North Carolina, Wilson County }
We the undersigned Jury summoned by L.O. Hays coroner of Wilson County to investigate the killing of Abraham Harris, met on the premises on this the 15 day of January 1899, and after being duly sworn, and viewing the body of deceased, and hearing the evidence of the following Witnesses to wit: Jack Hilliard, Laura Hilliard, John Hilliard, Dutch Bennet, Mattie Harris and Mintus Woodard do render the following verdict to wit: That the deceased Abraham Harris came to his death from a shot from a gun in the hands of Robt Hilliard and we find that said shooting was accidental. /s/ [torn] Farmer, [torn], J.F. Mayo, B.F. Taylor, W.C. Mayo, A.G. Winstead. I hereby approve the same 1 15 1899. /s/ L.O. Hayes Cor.
Witnesses in case of Death of Abraham –
Is the father of the boy who killed Abraham Harris. Lives in this house. Saw Abraham early this morning. Dutch Bennet Robt Hilliard and Dutch Bennett were together playing had no stick time was after sun up. Sun about two hours and a half high. Robt lives with me. Robt left here after sun up to go to [illegible] House. Abrham married Robt sister. Did not all go in the house. They were playing at gate and Robt slammed the gate too run in the house and hid between the beds and Abraham came in the house after him. Abraham grabbed Johnnie for Robert and shook him. My wife said that is not Robert yonder is Robert. Then Robert kneeled down. Soon as Robert kneeled down the gun struck the bed and went off. Robert had hold of the gun. The gun was sitting back of gun [sic] Robert reached and got the gun as Abraham turned John loose and started towards him. Abraham did not say anything to Robert. Robert did not say anything. Single barrel Breech loder. Robert had the gun in his hand sitting with face towards Abraham. As Robert dropped down towards him it struck the bed. Robert did not have gun pointed toward him. Both were laughing. I was near fire place. My wife was in front of me. Don’t know that my wife had hold of him or not. She eased him down. Abraham did not say a word. Robt said Lord Lord have I killed my brother in law. They are all time playing with the gun. Took the gun I think to point at him. Don’t think he intended to shoot him. Robert about sixteen. Abraham and Robert had no fuss had not been drinking. Abraham has been married around 8 years. Saw him when he was squatted down and had the gun. Do not know whether the gun was cocked or not. Did not see his hand at that time. When the gun struck the floor hit hard cant tell whether barrel struck bed or floor. Jack (X) Hilliard
I was comeing in the door. They were laughing. Abraham caught hold of Johnnie and Johnnie said this is not Robt. Johnnie went out doors. I pointed my finger at Robt and said yonder is Robt. Robt stooped down the gun fired. As I turned my head to look Robt said Lord Ma I aint I shot my brother in law. I said no he aint hurt. He is standing here laughing. When I laid him down on the floor he was smiling. I felt the blood then was the time I knew he was hurt. He did not live many minutes after he was shot. Laura (X) Hilliard
I got up started out to tell Dutch Bennet to come in house and heard gun fire. Turned round he was falling. As I went out Abraham came in Robt had gun in his hand when I went out standing up. Abraham did not say anything to me. Abraham run up against me and shook me. Did not know gun was loaded. Mintus Woodard was at fireplace his mule was at gate Dutch Bennet was out there I did not here ma say anything. Robt did not say anything when he got the gun. Robt had gun when Abraham came in house. John (X) Hilliard
Live across field no kin to parties, I first saw Abraham Harris at his house this morning Robt came to his house as were fixing to go off. Had no conversation Abraham wanted to borry Robs hat and was coming after got to playing at the gate grabbing at each other. I told Rob to bring hat to the gate. He said no let Abraham come and get it. They got to grabbing at each other playing and laughing. Rob came running to the house and Abraham after him. I stayed out and heard the gun fire. Have never heard Rob say anything about shooting Abraham. Never heard of there having any difficulty. Came in house pretty soon after gun fired. Door was open. Saw Abraham falling he did not speak after I got in house. Did not see Abraham before gun shot. When I came in aunt Laura was in house. Rest had gone out. All were out doors crying and hollering. Rob said O Lord I have killed my brother in law I would not have done it for anything. I staid out about five minutes after gun shot before I came in. Have not talked to matter over with others before this. Don’t know where Mintus Woodard was at the time. Don’t remember seeing him was not frightened. Come here right often. Intimate with family do not run with Robt know Mintus Woodard when I see him. Been over swamp today, and home. Sun was about two hours of more high when gun fired. Staid at house about an hour afterwards. Dutch (X) Bennett.
I am the wife of Abraham Harris and sister of Robt Hilliard. Abraham left home between 8 and 9 oclock. Dutch Bennett and Rob were with him. Robt went home about eight or nine oclock. Rob and Abraham were talking about hat. Abraham asked Rob for his hat. After the talk about hat Abraham went off. Robt has not been to house often. Robt and Abraham have never had any fuss. Always mighty loving. I heard Robt saying he had shot his brother in law. I asked Mintus Woodard how come it. He said they were playing. Robt said I did not know there was a load in the gun Don’t know who was in the house at the time. When I heard gun I thought they had shot at something in the field. Mattie (X) Harris
I was sitting by the fire when Rob run in house — run on other side the bed and grabbed up a gun. When he run in the door he was laughing Rob had in his hand pointed towards fire place when Abraham came in. I don’t know whether it was cocked or not. Abraham came in and said where is he about that time gun fired. When gun fired he fell down. Robt did not say anything before he shot. He was stooping down. I don’t remember him slamming gun on the floor. Soon as he fell I got up and went out. Jack was in one corner & me in other. Abraham was by himself when shot. I did not hear Laura say there is Rob. Rob said I have shot my brother in law I did not know gun was loaded. Have not heard of any fuss between Rob & Abraham. Mintus (X) Woodard
In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Jack Hilliard, 44, wife Laura, 25, children Mattie, 5, John, 3, and Doctor, 1; Alford Harris, 16; plus John, 20, and Ben Wasdon, 20, both white.
In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Jack Hilliard, 62, wife Laura, 60, and children Henry, 16, and John, 22. Laura reported 5 of 6 children living. Also in the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township: widow Mattie Harris, 25; her children Abraham, 6, Laurena, 5, Charity, 3, and Maggie, 1; brothers Dock, 21, and Robert Hilliard, 19; and boarder Eady King, 23, also a widow.
Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.