Some children told me Lucy Ann went to town.


Sept 15 – 1903

North Carolina, Wilson County

The examination of Smith Mercer taken before the undersigned Coroner of said County this 15th day of September 1903 at the court house upon the body of Lucy Ann Joyner then and there lying dead.

Smith Mercer being duly sworn said: All I know is that a woman and man passed my house on Saturday night about eight o’clock. Before the woman gets to the gate the woman asked the man to let her stop and the man said “Oh God damn it come on.” They went on down the road mumbling, I did not know him. I heard nothing more. I live on Sam Vick‘s farm near the Graded School. I did not know the woman never met Lucy Joyner. Heard the woman who passed was named Lucy Joyner. I was sitting near my door. Could not tell who the man and woman was.   Smith (X) Mercer

Thos Joyner being sworn said: I know Lucy Ann Joyner. She is my father’s sister. Worked on the farm with me. She was 19 years Worked with me about two months. She picked cotton on Saturday until dinner. She then stopped to do some washing She lived with me in the house, she cooked. We went to town and left her washing. I heard she came to town between sun set and dark. Until two months ago she lived in Rocky Mount with a man named Tom Mercer. She was in family way. She was expecting bed next month. When I got home I was sure Lucy was there but found her gone. Found some of her clothes in Harrison Battle’s house to get supper. Dora Woodard was with me. Some children told me Lucy went to town. I live about a mile from where Lucy was found. Dora’s children told me Lucy went to town about dark. Was told that she was seen in town about nine o’clock. I came to town yesterday and made an effort to find her. She had asked me to go down the county after a girl to wait on her. I waited until last night to begin to hunt for her. I came to town and went to Rachael Staton and asked if she had seen Lucy Ann Joyner. Josephine Staton told me that she had seen Lucy Ann on Saturday night. Told me that she saw her below the rail road between 8 & 9 o’clock. Was talking to a heavy black fellow. When she saw her again she was with Charity at the depot as if she was going to get off on the train. I made my self satisfied that she was gone on the train. I waited last night to see if Lucy Ann came back. I got home on Saturday night about moon rise. Guess it was about ten o’clock. I went home with Dora on Saturday night. Don’t know when I left town on Saturday. I went to Dilly‘s house to get some clothes and left there about half past nine o’clock. Don’t know who else saw Lucy Ann. Heard a colored woman named Miller saw her. The clothes the woman wore were Lucy’s. I knew her condition I went up to  the body this morning and examined it and think the dead woman was Lucy Ann Joyner. I went home from Dilly’s straight home. Dora’s children were at home alone and we wanted to get back as quick as possible. I expected to see Lucy when I got there.   Thos X Joyner

Dora Woodard being duly sworn says: I left Lucy Ann at home Saturday when I came town. We were on good terms. We quarrelled but she asked me to forgive her and I did it. We quarrelled at a dance at Mr Ben Owens place the last of Old Christmas. She had been living with me about ten months. She was living with Sarah Pettaway at Old Christmas. Sarah lived at Mr Ben Owens place. I used to live down there and met her down there. We fought a little but it did not last me long. I got hurt a little. Lucy lived with Harrison Battle ever since July. Do not know where she lived before we made up the fourth week in July. We were good friends. Lucy washed for me on Saturday and let me come to town. I am not married. I have four children. My oldest child is 12 years old and the youngest is 3 years and I am 27 years old. Lucy said she had one child and it was living. I have no sweetheart and Lucy said hers had run away. I do not know what time I got home on Saturday night. I went home with Thos. Joyner. We came to town together and went back together. We started from Dilly’s house. We went by where Lucy was killed. We fell out about dancing. The quarrel took place  the second week in July. I quarrelled because I thought I was as good dancer as she was. We made up the third or fourth week in July. We did not stay mad long. I did not see Lucy Ann in town on Saturday night Ida Barnes told me that she saw her on Saturday night. Ida said she met her near where she was killed or found. It was about dark when Ida met her. Ida said she was coming towards town. Lucy Ann did not come to town often. She came with me once before and we went back together. I have not seen any men around Lucy’s house. I do not know how long Lucy lived in town before she went out Harrison.  Dora (X) Woodard

Bynyan Mitchell being sworn says: When I went from town about six o’clock on Saturday I got mule and wagon from Mr Amerson to fetch his cotton and I had some things on the wagon and had to carry the team on by Mr Amersons place to my house. When I went on Lucy Ann was standing in the door putting on her hat. I said “Hello,””It is too late to go out now.” It was a white straw hat. I have not seen her since. She was gone when I brought the team back from Mr Amersons. She told me when I passed that she thought she would go to town. I did not go near the body and could not say it was Lucy Ann. The hat found near the body was the same I saw Lucy putting on I live about 300 yds from Lucy Ann’s house.  Bynyan (X) Mitchell

Harrison Battle being duly sworn says: I left Lucy at home when I left Saturday evening. I left with Thos Joyner and Dora Woodard. Did not see her any more. She was washing. I got home Monday morning. Stayed in town with my wife on the stow until Monday. I heard about her being missed when I got back. Tom said to me when I came in “Our cook is gone.” He asked me if I knew any thing about her going away and I said yes. She told me she was coming town after she got through washing. I told her to clear up everything. Told her I was not coming back until Monday morning. I have not seen her since if that was not her I saw this morning Lucy said she was not going to cook supper for us if I was not coming back. Dora and Lucy acted like they were on good terms. My wife left me the 4th Monday in May. I got to my wife’s house about dark and stayed there until Monday morning.   Harrison (X) Battle

Dr Paul Anderson being sworn said: Chas Woodard and myself cut off the clothes from the dead body. Consisting of waist under body shirt and corset. We were not able to find on account of the decomposed state of the body anything which pointed to violence. We did find however the left hand of a child protruding from the vulver. We turned the body over and examined it thoroughly. We found the body very badly decayed especially the throat and tissues under the jaw. The eyes were entirely gone and the skin on the face was partly gone. The skin on a greater part of the body had pealed off. Decomposition would have started at any opening. The position of the body was that which you would expected from a woman in labor. Blood was found on the clothes in several places.  /s/ P.V. Anderson

Dr Chas Woodard being duly sworn says: Around her neck was a part of a waist in the shape of a blue collar. On the ground near her feet was the top skirt. The skin and underlying tissues were pealed off on the face. Both clavicles were exposed. The opening above the breast bone was through the skin but did not have the appearance of a stab but of decomposition. Just above the left clavicle was another place of like nature. In the left groin there was another place of a like nature about two inches in length. In the back between scapulae was a similar place.  Chas. A. Woodard

Josephine Staton being duly sworn says: I saw Lucy Ann on Saturday night. She and a fellow were sitting on the slant near Salt Lake’s. I do not know the man she was with. He was buying her some apples or bananas. The man was a little slim fellow. I did not see her any more. She went to the ticket office like she was going off on the train. I did not see her any more She went to the office all alone. I first saw Lucy Ann with a dark man sitting down on the slant below the rail road. I left Mrs. Duke’s kitchen a little after six o’clock. Got up town about 6:30. I came up town and then went below the rail road and saw Lucy Ann talking to a dark man. I saw Tom Joyner last night and I told him that I saw Lucy on Saturday night. I saw and spoke to Lucy. She asked me how I was getting along. Lucy stayed at our house about a month. Lucy was out of the way. I am 21 years old. Have had two children. I did not know anything about Lucy’s sweet heart. I am not married.   Josephine (X) Staton

Commr’s Inquest over body of Lucy Ann Joyner

Filed Sept 17, 1903


  • Smith Mercer — in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Smith Mercer, 60, wife Chaney, 46, children Lily V., 12, LeRoy, 8, and Linda, 24, and grandchildren Annie Bell, 6, and Charlie, 1.
  • Lucy Ann Joyner — in the 1900 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: Peter Joyner, 89, with daughters Rosetta, 51, and Lucy A. Joyner, 16. [Per Thomas Joyner’s testimony that Lucy was his father’s sister, Peter Joyner was his grandfather.]
  • Dora Woodard — in the 1900 census of Gardners township: Mary Woodard, 45, children Dora, 23, Allice, 18, John, 16, Lewis, 14, and Annie, 5, and grandchildren Oscar, 9, William, 5, and James, 2. [These are the oldest of the four children to which Dora testified.]
  • Thomas Joyner — in the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Reuben Joyner, 54, wife Millie, 59, children Thomas, 33, Josephine, 21, Alexandria, 30, John, 25, Sarah, 22, Malinda, 18, Roland, 15, Victoria, 10, and grandchildren Purnell, 10, Eddie, 7, Lizzie, 4, John, 4, and Bessie, 1.
  • Rachel and Josephine Staton — in the 1908 Wilson city directory, Josephine Staton is listed as a cook living at 410 East Green. On 26 July 1908, Rachel Staton, 40, daughter of Willis and Miller Staton, married C. Columbus Gay, 50, son of Spencer and Annie Gay at the sheriff’s office. Sheriff George W. Mumford performed the ceremony. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: odd jobs laborer Columbus Gay; wife Rachel, 42, a farm laborer; and step-children Josie, 27, laundress, Caroline, 14, private nurse, and Martha, 10. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Robinson [Roberson] Street, Columbus Gay, 55, wife Rachel, 41, stepdaughters Josephine, 27, Caroline, 21, and Martha Staton, 17, and grandson James Staton, 5.
  • “Salt Lake” — William Harris, a Polish Jew who offered his services as storekeeper, druggist, auctioneer, and failed Populist politician.


Excerpt from “Populists County Canvass Yesterday,” Wilson Daily Times, 23 October 1896.

  • Sarah Pettaway
  • Ida Barnes
  • Harrison Battle — in the 1900 census of Cokey township, Edgecombe County: Harrison Battle, 34, farmer, wife Annie, 32, and boarder Lula Joyner, 19. In the 1910 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: on Wilson Road, Harrison Battle, 46, wife Annie, 46, and children Martha C., 15, and Willie Battle, 10. In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Harrison Battle, 60, and wife Annie, 60. Harrison Battle died 30 October 1920 in North Whitakers township, Nash County. Per his death certificate, he was born about 1865, was the widower of Annie Battle, worked as a farm laborer, and was the son of Millie Joyner. Informant was Willie Ervin, Whitakers. [Thomas Joyner’s mother was named Millie Joyner. Were the two half-brothers? Otherwise kin?]
  • Bunyan Mitchell — in the 1850 census of Nash County: Mary Mitchell, 40, and children George, 16, Willie, 20, Eliza, 12, Henry, 6, and Bunyan, 2. In the 1860 census of Buck Swamp township, Wayne County: Absalom Artis, 32, wife Eliza, 22, and their children John F., 4, James W., 2, and George W., 3 months, plus Mary Mitchell, 55, and sons Henry, 16, and Bunyan, 14. In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Bunyan Mitchell, 53, and wife Louise, 51, married 31 years.  In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Bunnion Mitchell, 61, and wife Louisa, 59. On 6 April 1919, Bunyan Mitchell, 70, married Clara Anderson, 50, at London Church. Reverend Charles H. Hagans performed the ceremony before James H. Armstrong, Moses Parker and Telfair Joyner. In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Old Stantonsburg Road, Bunyan Mithell, 72, wife Clara, 50, and her child and grandchildren C[illegible], 30, Clara, 13, and Bessie Arrington, 9. Bunyan Mitchell died 21 October 1922 in “the country,” Wilson township, Wilson County. He was 70 years old, the son of Mary Mitchell, married to Clara Mitchell, and worked as a tenant farmer. Informant was Henry Mitchell, R.F.D. 6, Wilson.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.



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