevent their giving aid or counsel to Breckenridge, it was considered advisable for a guard to be placed over his father and mother, Christian and Rebecca Starks.  For the same reason a watch was put over the family of Mr. J. P. Lincecum, whose daughter was the wife of Breckenridge Starks.  No harm was intended to the parties put under surveillance.  On the contrary, it was thought by the older and cool-headed citizens to be the best way to protect them from indignity or harm which might be offered by some rash or inconsiderate persons while the excitement was at its height.  After keeping watch over them for three days, until a thorough search could be made, they were set free, and Mr. Starks was advised to leave the country for a few days, until the excitement was over.  No threat was made, none intended.  That Mr. and Mrs. Starks should desire to shield their son was considered nothing but natural, and the only object was to prevent them aiding in his escape.

Since returning home from a trip through the hills we find the following communication from Mr. Christian Starks:

Editor Colfax Chronicle -- A few days since a band of lawless men from Catahoula, Winn and Grant, without a warrant or any excuse, save the pretense that it would help them capture Breckenridge Starks, arrested my wife and myself and kept us confined for three days.  In order to justify their action they have intimated that there were some charges against me, and invited me to leave the country.  Now, sir, this is a country of law and order, or ought to be.  The courts are open, and I take this method of informing those men that I not only do not fear but invite investigation of any charges against my honor or honesty, and dare them to the test.  One other thing I would like them to know:  I have the right to live where I please, and while they may murder me at night, or in the day time, or take the cowardly advantage of numbers against one old man, yet they cannot scare me or run me out of this country.  Now, let us see who is doubtful about letting the broad sunlight of day shine upon their actions.  If they will not go into the courts of their own free will, I will try to force them there as parties defendant.  I don't intend to leave my home and property, and these men had better now understand that the day is passed when a few men can club together and force citizens to leave this country.  --  CHRISTIAN STARKS.

The above letter was received several days ago.  Since then warrants have been served upon some eighteen or twenty of the men who engaged in the hunt for Breckenridge Starks, charging them with "conspiring to murder and falsely imprisoning Christian and Rebecca Starks." In addition to those served with warrants, some thirty more came forward and surrendered, and last Wednesday fully sixty men came into Colfax to be present at the preliminary trial held by Judge Blackman, District Attorney E. G. Hunter representing the State.  The accused were represented by Attorneys S. M. Brian and W. A. Little, of Winnfield, and through their counsel waived preliminary examination and asked to be placed under bond for appearance at District Court.  Judge Blackman ordered that they be held to bail in the sum of $250 each, which was readily given and the accused set at liberty.

Two weeks later, with Breckenridge still in hiding, a reward was offered for his capture.  This news item was a cool find, since it included a description of cousin Bobbie Lincecum's husband.

colfaxchronicle26apr1884Colfax Chronicle (Louisiana)
26 April 1884 [via Chronicling America, Library of Congress]

Proclamation by the Governor.

$500 REWARD.
EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, State of Louisiana.  }

Whereas, I have been officially informed that on Sunday, the second day of March, 1884, in the parish of Grant, BRECKENRIDGE SRARKS [sic] did, in cold blood murder John Starks, and afterwards made his escape; and whereas, for the good of society and in vindication of the law, it is necessary that the perpetrators of such deeds should be brought to justice and dealt with as the law directs.

Now, therefore, I, SAMUEL DOUGLAS MCENERY, Governor of the State of Louisiana, have thought proper to issue this, my proclamation, offering a reward of FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS for the arrest and conviction of said BRECKENRIDGE STARKS.

This proclamation to be in force for the term of sixty days.

About twenty-two years old, no beard, dark skin, weighs 125 or 130 pounds, dark eyes and dark swarthy complexion, brown hair, thick lips, long front teeth, five feet seven inches high, quick spoken and speaks loudly, and uses a great deal of profanity, wears almost continually a smile.

Given under my signature and the seal of the State of Louisiana, at the city of Baton Rouge, this 14th day of April, A.D. 1884.  S. D. McENERY.

And there's were the information flow stops.  I do know George B. Starks had his homestead claim "established and duly consummated" for 156 acres in Grant Parish, Louisiana on 7 January 1897.  He was also counted in the 1900 Grant Parish Federal census.  Lastly, also in 1900, he was mentioned again in the Colfax Chronicle as visiting from another ward of the parish – like it was any old day.  Not like he was a wanted fugitive or anything.

So, what's up with that? Did Breckenridge wait until the excitement dissipated and return to town like nothing happened? Was he captured and punished some time in those interim 15 years? Was he some how exonerated of the crime?

George Breckenridge Starks spent the rest of his days farming in Grant Parish, and those days ended in an assassination.  One can't help but wonder, was his death was a revenge killing?

Colfax Chronicle (Louisiana)
Saturday, 21 March 1914 - pg. 1

Ambushed and Assassinated

Breckinrige [sic] Starks Waylaid and Shot to Death from a Carefully Prepared Blind that Concealed the Murderer at the Side of the Road

Bloodhounds Take Trail to Two Houses

On Saturday, March 14, about 1 p.m., Breckinrige [sic] Starks, a well known farmer who lived near Selma in the northeastern portion of Grant parish, was waylaid and shot to death on the model road at a point about two miles southwest of Selma.  At a spot 300 or 400 yards east of the Iron Mountain railroad, in the edge of Bear Creek swamp, the assassin or assassins had prepared a carefully concealed blind in the bushes near the road, where the indications are that he or they must have waited and watched for the victim a day or two before he came along.  This is supposed to be the case from the well worn indications at the place of ambush.

The shooting occurred within a minute or two of 1 o'clock in the afternoon, and was heard by two or three parties.  Four shots were fired from a Winchester rifle, only one of which took effect in the top of the skull, scattering his brains and killing the victim instantly.  Starks was riding his horse and carrying a sack of eggs to market, and appeared to have been pitched from the frightened animal about forty feet from the point where he was shot.  The bloody horse ran up to the house of Mr. Atwell near by, causing an immediate investigation and the finding of Starks' dead body.

Sheriff Perkins and Coroner Blackwood were notified of the tragedy at once, and Dr. Blackwood and Deputy L. O. Clinton left for the scene of the killing in the Doctor's automobile, arriving there about 4 o'clock.  A coroner's jury was impanelled, which returned a verdict that Starks met his death at the hands of an unknown party.

The spot where the assassin stood was guarded, and sheriff Amet Guilliott, of Avoyelles, was telephoned to and requested to bring on his bloodhounds.  He arrived Sunday morning at 8 o'clock with his dogs in charge of Chief Deputy F. A. Ardoin, and the dogs were at once given the scent at the blind.  They took up the trail, going first to the house of J. F. Evans, and from there after circling around a bit successively to the homes of R. G. Lincecum and G. G. Lincecum.

It appears that no grave suspicion was entertained against Evans, who is an old man, but he became angry and violent toward Ransom Rambo, one of the deputies, knocking him down; and for this he was arrested and brought to the Colfax jail, charged with assault.  He has since been released, having given bond to answer for the assault.  He furnished a satisfactory alibi as to his whereabouts at the time of the killing.

R. G. Lincecum also proved an alibi for himself at the hour of the shooting, and was not arrested, but G. G. Lincecum not having given a satisfactory account of himself at that time, was taken into custody on suspicion, and has been confined in the Colfax jail pending an investigation.

R. G. and G. G. Lincecum are likely Reece Green and Gideon G., brothers of Bobbie Lincecum, Breckenridge's wife.  Oh how I would love to know the full story!

So the research continues.

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