In the summer of 1892, a Wilson County Superior Court grand jury took up the case in State vs. Henry Crutchfield and Dianna Simms, a matter alleging charges of fornication and adultery. Several prominent African-American townsmen were issued subpoenas commanding them to appear as witnesses at the next term of court.
The case file contains this summary of testimony:
State vs. Henry Crutchfield & Dianna Simms }
Chas. Barber – I know deft. They are not married to each other. A man claims Dianna as his wife. They lived together up to the time. I have seen Crutchfield at Simms almost every night I heard Simms & Crutchfield quarreling & Simms told C. to stay away from his house. Crutchfield lived only a short distance from Simms’s on same Street & Dianna would go to his house almost every day. I would see her when I was passing. They were fussing nearly all the time. One Sunday morning I came by Crutchfield’s house; Simms was standing at the door & was saying to Crutchfield you have my wife in your house & then say I can’t some in there or you will kill me. I looked in at the door & saw Crutchfield & Simms’s wife on a pallet together before the fire. This was in open day light on Sunday morning. Sims & his wife moved away from there & I did not see Crutchfield after that time.
G.W. Sugg – I know Crutchfield. He passed for a colored man. I also know Dianna. I saw them together in the woods together last April. I saw them having sexual intercourse with each other. I saw Crutchfield at her house frequently. Her husband was gone at that time. She rented house from Calvin Blount. Dianna is Frank Sims’s wife.
Edmond Pool – Know defts. Dianna is wife of Frank Sims. I have seen Sims order Crutchfield from his house. Sims & wife are not living together now.
Joseph Sims – I passed where Dianna lived about 9 o’clock & she & Crutchfield had a pallet made down on floor & were on it together. Have heard Frank Sims & Crutchfield quarreling about this woman.
Henry Crutchfield – I got this woman to work for me a year or so off & on & I went back & forth from my house to her house to get my clothes. Cross Ex.
Dianna Simms – I went in Crutchfield’s to see about some clothes.
- Henry Crutchfield — Crutchfield is not found in Wilson County records. However, he was likely the Virginia-born shoemaker named Henry Crutchfield, 53, found 25 miles away in the 1900 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, North Carolina, and in the 1910 census of Goldsboro as Henry Crutchfield, 58, shoemaker. [The censuses note that Crutchfield’s mother was born in Scotland. In 1900, he was described as white. In 1910, as mulatto. His racial ambiguity is likely the basis of Suggs’ comment that he “passed for a colored man.”]
- Dianna Simms Simms — on 19 June 1879, Deana Simms, 18, married Frank Simms, 22, at A. Farmer’s in Wilson. Jerry Barnes and Mike Barnes witnessed. In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmhand Frank Simms, 23; wife Diannah, 20; and son Frank, 7 months.
- Frank Simms
- Charles Barber — Barber, a mechanic, was soon embroiled in his own marital drama.
- G. Washington Suggs
- Calvin Blount
- Edmund Poole
- Joseph Simms
- Redden S. Wilkins — Though subpoenaed, Wilkins apparently did not testify.
Adultery Records, Miscellaneous Records, Records of Wilson County, North Carolina State Archives.