The Murder of Simon Stein

Written by Dr. Tim Hudson

Born in Asselheim, Rhein Bavaria (now Germany) in 1842, Simon Stein arrived in the Port of Mobile in 1860 with his siblings. While his older brother, Daniel Stein, left Mobile and came to Farmerville in 1861, Simon remained in Alabama, enlisted in the Twelfth Alabama Infantry Regiment, and served throughout the war in the Army of Northern Virginia, “making a gallant Confederate soldier.” After the War ended, Stein joined his brother in Louisiana, primarily working as a salesman in his Daniel’s thriving mercantile firm. In 1882, he bought his brother’s store at Stein’s Bluff, a short distance west of Farmerville on Bayou Corney, where he operated a very successful business. In 1892, he returned to Farmerville and operated a mercantile business there for few years. Stein became a popular citizen in Union Parish, with one resident describing him as

…a congenial and warm-hearted man…passionately fond of his family, and the doors of his comfortable home at Stein’s Bluff were always wide open to his friends and acquaintances, where he was lavish in the bestowal of hospitality.

Simon Stein married in 1882 to Pauline Blum, a native of Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorain, France. Orphaned in 1867 when both of her parents died, in 1870 Pauline lived in the Jewish Widows & Orphans Association home in New Orleans with her siblings, Adele, Isaac, and Samuel. After her marriage, she and Simon settled at Stein’s Bluff and maintained an apparently close relationship with her brother, Isaac, who occasionally visited from his home in New Orleans. Sam Blum followed his sister to Farmerville, working as a clerk in Simon’s store and as his cotton factor at Stein’s Bluff. By the 1890s, Pauline’s sister, Adele, also followed her siblings to Farmerville.

Due to low cotton prices and possibly over-imbibing, Simon Stein’s mercantile store in Farmerville did not thrive, and he lost a good deal of money. He sold his store to his brother-in-law, Sam Blum, who successfully operated it until 3 October 1894, when he sold the business to his sister, Pauline Stein. These transactions created a bitterness between Simon Stein and his brother-in-law, and for over a year they were not on speaking terms. In November 1894, the Steins began preparations to move to Monroe, where Simon and Pauline rented the Veranda House, remodeling and opening it as the Stein Hotel. Their venture proved highly successful, reportedly due to Stein’s “estimable wife, who personally looked after the house.” Pauline’s sister, Adele, moved from Farmerville to Monroe with them and lived in their hotel. Sam Blum had followed his sisters to Monroe, working as a cotton seed buyer for the local oil mills and as a clerk and bartender on the steamboat “Belle D’Arbonne.” When in Monroe, Blum boarded at the Stein Hotel. By early 1895, the relationship between Simon Stein and Sam Blum had improved, as Adele said that they were then on good terms. She said that Stein attempted to arrange his overnight business trips so that Blum could stay while he was gone.

Despite Simon Stein’s popularity across Union, Lincoln, and Claiborne Parishes, and his reputation as a good-natured man, Adele Blum Hirsch said, “Mr. Stein was very good when sober, but very ugly when drunk.” Cecely Archie began living with the Stein’s in 1890 at Stein’s Bluff, working as a domestic servant, and she followed them to Farmerville and Monroe. She said that Stein became “very cross and mean while under the influence of liquor,” adding that Pauline routinely gave her Stein’s pistol to hide whenever he was drinking.

Simon Stein went to Farmerville the week of June 10th to check on his planting interests on Bayou Corney at Stein’s Bluff, his former home. After returning home, starting about June 19th, he began drinking heavily and quarrelling repeatedly with his wife. His sister-in-law reported that he had was “very ugly and very abusive; drinking this week,” and that he had repeatedly called his wife names and threatened to kill her. Following their usual routine, Pauline and Adele took his pistol and hid it in Cecely’s room so he wouldn’t hurt anyone. On Friday, the 21st, Stein stabbed at Cecely with a knife before leaving the hotel and then walked around Monroe all night long. On Saturday, June 22nd, Stein returned home early that morning, saying he intended to go to Farmerville on the steamboat, but before going he would kill his wife. He packed his valise and asked Adele for his pistol, but she told Stein that she didn’t know where it was. She reported that Stein “was acting very strange,” and then he left the hotel. Shortly afterwards, Sam Blum arrived at the hotel, having walked from the wharf where his steamboat had just docked from a trip. Pauline begged her brother to not leave on the boat’s next trip upriver to Farmerville, saying she needed him to stay and protect her. Blum agreed and left the hotel to borrow a gun for protection, acquiring a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol. Next, he searched for Stein before returning to the hotel, stationing himself in one of the dining room doorways. He told Pauline to leave the front of the hotel, telling her to go into the kitchen and not come out.

Meanwhile, after leaving their hotel, Stein went to the Southern Hardware Company nearby, where he attempted to purchase a pistol.  Store clerk Sigmund Marx greeted Stein and told him to pick out a pistol from the showcase. None of the selections satisfied Stein, as he claimed they were too small. Marx showed him a larger one, and Stein then made a highly unusual request: he asked Marx for cartridges to load it there in the store. Marx refused, so Stein took out his own cartridges from his pocket, loaded the gun, and in a very nervous and excited manner, he started to walk out of the store. Marx had heard of Stein’s drinking problem, so he became suspicious and took the pistol back, refusing to sell him a firearm.

Angered at his inability to secure a pistol, Simon Stein arrived back at the hotel about 10:00 a.m. Servant Cecely Archie stood in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room as waiter Paulo Jones unloaded dishes on the dining room buffet. Porter Joe Ross watched Stein walk in his room and stoop down to pick up a heavy walking stick, then he rushed towards the dining room where Blum waited. At that moment, Stein’s six-year-old son, Daniel, then came into the dining room, but Blum sent the boy upstairs. Simon Stein then walked through the north door to the dining room while waving his stick and immediately engaged in a quarrel with Sam Blum, who was standing in the south door. Stein cursed both Blum and Pauline, then said to Blum, “Are you meddling with me and my family?” Blum said, “No, Simon, I did not come here for that,” to which Stein replied that it was “fight and die and go to hell for my children.” Stein called his wife a strumpet, and Blum said, “Simon, do you mean to call my sister a strumpet.” Stein replied, “Yes,” and he then proceeded to hit Blum with his walking stick on the arm. Upon seeing Stein attack Blum, Cecely ran back into the kitchen, joining Pauline. As Stein struck him again with the walking stick, Blum pulled his pistol from his pocket, prompting Jones to drop the dishes he carried and flee from the dining room into the kitchen. Blum fired his gun three times at Stein, with one bullet hitting him in the left jaw and passing downward and exiting at the right clavicle, another hitting him between the third and fourth ribs on the left side and lodging under the skin on the right side, and the third bullet hitting him between the fourth and fifth ribs on the left side and also passing through his body to the right side. All three wounds were fatal, with the last two bullets passing through his heart.

Hearing the three gunshots from the kitchen, Pauline Stein and Cecely ran into the dining room, and upon seeing her husband lying on the floor in a pool of blood, Pauline fainted. She came to as her children and hotel guests rushed downstairs, and she cried for a doctor, saying that her husband was dying. Blum left the hotel after shooting his brother-in-law, while the noise of gunshots quickly attracted a crowd to the hotel. A Monroe newspaper reporter described the scene:

On the side gallery just outside of the dining room lay the dead body of Simon Stein weltering in his blood which was still trickling from three fatal wounds, and had formed a horrible pool beside the body. A crowd of people surrounded the corpse, and gazed as if fascinated at the gruesome sight, while from a room near by came the sound of the weeping and wailing of women and children.

Jacob Stein, then working in Monroe, immediately informed his father, Col. Daniel Stein, of the tragedy, and the next day, Col. Stein, his other son, Abe Stein, and his step-son, Capt. Lazarus Brunner, left Farmerville by steamboat for Monroe. The elder Stein returned to Farmerville the next day with his brother’s corpse, burying him in the Farmerville Cemetery, leaving his sons to observe the preliminary trial the following week.

After interviewing witnesses and inspecting the premises, the coroner’s jury issued their verdict, ruling that Sam Blum had killed Simon Stein in an act of justifiable homicide, with Blum acted in self-defense. Although exonerated by the coroner’s jury, at the preliminary trial held Monday, June 24th, Judge Richardson placed Blum under a $2000 bond, awaiting action of the grand jury later that fall. This gave an indication Judge Richardson did not believe Blum’s actions constituted self-defense.

Simon Stein’s death generated considerable excitement across Union Parish, for the Stein siblings, Daniel, Simon, and Helena Stein Arent, had become well-known, beloved figures to regional farmers due to their mercantile businesses over the previous three decades. Although residents knew Blum as a cotton factor and merchant in recent years, local sentiment held him entirely accountable for assassination of Simon Stein. The editor of Farmerville’s “The Gazette” seemed to convey the attitudes of most locals, writing that “Blum can never excuse himself for his rash act in the eyes of the people who knew Mr. Stein.” He described the deceased merchant as “an old man, small and weak; not of a quarrelsome or overbearing disposition…it was an easy matter to get along peaceably with him.” Most felt that, even if Stein had hit Blum, as a young man of medium size, Blum could easily have overpowered his attacker. While any man should protect his sister from assault, even by her husband, as Stein’s brother-in-law, the locals believed Blum should have attempted to reason with Stein, not shoot him.

In an incident perhaps unrelated to the killing of his brother-in-law, a Union Parish grand jury indicted Sam Blum for carrying concealed weapons, a charge he pled guilty to in October, with the court fining him $12.50. Then on November 8th, a Ouachita Parish grand jury indicted Blum for murder for the killing of Simon Stein. Blum’s trial began on Thursday, November 21st, with Ouachita Parish hiring Farmerville attorney L. Emmett Thomas to help prosecute him. The Court heard testimony from numerous witnesses beginning on Friday, with Farmerville residents Gustav Hartman, Jesse Pearson, Daniel Stein, Elijah M. Dean, Abe Stein, and Samuel C. Trimble providing testimony in the case. The State presented its case for Blum’s conviction at noon Monday, with well-known Monroe attorneys Charles J. Boatner (a United States Congressman), Frederick Gray Hudson, and W. D. Munholland serving as Blum’s defense. The judge turned the case to the jury at 7:30 p.m. Monday evening, and at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, the 26th, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter. However, during their night of deliberations, one of the juror’s children was accidentally shot, so with the consent of one of Blum’s attorneys, the bailiff allowed the man to separate from the others to look after his child. On this technicality, the Court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial, releasing Blum on bail.

Due to various legal delays, the Court did not hear Blum’s second trial until early 1897, and when the jury deadlocked, the judge declared a mistrial. The Court tried Blum for the third time beginning Tuesday, April 13th. After hearing arguments and receiving their charge, the jury again hopelessly deadlocked after only three hours of deliberations, with seven voting for conviction of manslaughter and five for acquittal. When they informed the judge the could not agree, he declared a mistrial. With the passage of several years, the State let the case lapse, then decided to not prosecute the case again.

After her husband’s death, Pauline Blum Stein filed suit in January 1896 in the U.S. Circuit Court against the Supreme Lodge, Knights of Pythias of the World, for $3000, since they refused to pay her Simon Stein’s life insurance policy. The Knights of Pythias claimed that he lost his life while violating Louisiana’s criminal laws by attacking Sam Blum, thus debarring his heirs from receiving the policy he had taken out in 1881, just before his marriage. The case resulted in a mistrial, and so she appealed to the Supreme Court. In December 1898, the Knights of Pythias offered a compromise, agreeing to pay her $1500 if she dropped the appeal. Pauline accepted the offer, and then moved her children to Galveston, where she operated a boarding house in 1900. She and her four children spent their lives in Galveston, although they frequently visited their relatives in Farmerville. Pauline Stein lived until 1932. After his trials ended, Samuel Blum moved to Kenner, where he worked as a grocery clerk in 1900. He died at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans on 20 November 1902 at the age of forty-one.

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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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