Court Actions

Julius Freeman buys land.

On 21 March 1898, Louisa M. Daniel sold Julius F. Freeman a 125-acre tract called the Arky Gardner land in Gardners township. Freeman paid her $500.

Freeman married Eliza Daniel (or Daniels), daughter of Amos and Olive Daniel, in 1873. Was Louisa her kin?

Deed book 46, pages 421-422, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

The division of the Ned Kent farm.

Ned Kent of Springhill township passed away 22 July 1940. The details of his will are detailed here.

Nearly eight years later, Wilson County Superior Court accepted the report of the commissioners appointed to divide Kent’s land among his many heirs. Born into slavery, he had accumulated 159 acres in southern Wilson County.

Book 150, pages 409-410, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse.

The interested parties were: James Kent and wife Nettie; Louise Kent Barnes and husband William Barnes; Narcissus Kent Lucas and husband John Lucas; Percy Kent and wife Cherrie; Cassanda Kent Williams; Jane Boykin; Jennie Lucas and husband W. Fred Lucas; Charlie Kent and wife Victoria Kent; Roscoe Kent and wife Mary; the children of Clara Ann Kent Hamilton (Purcelle Hamilton, Clara Beatrice Hamilton Payne and Matthew Hamilton); Fred Kent’s daughter Thelma Kent Barnes; Ada Kent Williams‘ son Willie Kent; the children of Arcelars Kent (Daisy Kent Williams, Chaney Kent Parker, Helen Kent Lipton, Ned Kent and Jim Kent); the children of James Kent (James R. Kent, Joseph W. Kent, Bessie Hardy, Thaddeus Kent, Johnnie W. Kent, Algie Marie Kent and Flora May Kent); the children of Narcissus Kent Lucas (Pearl Lucas Barnes, Kezzie Lucas Boykin); the children of Percy Kent (Carnell Kent, Lydie Frances Kent Craddock and Davie Nell Kent); the children of Louise Kent Barnes (Nannie Barnes Paschall, Sophie Mae Pulley, Benjamin Barnes, Randolph Barnes, Lydia Barnes Griffin, Gaybella Barnes Harris, Willie Mae Barnes Strickland, Glintle Lee Barnes Finch, Marcus Barnes, Mercedes Barnes, Joya Dennis Barnes, Kay Georgia Barnes and Shirley Barnes); the children of Jane Boykin (Grady Boykin, Willie Foster Boykin, William Gay Boykin, John Henry Boykin, Lillie Mae Boykin; Addie Boykin Miles, Fannie Boykin Clark, Tincie Boykin Williams, and Lydia Boykin Finch); the children of Jennie Lucas (Carrie Lucas Williams, George Lucas, William Lucas, Raspor Lucas, Callie Lucas, Emily Lucas, Chellie Lucas Gastings and Oscar Lucas); the children of Charlie Kent (James O. Kent, Roy Kent, George Kent, James T. Kent, Hubert Kent, Ned Kent, Ruth Kent Hinnant, and Janie Kent Richardson); and Casanda Kent Williams’ son Eddie Williams., plus any “unborn and unascertained children.”

Ned Kent’s farm was divided into 13 lots of just over 12 acres each. Lot #4, which contained the family cemetery, was slightly larger to compensate. A plat map shows an unpaved road running through lots 1 through 6 and a creek running at the edge of lots 7 through 10. Lots 1, 6 and 12 contained dwellings.

Plat Book 5, page 71, Register of Deeds office, Wilson County Courthouse.

The Kent land today, just west of Sullivan Road in far southwestern Wilson County. The road remains unpaved, and the cemetery is well-kept. Per Wilson County, North Carolina Cemeteries — Volume 1, a publication of the Wilson County Genealogical Society, the graveyard contains about 51 graves, including Ned Kent and wife Lydia; their daughter Mary Jane Kent Boykin, her husband John H. and son Grady; their sons Charlie and Marcellus; and others. The tiny creek at the bottom edge of the plat map is now an arm of Buckhorn Reservoir.

A close-up of the Ned Kent family cemetery and the road that runs past it:

Photographs courtesy of Google Maps.

Isaac Isler fights back.

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Wilson Daily Times, 24 April 1939.

In November 1938, Isaac Isler filed suit in county court against three police officers for false arrest and  injuries sustained during a beating in his home. As set forth in the Daily Times on the 12th, Isler’s suit alleged that the officers had entered unannounced and, when he asked for their warrant, began pistol-whipping and beating him with the black jacks, seriously injuring his eye.

On 26 April 1939, the Daily Times detailed the testimony at trial. Dr. T.N. Blackshear testified that Isaac Isler’s eye trouble was caused by red pepper concealed in a handkerchief that Isler rubbed in his eye during his examination. Jailer S.G. Gunter testified that on 3 June 1938, when Isler was jailed, he had not complained of injury, and Gunter had seen no blood on him. Detective Philemon Ray Hartis swore that he had entered the house in search of boys wanted for attacking another Negro. “I fell on the ground and I saw Isler’s wife coming toward me with an iron poker, and his son with a lawn mower handle. And I took out my black jack and lightly tapped him over the head so I could get up.” Chief of Police Clyde Preston Hocutt testified that he had taken the poker from Isler’s wife, and the boy with the lawn mower handle had thrown it down and run away. He denied touching Hocutt. When Isler took the stand, he testified that the three officers had come to his house “looking for some boys or my sons.” He said he was not sure which man had beaten him and only recognized them by their voices. Isler was totally blind “except for a little shade of light.” He had lost the vision of his right war in World War I and most in his left eye since the beating. Isler’s wife Vivie Isler testified that the police were looking for boys who allegedly beat a man and stole his mule, and Officer L.C. Cooper had beaten her husband with the butt of his gun and Hocutt, with his fist. Isler’s son R.D. Isler, who was one of the boys sought, testified similarly to his parents. Dr. Joe Carr testified that he did not recall treating Isler for head wounds, but hospital records show he was treated for head lacerations.

I have not found a report of the outcome of the trial, but I am fairly confident that the judgment was against Isler.

Here is how Karl Fleming described early-1950s Ray Hartis in Son of the Rough South:

” … [Chief Privette’s] knowledge pretty much ended at the edge of “niggertown,” into which he rarely ventured. The job of following what was happening across the tracts fell mainly to Detective Ray Hartis. He was a concrete block of a man, five feet, eleven inches and 200 pounds, with a large head covered with bristly graying hair. He had thick eyebrows, cold gray eyes, red cheeks, and a large pickle of a nose lined with tiny red tributaries — marks of the hard drinker that he was. He was about forty, married but childless, a longtime cop who carried a .38 Smith and Wesson pistol on his hip, and a blackjack in his rear right pocket. …

“He was a loner with the harsh and unapproachable manner of a bitter and disappointed man, disdainful of and not well liked by his fellow cops.

” … we’d cruise back through town and across the Atlantic Coast Line tracks into the little colored business district, only two blocks long. Ray would slow the car down to a crawl, and as we went along, silence would fall over the little knots of black men laughing and talking on the street.

“One sultry night as we cruised the alleys, Ray suddenly stopped the car in front of a shotgun shack and got out.

” ‘Where you going, Ray?’ I asked.

” ‘I heard this son-of-a-bitch is a member of the N-Double-Fuckin’-A-C-P,’ he said. … Suddenly a gray-haired old black man appeared out of the back room rubbing his eyes and pulling on a pair of overalls over his bare shoulders.

” ‘Whatcha doin’, Mistuh Hottis? You got a search warrant?’ he said.

“Ray turned, his face all red, lunged at the black man and slapped him hard across the cheek. Down the old man went on his back to the floor, and Ray said, ‘That’s one side of my goddamned search warrant. You wanna see the other one?'”

——

In 1917, Isaac Isler Jr. registered for the World War I draft in Lenoir County, North Carolina. Per his registration card, he was born 11 April 1890 in Georgia; lived in LaGrange, N.C.; farmed for A.T. Rouse of LaGrange; and was single.

On 19 December 1918, Isaac Isler, 28, of Lenoir, son of Isaac and Laura Isler, married Tildy Ann Exum, 18, of Lenoir, in Moseley Hall, Lenoir County, North Carolina.

In the 1920 census of Moseley Hall township, Lenoir County, North Carolina: farmer Isaac Isler, 30, and wife Matilda, 17.

Rufus Isler, aged 20 days, died 11 June 1931 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born in Wilson County to Isaac Isler of Atlanta, Georgia, and Matilda Exum of Wayne County, N.C., and resided at 803 Evans Street, Wilson.

On 11 February 1934, Isaac Isler, 42, son of Isaac Isler and Mollie [unknown], married Hellen Richardson, 28, daughter of Eddie James and Mary J. Abraham, in Wilson. Rev. C.B. Ham, “an ordane minister of the United Holey Church,” performed the ceremony in the presence of Joe James, Mary Abraham, and Jannie James.

Matilda Isler died 2 June 1936. Per her death certificate, she was 24 years old; was married to Isaac Isler; was born in Wayne County, N.C., to Henry Exum of Greene County, N.C., and Harriett Best of Wayne County; was engaged in farming; and was buried in a family cemetery in LaGrange, N.C. Her cause of death? “Probably puerperal sepsis. Saw her once with midwife — She was dying at that time — Baby 10 days old.”

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 510 Hadley Street, Isaac Isley, 46; wife Vivien, 29; and children Charlie, 20, Aron, 19, R.D., 16, Richard, 15, Moses, 10, and Herbert, 9. Isaac had no occupation listed.

On 25 November 1941, Charlie Cleveland Isler, 21, born in Lenoir County, N.C., to Iasiat Isler and Matilda Exon, residing in Norfolk, Virginia, married Naomi Ruth Sutton, 20, of Bertie County, in Norfolk.

In 1942, Aaron Isler registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 28 August 1921 in Wayne County; resided at 510 New Bern Street, Wilson; his contact was Isaac Isler of the same address; and he worked for N.M. Schaum, Acme Candy Company, 904 West Nash Street.

In 1942, Robert Isler registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 26 December 1924 in LaGrange, N.C.; resided at 510 New Bern Street, Wilson; his contact was Isaac Isler of the same address; and he was a student at Darden High School.

In 1942, Richard J. Isler registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 5 May 1925 in Wilson County.; resided at 510 New Bern Street, Wilson; his contact was Isaac Isler of the same address; and he was unemployed.

Isaac Isler died 19 February 1968 and was buried in Wilson’s Rest Haven cemetery.

Photo courtesy of Findagrave.com.

Dr. Mitchner’s ordeal.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 April 1938.

In late March or early April 1938, white newborn baby was found abandoned under a tree on Hines Street in Wilson, and died a short time later. The police quickly identified Mittie E. Lucas, reported as a 43 year-old widowed seamstress in the 1940 census of Wilson, as the child’s mother and Jesse Hamilton, also 43 and a married former policeman, as its father. Lucas and Mary Fuller, an African-American midwife, were charged with the baby’s homicide, and Hamilton was charged with abortion along with black physician William A. Mitchner. The four criminal cases were consolidated.

It is not difficult to imagine Mitchner’s terror. He testified that Lucas called on him on February 2 and, in 30 years of medical practice, he had never before examined a white woman. He denied attempting an abortion, asserting that he told Lucas he didn’t “do that kind of work and not to let anyone else do it.” He admitted referring Lucas to Dr. Clarence Dillard Jr., an African-American doctor in Goldsboro, but claimed he did not know whether Dillard were an abortionist, he just “wanted to get rid of them and stop them from coming to me.” [In fact, just four months later, newspapers would breathlessly cover a trial in which Dillard was accused of performing an abortion on a young white woman pregnant by her black boyfriend.] More than a dozen character witnesses stood for Mitchner, including “prominent negro undertaker” Camillus L. Darden and “prominent local druggist” Doane Herring, who was white.

On 26 April 1938, the Daily Times reported that Recorder McLean had dismissed charges against Mitchner, concluding that the other defendants’ actions after visiting Mitchner suggested that he “would do nothing for them.”

The charges against Lucas, Hamilton and Fuller dragged on. Lucas’ brother, U.R. Moore, posted her bond at the end of April, but Fuller and Hamilton remained in jail. After several court continuances, startling news broke on 8 February 1939 after the state rested its case. Witnesses testified that Hamilton admitted that he was the baby’s father; that Hamilton went to a Negro doctor for “medicine” and that the doctor had refused to do what was “intimated”; that Lucas had given the infant to Fuller to place with “some rich person or some hospital”; and that Fuller had placed the child under a tree and called a neighbor to the scene. However, the solicitor conceded that he could not establish if the baby had died of exposure [or, presumably, died of natural causes]. Thus, he could not establish homicide. (And as Lucas seemingly delivered a full-term child, nor could he show that Lucas had obtained an abortion.) With this failure, he proferred a nolle prosequi, i.e. dropped charges, against Lucas and suspended five-year sentences to Hamilton and Fuller if they pleaded no contest.

——

Perhaps, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Mary Fuller, 56, laundress; daughter Mildred, 22; and boarder Texanna Whitley, 23, and her children Cleo, 7, and Charlie, 2.

Unlawful migration.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   } Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions October Term 1859

The Jurors for the State aforesaid upon their oath present that Gray Powel a free negro late of the county of Wilson on the 1st day of June AD 1859 at & in the said county unlawfully did migrate into the State of North Carolina contrary to the provisions of the act of the general assembly in such cases made & provided & that the said Gray Powel afterwards to wit up to this time doth yet remain in said State & in the county aforesaid contrary to the form of the Statute in each case made & provided & against the peace & dignity of the State    /s/ B.B. Barnes Solicitor

—–

In the 1850 census of Stephen Powell, 47, wife Synthia, 36, and children Gray, 9, Queen Anne, 8, Dolly, 7, Crockett, 3, and Noab, 1. [If this is the same Gray Powell, it suggests that he left his birth state prior to 1859, then returned, an act considered an “unlawful migration.”]

Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

 

Taxi war.

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Wilson Daily Times, 28 November 1938.

Eighty years ago today, Richard Sheridan and Ed Nicholson were fined for trespassing after protesting the exclusion of taxi drivers from Wilson’s bus station.

In a nutshell:

Miley Glover and Dr. Mallory A. Pittman leased a building to various bus companies for use as a bus station. Glover and Pittman also leased “taxi rights” to the building to J.D. Peacock of Goldsboro, who barred any other taxi drivers from seeking fares on the premises. When Sheridan and Nicholson attempted to pick up fares at the station, they were arrested and charged with trespassing. Their lawyer argued that the station owners had created a taxi monopoly in contravention of state law, but the recorder (magistrate) did not agree. Each man was assessed a five-dollar fine.

The 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory reveals two taxicab companies in Wilson. J. Clifford Peacock and George B. Patrick owned Oak Cab Company, based at the bus station. Hugh T. Foster owned Taxi-Cab Service at 508 East Nash. Oak Cab’s arrangement with Glover and Peacock meant that, effectively, black drivers had no access to white patrons arriving in Wilson by bus. It also meant that black riders had to leave the station’s premises to hail a cab.

Per the nomination form for Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse District, the taxi stand and bus station at 307 East Green Street were built for Miley Glover in 1937 and 1938. The bus station was one of Wilson’s few Art Deco buildings. It operated into the 1990s and was demolished after the city built a public transportation hub on Nash Street.

——

  • Richard Sheridan — Richard Sheridan, 26, son of Richard and Fannie Sheridan, married Beatrice Bullock, 19, daughter of Alice Bullock, on 1 September 1935 in Wilson. Sheridan registered for the World War II draft in Wilson in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 20 September 1910 in Maxton, N.C.; resided at 1115 Atlantic Street, Wilson; his contact was mother, Fannie Sheridan, 1115 Atlantic; and he worked for traveling salesman John Whelan.

Photo of bus station and taxi stand courtesy of Dean Jeffrey at Flickr, 2001.

Artis’ Cafe padlocked.

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Wilson Daily Times, 13 February 1939.

  • June Scott Artis — A history of Stantonsburg gave the date of the cafe’s opening as 1947, which apparently was off by at least a decade. It remained in business into the 1960s.
  • Edgar Artis, June S. Artis’ son.
  • Walter Ward — The 6 February 1939 edition of the Wilson Daily Times reported that Ward pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a 15 to 18-year sentence.
  • H.B. Swenson — H.B. Swinson died 28 January 1939. Per his death certificate, he was “murdered, knife wound of breast”; was born 18 April 1913 in Greene County to Allen Swinson and Henrietta Applewhite of Greene County; lived i Stantonsburg; and worked in farming.

Goffney bound over.

The Times published a blow-by-blow of the preliminary hearing Wilson mayor E.F. Killette held over the homicide of Blanche Williams. Joe Goffney entered a plea of not guilty, but Killette found sufficient evidence to hold him over for trial in the Superior Court.

Joe Brodie testified first. Goffney, who was married, came with Williams to the house in which she lives. Brodie was in the back room when the shot rang out. Williams staggered out and fell to the floor. Goffney ran out, shouting that he had not known the gun was loaded. Brodie sent for Dr. Mitchner, who declared Williams dead.

Nellie Williams testified that Goffney and Blanche Williams had entered the house laughing and talking. She was in the next room lacing her shoe when she heard the gun fire and heard Goffney say, “I didn’t say a word — or I will kill all of you.” Nellie Williams ran out of the house with one shoe on.

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Clifton Johnson also testified that Goffney and B. Williams entered the house talking and laughing. Johnson said he saw the gun on the center table when he entered and did not know to whom it belonged. (Neither Brodie nor N. Williams corroborated this, saying that as far as they knew there had been no gun in the house.) Goffney picked up the gun and said “let me see it.” Johnson’s back was turned to them when Goffney fired. Goffney did not say anything “out of the way” to Williams. The remark about “killing them all” came after the shooting. Goffney told them to get a doctor, then left the house. He gave Johnson the gun, who threw it away.

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“Colored physician” William Mitchner testified that he found Blanche Williams on the porch dead. The bullet had struck her in the chin, breaking her lower jaw, and exited the back of her neck, possibly fracturing her spine. In his opinion, Goffney was standing directly in front of Williams when he fired, and the bullet’s trajectory was slightly downward.

Clifton Johnson was recalled to testify that he and Goffney were on the same side of the table, and he was behind Williams.

Goffney testified that Clarence Johnson carried concealed weapons. [Is this Clifton? Or a different man?] Clarence had placed a magazine and .32 cartridges on the table.

Officer Weathersbee testified that he and Officer Sikes asked Johnson for the gun, and Johnson said he had thrown it in the pea patch. Johnson admitted the gun was his, and it had not been found.

Clarence Johnson denied telling Weathersbee the gun was his. He did not own a gun. Goffney was mistaken when he said Johnson had pulled the gun from his pocket and that there had been a magazine on the table. Johnson works at an express office and borrowed a holster from a fellow employee. He did not borrow a gun. The holster is in a bureau drawer at his house. Mayor Killette interjected that the holster had been found between the bed[frame] and mattress in Johnson’s room. Johnson could not explain why he borrowed a holster.

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Joe Lee denied seeing Goffney take a pistol from Johnson’s pocket. Apparently, Nettie Williams did, too. Johnson’s mother testified that he did not own a gun and had not brought one to the house the night of the killing.

Johnson’s lawyer F.D. Swindell argued that in the excitement of the moment, it was perfectly natural for Johnson to throw away the gun Goffney gave him. The only evidence that the gun was his was Goffney’s testimony, which was inherently biased.

The mayor was satisfied that Johnson had borrowed the pistol and bound him over as a material witness and for carrying a concealed weapon. He fined Johnson $75 and set his bond for $500. Goffney was sent to jail to await trial.

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Wilson Times, 30 September 1921.

  • Joe Goffney — Was Joe Goffney convicted? I have not found a follow-up, but the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists: Goffney Joseph tobwkr [tobacco worker] h 206 Manchester. This is likely the Joseph Goffney listed in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Lemon Barnes, 51; wife Dollie Ann, 51; children Ida, 26, Lemon Jr., 20, Mattie, 17, Charlie, 15, and Howard, 12; stepsons Cornelius Neal, 11, Paul Goffney, 17, and Joseph Goffney, 15; and grandson Sylvester Barnes, 6.
  • Blanche Williams — Per her death certificate, Blanch Williams was 24 years old; single; resided on Stantonsburg Street; and worked as a common laborer. She was born in Wayne County, North Carolina, to Wash Smith and Laura Williams, and Selena Craig of Goldsboro was informant. Her cause of death: “revolver wound of head (probably accidental).” [A 26 September 1921 Times article about the shooting reported that Williams was married and lived in Goldsboro, but had come to Wilson to work briefly in domestic service. She had planned to return to Goldsboro the week she was shot. She had been “going with” Goffney while in Wilson, and jealousy was believed to be at the root of the violence. Unnamed witnesses heard Goffney tell Williams, “If you go with that man, I will kill you,” as they walked to Joe Lee’s home. As Williams walked out of the house to return home, Goffney called her back in and shot her.]

  • Joe Brodie — possibly Josephine Brodie listed in the 1922 city directory as a student living at 303 Mercer Street.
  • Nellie Williams
  • Clifton/Clarence Johnson — perhaps the Clifton Johnson listed in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory as a porter living at 118 Ashe Street.
  • Dr. Mitchner — William A. Mitchner.
  • Joe Lee — possibly Joseph Lee listed in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory as a factory hand living at 115 Manchester Street. [However, the 26 September Times article identified Joe Lee and Joe Brodie as the same person, a woman.]
  • F.D. Swindell — lawyer Fred D. Swindell.
  • W.A. Finch — lawyer William Atlas Finch.
  • Mayor Killette — mayor Edwin F. Killette Sr.
  • Officer Weathersbee
  • Officer Sikes