Notes from the past…


Happy Dance Time, or… maybe James Bennett, Jr was a killer!

James Bennett, Sr was my 3rd great-grandfather. The Bennetts were well-to-do cattle ranchers in late 19th century San Saba County, Texas. Well, most of the Bennetts were cattle ranchers. James’s 2nd son Thomas became a prominent physician and eventual president of the Texas Medical Association. Another son, Benjamin, tragically gained fame in another way, becoming a murder victim in 1930 New Mexico. And then there was James Bennett, Jr….

When I first began to study the Bennett Boys a few years ago, I met another Bennett researcher online who told me an interesting, but unverified story about James Bennett, Jr. The family lore states that James Bennett, Jr, known as Jim Bennett, had killed a man in San Saba in the late 1880′s and escaped to Wyoming and Montana where he was involved in several bank robberies before finally being killed in a bank robbery in Glendive, Montana in the early 1900′s. A regular Butch-Cassidy-and-The-Sundance-Kid sorta guy!

All very interesting and exciting, but was this just another family legend? Where was the proof?

Well, I’ve been looking for “the proof” for some time now, but really didn’t expect to find it. 130 years tends to blur the facts, that is, if this entire story was even true….

Tonight I was researching another line from the San Saba area, the Carrolls and ran across a reference to a Carroll who had been “shot” in 1906. A Google search revealed a couple of books that outlined Texas Supreme Court rulings, and one of those rulings dealt with my Carroll murder. Pretty cool! That more detailed information allowed me to check GenealogyBank… and wow, 3 articles about my Carroll murder popped up! This is great…!

Wait a minute…I haven’t researched the Bennetts in a while…a long while, actually…let me run a quickee search on GenealogyBank, using the keywords “Bennett”, “San Saba” and “killed”….

This from the Dallas Morning News, dated 5 July 1889:

How exciting! After I finally got finished jumping up and down, screaming and, yes, dancing, I went to the Library of Congress’ site Chronically America. This site has the San Saba newspapers 1876-1891, browsable only.

Guess what I’ll be doing for the next few evening?


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Using Google Books in your genealogy research: an example

A couple of years ago, I blogged about the 1886 adventures of my 3GGM and the Texas Supreme Court. I had put her name into the search box on the Google News Archive page and found a transcript of the Court’s decision in the case of Kennedy vs Upshaw. Wow! Pretty exciting!

Only problem was… I couldn’t understand much of the paper’s language! Apparently lawyers speak (and write) something other than English :)

In a nutshell: the lower court determined that part of the will was a forgery and therefore invalid and my 3GGM appealed, with the case eventually reaching the Texas Supreme Court.

Flash forward to yesterday.

I was updating my 3GGM Susan William Lee Martin in my RootsMagic database and did a routine Google search, looking for anything new.

To my surprise and delight, Google Books found another transcript of the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in this case, more of a review actually, written in plain English!

From this new “translation”, I learned the case apparently dealt with a codicil to the last will and testament of my 3GGM Susan William Lee Martin’s father, James Harris Martin. In the original will, James Martin’s estate was equally divided between my 3GGM and his other daughter. The codicil (a document that amends a previously executed will) added about 2 weeks before James’ death and witnessed by Susan Martin and her husband Dr N B Kennedy and signed in the Kennedy home, changed the distribution of the estate. Susan would continue to get her 50% of the estate, with the other 50% to be divided between Susan’s 2 kids and the other daughter!

James Harris Martin was apparently quite ill at the time the codicil was signed (according to his attending physician’s testimony) and his hands were very shaky. Martin’s signature on the codicil was “written in a smooth and regular hand”, unlike the signature on the original will, thus it came into question and was determined to be a forgery.

The Supreme Court did not question the final verdict in the case, but did find several mistakes in the way the trial was conducted and returned the case to the lower court for retrial.

What was the genealogical value of these documents?

The transcript that I found 2 years ago gave me the full name of James Harris Martin ( I previously had James H Martin, from his 1850 Federal Census entry) as well as the date and location of his death (28 Mar 1883 in Hillsboro, Texas). Armed with these new details, I was able to locate Martin’s burial location and headstone photo at Find-A-Grave, which contained his exact birth date, 21 Jun 1807. All that from a court transcipt… AWESOME!

And what genea-goodies did I get from yesterday’s “translation” document? Remember the other daughter who was originally supposed to get half of Martin’s estate? Martin’s 1850 Federal Census enumeration lists his kids as Susan W L and Sarah A D (apparently this family had a thing for 2 middle names!). Susan was of course my 3GGM and I have been able to follow her life and amass quite a bit of data on her. But what of Sarah A D Martin? We all know the difficulties in tracking down female family members, especially from this time period. I have found essentially nothing on Sarah and even thought she might not have survived childhood, as frequently happened in those days.

Thanks to Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Texas, Volume 66 , Sarah A D Martin is now Mrs S. A. D. Haigler! I now have her married name! This is a major find for me, as hopefully it will begin a new line of research!

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Blogoversary vs Bennetts: and the winner is…

7806 The Bennett Boys, triumphant again!

Did I really forget my blog’s 4th anniversary on July 20? On the contrary, the blog got the most wonderful anniversary gift any genealogy blog could possibly ask for!

So, it’s a belated Happy 4th Anniversary to the Bluebonnet Country Genealogy Blog! I was thinking of you, just haven’t had time to get it down on paper (?) until now.

So, what happened to cause me to be so belated? And what was the most wonderful gift?

How about 12 (TWELVE)  newspaper front page articles concerning the MURDER of my second great-granduncle Benjamin Bennett? Add to that, I have met a wonderful new Bennett “cousin” online and reconnected with an equally wonderful ROAGK volunteer. Oh, and did I mention that I have tried out a wonderful new (to me) newspaper archive site and in just 4 (FOUR) days have located and downloaded over 50 (FIFTY) wonderful newspaper articles concerning my Bennett/Carroll/Carr very-extended family?

Now you see why I am so late in celebrating my blogoversary!

Would you like to see the blogoversary gift(s) now?

BenBennettkilledAJ1 BenBennettAVJ1

Here are just a couple, click on the image to read the article. The George Bennett/Bennett Miller in these articles is actually Benjamin Bennett, my 2nd great-granduncle. I guess they didn’t check their facts too closely back then. But we have Benjamin Bennett’s death certificate to prove that Benjamin was the man shot to death that night. Sad, but oh so exciting!

Bennett, Benjamin

Now I just gotta figure out (find time!) how to get through this MOUNTAIN of new info that I have collected in the past week and get it all into my database!