Mysterious Assassination

Written by Dr. Tim Hudson

David Arent was born in 1831 in Strasbourg, a German-speaking city in France near the German border. After his birth, Arent’s family moved north to Bergzabern, in Germany, which his brother, Julius, was born in 1841. The Arents were Jewish, and David and his brother immigrated to America in the 1850’s. By 1860, David had settled in Union Parish, where he worked as a merchant in Marion. He and his wife, Celestine, settled in Farmerville in the 1860’s, where he worked as a merchant and insurance agent. Arent became a community leader and successful businessman, and he served as a justice of the peace. He endeared himself to the local populous with his philanthropic nature, which included donating exquisite Bibles to local Christian churches despite his being Jewish. The Arents had no children, and Celestine died by early 1894.

A heavy rain made the night of Saturday, January 13, 1894 much darker than normal. Before heading to his house, David Arent went to a store in Farmerville to purchase crackers and cigars. He walked up the rosebush-lined path leading from the gateway to his front door, and just as he reached the steps someone in ambush struck Arent on the back of the head with an axe. He fell to the ground a few feet from his steps, and the assailant then plunged the axe into his neck. Arent presumably died quickly. A hard rain continued to fall all weekend, and since he lived alone, his body was not discovered until Monday morning. The crackers and cigars lay on the ground beside him, and neither his watch nor pocketbook had been disturbed. The rain washed away all footprints and other clues, and despite a sizable reward issued by the governor for information leading to the arrest of his murder, the crime remained unsolved for the next five years.

By 1899, the state and parish were offering rewards totaling $700 for information leading to the arrest of Arent’s murderer. Although the sheriff arrested two men for the murder in July 1899 and incarcerated them for two months, the grand jury failed to indict them, so they were released. Arent’s assassination remained unsolved.

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Dr. Tim Hudson is the mathematics department head at Southeastern Louisiana and an avid historian on Union Parish. Hudson is a Union Parish native and graduate of Farmerville High School.

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