Court Actions

Struggling and sinking.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on the 22nd day of April 1872 I, H.W. Peel one of the Coroners of said County, attended by a Jury of good and lawful men, viz J.W. Crowell, John L. Baley, Elijah Williams, M.G. Trubuthan, J.W. Fryar, W.D. Farmer, B.J. Cogins. R.S. Wells. Jas. W. Taylor, Henry Dixon, W.H. Cobb, William A. Farmer by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly sworn and impaneled at Farmer Mill Pond in the County aforesaid did hold an inquest over the dead body of Joseph Perry, col and after inquiring into the facts & circumstances of the death of deceased from a view of the corpse and all the testimony to be procured the Jury find as follow that is to say that the deceased came to his death by accidental drowning.  /s/ J.W Crowell, Foreman, L. Baley, W.A. Farmer, Wm. D, Farmer, Henry Dixon Jnr., Elijah Williams, B.J. Coggins, M.G. Trevathan, W.H. Cobb, J.W. Friar, R.S. Wells, J.W. Taylor.


James G. Cobb being duly sworned says that on Sunday April 21 1872 himself, Ralph Faison & Bynum Arrington Crisp McNair together with Joseph Perry Deceased were at Mill Pond of W.D. Farmer in County of Wilson state of North Carolina & Proposing to go in Washing or bathing. There upon said Cobb & Ralph Faison proceeded to swim a distance of seventy five yds or thereabout & parties consisting of the other witnesses Bynum Arrington Crisp McNair & Jos Perry deceased were left on & near the shore, upon being called by Bynum Arrington he the said Cobb looked back & saw Joseph Perry deceased appearantly struggling & sinking under twice after he the said Cobb saw him. Further stating that aid Perry threatened to swim as far as any of the party & that he saw no person or persons interfere with deceased in any way by which he could have been encouraged to go beyond his depth in water. The other witnesses above being duly sworn testified to the facts as above and all agree in the matter that Joe Perry was alone & no person interfered with him while in the water.  /s/ James (X) G. Cobb, Ralph (X) Faison, Bynum (X) Arrington, Crisp (X) McNair.


  • Joseph Perry – probably, in the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Kinchen Locust, 8, and Joseph Perry, 6, in the household of Henry Dixon, 76, a white farmer. Kinchen was black; Joseph, mulatto. Also, in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Joseph Perry, 15, farm laborer, living in the household of Eveline Evans, 52. Eveline and her children are described as white; Joseph, as mulatto.
  • Ralph Faison
  • Bynum Arrington – in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Haywood Arrington, 45; wife Louisa, 35; and children Bynum, 16, Ervin, 11, and Anthoney, 8.
  • Crisp McNair
  • James G. Cobb — in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County, James G. Cobb, 12, the son of Gray and Martha Cobb. (Though he was still a minor, Cobb, who was white, was the only witness who actually gave testimony.)

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

No justice for Lee Locus.

On March 31, 1939, farmer LeviLee” Locus was shot to death by a policeman in his own bedroom in Oldfields township, Wilson County. Though the outcome of the officer’s trial was predictable, newspapers called for justice, and black folk took some satisfaction in watching Chief T.T. Autry brought to trial.

4 7 1939

Burlington Daily Times-News, 7 April 1939.

5 27 1939

Pittsburgh Courier, 27 May 1939.

12 23 1939

Pittsburgh Courier, 23 December 1939.


In the 1910 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer John Locus, 37; wife Annie, 31; and children Flonnie, 9, Floid, 8, and Levy, 3.

In the 1920 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer John Locus, 43; wife Annie, 39; and children Floid, 17, Levi, 14, and Wiley, 4.

On 23 September 1922, Levi Locus, 21, of Simms, son of John and Annie Locus, married Lilly Jones, 18, of Bailey, daughter of Jesse and Sallie Jones, in Wilson. Witnesses were Eli Barnes, of Simms, and Ernest Batts and Fenley Davis of Bailey.

In the 1930 census of Oldfields, township, Wilson County: farmer Leevie Locus, 23; wife Lillie, 23; and children Lillie M., 7, Leevie Jr., 6, Johnnie B., 5, Freddie L., 3, Annie R., 1, and Queen E., 3 months.


“Standing by your old ni**er, are you?”

b Woodard 1 31 1908

News & Observer (Raleigh), 31 January 1908.

This nasty bit of “news” is a sample of the gratuitous racism that permeated Josephus DanielsNews & Observer in the Jim Crow era. Daniels had grown up in and gotten his journalistic start in Wilson and undoubtedly knew all the involved parties well.

Benjamin Woodard, a notorious folk doctor in Wilson County, had been arrested on unclear charges (probably involving bootlegging liquor) and hauled into federal court in Raleigh. Several notable white Wilsonians showed up to serve as counsel and character witnesses, including brothers and law partners Frederick A. Woodard (a former United States Congressman) and Sidney A. Woodard (a state congressman). The Woodards were described as Ben Woodard’s former owners, though F.A. had been a child and S.A. an infant at war’s end. Ben’s owner, then, had been their father, Dr. Stephen Woodard of Black Creek, Wilson County. F.A. requested a nolle prosequi (“nol. pros.”), which is odd, as this is generally a motion made by a prosecutor who wishes to drop charges. The District Attorney here politely indicated his unwillingness to make such a request, but the judge cheerfully entered it anyway. Thus Dr. Ben benefitted from ties forged in slavery and earned an insulting article in the state’s newspaper of record.

Shaw v. Telegraph Co., 151 N.C. 638 (1910).

The suit by Gus Shaw against Western Union Telegraph Company reached the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1910. Shaw had charged the company with negligence by failing to deliver a telegram. As detailed on page 2 of the decision, a black woman in Wilson played a small role in the drama.

In a nutshell, on 29 June 1908, Gus Shaw of Durham sent a telegram to his sister, Mrs. Riney Rogers, No. 419 South Street, Wilson, North Carolina, pleading: “Come at once. Ida and I are sick with malarial fever.” Apparently, there were two houses numbered 419 on South Street. One was at the corner of South and Lodge, and the other was “lower down South Street.” The Western Union messenger attempted delivery at the corner house, but “found that it was occupied by a colored woman” Annie Moring. The Rogerses, in fact, had been living at the other house for two years. The messenger sent a service wire back to Durham asking for an address clarification. Shaw confirmed the address as 419, but his response was not conveyed to the Western Union manager in Wilson. The messenger inquired at the post office, which also confirmed Rogers’ address as 419 South. He mailed a postal card to Rogers at that address, but it was delivered to Moring. Nonplussed, Western Union never delivered the telegram to Rogers, and Shaw testified at trial that this “just like to killed me. I didn’t know what was the matter. …” Western Union appealed the lower court’s ruling that it had acted negligently and owed Shaw damages for mental anguish. The Supreme Court denied its appeal, however, and confirmed the judge’s rulings for Shaw.

shaw 1






The 1908 Sanborn insurance map does not comport with the scenario here. South Street is a short street, running parallel to Nash Street for three and a half blocks from Goldsboro Street across Spring (now Douglas), Lodge and Factory (now Layton) Streets to the railroad. Here is most of the bottom stretch:

south street

No. 419, a large, one-story dwelling, is at the corner of South and Factory, not South and Lodge. On the odd-numbered side of the street, the corner of South and Lodge is occupied by the black Episcopal Church and R.P. Watson & Company tobacco factory. “Lower down” on South, presumably headed southeast, South Street runs alongside Wilson Cotton Mill and ends abruptly at the railroad. (In the other direction, street numbers descend through the 300s to 211 at South and Goldsboro.)

Neither Annie Moring nor Riney Rogers are found in the 1910 census of Wilson. However, the 1908 edition of Hill’s Wilson city directory provides some information, but perhaps makes the story more murky. Benj. L. Rogers, foreman of Wilson Cotton Mills, is listed at 419 South Street. So, however, are three African-American workmen, Andy Money, Ed Money and Lucian Norfleet. (There is no Moring listed.) The Sanborn map shows four tiny double-shotgun houses, lettered A through H, behind 419 South. It’s possible that the Moneys, Norfleet and Moring lived in these dwellings, but that scenario would not explain the mix-up or meet the layout described in Shaw v. Western Union.

I am shot all to pieces, can’t get anywhere.

In April 1898, Mrs. A.V.C. Hunt placed an ad for her “uptown” grocery store, serving a white clientele, on Goldsboro Street in Wilson. A year later, on March 29 and 31, 1899, town newspapers carried an enigmatic series of articles about the trial of a “negro detective” apparently hired by white livery owner Jefferson D. Farrior to “work up a case” against Hunt’s husband, James A. Hunt, for burning her store. Farrior owned the building, and posted the detective’s bond. Almost exactly one year after that, Farrior waylaid James Hunt and shot him down in the street.


Raleigh Morning Post, 31 March 1900.

More than two dozen witnesses, black and white, testified at the inquest into Hunt’s death, held 3 April 1900.

First, the doctors’ reports.  James A. Hunt was over six feet tall and weighed 225-250 pounds. He received four gun shots to the torso. One grazed his left chest, another buried in his shoulder, another entered near his left kidney, and another lodged between his 11th and 12th ribs. Dr. Albert Anderson administered a painkiller by hypodermic at the scene, and Hunt was transported by wagon to his home. Dr. C.E. Moore determined that a perforated intestine was likely, and the doctors performed surgery the day after the shooting. Hunt died at about 7:30 the evening of March 31.

The action is somewhat difficult to follow among the multiple viewpoints, but in essence, these are the facts alleged.

A couple of weeks before the shooting, James A. Hunt spoke with Herbert Bass about getting a horse and said he did not want to get one from Jefferson Farrior because they were not on good terms. Hunt also told Bass that he was out of business but had one more piece to transact before leaving Wilson. Monday or Tuesday before the shooting, Farrior showed several people a letter that he believed Hunt had written him. On Thursday, Hunt was observed passing Farrior’s livery stable stable several times, then standing across the street and staring at him. Because it was well known that Hunt had been charged the year before with shooting at a black detective that Farrior had hired to investigate an arson, witnesses suspected that Hunt was up to something. Farrior frequently had to pass through “the colored settlement down the plank road” to get to several farms he owned in the country, and some witnesses claimed that Hunt had threatened to kill Farrior. Sitting in Foster’s bar, Hunt told someone he had had a lot of trouble with “a small man of about 120-125 pounds, a blue-eyed sharper,” adding “It’s a fellow but the fice [feist] wouldn’t bark, and [he] had a fice now that would bark and he would get recompense.”

On Friday, Hunt and Jake Tucker went to Nash County to meet with a Mr. Eatmon about Hunt purchasing property in Wilson’s Little Washington neighborhood. Eatmon lived about six miles “the other side of Finchs Mill.” They returned about five or six P.M. Later that evening, Hunt, his wife Annie V. Collins Hunt, and friend Carrie Moore headed to the Marmona Opera House to attend a benefit performance for the colored Methodist Church. They walked up Green Street, crossed the tracks, and continued up Nash Street to Tarboro Street, where they turned left. They had passed the telegraph office and were near the silversmith’s shop when Farrior suddenly stepped out in front of them and raised a pistol. Hunt, who was unarmed, grabbed Farrior’s hands, and another man ran across the street to them shouting that he would shoot Hunt if he did not let Farrior go. Annie Hunt screamed, “Murder! Fire!” Hunt loosed Farrior and ran back toward Nash Street. Farrior chased him, shooting, then followed him into Ruffin’s store where he shot Hunt again. Alf Moye grabbed Farrior, who yelled that Hunt had threatened his life. John Gaston went outside, found A.V.C. Hunt and took her home.


Marmona Opera House is at the arrow at left. The Hunt party walked northwest up Nash street, then turned on Tarboro. The telegraph office occupied 638 Tarboro, shown as vacant in this 1897 Sanborn insurance map. A few doors beyond is a jewelry shop that may be the silversmith referred to. Officer Harrell likely ran up the alley shown parallel to Nash. 

Police officer Ephraim Harrell heard the shooting, ran through an alley and encountered Farrior, who did not respond when asked what was going on. Harrell saw Hunt and told him to move on. Hunt responded, “I am shot all to pieces can’t get anywhere,” and lay down in a pile of wood. Harrell called a hack to take Hunt home. Hunt told him it was “cold-blooded murder” and asked for morphine so he could “die easy.” As he lay in a wagon near Wooten & Stevens furniture store, a doctor administered a painkiller by hypodermic needle. Harrell said he had known Hunt two or three years as a merchant who had a business on Goldsboro Street that had burned out. Hunt was a large man and “regarded as having plenty of grit.” Harrell had arrested him two or three weeks before for fighting a black man named Junk Williams, who had since left town.

Sandy Henderson, who had just dropped off some passengers at the opera house, spoke to Hunt as he lay bleeding. Hunt identified the men who abetted Farrior as Skinner and Privett and said he would have not been shot had they not threatened him. Hunt said he was going to die “but God would pay Mr. Farrior for shooting him.”

At the inquest, Hunt’s wife and several of his friends testified that Hunt had neither written nor signed any letter to Farrior and said the handwriting looked like Junk Williams’. Rev. W.T.H. Woodard said, “If was a swearer, I would swear on a stack of Bibles as high as this Court House it is not [Hunt’s handwriting.]” Williams had stopped payment on a $17 check to Hunt. When Williams refused to make good, Hunt had beaten him. “I have got a good whipping,” Williams told Dennis Brooks, “but will give the man two weeks to live that whipped me.” Despite this incident and the alleged assault on the detective, for which he was acquitted, Hunt was not known to be a violent man. As to Hunt’s alleged unfinished business in town, it was not to settle a score with Farrior. Rather, Hunt had been negotiating to purchase a lot from Emma Gay, a transaction that lawyer Sidney Woodard was handling for him. Hunt also had discussed purchasing land from Rev. Woodard in Littleton for $600.

Having heard this testimony and viewed Hunt’s body, the jurors returned a verdict: “That the said J.A. Hunt came to his death by pistol shot wounds inflicted by J.D. Farrior, That said wounds came to be inflicted by said J.D. Farrior while engaged in a mutual altercation with said Hunt under the influence of a sudden passion and in heat of blood. That therefore adjudge the said J.D. Farrior is guilty of Manslaughter in killing of said J.A. Hunt.”

The inquest verdict was as surprising then as it is today.


Wilmington Messenger, 6 April 1900.

Farrior’s capital case, for which he could have received the death penalty, was set for the June 1900 docket of Wilson County Superior Court. Newspapers reported that the trial was postponed until October and then May 1901. On 6 June 1901, the Wilson News reported that Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Farrior had recently left town for a two-week trip to Washington, D.C., New York, the Pan-American Exposition, and points in Canada. Eighteen months later, the case had yet to be heard, but was expected to go to trial that month. (Note the names of defense counsel.)


Raleigh Morning Post, 11 December 1902.

Finally, in February 1903, a resolution surprising only in its technicality. Certain that it could not win, the State had dropped the case.


Wilmington Morning Star, 8 February 1903.


(A) marks the approximate start point for the Hunt party’s walk to the Marmona. (B) is  where Hunt was killed. Sanborn insurance map, 1897.


Here, except for a missing page 7, is the full transcript of the coroner’s inquest over the dead body of James Alexander Hunt.





  • Dr. Albert Anderson — see above.
  • Annie V. Collins Hunt
  • Jefferson D. Farrior — Duplin County native Jefferson Davis Farrior (1861-1934) owned a large livery and livestock sales stable on South Tarboro Street.
  • Colored Methodist Church — Saint John African Methodist Episcopal Church.



  • Carrie Moore
  • W.G. Williams
  • James D. High — James Draughn High (1881-1938), son of John T. and Mary Ella Draughn High. He appears in the 1900 census of Wilson as an 18 year-old salesman.


  • John Gaston — John A. Gaston was an African-American with a popular barber shop catering to white customers.
  • C.B. Ruffin
  • Joe J. Best


  • Ephraim Harrell — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, policeman Ephraim Harrell, 34, and wife Sarrah, 32.
  • Ned Bunch — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, teamster Ned Bunch, 50, wife Lissa, 50, and children Mary, 16, Martha, 12, Orra, 11, Nellie, 9, Mattie, 7, and Lucy, 5. Ned Bunch died 19 March 1916 in Wilson of lobar pneumonia, age 65. His death certificate reports that he was born in Wilson County, and his father was James Bunch. Malissa Bunch was the informant.
  • Sandy Henderson — On 27 May 1897, widow Mary Jane Taylor married Sandy Henderson. Both were 40 years old. Missionary Baptist Minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at the John’s A.M.E. Zion church, and the official witnesses were S.A. Smith, Charles H. Darden and Wyatt Studaway. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hack driver San[illegible] Henderson, 54, wife Mary J., 40, a restaurant keeper, and children Buxton, 19, a hotel waiter, Leonidas F., 13, a tobacco stemmer, Charles J.A.W., 9, and Mattie M.G., 7, all Hendersons. (Buxton and Leonidas were in fact Taylors and were Sandy’s step-sons.)


  • John Hare
  • Herbert Bass

[Page 7 of the transcript, in which Bass completed his testimony and W.I. Skinner and C.H. Whitehead testified, is missing.]


  • W.J. Flowers
  • L.A. Moore — Lee Andrew Moore was one of the earliest agents of North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association (later, Insurance Company). Moore was born about 1863 in Black Creek township, Wilson County, to Lawrence and Vinnie Moore. He died in Wilson in 1948.
  • Jake Tucker — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: salesman Jacob Tucker, 39, 40, wife Mary, 39, and children Doward, 17, Daniel, 15, Thomas, 13, Henry, 12, Smoot, 9, Walter, 7, Patience, 5, Joseph, 2, and Besse, 11 months. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Jake Tucker was described as a retail grocer.


  • W.S. Oats
  • B.R. Selby — Benjamin Richard Selby (1877-1932) appears in the 1900 census of Wilson as a 26 year-old horse dealer. He died in East Saint Louis, Illinois, and his death certificate describes him as a livestock salesman.


  • R.S. Rives — Robert S. Rives, pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion church.
  • Dennis Brooks — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, 35 year-old Georgia-born merchant Dennis Brooks, wife Mary, 27, and daughter Aleo[illegible], 8, shared a household with Jordan Taylor, 50, and wife Matilda, 40. [Jordan Taylor, by the way, was the father-in-law of witness Sandy Henderson.]
  • J.F. Farmer




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

[Personal note: I have a familial connection to J.D. Farrior via Jesse A. Jacobs and Jesse “Jack Henderson, who worked in his livery stable when they came to Wilson a few years after this killing. In addition, I grew up in Bel Air Forest, a small subdivision laid out in the early 1960s along Highway 264 East. 264 runs in the path laid by the Plank Road to Greenville, and my neighborhood was once one of the country farms that Farrior passed through Wilson’s “colored settlement” to reach.]


One-third acre on Lodge Street to Susan Mitchell.

This deed made this the 14th June 1875 by Charles Battle and wife Leah to Susan Mitchell all of the County of Wilson and State of North Carolina Witnesseth that for and in consideration of the sum of five hundred dollars in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged the said Charles Battle and wife Leah have bargained and sold and by these presents do bargain sell alien and convey to Susan Mitchell and her heirs that certain piece parcel or lot of land in Wilson on the continuation of Lodge street beginning at Thomas Johnstons line running thence at right angles with said Lodge street and along said Johnstons line seventy yards to a stake thence a line parallel with Lodge street sixty five feet to a stake then a line at right angles with said Street seventy yds, thence with the Street sixty five feet to the beginning containing one third of one acre more or less to have and to hold the same together with the improvements privileges and appurtenances there unto belonging to the said Susan Mitchell and her heirs and the Charles Battle and wife Leah do for themselves their heirs executors administrators and assigns covenants to and with the said Susan Mitchell her heirs executors administrators and assigns to warrant the title herein made against the lawful claims of all persons whomsoever. In testimony whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names and affixd our seals    Charles (X) Battle, Leah (X) Battle


State of North Carolina, Wilson County } In the Probate Court.

On this the 11th day of June in the year 1875 before me H.C. Moss Judge of Probate for said County, personally appeared Charles Battle and Leah Battle persons described in, and who signed the annexed conveyance, and severally acknowledged the due execution thereof for the purpose therein expressed. And thereupon the said Leah Battle being by me privately examined apart from her said husband touching her voluntary consent thereto acknowledged that she executed the same freely and without fear or compulsion of her said husband and do now voluntarily assent thereto and hereby relinquish her right of dower in said land. Thereupon let the said Deed and this certificate be registered.   /s/ H.C. Moss, Probate Judge

Received & Registered June 19, 1875



1880 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County.

Deed Book 11, page 35, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

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.


Redding had two wives.

Wilson, N.C. Nov 25th 1865

Commissioner of Freedman at Goldsboro. Sir there is a Colored woman in prison in this County Committed by some Magistrate in Edgcombe County. I do not know any of the particulars. I have been told that she was in prison with one or two little children & they will certainly suffer with Cold if they remain there. Mr. John Smith of this County has in his care five orphan children have no near relations Mr. Smith has been a loyal citizen to the U.S. Government all the war, he is a good man clothes & feeds well, he wishes to have them bound. There names & ages are Samuel 17 years old, Caroline 15 years old, Symeon 13 years old, Princh 11 years old, Frank 9 years old. Mr. Smith can give the best of refference.


W.J. Bullock, Capt. L.P.F.

[Different handwriting] Roberson Baker put Redding Baker in jail and took his children.


Wilson N.C. Dec 26th 1865

Geo. O. Glavis

Sir, I received a Communication from you this morning in reguard to one Redding Baker (freedman) stating that he was put in jail by Rob Baker, and I ought not to permit such proceeding &c. I presume you know nothing or but little about the case or myself either, or you would not have wrote as you did. You said Baker had no authority for taking those children &c, if he had not of had an order to that effect he certainly would not have gotten them returned to him, and that authority was the highest in this state. I presume from Col. Whitlesy. The case is as follows Redding had two wives one at Mr. Bakers, and one at a Mr. Blows. He had discarded the wife who lived at Mr. Bakers, took the other one home, I assisted him in getting his children by his wife at home; he afterwards took the children of his other wife, she went to see them, and he whipped her very bad or as she stated to me, she said she wanted her children to stay at Mr Bakers, the case was sent to Raleigh and Col Whitlesy ordered the children carried back to Mr Baker’s. I was absent at the time, Mr Baker called on a Lt of the Police to return the children as the order requested him to call on the Police to return them. The Lt served the order on Redding he promised to return them by a certain day; he did not obey the order & when I came home the Lt sent me to know what course to pursue. I ordered him to return the children to Mr Baker according to the Order from Raleigh, and to send Redding to me for whipping Annikey his abandoned wife, he was sent late in the evening I lodged him in jail for investigation I investigated the case laid no furnishment, found it was a case of not sufficient importants to send to you & discharged him. I hope the above will be satisfactory. You see Mr Baker did not put him in jail. And besides the jailor of this County is a gentleman, and knows his duty, will not receive any one in the jail unless committed by a Magistrate or myself. There have not been any freedmen put in the jail who has not been reported to you or Gen Hardin, except in cases of minor importants upon investigation discharged. There are not any freedmen in jail here at all, the last who was there escaped before I got orders to send him off.

Should the above not be satisfactory, I will try to satisfy you when up to Wilson. As for my character I will refer you to the Union men of the County among them W. Daniel, W.G. Sharp, G.W. Blount & others.

Very respectfully

Your Obedt Servt

W.J. Bullock

Capt. L.P. Force


White farmer William Bullock, 38, is listed in the 1870 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County NC. 52 year-old white farmer Roberson Baker is listed in Oldfields township. Neither Redding nor Annikey Baker nor their children appear in the county.

Freedmen Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878 [database online],