Two French orphans who made their way to Louisiana said reading about the robber Jesse James caused them to commit a notorious murder.
The brothers were born in Paris, Ernest Blanc in 1877 and Alexis in 1878. They were orphaned at the ages of 15 and 16 and made their way to New York, then to New Orleans. Finding no work in the Crescent City, they headed west, reaching the home of Drozin Boudreaux near Scott in April 1894. Boudreaux hired the brothers as farm hands. They worked for him for two years, and said they found life on the farm "tranquil, calm, and honest."
But then, Ernest said, he read a romanticized book about Jesse and Frank James, causing him to ask himself: "Why perspire the whole day long behind a plow and at the end of the year have no [nothing]? To take gold from others in a single night seemed to us much easier."
The brothers bought two revolvers and made daggers from old threecornered files. They decided to rob Martin Begnaud's store in Scott. On the night of April 22, 1896, when the brothers arrived in Scott, Martin was at his brother's cafe. Shortly after 9 p.m. he walked backed to his store and the Blanc brothers followed him. They knocked on the window and said they wanted to buy tobacco. Martin unlocked the door.
"We chatted ... for a rather long time without finding a chance to attack him ... because he was behind the counter," Ernest wrote. "We were going to leave when the idea came to us to ask him to show us some rat traps, which obliged him to come from behind the counter. ... He turned his back on us, then, when turning back ... found himself facing the dagger and revolver of Alexis.
"'Do not move or you are dead,' he was told with my revolver also pointed at his head," Ernest confessed. They told him to open his cash box, "then ignoring the money, we began to tie his hands and ... [forcing] him to his bedroom, we tied his feet and made him sit on his bed.
"I stayed near the bed," Ernest continued, "pistol in hand ... while Alexis went through the strongbox. ... Then Alexis [asked for] the keys to ... two small locked drawers. 'The keys are in a drawer which is open,' he answered. 'Besides in one of those drawers there are only business papers, and some gold in the other one.' ...Alexis went back to the strongbox and found only one key which opened the drawer with the gold. He ... was satisfied ... with the ... gold, silver and bills which he had found."
All of that took fifteen minutes, after which Ernest went back to the front of the store and found his brother with "two bags of money which weighed a great deal" and his pockets stuffed with cash. Then, Ernest said, Begnaud asked them not to destroy his business papers. "In the silence of the night this strong, deep voice ... seemed to us stronger than it was in reality," Ernest wrote. "Panicking, we hurried into the bedroom and I stabbed Martin seated on his bed. How many blows I struck I do not remember."
The coroner said Martin was stabbed 52 times. The brothers buried the money, hid their weapons, and burned everything that might incriminate them. A week later, they pretended they had received some money from an unknown relative and fled to Europe.
Sheriff Isaac Broussard arrested two other men and was about to put them on trial when the Blancs, for some strange reason, returned to Lafayette, believing no one suspected them. That was a mistake. They were arrested two days later and, shaken, confessed.
They were jailed in New Orleans to protect them from a lynch mob, brought back for trial, convicted and sentenced to be hanged, then returned to New Orleans. More than 4,000 people showed up for the hanging in Lafayette on April 2, 1897. Some climbed trees to see over a fence surrounding the gallows, causing Ernest to remark: "There are some who will surely have their necks broken in advance of ours."
The brothers marched up the scaffold at 2:15 p.m. They stood sidebyside as nooses were placed around their necks. The trap doors opened at 2:20 p.m. The coroner pronounced them dead at 2:34 p.m. Ernest was 20 years old. Alexis was 19.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.