L To R, Josh Perkins, Elmer Willis, Solomon Doyle, Mae Ashworth Willis, Nora Ashworth Griffin, Shelby Ashworth

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thomas Ashworth Murder

Thomas Ashworth, I was never able to meet, due to the age differences in our birth. He was my wife's Grandfather. He was born 4/17/1893 and died 10/27/1933. He married Lonie {Dyal} Doyle, 6/25/1892 to 10/15/1963. Both are buried at Goodhope cemetery in Juanita, La. South of Singer, La.
Ever since I was a small child, I have always been fascinated with tales of the older generations in my family and others. Most of all, true mysteries and fact's covered up, hidden or kept from the younger generations for what ever reason.
The murder of Thomas Ashworth is one of those family mysteries that I was fascinate with some twenty eight years ago when I first met my wife and her family.
Erlene, her mother Bertie Mae Ashworth Griffin, was Thomas and Lonie's daughter. With life as we grow older, one thing is certain, your hair will turn color, your sight dims, hearing is lost, along with your most precious thing, you have your memory and it starts to fade. Either to the point of no return or the aggravating just remembering parts or bit's and pieces along with just remembered here and there.
The problem we faced was that Bertie Mae and others in the family could not remember why this man wasn't prosecuted for this murder. When I was first told the story of what happen to Thomas, at the end of the story. It had left the same burning question in my mind, "Why wasn't this man prosecuted for the murder"?
Twenty eight years ago all any one could remember about Thomas's murder was this. He and his family was living in Merryville, La. On October 28th 1933. Thomas was sitting on a curb side in front of the Simmons store with many other men from Merryville waiting for a ride to work. This is when he was hit in the head from behind by a much younger man, Thomas knew the young man and knew him well. Thomas died the say day.
With me, as usual, that story was embedded in my mind and was to remain there with a promise to my wife we would do what we could to find out the facts about what really happen.
Through the years, any and everyone I was introduced to in my wife's family, I would in time get to the story of Thomas, along with the questions as to why the young man wasn't prosecuted and just what started the hatred between the two men. Most ever response was either they did not know or what they did know, it was along the same lines as to what Bertie Mae could remember.
As usual, life went on. We lived in different places, I would never say I had forgotten the story or my desire to locate the truth. As stated above about the slow process of things happening to one's body, while at times, my life was in the section where "MY Mind Was Slipping" HHaa
Then all of a sudden, it seemed as if technology exploded with the force of a nuclear bomb. Then the most amazing thing came along {Personal Computers}. I never in my life thought I would be able to operate such a thing. But it worked out great.
This is when I became addicted to genealogy. It seem as just over night. We straighten out family trees that had been so mixed up and Oh so wrong in other places. Then we were introduced to the Genealogy Library on Pujo St. in Lake Charles. This is where we found most of what we were looking for in the story about the Thomas Ashworth murder.
The story was front page headlines in a newspaper of that day named "The American Press". The story it printed tells this story.
The paper reported that the two families had a feud dating back one year. Lindsay Conley, Thomas Ashworth's brother in law,had built a fence across the only road leading into and out of the Calcoats home place. Claiming he owned the land. The Calcoats took the matter to court. Conley lost the trial, was made to take down the fence and serve thirty days in jail. Which he did.
Some eleven months later Thomas Ashworth was jumped one night at a rail road tressel near his home, he was severely beaten. He blamed the two Calcoate boys for the severe beating. Which of course they denied knowing anything about.
About a week later Thomas Ashworth caught Joe Calcoat by himself and beat him. It was reported, he had beaten him so severely, that Calcoat wasn't expected to live till the next day. He did live and the following Friday is when he slipped up behind Thomas and hit him in the head with a piece of manifold from off of a Ford vehicle. Thomas died at two thirty that evening.
The following day, the Beauregard Parish Coroner J. D. Frazer, M.D. held a inquest {Coroners Jury} over the body of Thomas Ashworth. Those on the jury were, Dr. F.R. Frazer, Dr. J. A. Knight, J.D. Ruston, T.B. Meadows and A.M. King. All men were from Merryville.
At the Court House in De Ridder we found a copy of the witnesses testimony that the Coroners Jury heard. Testimony was taken from the following witnesses, Noah Hennigan, Aubrey Williamson, J.H. Eaves, Joshua Smith, J.D. Mayo, Luckey Marze, Mrs Mae Deason, A.F. Miller, H.E.Carens.
The verdict of the Coroners Jury was that Thomas Ashworth came to his death by the hands of one Joe Calcoat.
The American Press reported Joe Calcoat was arrested and held over for trial.
Finally after 73 years. Most of the answers have been found as to what happen. But wait. Not all questions were answered.
In checking with the Court House and the District Attorney Office in De Ridder, La. There is no record of any Grand Jury returning a True bill of murder or any No true Bill either. At the court House, all that was found was the testimony of the witnesses to the murder. There is no record of Joe Calcoat being charged with murder. The statement of being arrested and charged was from The American Press. There was also no recorded of charges being dropped.
The facts of Joe Calcoat was this. He was never prosecuted. He was turned lose and lived in Merryville for the rest of his life. He took up the profession of cutting hair for a living. [Author's Note: This same man cut my hair when I was a child of about 9 or 10 years of age.} He lived into his eighties. I was told he died by committing suicide in his barber shop one morning, by drinking a bottle of poison
While it is some what a relief for my wife and her mother to find out what we did. I still have that burning desire inside to know the "REST OF THE STORY", as Paul Harvey says.

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