Louisiana Feud Inspires Lesson on Historical Research
Research on a family feud in Louisiana in the 1920s was the subject of a history lesson presented by Dr. Matt Reonas, father of Maddie, grade 7, and Will, grade 3, in Steve Hayden's 7th-grade American History class recently.
"One of the parties involved in the dispute was the great-great grandfather of 7th grader Eli Latiolais," explained Mr. Hayden. Dr. Reonas, a local historian, heard the story from the Latiolais family and decided to put his research skills to work digging into the nearly 100-year-old event.
It all started with a mule. Joe Cormier, Eli's great-great grandfather, was grading a road in St. Landry Parish with his mule-team in front of the home of John Childs. One of Mr. Childs's sons, Tommy, a teenager at the time, did something Mr. Cormier didn't like to one of the mules. This resulted in a confrontation that launched a grudge that ended up in a shoot-out at a polling place in Plaquemine in 1924.**
In his research into the dispute, "Dr. Reonas found newspaper articles and court testimony about the incident that revealed more information than current family members knew of it." said Mr. Hayden. "He provided other important historical context about the culture and other issues of the time. It was a valuable learning experience that exhibited the practical use of history for 7th grade students.
**In 1924, John Childs and two of his sons (Tommy of the mule incident now grown up and another) approached a polling place in Plaquemine where 70-year-old Joe Cormier was serving as an election commissioner. Tommy kicked Joe Cormier from behind, saying 'You hit me when I was a boy.' Tommy stabbed Joe. A knife fight ensued and then a shoot-out. John Childs, Tommy Childs and Joe Cormier were killed. The wives of Mr. Childs and Mr. Cormier sued each other for damages, and the case eventually wound up in the Louisiana Supreme Court where it was settled in favor of the Cormier family. There's also a link to the assassination of Huey P. Long by way of a judge in the case, but that's a story for another day. (From an interview with Everett Latiolais, Eli's dad and Joe Cormier's great-grandson.)