25 Apr 1881: Alexander Rose Hendry’s Law Office Destroyed by Arsonist’s Fire

On this day — 139 years ago — my 4x-great-grandfather Alexander Rose Hendry’s law office was destroyed by fire. The article below appeared in the 29 April 1881 issue of the New Orleans Democrat (transcription follows):¹

“Winnsboro, LA. A House and Its Contents Destroyed by Incendiary Fire–The Weather and Crops,” The New Orleans Democrat, 29 Apr 1881, p. 1, col. 2; image copy; Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=32458955 : accessed 25 Apr 2020).

WINNSBORO, LA.

A HOUSE AND ITS CONTENTS DESTROYED BY IN
CENDIARY FIRE–THE WEATHER AND CROPS.
(Special to the Democrat).

WINNSBORO, La., April 26, via Delhi, April
28.–Last night about 8 o’clock the house
owned by Dr. A. R. Hendry, and occupied by
Osborne Perkins as a dry goods store, and
Hendry & Berry as a law office, was entirely
destroyed by fire, with the entire contents.
Osborne & Perkins lose about $3000, insured
for $2000. Dr. Hendry loses the house, which
was very old, and his entire law library, which
was a valuable one. Berry loses his library,
which was small. The fire was the work of an
incendiary. There was no insurance on the
house or library.
We had a fine rain on the twenty-second and
twenty-fourth, and the gardens and fields are
looking well. Cotton seed is selling at six
cents a pound and scarce at that price. Hogs
are dying with cholera.

Oh, what a loss for Alexander! Although he studied medicine at Williams College in Watertown, Massachusetts,² and practiced as a physician in northeast Louisiana for many years,³ he also worked as an attorney. Alexander was admitted to the Louisiana Bar Association in 1847.⁴ The fire destroyed all the books he’d amassed in his 30+ year career — a needless loss at the hands of an arsonist.

I’m unsure where Alexander’s law office, along with the dry goods store, was located. It seems most reasonable that the law office would be near the parish courthouse in Winnsboro. However, Alexander⁵ and his law partner Charles L. Berry,⁶ as well as the likely merchant, A. F. Osborne,⁷ all lived in Ward 7, on New Zion Road toward Liddieville. (If we weren’t in a pandemic, I would visit the courthouse and search for any Hendry-owned property near the town center, but…well, that will have to be a project for another time.)

Alexander lost much of his wealth in the Civil War. On the 1860 census, he reported the value of his real estate as $8000, and his personal property as $500.⁸ By 1870, that value had decreased to $1770, and $391.⁹ Alexander resorted to selling much of his real estate because he lacked cash to pay taxes.¹⁰ The loss of his entire law library was surely a devastating loss to a man near the end of his career.

Alexander died not long after the fire, supposedly on 17 November 1884, in Franklin Parish.¹¹ An authored family history cites this date from an unidentified newspaper clipping.


¹”Winnsboro, LA. A House and Its Contents Destroyed by Incendiary Fire–The Weather and Crops,” The New Orleans Democrat, 29 Apr 1881, p. 1, col. 2; image copy; Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=32458955 : accessed 25 Apr 2020).

²Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, “Catalogus, Collegii Gulielimi, MDCCCXXXVIII”; image, “U.S., College Student Lists, 1763-1924.” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2207/32217_622204_0523-00030 : accessed 4 May 2019); citing “College Student Lists,” American Antiquarian Society.

³Alexander R. Hendry, 1839-1844, Medical Daybook. Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, Louisiana State University Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

⁴”Admissions to the Bar,” New Orleans Weekly Delta, 1 Nov 1847, p. 2, col. 1; image copy, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=32458831 : accessed 25 Apr 2020).

⁵1880 U.S. census, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, enumeration district (ED) 34, p. 41-A (penned), p. 206 (stamped), A. R. Handry; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241369-00624/8848208 : accessed 25 Apr 2020); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 453.

⁶1900 U.S. census, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, Ward 7, enumeration district (ED) 47, p. 5-A (penned), p. 69 (stamped), Charles Berry; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4120180_00045 : accessed 25 Apr 2020); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 565.

⁷1880 U.S. census, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, enumeration district (ED) 34, p. 46-B (penned), p. 209 (stamped), A. F. Osborn; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241369-00629 : accessed 25 Apr 2020); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 453.

⁸1860 U.S. census, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Pine Woods, p. 136 (penned), dwelling 1003, family 979, A. R. Handry household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4231221_00135 : accessed 4 May 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M643, roll 410.

⁹1870 U.S. census, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, p. 4 (penned), dwelling 29, family 29, A R Hendry; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4269414_00068 : accessed 4 May 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 513.

¹⁰Carolyn Yvonne White, et al., The Descendants of Alexander Rose Hendry and Mary Minerva Manning (self-published, 2000), 5.

¹¹Ibid., 7.

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