My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Saturday, March 9, 2013

FRIDAY'S FAMOUS - Omer Albert Fortier (1890-UNK), alias "Kid Doe"

New Orleans' "Kid Doe" - ever heard of him? If you were around the Big Easy in the early 1900's he was quite the "character", as one city newspaper described him. He was a notorious pickpocket, thief, and "one of the shrewdest crooks in the city", according to the police at the time. Omer Albert Fortier, alias "Kid Doe," is my 1st cousin, 3x removed. And since Friday's post topic is either 'Famous' or 'Forgotten', today's post will be more about my 'Infamous" relative, that I'm sure no one in the whole family has ever heard of before.

Omer Albert Fortier was born on January 10, 1890, in New Orleans, Louisiana. His parents were Omer Auguste Fortier (1855-1897) and Laura Octavia Eslava (1859-1910), she a native of Mobile, Alabama. [Omer Auguste was the 6th child and oldest son of my 3rd great grandparents Jacques Omer Fortier (1813-1867) and Augustine Melanie Laperle Degruey (1822-1872). He was the older brother of my great-great-grandmother Odalie Felice Fortier Horst (1857-1920).] Omer and Laura had six children - five girls and Omer, their 5th child, their only son. Omer's sisters were Pearl C. (1881-1911), Elodie Corrine (1883-1884), Elonie Leonia (1885-1949), Odille L. (1887-1956),  and Lucille (1893-1969).

Young Omer was born in a New Orleans very different from the one his father was born in before the Civil War. Omer's father was a clerk, according to numerous City Directories. He was also a businessman and at one point ran a gambling house at 100 Customhouse Street (now Iberville Street), in the city's "Red Light District".  It was here in April 1888, two years before his son was born, that Omer Auguste was shot in a dispute with his former 'partners'. He was only slightly wounded, sustaining a minor shoulder wound, and survived his injuries. But death was just a few years away for the elder Fortier - he died on April 13, 1897, at the age of 41. He left behind his wife Laura, 38, and five young children (daughter Elodie had died at the age of 1 in 1884). At the time of his death the surviving children ranged in age from their oldest Pearl, 16, to youngest Lucille, just 4 years old. Omer was 7 when his father died. [NOTE: Omer Auguste was just 12 years old when his own father, Jacques Omer, died.]

Life for Laura Fortier and her young family from this point on was no doubt very difficult, with the breadwinner of the family now gone. The 1900 U.S. Census reports that both Laura and daughter Pearl were worked as dressmakers. Ten years later the Census showed Laura still had all five children living at home with her - ages 28 to 17 - and that no one was employed. [It's interesting to note that Laura died in her hometown of Mobile, Alabama on May 22, 1910, even though she was listed as a resident of New Orleans in the 1910 Census, enumerated on May 25, 1910, three days after she died.]

from New Orleans Item;
Jan. 26, 1913; p.9
In 1917, when registering for the draft during WWI, Omer was 27 years old and was unemployed; he gave his profession, as his father had done, as 'clerk'. But it was several years before the draft when Omer's true profession was noted in the city's newspapers. In January 1913, at just 23 years of age, Omer was arrested by city police for working with an inmate - known pickpocket Edward Klein. It was discovered that Omer had arranged for a lawyer to bail Klein out of jail. A Times-Picayune newspaper article called Omer a 'Promoter', claiming he induced Klein and other criminals to come to New Orleans where he would help them in their crimes. In turn, "Kid Doe" would receive a portion of their take. For helping Klein, he was sentenced to a $20 fine and incarceration for 9 days.

December 1913 another news story reported that Omer Fortier was being arraigned in court. He had been arrested earlier in the day at the public funeral for a popular local politician, where he was working with a "gang" of pickpockets. He also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest from Dallas, Texas, where he was wanted for larceny.

from New Orleans States, July 12, 1917; page 4

No doubt, Omer continued his criminal behavior in the months and years to come. Finally, in June 1917 "Kid Doe" was arrested for shoplifting 12 silk ties, and the next month was arrested again for stealing a $25 dress. These crimes were each reported in the New Orleans State newspaper. In August the paper reported that Omer had joined 19 other convicted criminals when they were taken to Baton Rouge State Penitentiary.

from New Orleans Item;
August 31, 1917

Upon entering the prison, a description of Omer was listed in the record as follows:
     27.   5'9".  139 pounds.  Sallow Complextion.  Dark Brown Hair.  Brown Eyes.  Round face.   No Lobe on right ear.  Eagle Tattoo, right forearm.   Red Scar, lower left leg above ankle.   Small Brown Splotches, left upper arm.  No. 6 1/2 shoe.
Omer had been sentenced to 1 year minimum, 2 years maximum. He arrived August 31, 1917. Prison records show he escaped on October 8, 1918. He also escaped on February 28, 1919. He was released from prison on August 31, 1919, having served his full sentence.

Where he went after he was discharged is unknown. His name doesn't appear in any Censuses in the future. He must not have lived long enough to have a Social Security Number to be able to document his death from these records. Did he get married? Have children? Did he leave America, or maybe just change his name to escape his past? There's so much more to Kid Doe's story. Maybe someone out there knows something.

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