Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hung Himself in a Jail Cell – Louis Martin La Brie

B. 6 Feb 1868 in Barron County, Wisconsin
M. 1 Jun 1891 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Wife: Julia A. McGuire
D. 4 Mar 1911 in Rondo Police Station, St. Paul, Minnesota

There isn't much good to say about Louis Martin La Brie. He was born on February 6, 1868 in Barron County, Wisconsin to Francis Labree and Eliza Furlong. Louis was probably the youngest of their 10 children, but of his siblings, only Alex and Ellen survived. Louis' father was from Quebec and his mother was from Ireland. In 1872, the family moved to Wright County, Minnesota, buying a farm in Waverly. Louis grew up there and attended school at least until he was 12 years-old.

Louis La Brie in about 1890

By the time he was 23, Louis had moved on his own to Minneapolis. He was working in a restaurant as a waiter when he met his wife, Julia McGuire, working as a cook. They married on June 1, 1891. Between 1892 and 1910, they had nine children. Of three sons, only the oldest, Frank, survived infancy; all six girls lived. The records show that Louis moved his family often, renting several places in Minneapolis, and then in 1901, in St. Paul. In 1906, he bought a house on Matilda Street in St. Paul.

Louis La Brie's house on Matilda Street in St. Paul

Louis changed jobs many times, always working as a waiter in a restaurant. The 1900 census described that he was unemployed for three months of the previous year, and the 1910 census said he was out-of-work for 32 weeks. For extra income, Louis rented out rooms of their house to boarders.

By all accounts, Louis was not a likable man. Daughter Minnie recalled getting a lump of coal in her Christmas stocking from her father. One family story told of how he would tease his children by attending public hangings and returning with a rope he claimed was used in the execution. Another story said that he committed adultery with his wife's sister by crawling into her bedroom window when she was staying at their house. It was said that Louis was unhappy with the fact he had only one surviving son; when youngest child Elsie was born, he refused to even look at her for two weeks. It was believed that Louis probably drank a lot, and this made his behavior worse.

In October 1896, it was reported in the Minneapolis Tribune that Louis got into a fight with another man. Louis was said to have started the fight by insulting the other man's "woman friend." The result was that Louis was pushed down a flight of stairs, breaking his nose and ending up with a large gash on the back of his head.

Louis was known to give beatings to his wife and children. When his teenage son Frank worked with him in a restaurant, he severely beat the boy for dropping a pat of butter on the floor and returning it to a table, an act which got Louis arrested. Over the years, he was a frequent prisoner in the St. Paul jails. It was said that "through his familiarity with city and county officials whom he waited on, he always managed to assert sufficient influence to get turned loose."


Louis La Brie about 40 years-old

On the night of March 3, 1911, Louis physically attacked his wife Julia. The next day, the police came and arrested him. It was said that the police found in the home "a scene of destruction of household furniture which made the place resemble a yard of kindling." Louis' spirits were described as good as he was put into a cell at the police station, but at about 6:30 in the evening he took a strip of blanket and looped it over a top bar of the cell. The officer on duty found him hanging there minutes later, and called for an ambulance, but he was already dead.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported his death the following morning as the lead article on the front page. Years later, as the children of Louis La Brie had families of their own, the actions of their father were rarely told to their children.

Part of the article on the front page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, March 5, 1911

Children:
1. Frank R. La Brie – B. 12 Jun 1892, Minneapolis, Minnesota; D. 7 Nov 1937, Shakopee, Minnesota; M. Anna Dorthea Oelrich (1899-1996), 28 Mar 1921, Nicollet County, Minnesota

2. Minnie Louise La Brie – B. 3 Sep 1893, Minneapolis, Minnesota; D. 20 Jul 1950, Los Angeles, California; M. James John Bolheres (~1886-1941), 17 Jun 1918, St. Paul, Minnesota

3. Louis La Brie – B. 10 Feb 1896, Minneapolis, Minnesota; D. 1896

4. Florence Ruth La Brie – B. 18 Mar 1897, Minneapolis, Minnesota; D. 27 Oct 1982, Gardena, California; M. William Frederick Maxwell (1872-1941), ~1919

5. Lillian Anna La Brie – B. 24 Sep 1899, Minneapolis, Minnesota; D. 30 May 1978, Hennepin County, Minnesota; M. Gustav Otto Fritz (1885-1954), 5 Jul 1932, Grant County, Minnesota

6. Hazel Helen La Brie – B. 14 Nov 1901, St. Paul, Minnesota; D. 15 Nov 1996, Hennepin County, Minnesota; M. Axel William Swenson (1897-1985), 26 Oct 1920, Minneapolis, Minnesota

7. Julia Eleanor La Brie – B. 9 Apr 1904, St. Paul, Minnesota; D. 26 Dec 1992, Santa Maria, California; M. Albert E. Ibsen (1901-1971), 13 Feb 1923, Hennepin County, Minnesota

8. H. George La Brie – B. 1 Jan 1908, St. Paul, Minnesota; D. 2 Oct 1908, St. Paul, Minnesota

9. Elsie Margaret La Brie – B. 4 Nov 1910, St. Paul, Minnesota; D. 20 Sep 1989, Costa Mesa, California; M. (1) Unknown; (2) John M. Toohey (~1918-?), 2 Jun 1935, Los Angeles, California; (3) Arthur Welch Alexander (1912-1989)

Sources:
1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1930 and 1940 U.S. Censuses, Wisconsin and Minnesota
City directories for Minneapolis and St. Paul, 1887-1911
Marriage certificate of Louis La Brie and Julia McGuire
"Prisoner Takes His Life," Minneapolis Tribune, 5 Mar 1911
"Ends Life in Cell at Rondo Station," St. Paul Pioneer Press, 5 Mar 1911
"Louis La Brie Falls Down Stairs While Scuffling, and Will Not Be Handsome for Some Time," Minneapolis Tribune, 9 Oct 1896
Death certificate of Louis La Brie, St. Paul, Minnesota, 6 Mar 1911
Family stories told by Louis La Brie's grandchildren (mostly still living)
Letter from Hazel Swenson, 30 May 1977
Death certificate of Frank La Brie, 8 Nov 1937
Minnesota Marriage Records database
Death certificate of Anna La Brie, 23 Sep 1996
Social Security application of James John Bolheres, 26 Nov 1937
Death certificate of James John Bolheres
Marriage certificate of James Bolheres and Minnie La Brie, 17 Jun 1918
Birth record of Minnie Louise La Brie, 3 Sep 1893
Funeral memorial card of Minnie Bolheres, 23 Jul 1950
California Death Records index, 1940-1997
Death Certificate of William F. Maxwell, 21 Jul 1941
Letter from William Swenson, 14 Nov 1997
California County Marriages, 1850-1952

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