Tragedies at the Oaklawn Dairy Farm

Posted 5/29/24

On Aug. 14, 1921, 56-year-old Achille Jean Laflamme died at St. Joseph’s Hospital of fractured ribs and acute swelling of the lungs after being gored by a bull on his 80-acre property two days …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Tragedies at the Oaklawn Dairy Farm


On Aug. 14, 1921, 56-year-old Achille Jean Laflamme died at St. Joseph’s Hospital of fractured ribs and acute swelling of the lungs after being gored by a bull on his 80-acre property two days earlier. The owner of the Oaklawn Dairy Farm, located on North Court Road, the deceased man left a wife of 30 years, Marie Jeanne (Rossignot), and their nine sons. What none of them realized was that the horrific death of Achille would not be the most shocking thing to happen on the Oaklawn Dairy Farm.

Marie took over the running of the business after her husband’s death. With all of her sons employed there, the farm remained a successful source of income and, in 1928, she had a new massive wood and concrete barn constructed with fifty stanchions on each side.

Three of the boys, including Romeo and Henri, resided in the oldest farmhouse on the property, with their mother. One boy went into the military and the other five lived with their own families within a little colony of houses on the farm. All appeared to be fine within the Laflamme clan until Marie suffered a paralyzing stroke in July 1942. At that time, Romeo took over the running of the farm.

Late on the afternoon of Aug. 6, 1942, Romeo went into the barn to complete milking chores. At 6:15 that evening, he was discovered lying on the floor of the granary – the same building where his father had been killed – by long-time 60-year-old farmhand John Quinn. Some conversation went on between Quinn and the Laflamme brothers before one of them placed a call to the operator at 6:35, requesting her to send a doctor as someone had passed out and they were not sure whether or not he was dead.

There was no doctor available at the time so the operator sent a police officer to the scene. Forty-six-year-old Romeo was dead, his skull split open, and no one seemed to know much about it. It was wondered if perhaps one of the customers who stopped to purchase milk had killed him. Police knew that robbery hadn’t been a motive as Romeo had one dollar and sixty-five cents in his pocket. He had been killed by a single blow from a bladed weapon which fractured his skull, creating a crescent-shaped opening from the top of his head to his ear. But no murder weapon was at the scene. The medical examiner estimated that he had been killed about one hour before he was found and noted that he was intoxicated at the time of death.

Police took Quinn in for questioning as well as 41-year-old farmhand Charles Sherman who had just begun his employment at the farm that day. All of the brothers were also questioned and it became clear to police that a story seemed to have been decided upon and a murder weapon removed from the scene. They went back to the granary where they discovered a blood-spattered axe with a five-foot handle placed behind a barrel in a small room off the granary.

Everyone was questioned again but police were unable to solve the mystery. Marie, being in a weak physical state, was only told that Romeo had been injured and was in the hospital. Four nights later, the brothers left the farm to attend Romeo’s wake. Conversation surrounded the ongoing police investigation. “They can’t try that lie detector on me,” Henry allegedly told one of his brothers. “I’ll get a lawyer.”

Henri never showed up at the wake. Instead he drove to Lake Tiogue in Coventry and committed suicide.

The following morning, Romeo’s funeral was held at the J.B. Trottier Funeral Home. Marie still hadn’t been told that her third oldest son was dead, and now the story became even more fabricated when her sons informed her that Henri had been suddenly called up by the draft board. According to her doctor, the truth of it all might very well kill her.

In the days that followed, Marie was finally told of her sons’ fates. Friends and family members suspected that Romeo and Henri had been arguing over Marie’s will and alleged they had engaged in several bitter quarrels shortly before the murder. Marie lived another two years. The whole family is buried together at Saint Ann Cemetery in Cranston.

Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here