Dennis Prue

Dennis Prue

Dennis has been researching family trees for more than 30 years. His expertise has been invaluable in helping to break through brick walls.

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This Old Tree, August 2015

Research at the Northern Maine Fair

First I need to thank Jay for talking to Sarah Brooks from Portage about genealogy and second for Sarah helping to bring Celia Beaulier to the Northern Maine Fair.

While at the fair we often talk to visitors asking if they have done their genealogy or were interested in doing their family tree. We pass out charts and our groups’ business cards to the booth visitors and encourage them to do their trees and if they need help to contact ACGS.

Sarah mentioned to Jay that Celia was 95 and she wanted to share information on the Oakes family. Her late husband, Henry, was related to the Oakes through his mother. Jay knew that I was related to the Oakes family and would be willing to talk to her. Next day, Celia showed up at the fair with a small portion of her papers dealing with the Oakes men and the Civil War. She brought Civil War pension papers for both Electus Oakes and his son, Electus Jr.

Father and son signed up for the war at the same time and served together during the war. They were originally from the St. Francis, Maine and St. Francois, New Brunswick area. They had moved to the Sheridan area (now part of Ashland, Maine). They were in the ACGS Civil War listing and found being listed as from Hampden, Maine.

There were several pieces of information that was very interesting for me. Celia had Electus Sr. Civil War pension papers with the date of his death, Feb. 11, 1906, and a copy of the funeral expenses and record of death signed by local Ashland Doctor Haggerty. These told me that Electus died in Ashland and most likely was buried on York Mountain in Ashland. That last piece of information of time and place also gave me enough information concerning an appeal trial of murder for Electus Sr. (see part two below).

It is not often that one gets so much needed information with sources. Talking about genealogy and the Civil War brought the above information to light. This has helped me fill in blanks in my own family tree.

Electus Oakes Sr., b. 1821- d.1906 was the older brother to my great-great-grandmother, Marguerite Oakes, b.1823-d.1872 and she was married to Francois Gendreau.

When I got home that night, I looked at my information on Electus. I had his death date, but not the place. I had notes saying that it was either Ashland or Houlton, Maine. Now I know that it’s Ashland.

Electus Oakes and the Murder of his son Oliver

In the summer of 1899 in Sheridan, Maine, family tensions reached a tragic end.

Electus and his wife, Angelique, had been having problems with several of their children or their spouses. Three of the children had married into the York family.

Asa York was married to Louise Oakes,

Moses York married to Henrietta Oakes and Oliver Oakes married to Mary Jane York.

Asa and Moses wanted the farm of their father-in-law, Electus Oakes Sr. but the old man refused to give it to them. They were causing trouble on the farm: poisoning the well, letting animals run free or out in the grain field and the garden.

The son, Oliver, was at odds with his parents over their views about his wife, Mary Jane. Angelique did not approve of how Mary Jane behaved nor how she ran her household.

On the morning of August 31, 1899, an argument between mother and son led 79 year old Electus Sr. to rush to the defense of his wife, Angelique, from their 36 year old son, Oliver. Shots were fired and Oliver was hit in the neck. No one came to his aid and he died in his yard across the road from his parent’s property.

Electus was charged with 1st degree murder and tried and found guilty. Electus denied that he had intended to kill his son. But the bad blood between father and son was well known and people believed that Oliver’s death was no accident. Electus claimed that he fired a warning shot and was not aiming at Oliver.

In the 1900 census, Electus Oakes is found recorded as residing in the Houlton jail. I did not find him listed in the 1910 census so I wondered if he had died in jail at Houlton or in the Thomaston prison. There is a book in print on the Maine State Prison inmates and Electus was not listed as being an inmate. (Picton Press “Maine State Prisoners 1824-1915”) There also is a book at the Law Library in Portland on the trial of Electus Oakes v. State of Maine. This 344 page book states that any appeal would be done in Bangor in Penobscot County. I tried to find information about the appeal in Bangor and found nothing.

Thanks to Celia Beaulier for the letting me look at her papers of Electus’ Civil War pension, I found out the appeal trial was set for July 23, 1901, in Rockland in Knox County. I made a trip to Rockland and was able to get the synopsis of the appeal court ruling. The trail was listed in volume 95 in Cases of the Superior Court of Maine.

The synopsis dated July 24, 1901, did not overturn Electus’ conviction. The judge refused to address the questions raised in the appeal but instead the judge ruled that the judge in the original trail failed to include the charge of manslaughter as a possible option to the jury and therefore the verdict was set aside and Electus was granted a new trail.

I Googled Electus Oakes and the Supreme Court of Maine and found that a distant cousin, Paul Nichols, who died in 2011, had found the following information from the Supreme Court Ruling on the State versus Electus Oakes:

The judge reviewed the case for consideration and agreed that the manslaughter charge should have been presented in the original trial and to save Aroostook County the cost of yet another trail, proposed the follow option:

The judge requested that Electus retracted his plea of “not guilty” and accept a charge of “guilty of manslaughter” and he would therefore be sentenced to 6 months. This was done at the Superior Court 1901 September term in Houlton, Maine. Electus changed his plea and both his lawyer and state‘s lawyer and Judge Fogler agreed and considering Electus, now 80 plus, had already spent time in jail and also because of failing health, was granted clemency and set free. This is found in Supreme Court of Maine Cases for the year ending November 30, 1902 on page 7.

Electus would live until Feb. 11, 1906. He died at the age of 84 years, 2 months and 8 days.