Murdering Wives – Robert Laurent Barksdale – Man of Mystery

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

In my last blog post about this family, I wrote about Robert Toombs BARKSDALE.  Robert Laurent BARKSDALE was his son, and the father of Clarice Barksdale COVERT – one of the “Murdering Wives.”

He was apparently known as Laurent BARKSDALE.  I have found him referred to as Robert L. and as Laurent.  He was born 9 Oct 1890 in Augusta, Georgia.  He is found living with Robert Toombs BARKSDALE, Annie BARKSDALE (Annie Wallis O’HANLON – his mother), and Ethel Clarice BARKSDALE (sister), in the 1900 US Federal Census.  Annie’s mother, Kathlene O’HANLON was living with the family in 1900 too.  There is also a boarder in the household in the census records, Horace TEAGUE, a 25-year-old railroad conductor.

Laurent’s father, Robert Toombs BARKSDALE, died in 1905.  This is where his life becomes a little mysterious.  I will mention in the next paragraph that Laurent lived in Cuba from 1905 – 1906.  Why would a 14-year-old boy go to Cuba after his father’s death? His future wife (I will talk about that in a later post) had Cuban ties, but the BARKSDALEs did not that I can find.  Passports were not required at that time.  The government required passports of citizens only during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and during and shortly after World War I (1914–1918). The Travel Control Act of May 22, 1918 permitted the president, when the United States was at war, to proclaim a passport requirement, and a proclamation was issued on August 18, 1918. Though World War I ended on November 11, 1918, the passport requirement lingered until March 3, 1921.

Robert Laurent BARKSDALE’s first passport application was issued 28 Apr 1919.  On this application, he reports that he last left the US July 1917, arriving in Tampico, Mexico Aug 1917 for the purpose of working as an accountant for The Island Oil and Transportation Company.  He also lists the following places of residence outside of the US; Cuba 1905-1906, Mexico 1906-1907, Panama 1909-1911, Honduras 1912-1915, and Mexico 1915-present.  He states that he is employed in the oil industry.  He is requesting the passport for Tampico, Mexico and for visiting Cuba.  A part of the Passport Application is an Affidavit to Explain Protracted Foreign Residence and to Overcome Presumption of Expatriation.  On this affidavit, he states he “ceased to reside in the United States on or about 15 Feb 1912 and have since temporarily resided in Ceiba, Honduras and Tampico, Mexico.”  He further states, “I arrived in Tampico, Mexico 1st day of September, 1917, my reason for such residence being as follows: in charge of Telephone Dept., Aguila Oil Co. (British) Sept. 1917 – Sept. 1918; Accountant Island Oil & Transport Co. (American Firm) Sept. 1918 to date.  From 1912-1915 I was in Honduras, operating picture-shows on my own account, most of the time.”

He lived in Clinton, Arizona for a time as evidenced by his WWI Draft Registration card. The registration was done in Clifton, Greenlee County, Arizona – the card is dated 5 June 1917.  On his draft registration card he states that he is a resident of Clifton and is employed as a stenographer for the Shannon Copper Co.  He gives his hair and eye color as brown and states, “I lost one eye.” He uses the exact date of birth and gives his place of birth as Augusta, Georgia on the draft registration card.  It also states on his passport application that he presented his draft registration card from Clifton, Greenlee, AZ as ID.

His amended passport was issued 3 Dec 1920.  He uses only the name Laurent BARKSDALE on this application.  He lists his legal domicile as “in Tampico, Mexico, my permanent residence being at Almeda No. 7, and I last left the United States on Sept. 23, 1920,  arriving at Tampico on Sept. 26, 1920, where I am now residing for the purpose of business, on behalf of Jacobs & Barksdale, Apardato No. 783, Tampico, American, that I have resided outside the United States at the following locations for the following periods, Spanish Honduras 1913 – 1920, Mexico 1915 – 1920.”  He leaves his return date to the US open – saying “When I return there.”  He is requesting the passport for the purposes of visiting Mexico, Cuba, and Colombia, all for business reasons.  One interesting thing on this passport application is that the person vouching for him is Lottie L. Simmons, his mother-in-law.

Robert Laurent Barksdale married May Cossi Simmons of Key West, Florida in the summer of 1919 in New York according to a news item in The Augusta Chronicle 19 Aug 1919.  The couple was visiting Augusta after their marriage.  The article says “Mr. Barksdale has been in Tampico, Mexico for some years and his lovely bride formerly resided in Augusta and has many friends here.”  I have found NO evidence that May ever lived in Augusta, except for a brief time after her marriage to Laurent.  They must have remained in Augusta while awaiting the arrival of their passports.

May Simmons BARKSDALE was issued a passport 23 Aug 1919 to visit Cuba for pleasure and to go on to Tampico, Mexico to be with her husband.  It was requested that the passport be sent to 349 Greene Street, Augusta, GA.  Laurent and May must have been staying with his mother and sister at that time.  Robert Laurent wrote a letter prior to his application that one had been requested for his wife, May, as well and requested that both be mailed to the Augusta address.  The date of that letter was 6 June 1919, so they must have been married before that date.

Clarice COVERT stated in court records that she was born in Augusta, GA, but it seems more likely that she was born in Tampico, Mexico.  The only other travel I can find for the couple is a border crossing from Mexico to Laredo, Texas 10 Sep 1920.  Laurent visited Miami 25 July 1921, according to a news item in the Miami Herald Record on that date. There is no mention in the article that May or Clarice accompanied him.

Clarice was born, if my research is correct, 20 Dec 1920, probably in Tampico, Mexico. Evidence that Clarice was born in Mexico is the fact that May BARKSDALE’s mother, Lottie Lee SIMMONS was issued a passport 10 Sep 1920 to go to Tampico, Mexico via Cuba “to be with my daughter.”  Apparently Lottie Lee wanted to be with May for the birth of her grandchild.  It is interesting that the passport was issued the same date as the BARKSDALE’s border crossing into Texas from Mexico.  Equally as interesting is that May Cossi BARKSDALE gives a sworn affidavit for her mother 1 Sep 1920 in Key West, Florida. That is a lot of traveling for a pregnant woman.

Robert Laurent BARKSDALE, wife May, and daughter Clarice are found in the 1930 United States Federal Census living in Jacksonville, Duvall County, Florida.  His occupation is given as manager of a typewriter company.  In the 1935 Florida State Census, both May and Clarice are found living in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida with Lottie Lee Simmons.  Laurent is no where to be found.  Clarice reported in court records that her father left the family when she was young.

Robert Laurent is not mentioned in his mother’s (Annie O’Hanlon BARKSDALE) obituary in 1937.  His sister, Clarice Barksdale ANDERSON died in 1952 and again, he is not mentioned as a surviving family member her obituary.  Clarice is mentioned as a surviving family member in both of these obituaries.  Did he die or was he estranged from his family for leaving his wife and child?

I found a record in the Social Security Death Index for a Robert Barksdale, same birthdate as the R.L. Barksdale we have been talking about.  This man had his social security number issued in Texas between 1951-1952 and died Jan 1981 in  Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona.  This COULD be Robert Laurent BARKSDALE, or it may not be.  It is possible that our Robert Laurent BARKSDALE never had a Social Security number.  There is evidence, that I will talk about in a later post, that Clarice COVERT’s children went to school in Phoenix, AZ for a time.  Clarice also said in court records that she left Eddie at one point in 1948 and went with her young son to stay with her mother in Arizona.  Maybe further research will reveal that May and Laurent reconciled for at least a time and lived in Arizona. None of that is proven however.

Robert Laurent BARKSDALE is indeed a many of mystery.










Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

No blog post from me in four days.  I was ready to move on with more her Clarice Barksdale’s family tree – even had a unexpected break through in my research. Still, haven’t felt like writing about that.  I will – I promise I will.  The entire stories of the four families will be told here in as much detail as is possible.  Just not today.

It has been a tough week overall.  We have a 27-year-old cousin who became ill about 11 months ago.  She was diagnosed with hypoplastic myelodysplastic sydrome (MDS). A bone marrow transplant was her only hope.  She received the transplant in July, but we learned this week that she is losing her brave fight to GVHD. She went into Hospice care and it is now only a matter of time.  There is no comfort in losing a beautiful, charming, smart young life, but because of her, hundreds of people are now aware of the “Be the Match” bone marrow registry and have registered.  Many lives will be saved because Laura lived. She would like that.  There is no greater gift that one can give than the gift of life.

Laura and her husband, Army Captain Matt Gillette

Another Story that Bothers and Bewilders Me

Today, at Motlow Creek Baptist Church in Campobello, SC, a ceremony was held dedicating Confederate Memorials to two of my Great Great Grandfathers, buried in the cemetery there.  I live in Northern Virginia and was not able to make the trip, but a relative sent me the program, photos, and some short videos.  When I reading over the program, I was dumbstruck by the fact that part of the ceremony was a pledge of allegiance to the Confederate Flag and the singing of “Dixie Land”.  People in Confederate dress uniforms took part in the dedication.  While I understand we are proud of ancestors who served in a conflict they thought was right, times have changed. These two men were not wealthy slave owners.  They were common men who believed there was truth in the call to arms to fight for the South – they believed they were fighting for right.  Honoring my two great great grandfathers wasn’t wrong, but honoring them in that way strikes a wrong chord for me.  I am glad I didn’t go.

Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered describes how I feel tonight.  Perhaps tomorrow I can move on with my stories.

Murdering Wives – Grandfather of Clarice B. Covert

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

Delving into the family history of “the murdering wives” had been fascinating.  Clarice Covert was born Clarice Barksdale, daughter of Robert Laurent Barksdale.  Robert Laurent Barksdale was the son of Robert Tombs Barksdale.  He is the topic of today’s blog post.

Robert Tombs Barksdale was born on a farm and raised himself up to high society in Georgia.  He graduated from the University of Georgia (where he was in the Kappa Alpha Fraternity), served in the GA state legislature, was an attorney and a civil engineer.  His daughter, Clarice (the aunt and namesake of Clarice Barksdale Covert) was a great societal favorite after making her debut and a popular guest in Atlanta society. She is mentioned often in the society columns in Augusta, Atlanta, Macon, and the surrounding areas. Her wedding 10 Jun 1905 was announced in the Atlanta Journal as a major event.  It was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Toombs Barksdale, so it must be assumed that the home was quite grand. The Ocala Banner, in Ocala, FL, announced that her cousin, Miss Johnnie Liddon, was leaving for Augusta where she would be maid of honor at the wedding.  The groom was also a society type. The Augusta Barksdales were most certainly upper-crust.

Robert Tombs BARKSDALE was born 12 Apr 1848 in Warren County, Georgia (date of birth from his son’s passport application, The History of Warren County, GA and from Robert Tombs Barksdale’s grave site info).  His father, Thomas J. Barksdale, was a farmer in Warren County, GA in the 1850 Census.  His mother’s name was Susan, age 22.  He is found at the age of 12 with TJ and Susan Barksdale in the 1860 Census.  In the 1870 Census, the household includes TJ and Robert T., but Susan is missing.  There is a Fanny, age 24, and a Minnie, age 1.  Perhaps Susan died and Thomas J remarried and had another child.  Robert T. Barksdale is listed as 22 and as having no occupation.  We do know that Robert graduated from the University of Georgia in 1869.

From The History of Warren County, Georgia 1793-1974 (published 1976 by Warren County History Committee, “Graduated University of Ga., 1869. Studied law under Judge E. H. Pottle of Warrenton. Admitted to bar in 1880.”  We also know that he served one year in the State Legislature.  From the same book, “List of Representatives to the GA Legislature from 1794-1968. Robert T. Barksdale is listed on p.79.”  He served from 1878-1879.

He is found in the 1880 Census in Warren County, Ga. with wife, Annie W. (Annie Wallis O’Hanlon) and daughter Ethel C. (Clarice was her middle name and was the name she went by – she is the aunt of Clarice Covert), age 1. His occupation is listed as Lawyer. Robert and Annie were married in 1848 (per the 1890 Census).

In the 1890 Census, the family is found in the City of Augusta, GA. and Robert’s occupation is listed as Civil Engineer.  From The History of Warren County, “Wife, Annie Q. Hanlon of Macon, one daughter, Clarice, and one son, Robert. Col. Barksdale retired from practiced of law. Moved to Augusta, Ga., and became a Civil Engineer.”  In the household with the family was Annie’s mother, Kathlene O’Hanlon. Ethel C. (daughter) is 11 and Robert L. Barksdale (father of Clarice B. Covert) is 9. The Kappa Alpha journal, Volume 18 refers to him in this paragraph, “Robert Toombs Barksdale (Gamma) is a living corpse, and is not dead as reported in the last catalogue.  He is a civil engineer at 951 Greene street, Augusta, Ga.”

I did note that Robert Tombs Barksdale is referred to in the book as Col. Barksdale. It is possible that he served in the Confederate Army as he would have been 13 when the war began and 17 when the war ended, but it is unlikely he could have achieved the rank of Colonel. The title was probably honorary (I have found that to happen often in those days – people of prominence were often given “titles” that they had not earned).  I did find a Robt Barksdale on the Muster Rolls of Capt. W.M. Campbell’s Company, Meade’s Cavalry, enlisted 1 Oct 1864, Madison County, Alabama. This could be our Robert Toombs Barksdale, but that will probably prove to be impossible to verify.

Robert Toombs Barksdale died of a cerebral tumor 3 Sep 1905 and is buried in The Magnolia Cemetery, Augusta, Georgia (source:  Augusta, Georgia Gravesite Search, Augusta City Government).  His wife, Annie, is buried there as well, though she outlived him by over 30 years.  His daughter, Clarice Barksdale Anderson is also buried in Magnolia Cemetery, as is her husband, James Allen Anderson.

Cases of the Murdering Wives – Clarice Covert’s Heritage

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

My daughter, who is writing the paper on the Supreme Court case that grew out of two cases of military wives who murdered their husbands, felt that to REALLY tell the story, she needed to understand the two women and the two husbands.  She asked me to dig into their family backgrounds and to learn as much as I could.  It is very difficult to research people from this era starting with NOTHING.  Brittany gave me some clues from some of the court transcripts and I took those hints and ran with them.

Clarice was born Clarice Barksdale, 21 Dec 1920, daughter of Robert Laurent Barksdale and his wife, May Cosse Simmons.  The place of her birth is somewhat in question.  Her parents were living in Tampico, Mexico when May became pregnant with Clarice.  We know this from their Passport Applications.

Robert Barksdale was an accountant for the Island Oil and Transport Company, based in Tampico in 1919.  He stated on the Passport Application that he ceased to reside in the US in 1912, residing in Ceiba, Honduras from 1912-1915, operating picture-shows “on my own account, most of the time.”  He stated that from 1917-1918 he was in charge of the telephone department for Aguila Oil Company (British) and from 1918 to present (1919) in Tampico, Mexico.  He states on the application that he made visits to the US in 1915 and in 1917.  He says he maintains ties to his mother, Mrs. Annie Wallis Barksdale, 349 Greene St., Augusta, GA and to his sister, Mrs. James A. Anderson, Central Hotel, Highlands, NC and that he and his mother share support of the sister.  Though he states that he has ceased to reside in the US in 1912, he had spent 1905-1906 in Cuba, 1906-1907 in Mexico, 1909-1911 in Panama, before arriving in Honduras in 1912.

May Cosse Barksdale’s passport was issued 23 Aug 1919.  Her destination was to Cuba for pleasure, then to Tampico, Mexico “for husband’s employment.”  The application was filled out in Tampico by Robert Laurent Barksdale, stating that he had known May for 15 years.  It was requested that the passport be sent to the 349 Greene St. address in Augusta, GA.  It is stated on the application that May Barksdale would return to the US within two years.

May’s mother applied for a passport issued 10 Sep 1920 with her destination being Tampico, Mexico “to be with my daughter.”  Presumably, Lottie Lee Simmons wanted to be with May when she gave birth.  However, there is a record of a border crossing from Mexico into Texas by Robert Laurent Barksdale and May Barksdale on 10 Sep 1920. Why did they return to the US 11 days before the birth of Clarice?  Did they go to Augusta, where Clarice was born?

More about the early life of Clarice Barksdale in my next post.

The Cases of the Murdering Wives – Clarice Covert

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

All of my earlier posts on the “Cases of the Murdering Wives” have focused on the parties involved in Kinsella v. Krueger.  The Supreme Court combined two cases and besides calling them the cases of the murdering wives, the case was known by the name of the first case where a writ of habeas corpus was filed, Reid v. Covert. I haven’t written much about the people involved in that case, so it is time to start.

Clarice B. Covert murdered her Air Force Sargeant husband, Edward Eugene Covert with an ax, crawled into bed with his corpse, got up the next morning, bathed and dressed and went to see her base psychiatrist.  She told him that she has killed Eddie.  At that point she was arrested, tried and found guilty by court-martial.  She was sentenced to life at hard labor in the Federal Women’s Reformatory in Alderson, West Virginia.  Here attorneys appealed her conviction to the Military Court of Appeals in DC, winning her release on was basically a technicality.  The Air Force intended to retry her, she was jailed in DC awaiting the trial.  Her attorneys files a habeas corpus on her behalf, claiming that the military has lost jurisdiction by imprisoning her in a DC jail.  Clarice spent very little time in jail and was out on bail when the cases went to the Supreme Court.

Clarice and Edward had three young sons, one born while Clarice was in prison.  I have not been able to determine where the boys went after their father’s murder, but there is some evidence that at least one of them might have spent time with Clarice’s father in Arizona.  Initially, they were probably sent to Edward’s family in Indiana.

I have traced Clarice’s roots back several generations and there are some interesting facts and some intriguing mysteries in the background information I have uncovered.  More on the history of Clarice tomorrow.

The Cases of the Murdering Wives

(This is research for a law school paper – not my family line)

It occurred to me tonight that I hadn’t posted on this blog in over a week.  Research on the parties involved in the cases goes on.  My daughter and I spent all day last Friday, 30 Sep, 2011 at The Library of Congress going through the Supreme Court Justices’ internal memoranda on the cases that the Justices themselves called, “the cases of the murdering wives.” Justice Hugo Black wrote the majority opinion on the their reversal of a decision made only 16 months before this decision.  Justice Black’s papers are restricted and we have requested access to see them.  We hope that permission will be granted soon.  We were still able to glean to great gold nuggets from the papers of other justices.

Supreme Court Note

Let me just throw in here how awesome it was to actually hold in my hands notes HANDWRITTEN by William O. Douglass, William J. Brennan, Felix Frankfurter, Earl Warren and the others.  I was literally holding history in my hands.  Going through the folders, I kept getting distracted by items that nothing to do with the case we were researching.  That was a very special experience.  Going through the papers is very time-consuming so getting distracted was a luxury I couldn’t afford.  There is a lot of paper and much of is not filed in a way that makes it easy to find –  a lot of searching through boxes hoping for a note on the case.  We photographed over 60 notes and documents and I still have to go through those photos to see what needs enhancing in Photoshop for my daughter to use in her work.

On Sunday, 2 Oct 2011, we contacted a living relative of one of the “murdering wives.”  This relative was a young teenager at the time of the murders, but remembers a great deal.  She was able to offer a lot of wonderful information and is going to send family photos are more.  That was another very lucky find.

I spent the rest of the week ill with a bad cold and didn’t do much work.  I did get back into researching Clarice COVERT’s family history.  I have gotten hung up on something that doesn’t make any difference to my daughter’s paper, but it is important to me, as a Research Junkie and dedicated family researcher.  I will write about that mystery tomorrow.

Oh, one last thing.  I put out a query for an obituary for Edward Eugene COVERT and received a copy of that tonight.  This project is coming together beautifully.