This pistol, badge and baton belonged to Felicien Domingues, Jr., the former Chief of Police in Abbeville.
Abbeville native shares the history behind his antique pistol
As the caretaker of his grandfather's antique pistol and police baton, Claude Ledet has preserved a piece of Abbeville history.
Ledet, who was raised in Abbeville, inherited the pistol and baton from his parents. His mother, Audrey Domingues Ledet, inherited the mementos from her father, Felicien Domingues, Jr.
Domingues worked as a sheriff's deputy for 15 years before being elected Abbeville Chief of Police. He served as Chief of Police from 1928 to his death in 1948.
“Twenty years of police work. I imagine that thing saw some action,” Ledet said, nodding to the pistol.
Though the pistol was functional when he received it, a small piece of the hammer was broken. He brought it to a gunsmith who ordered another trigger from Smith & Wesson. The trigger did not fit. He told the gunsmith to “just make it look good.” The gunsmith removed the firing pin.
Ledet refurbished and framed the pistol to keep his grandfather's legacy intact.
“This pistol was cast in 1911. It's a Smith & Wesson .32 caliber.”
Ledet reached for the baton. “He was sheriff, and that's what he used to control unruly people that he dealt with. I oil it up every now and then. It's leather rings on a steel shaft. I put a new leather strap on it about 10 years ago.”
Ledet never knew his grandfather. Domingues died two years before he was born.
“We always referred to him as Papa Fils. Fils is French for son. He was junior. Felicien Domingues, Jr.”
He learned about his grandfather through stories.
“Judge Putnam, a famous judge in Abbeville, had a big two-story house about a block from the court house in downtown Abbeville. He and Papa Fils were good friends.”
Ledet knows how to tell a good story. He pauses after most sentences.
He sounds intentional, almost rhythmic, with his words.
“So he goes on vacation, and he asks Papa Fils to watch out for his house. They had gaslights on the corner back then, in the 1930s.
“So, every evening, Papa Fils would make his rounds. He sees a window open and a guy climbing in.
“He's got a burglar. He pulls this baby out,” he said, placing his right hand on the edge of the case.
“Papa Fils is walking through the woods, and it's a big city block; the lighting wasn't very good.
“And Judge Putnam goes to close the window; he had come back from vacation early and lost his key.
“So, Judge Putnam sees this guy walking through the woods with this pistol; he pulls his pistol and shoots him. Hit him in the left arm.
“Papa Fils staggered over to one of the gaslights. And then Judge Putnam recognized him. He said, 'Fils, is that you?' A little flesh wound. No big deal,” Ledet said.
“I wish I had more stories.”
Eager to share the heirloom and its history with the Abbeville Police Department, he brought the framed pistol to Abbeville Police Chief Tony Hardy and Sheriff Mike Couvillon.
Hardy and Couvillon were impressed with the well-preserved heirloom. The pistol will hang in the Abbeville Police Department for two weeks.
Ledet also plans to share the heirloom with his brother and sister so that they can display it in their homes, too.
“It's an honor and a privilege to be the caretaker of such a good relic,” Ledet said. “It's quite an heirloom for our family.”