Crime

McGowan punished — “a move in the right direction.”

Wilson Advance, 26 August 1881.

It’s not clear what crime Nathan McGowan committed by “hurting a white boy,” but he was both fined and “severely flogged” for it.

McGowan, son of Tilghman and Charity McGowan, migrated to Indianapolis, Indiana, in the 1890s.

The murder of Cora Lee Carr.

Wilson Daily Times, 22 April 1924.

The victim, in fact, was named Cora Lee Carr. I have not found more about her terrible death.

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Cora Lee Carr died 21 April 1924 in Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was about 24 years old; was married to Earnest Carr; and was born in Norfolk, Virginia. Willie Williams was informant. Cause of death: “Crushed scull with axe Homicide Instant death.”

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Jail break.

I am not sure what to make of this story.

Ben Joyner was janitor of the Wilson County jail. In mid-June of 1924, Cora Moore, a prisoner, allegedly stole Joyner’s pistol and pawned it to fund an escape. (How did she make this happen from jail?) On July 7, she saw her chance as Joyner made his evening rounds. With an unnamed assistant, Moore jumped Joyner, took his keys, locked him in a cell, and escaped. I don’t know if she was recaptured.

(Moore apparently was in jail for her part in a stolen goods conspiracy. More about that some other time.)

Wilson Daily Times, 8 July 1924.

Lewis, former sailor, hangs himself.

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 2 July 1910.

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Possibly, in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Clarisea Lewis, 43, widow, farmer; and children Emma, 18,, 15, Gertrude, 12, Whit, 10, George, 8, Mattie, 6, and Hattie, 3.

In the 1910 census of Connecticut State Prison, Wethersfield town, Hartford County, Connecticut: Edward Lewis, 25, prisoner, born in N.C., does not work; “This man is insane.”

The Government Hospital for the Insane was later known as Saint Elizabeths Hospital.

African golf.

Wilson Daily Times, 8 September 1920.

“African golf”??

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  • Charlie Neal — probably, in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Road, cook Effie Battle, 64, widow, and grandchildren Ida Parrs, 17, tobacco factory laborer, Hattie May Marlow, 16, cook, and Charles Neal, 14, high school student.
  • Richard Wheeler — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: college cook Lula Wheeler, 49, widow, and children Richard, 12, Emma, 10, John, 8, and Sammie, 6.
  • Walter Powell — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 210 Hackney Street, Julia Powell, 50, “wash”; husband Walter, 40, farm laborer; and lodger Mary Griffin, 25, factory laborer.
  • Mary Griffin — see above.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Negroes punish white man.

Wilson Daily Times, 20 December 1920.

The Baltimore Afro-American‘s rather more detailed version of this incident is here. The “negro woman” was Melissa Wilkins. I have not been able to identify her father, who allegedly owned a blind tiger.

  • James Dickerson
  • Henry Elons
  • Bill Artis
  • Edgar Artis

“Mary, Mary, Mary!”

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 7 May 1907. 

The setting: the former plantation of Joshua Barnes, then three miles north of Wilson and now on the outskirts.

Several people gathered at Willie Barnes‘ home to go together to a dance in the neighborhood. Barnes was eating his evening meal, and his wife, children, and neighbors sat before the fire. Mary Talley suddenly rushed in. Moments later, her husband Robert Talley appeared in the doorway, cried “Mary, Mary, Mary!,” and emptied a shotgun barrel into his wife’s hip. Willie Barnes grabbed the gun, which discharged its other barrel into the ceiling. Mary Talley lost considerable blood, but the wound was judged not serious. A sheriff’s posse found Talley holed up in his residence with a loaded gun, but arrested him without incident.

I haven’t found anything further about this incident. However, Robert Talley went to prison, he didn’t stay long. He appears in the 1910 census of Wilson … with Mary Talley.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Robert Talley, 23, and wife Mary.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Robert Talley, 31, store janitor; wife Mary, 28, cook; and three boarders Lula Vick, 18, cook, Rachel Miller, 19, cook, and Buster Miller, 15 months.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tally Robert (c) lab 409 N Pine

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Talley Mary (c) dom h Young’s New Line nr Water Works rd

Mary M. Talley died 22 May 1945 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 57 years old; was born in Asheville, N.C., to Eleck Robinson and Dora Miller; was single; and lived at 200 West Lee Street. Rachel Ellis, 200 West Lee, was informant.

His twin brother’s testimony acquitted her.

On 6 May 1910, the Times separately noted (1) the arrest of Mattie Ham on a charge of stealing meat, tobacco, and other goods from George Dew and (2) the trial of Bernice Winstead, whose identical twin brother Ernest testified for him in the trial for a similar crime, committed in December 1909 against Dew.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 May 1910.

Four days later, a follow-up piece reconciles and clarifies the stories. Mattie Hamm lived in one room of a two-room house. After taking meat and flour from Dew’s smokehouse, Bernice Winstead stashed them in Hamm’s extra room, claiming they were his. Trackers later arrived at her door step. Frightened, Hamm rushed to Wilson to tell Winstead to move his stuff, then packed up all her own belongings and vacated the house. She was arrested anyway and charged with receiving stolen goods, but released after Ernest Winstead’s testimony cleared her.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 May 1910.

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  • Mattie Hamm
  • Bernice Winstead

In the 1880 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Berry Winstead, 52; wife Loucinda, 48; children Sidney, 22, Riny, 18, Melviny, 16, Margaret, 14, William, 12, Charles, 9, and Ernest and Burnett, 6; grandchildren Julius, 4, and George, 2; and boarder Charlotte Winstead, 75.

[Sidenote: Bernice, pronounced BERniss, though not common, was a name most often given to boys in this area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Eventually, female BerNEESE gained popularity. As is the case with most unisex names — think Gayle, Dana, Leslie, Ashley, Courtney — Bernice for boys soon disappeared.]

  • Ernest Winstead

On 27 October 1897, Ernest Winstead, 24, of Nash County, son of Berry and Louinda Winstead, married Martha Wright, 18, of Nash County, daughter of David and Elizabeth Wright, in Rocky Mount township, Nash County.

On 13 September 1903, Ernest Winstead, 27, of Taylors township, son of Berry and Lou Winstead, married Dora Deans, 18, of Nash County, daughter of Peter and Manda Deans, in Taylors township.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Finch Mill Road, laundress Martha Griswold, 50, widow; nephews Jeffrey, 20, brick moulder in brick yard, and Walter Hill, 15, odd jobs laborer; and lodgers Willie Simms, 20, brick moulder in brick yard, and Earnest Winstead, 36, widower, farm laborer.

In the 1920 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: tenant farmer Ernest Winstead, 49; wife Louisa, 41; and children Roosevelt, 18, Essie May, 17, Mildred, 15, William, 12, Enman, 8, Leodell, 6, Dona May, 3, Sherrod, 2, and Jesse, 3 months.

Louise Winstead died 6 June 1925 in Edenton township, Chowan County, N.C. Per her death certificate, she was 48 years old; was married to Ernest Winstead; was born in Wilson County to William Hyman and Lizzie Woodard; and was buried in Chowan County. Ernest Winstead, Edenton, was informant.

Ernest Winstead died 17 April 1952 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 74 years old; was born in Nash County to Berry and Lurenda Winstead; was married; worked as a carpenter and minister; and lived in Norfolk, Virginia. He was buried in Granite Point cemetery, Wilson County.