Crime

It wasn’t me.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 September 1928.

In which a number of worthy colored men make haste to reassure the public of their continued respectability.

  • Henry Gaston — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 508 Woodard, Henry Gaston, 42, laborer; wife Dora, 38; and stepdaughter Josephine Whitaker, 14.
  • Henry Golston
  • Herbert Ricks — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1007 Carolina Street, cafe proprietor Herbert Ricks, 27; wife Goldie, 30, private family cook; and daughter Gloria H., 4.

Dew triangle ends in murder.

The story broke on the Fourth of July 1907. Raiford Dew had shot and killed his wife Mittie and her lover — his brother Amos Dew. Newspapers across the state could not resist the tragedy:

7 4 07 N&O

News & Observer (Raleigh), 4 July 1907.

A few days later, the Clinton Caucasian reported different details.

clinton caucasian 7 11 1907

Clinton Caucasian, 11 July 1907.

Unsurprisingly, Raiford Dew was convicted of second degree (unpremeditated) murder three months later. (And attention moved to another act of violence — the murder of Wiley Faison by Will Scarborough at a “negro dance” on a farm southeast of Wilson.)

n&o 10 12 1907

News & Observer (Raleigh) 12 October 1907.

Somewhat surprisingly, five years later, Dew received a conditional pardon at the recommendation of the trial judge and jury.

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Greensboro Daily News, 16 November 1912.

——-

In the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Louisa Dew, 35, and children Isaac, 20, Nellie, 17, Mourning, 10, Grant, 9, Raiford, 7, Mary Ann, 6, and Amos, 2.

On 10 August 1895, Rayfus Dew, 22, of Cross Roads township, son of Amos and Louisa Dew, married Mitty Daniel, 18, of Cross Roads, daughter of Isaac and Edna Daniel. Free Will Baptist minister Daniel Blount performed the ceremony at Pine Grove in Wilson township. Tom Moore, Noah Moore and Riney Ricks were witnesses.

In the 1900 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farm laborer Roford Dew, 25; wife Mittie, 20; and children Lee M., 3, and Murray, 5 months. Two households away:  widow Louisa Dew, 65; daughter Mary, 27, and son Amos, 20; Roselle Deans, 75; and widowed sister Ellen Emerson, 60.

Mittie Dew was buried in Becky Pate cemetery near Lucama. Her headstone notes that she was the wife of R.D. Dew and proclaims her “Gone but not forgotten.”

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In the 1910 census of Halifax township, Halifax County: at State Farm #1, Raiford Dew, 38, prisoner.

On 23 August 1914, Raiford Dew, 44, of Cross Roads township, son of Amos and Louisa Dew, married Maybel Dawson, 18, of Cross Roads township, daughter of Perry and Sarah Dawson. Witnesses were Grant Dew, W.H. Mickerson and Vanderbilt Dawson.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Raiford Dew, 57; wife Mary Belle, 34; and children Clarence, 15, Lema, 13, and Joseph, 11; sister-in-law Dazzell Dawson, 17, and her daughter Sarah, 4; and brother-in-law Willie Dawson, 19.

Raford Dew died 28 December 1933 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 62 years old; married to May Belle Dew; was a farmer; and was the son of Amos and Louisa Dew.

Photograph of headstone courtesy of Findagrave.com.

The murder of Calvin Barnes … but not by THAT John Jefferson.

Patrick M. Valentine’s The Rise of a Southern Town: Wilson, North Carolina, 1849-1920 is an invaluable history of the city’s first seventy years. In a chapter devoted to the blossoming of Wilson’s tobacco market in the 1890s, Valentine details a gun battle in the street between banker and cotton man Alpheus Branch and new tobacco man Calvin Barnes. Nine years later, Barnes was murdered as he rode home in a wagon with his grandsons. Valentine describes the alleged killer, Jonathan [sic] J. Jefferson, as Barnes’ “black overseer” and notes the even-handedness of the law toward Jefferson, whose initial conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court on an evidentiary point and who was later found not guilty.

The decision in State v. Jefferson, 125 N.C. 712 (1899), made no mention of Jefferson’s race. This raised my antennae. Contemporary news accounts also failed to mention that Jefferson was black, though they did describe concerns that he would be lynched. Instead, reports explicitly describe him as “a white renter of Captain Barnes’,” having a “white face,” “pale,” and “slightly pale, but no different from the many other spectators.”

Here is what happened around sunset on 28 December 1899. First, the setting: “This road is known as the New Road and comes into Wilson from Barefoot’s Mill and enters the city at the old circus grounds. About a quarter of a mile from the city limits is a small stream — Hominy Swamp — and just beyond this is a steep hill descending to the swamp. The steepness of this hill has necessitated its being cut down so that the road is in a cut, the banks on each side rising about eight feet. At the left side of the road at this hill the woods comes up to a small bluff overlooking the road. About half way down the hill in this woods a fence corners and runs at right angles with the road and parallel with the swamp for nearly half a mile, when it turns to the right and running almost due South, makes the line between the lands of A. Nadal and Mrs. Sid Clark. Where the fence corners near the hill on the New Road was the place selected by the perpetrator of this most dastardly crime.”

“Captain” Calvin Barnes and two grandsons had spent the day at his farm. As their horse-drawn buggy descended the hill towards Wilson, Barnes was shot in the back. The crack of the gunshot and the children’s screams attracted Ned Bunch, “a negro man close at hand,” who grabbed the reins of the runaway horse, climbed into the buggy, and drove Barnes to his home on Nash Street. Drs. Needham B. Herring and Nathan Anderson soon arrived, but Barnes died about 2:30 the next morning. Before he passed, Barnes told his friends that he had recently had words with John J. Jefferson, who managed one of his farms. Jefferson gave an alibi, but was quickly arrested and brought before a coroner’s inquest, which returned a charge against him. Fearing a lynching, the sheriff secretly moved Jefferson to Lucama, where he was put aboard a train for safekeeping in Raleigh.

The Raleigh Post carried a salacious confession that appeared in the Wilson News the very same day – on the very same page – that the News reported Barnes’ murder. “Jefferson is a tall, sparsely built man. He has a grizzley brownish beard that conceals his white face. His eyes are positively wicked.” “I shot at him,” the paper quoted, “They swore this thing on me, and I reckon I killed him.” Jefferson went on to detail a litany of grievances against Barnes, including failure to buy supplies, interference with his hands (i.e. farmworkers), and attempting to make Jefferson work his daughter in tobacco. The night before the murder, Jefferson asked Barnes if he had brought some cloth to make dresses for Jefferson’s daughters. Barnes had not and Jefferson threatened to kill him.

Jefferson was tried and convicted in late October, and his execution by hanging was set for November 16. He appealed the verdict on the basis that one of the State’s contentions had been that Barnes had made a dying declaration that Jefferson shot him. The State Supreme Court ruled that “[s]tatements of deceased, made shortly before his death, that he had quarreled with the prisoner in the morning, and that after sunset somebody shot him, and that he saw a man running out of the bushes, but could not recognize him, as it was too dark to recognize him, and to have prisoner arrested, are inadmissible as dying declarations.” “At most, the evidence was but the opinion of the deceased that the prisoner shot him….” (Further, the indictment was flawed.)

On 22 June 1900, Jefferson was retried and, to the shock and outrage of local citizenry, acquitted of Barnes’ murder.

——

  • Ned Bunch – in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: teamster Ned Bunch, 50; wife Lissa, 50; and children Mary, 16, Martha, 13, Orra, 11, Willie, 9, Mattie, 7, and Lucy, 5. Ned Bunch died 19 March 1916 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1851 in Wilson County to James Bunch and an unknown mother and was married. Malissa Bunch was informant. [Less than a year after the trauma of intercepting Barnes’ bleeding body, Bunch carried the dying James A. Hunt home after he was shot down in the street by Jefferson D. Farrior.]
  • John J. Jefferson – in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: John J. Jefferson, 50, farmer, prisoner in the Wilson County Jail. [Valentine may have confused this Jefferson with John Jefferson, 52, a black day laborer, who appeared in the same census of Wilson township.]

Narrative abstracted from articles in the Durham Sun, 30 August 1899; Wilson News, 31 August and 26 October 1899; Wilson Daily Times, 1 September 1899; News & Observer (Raleigh), 23 June 1900, as well as the text of the Supreme Court decision.

 

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.

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“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.

“Charles, he has shot your daddie.”

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on this the 16th day of April 1901 I, John K. Ruffin, Coroner of Wilson County, attended by a jury of good and lawful men, viz Larry Bass, A.P. Moore, Green Finch, Sam Breme, L.A. Lamm, Gray White by me summoned for that purpose, according to law, after being by me duly sworn and impaneled at the residence of Joe Flora in the County aforesaid, did hold an inquest over the dead body of Dempsey Pool (Col); and after inquiring into the facts and circumstances of the death of the deceased, from a view of the corpse, and all the testimony to be procured, the Jury find as follow, that is to say, that Dempsey Pool came to his death by a gunshot wound inflicted by Stephen Sims, col: and that in our opinion said would was inflicted in self-defense. And that it is a case of justifiable homicide.  /s/ Larry Bass, A.P. Moore, Green Finch, Gray White, L.A. Lamm, Sam Brame, John K. Ruffin, Coroner of Wilson County

North Carolina, Wilson County  }

The examination of Easter Pool, Gracie Pool, Mrs. E.E. Flora, Mrs. Wethly Flora, E.F. Flora, J.S. Flora, Mary Sims, Jane Sims, Will Artis, J.T. Corbett, taken before the undersigned, Coroner of said county this 16th of April 1901, at the house of J.S. Flora upon the body of Dempsey Pool then and there lying dead to wit: —

E.F. Flora being duly sworn says: —

The fussing commenced about 7 oclock, when Stephen Sims came into the yard and got the wagon, and Easter and Annie Pool, daughters of Dempsey Pool objected. Sims went on with the wagon & got a load of guano from an out house. Coming back to the yard, a boy was driving the wagon & Stephen had his gun on his shoulder. The daughters Easter & Annie went home & come back with their father, mother & brother. These were all at the front gate as the wagon come in. Pool’s crowd has cart-rounds, sticks & a pitchfork, this latter held by Pool’s wife. Sims did not come to the gate, but got over the fence before he got to them & went around the field coming into the yard by a back gate. I told him not to come in the ward with his gun. Pool had come into the yard, following Sims along the fence cursing Sims. When Sims got into the yard, he put his gun to his face & Pool kept advancing I never heard Sims say a word. Pool got about 5 or 6 steps from Sims when Sims shot Pool. Pool ran twenty steps or more after Sims, not saying anything, Sims running from Pool around the house. At the corner of the house Pool fell. Sims went around the house & out the same gate & all of Pool’s crowd were after Sims. Charles, a son of Pool & a grown man, was here shot by Sims. The Pool crowd then struck Sims as he jumped the ditch, and broke the gun. This gun (produced) is a single barrel breech loader. As he went out the gate, Sims daughter, said “Pap, don’t put no more shell in that gun,” but Sims loaded it again. After Sims was knocked down he run down the field & fell over the fence. Charles, who was also shot, was 18 years of age. I did not go out of the house at all. After Dempsey Pool was shot, I saw something in his hand as he ran toward Sims, holding it out straight. Could not tell what it was. Don’t know as to their being on friendly terms. When the shooting was going on in the yard Pool’s children & Sims children were fighting along with the wagon.        E.F. (X) Flora

J.S. Flora being duly sworn says: —

Am a son of preceding witness. Pools girls come here this morning & Sims was hitching up to wagon. I heard them talking & went out there & found them quarreling over the wagon. I told the Pool crowd that they could use my wagon today. One wanted to come back & wanted to hitch up. The other went on & collect her sister who followed. This was about half an hour or more before the shooting, When I started to the field I met Pool, his wife, two girls, the boy, Charles. I said Dempsey, go & hitch up to my wagon & don’t have no fuss with Stephen Sims. He said, “no” & went out to the lot. I understood some of them to say that they were going to have that wagon and some one had to die. The wagon belonged to the place, none having a special right to it. I went on out to the field and heard Dempsey Pool cussing at Steven Sims, calling him to some on if he wanted to fight. I saw Stephen come down the road & get over the fence about 30 yards from the Pool crowd, who were at the gate, saw him when he come in the yard with the gun on his shoulder. In 5 minutes heard the gun fire next thing saw Pool run after Sims; did not know that Pool was hurt. Saw Sims go out same gate he come in & the Pool crowd were after him, about twenty yards behind him. The girls had sticks. Saw Charles Pool & Stephen Sims point weapons with Charles holding out hand as if presenting pistol & saw smoke when he fired. Both shot about the same time, pistol a short time before. Charles then came back to the yard & the women pursued Sims & knocked him down. Sims then run home & the Pool crowd come back in the yard.  /s/ J.S. Flora

Mary Simms being duly sworn says: —

Am daughter of Steffen Simms. Came on from home with wagon to the main house. My brothers, James Billie & Willie with me. I will be 21 in August. James is 17 years old. I opened the gate, was walking I come on in behind the wagon. The Pool crowd, Easter, Annie, and Gracie, Ella & May, met me at the gate. Dempsey Pool was with them but walked out to meet Pap Easter was standing in the road & told James not to run over her. She hit me on the arm with  a plough-bench. I did not hit her. Dempsey went out to the fence & asked Pap why did you strike at my daughter for Pap said I did not strike at her. Pool then called Pap a lie & a s__ of a b___. The fence was then between them, Dempsey followed Pap down the fence, had a pistol & shot at him once before they got to the gate. While Pool was shooting at Pap, the Pool crowd was following after us to fight, but we did not fight. When Pap says don’t come on me Pool kept coming & Pap shot him. When Pap shot, the Pool crowd went near their father & all making toward my father. Pool certainly had pistol & shot at Pa across the fence.

Don’t know where he got it. After the shooting, Pap ran around the house & out same gate & put another shell in his gun, with the Pool crowd following, Charles with pistol. Some of the Pool crowd said shoot him Charlie & Charlie shot & then Pa shot. Charles did not fall but followed Pa a little way & then came back into the yard. The rest of the Pool crowd followed Pa. When I went to get over the fence, Easter Pool hit me. When I saw Pap, he was down then got up & went home one followed us nearly home. There were seven in the Pool crowd.   /s/ Mary Simmes

James Simms being duly sworn says: —

Me & my brother Bill went & caught mules. Pa was in the yard, we come together when we were currying Easter Pool was taking our traces off the wagon. Pa says let them traces alone. He started toward the wagon. Easter then run to another wagon  flat & pulled a round out she thought Pa was after her. He told her to wait until he carried the load of guano to the field & then she could have the wagon. She called him a ___ rascal & said that her father had sent her after the wagon & she was going to have it. We hitched the wagon & went after the guano & then went by home for breakfast. Then I saw Easter her mother & sister father & brother Charles coming up to the house. We did not wait for breakfast but come on Heard Dempsey call my father & curse him & tell him he was going to have wagon or be killed or kill some body. Pa come down with gun & got over the fence before he got to Pool, Pool went up to the yard fence, had pistol in hand & shot one fence at Pa. Pa come in gate & Dempsey kept coming on him & Pa shot Dempsey & then run around house & back out of same gate.

Charles was on edge first & had pistol, all the Pools were behind Pa & some one of them told Charles to shoot & he shot & then Pa shot. Then Charles walked on a little way, then turned back & come into yard.

Aunt Grace, Easter & Annie followed Pa to the road & struck him as he went over the fence. Aunt Grace had pitchfork. The other girls had sticks. One little girl, Mary, followed us nearly home, other behind.   James (X) Simms

Grace Pool being duly sworn says: —

I am wife of Dempsey Pool. I came in the yard this morning & I went to the kitchen & asked why they allowed so much fussing here, & asked Mr. Flora whose wagon it was. Mr. Flora did not seem to talk much said Dempsey could have his wagon about this time Dempsey come in & said carry team back & [illegible] going to do nothing. I says “yes lets put up fence.” He says “no, Steve Sims wants to fight let him come on out in the road.” He hollowed to Steve who was at home to come on & he would fight. This was after Steve had carried wagon after guano. About this time the wagon come in, we all met, Steve’s crowd & my crowd met in the yard. Steve got over field fence & Dempsey stayed in yard, Steven coming around fence & into gate & Dempsey following him. Dempsey was going toward Steven, & Steven was stepping back & said Don’t come here. Dempsey kept on & Steve shot him. Steve then went on around house & Dempsey following until he fell. Steven went out same gate & all of us after him. Charles was back of us. I says “Charles, he has shot your daddie.” Charles then went for Steve & Steve shot him. Charles had no pistol and was half turned when Steve shot him. If Charles had a pistol I don’t know it. Dempsey did not have a pistol at home of abroad & did not have a pistol when he was shot.     Grace (X) Pool

Will Artis being duly sworn says: —

Don’t know anything about the fight. Took Charles Pool home. Heard him say that after Stefen Sims shot his father that he, Charles Pool, shot at Steffen.    Will (X) Artis

J.T. Corbett being duly sworn says: —

Know nothing of fight. Saw Charles Pool since fight. I was sent down to get his pistol & he said he did not know where it was unless his mother had it. He did not tell me he used it, but said his crowd had one.    /s/ J.T. Corbett

Easter Pool being duly sworn says: —

Am daughter of Dempsey Pool. Pa sent me & Annie to catch mules to haul rails to swamp. Stephen was up here.  About 5,30 oclock. When I went to take off traces Steve says “don’t do that I am going to use wagon. I said “we want to use wagon.” He says “you are not going to use it. He was coming toward me with lines in his hand. He struck at me with lines & I jumped back. I got me a wagon round & Annie says lets go home we went home & told Pa. Annie told him that Steven had struck at me. Pa told me to come back & “let Steve whip me. Then all of us, mother, sister & brother, came up to the house. Charlie went & caught mule Ma asked Mr Flora what was matter. He said he did not know, then Pa came in the gate & Mr Flora met him & told him to take his wagon. Pa refused to take Mr Floras wagon. He went down to front gate & called me & told me to go & have Steve arrested. I said that [illegible] suit was no use, to get & get wagon & go to field. Pa then got on fence & called Steve & said “You have been messing with my children all the year, now come on to whip them.” Steve took his gun & come on up here. When he got to corner of fence got over on field side & Pa come on up to back gate in yard & met at back gate. Pa was going toward Steve & Steve said “don’t come on me.” Steve then pointed his gun at Pa & Pa said “Don’t shoot here” I then heard the gun fire. Next thing I saw was Steve running around house & then followed fight in field. I have never seen Pa with a pistol.   Easter (X) Pool

—–

On 24 December 1874, Dempsey Pool, 23, married Grace Bynum, 23, in Edgecombe County.

In the 1900 census of Wilson Town, Wilson County: farmer Dempsey Pool, 50; wife Gracey, 45; and children Easter, 22, Elizabeth, 20, Dempsey Jr., 18, Charlie, 17, Annie, 14, Ella, 13, Mary, 11, Alice, 9, Haley, 8, Minnie, 5, and Richard, 2.

In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Stephen Simms, 46; wife Zanie, 40; and children Mary, 19, Lizzie, 16, James, 14, Billie, 12, Willie, 9, and Rommie, 6.

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

What happened when white perverts threatened to slap colored school teachers.

4 2 1921

New York Age, 2 April 1921.

In local lore, this incident has been conflated with the Charles Coon slapping incident of 1918. The teachers “Burns” and “Izell” were probably Georgia M. Burke and Mary C. Euell. Euell had been at the center of the Coon matter. Capable, courageous Mr. Bowser, “very much of a man,” was likely Burt L. Bowser, who owned a small restaurant. The Gay Brothers, Charles and Allen T., operated a dry goods store at 216-220 East Nash Street.