Crime

Statement of disbursements.

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  • Charles Darden

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Charles H. Darden, a blacksmith turned undertaker, was Wilson’s leading African-American businessman in turn-of-the-century Wilson.

  • Sylvester Seabury

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  • Mike Taylor

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Mike Taylor was the son of Abi Taylor, above.

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  • James Artist

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  • George Artice

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  • Fred Davis

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Fred M. Davis was a Missionary Baptist minister.

  • Daniel Battle
  • Henry Newsom
  • Ben Bell
  • Austin Linsey

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  • Charles Darden

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  • Patrick Williamson

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  • Caesar Wooten

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Caesar Wooten murdered Mittie Strickland during an argument on Vance Street near the railroad track, launching a four-year manhunt.

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  • Charles Bynum
  • Bettie Privett
  • Alice Privett

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In November 1888, Charles Bynum was tried and convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of Henry Privett, brother of his girlfriend Bettie Privett.

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Mack Bynum was the father of Charles Bynum, above.

Wilson Mirror, 26 December 1888.

They believed they were merely playing.

On 27 March 1932, Chester Parker shot to death his sister Sarah’s husband, Ed Howard.

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Wilson Daily Times, 28 March 1932. 

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Raleigh Road, David Parker, 39; wife Elizabeth, 38; and children William E., 15, Richard, 13, Anna, 12, Sarah, 10, Sylvania, 9, Millie K., 7, Mary L., 5, Chester, 3, and John F., 7 months.

Eddie Howard, 21, of Edgecombe County, son of Tim and Mary Howard, married Sarah Parker, 20, of Gardners township, on 4 February 1920 at Joe Pender‘s house in Gardners township. Primitive Baptist elder Ruffin Hymon performed the ceremony in the presence of Crumel Farmer, John Barnes and another.

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“Murdered by Chester Parker shot through chest with revolver”

 

 

 

 

State v. Dave.

Asael Farmer’s estate file contains a cluster of documents related to the prosecution of State vs. Dave. The outcome of the case is not clear.

In February 1863, a Wilson County justice of the peace issued a warrant for Dave’s arrest for breaking into Martha Ann Edwards’ home and stealing her clothes.

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… This day complained on oath one Marthaan Edwards of [Wilson County] that a Slave by the Name of Dave Belonging to the estate of Asahel Farmer Dec’d on the Night of 24th December 1862 Broke into Hur dwelling House and Stoled therefrom & carried of one Spotted Blanket two dresses ready made & two dresses not made 3 yards pant cloth & some shoes [illegible] the said Martha An is fully convinced threw every Circumstance connected that the said slave Dave stold the things or was accessory there too These are therefore in the Name of the State commanding you to apprehend the said slave  & him have before me or some other Justice of sd. County to be Delt With as the law directs Given under my hands & seal in said County the 15 February 1863 M.G. Williams J.P.

Summons for the state Martha An Edwards, Dilly Ellis, W.B. Batts, John B. Batts, Hines a slave of Thomas Taylor, for the Boy Langleys man Farmers Belfor & Haywood Stricklands Abram

Asael Farmer’s administratorJohn Farmer filed an apologetic statement with the court explaining his failure to produce Haywood, an enslaved man and critical witness, in court.

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State vs. Dave slave of John Farmer Admr of Asahel Farmer

John Farmer the owner of the defendant maketh oath that Haywood slave Jessee Mercer and Jere Batts, are material witnesses for the defendant, without the benefit of whose testimony he cannot safely come to trial, that the subpoena for the said slave Haywood was served upon one W.W. Batts in whose possession the slave was supposed to be but that said slave had without the knowledge of this affiant passed into the possession of the said Jesse Mercer, that a subpoena has been issued for the said Jere Batts but has not been served on account of his absence from this County that he expects to have said witnesses present at the next term of this Court, that this affidavit is not made for delay but truly for the cause here in set forth           John Farmer 

The clerk of court issued a subpoena for W.W. Batts; William Winstead; Elijah Williams; William Crumpler; Belford and Abram, slaves of the E. Strickland estate; Haywood, slave of William W. Batts; “Mose works at Harris Winstead’s”; and Jerry Batts, son of W.B. Batts to appear in court on the fourth Monday in September, 1863.

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Another subpoena called for the appearance of Martha Edwards, Dilly Ellis, W.B. Batts, John B. Batts, and Horace, a slave of Thomas Taylor to appear the same day.

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  • Dave
  • Haywood

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Haywood Batts, 34; wife Rodah, 27; and children Lucy, 17, and Alice, 4.

  • Belford

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Belford Farmer, 46, farm laborer; wife Rebeca, 36; and children Morning, 17, Benj’m, 10, Alice, 13, Moses, 8, Anna, 5, and Ida, 1; and Allen Battle, 21.

On 22 September 1870, Belford Farmer, son of Ben and Ellen Farmer, married Peggy Flowers, daughter of Henry and Annie Flowers, in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widowed laundress Peggy Farmer, 43, and children Mourning, 23, Alice, 21, Annie, 13, Moses, 16, Ida, 10, Belford, 7, and Mary, 5, and grandsons Willie, 3, and Henry, 1.

  • Abram

Perhaps, in the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Abram Strickland, 66, and wife Julia, 50, both farm laborers.

  • Mose
  • Horace

Asael Farmer Estate Records, Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line], http://www.ancestry.com.

Larceny by negresses?

As usual, the 15 January 1924 Wilson Times mined the police blotter to publish titillating filler stories of alleged criminal activity by African-Americans. Here, two black women were arrested and charged with robbing “a Greek” of seventeen dollars. The women had proclaimed innocence, but a search netted $4.30 “concealed in the hair of Naoma.”

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Just below this clip, in the same column, another article — whose title and subtitle consumed as many column inches as the body of the piece — detailed the heavy penalty Mayor Silas R. Lucas imposed upon Norman Roberson for nearly running over a police officer and then cursing the officer out. And then, bizarrely, a paragraph setting out the follow-up to the charge above: “Mamie Roberson and Naomi Bryant, two negro women, charged with robbing Mike Greek were found not guilty and dismissed.”

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Wilson Times, 15 January 1924.

  • Mamie Roberson — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 506 Smith Street, widow Grace Roberson, 32; her cousin Mamie Roberson, 16; and roomer Annie M. Barnes, 16, tobacco factory laborer; all born in South Carolina.
  • Naomi Bryant
  • Norman Roberson — possibly the Norman Robertson, 24, son of Edward and Cherry Robertson of Suffolk, Virginia, who married Dora Hines, 20, daughter of James and Mary Hines, on 10 August 1914. Free Will Baptist minister Robert Dickins performed the ceremony at a Green Street location in the presence of Dock Barnes, Martin Cofield, and John Williams.

The mayor explains.

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Wilson Daily Times, 19 February 1924.

Well into the 20th century, mayors presided over cases involving low-level crimes, much as a magistrate does today. In early 1924, Mayor Silas R. Lucas wrote a letter to the Times protesting its criticism of a $150 fine he levied upon an African-American woman accused of selling two Coca-Cola bottles filled with whiskey.

The facts, more or less per Lucas: the previous summer, a married white man and a (presumably unmarried) black woman were caught in a car at 11:30 P.M. Though the evidence (including a photograph of the man in the trunk of the woman’s car) established that the two were in a long-term relationship, both plead guilty to prostitution violations. Lucas sentenced each to 90 days in county jail. A week later, he saw the woman on the street, well-dressed, and learned that she was working at the county home (a “poorhouse”) by day and consorting with “her white lover” at night. As a result, Lucas now levied stiff fines on any woman who could pay them rather than sentence them to the leniency of a jail stint.

I have not been able to identify the woman who sold whiskey or the couple.

Mishaps and mayhem, no. 1.

Causes of death (or, just as often, manners of death) listed on death certificates in the early twentieth century could be surprisingly detailed or confoundedly vague. Then, as now, most people died of disease, but fatal injuries — accidental and intentional — were distressingly common, as seen below.

  • Atkinson, Lafayett. Died 19 March 1933, Spring Hill township, Wilson County; was married to Etta Atkinson; was 48 years old; was born in Wilson County to Handy Atkinson and Susan Barnes; and worked as a farmer. “Stabbed in heart — murdered with knife”

  • Atkinson, Stephen Clyde. Died 9 January 1923, Spring Hill township, Wilson County; single; born 26 March 1899 to S.T. Atkinson and Zillie Barnes; worked as a farmer; buried in Boyetts cemetery. “Embolism (cardiac) — Homicide — Gunshot wound thigh.”

  • Exum, Leslie. Died 4 July 1934, Wilson; married to Beulah Exum; resided at 304 North Reid; age 27 years, 9 months; taxi driver; born in Wayne County to Willie Exum and Ada Artis; informant, Beulah Exum. “Homicide — Hit over stomach with Brick.”

  • Fields, Peter. Died 5 May 1923, Cross Roads township, Wilson County; single; about 33 years old; worked as a tenant farmer for W.J. Scott; born Wilson County to Daniel Hodge and Chritchania Allen; buried in Lamm Cemetery. “Murdered by Walter Bethea. Death was instantly.”

  • Gaston, Fred. Died 17 November 1916, Wilson township, Wilson County; single; 27 years old; farm hand; born in Elm City to William Gaston of Virginia and Marriah Battle of North Carolina; informant, Elmer Gaston. “Injury of the brain, Homicidal — Blow with flue in head.”

  • Hawkins, Ernest. Died 7 March 1923, Toisnot township, Wilson County; married to Sulester Batts; about 20 years old; worked as a tenant farmer for H.C. Crumpler; born in Nash County to Lola Maryland. “Shot by County Sherrif Stilling whiskey.”

  • Hinnant, Cleophus. Died 8 December 1923, Cross Roads township, Wilson County; married Gessie Hinnant; born 24 March 1902 in Wilson County to Josiah Hinnant and Victoria Wilder; buried in Hinnant graveyard. “Was murdered. Shot to death by a man named Turner Williamson.”

  • Johnson, Herbert. Died 20 July 1923, Wilson township, Wilson County; married to Winnie Johnson; age 40; farmer for Petway & Anderson; born in Duplin County to Joseph Johnson and Rania Pearson; buried in Colman cemetery, Wilson. “No Doctor. Shot Gun. Cornes Inquest. Kill by gun shot. — Homicide.”

  • Perkins, Columbus. Died 2 January 1918, Saratoga township, Wilson County; was married; was 35 to 40 years old; and was a farmer/laborer. “Shot through head by unknown party or parties — Dr. S.H. Crocker held the inquest Stantonsburg — Shot to death by Walter Hopkins.”

  • Taylor, George. Died 4 May 1918, Wilson, Wilson County; married to Maggie Taylor; aged about 44; carpenter; born Wilson County to Jordan Taylor and Winnie [last name unknown]; buried in Wilson cemetery. “Shot by Police & killed while under arrest.”

O.L. and Emma Freeman family portrait.

Bottom: Emma, “Little Emma” and Oliver Lovett Freeman. Top: Irma, Percy and Hazel Freeman.

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Lovett Freeman, 24, of Wilson County, son of J.F. Freeman and Eliza Freeman, married Emma Pender, 23, daughter of Amos Pender, on 25 October 1899 in Amos Pender’s house in Wilson County. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio: blacksmith Oliver L. Freeman, 25; wife Emma C., 24, school teacher; sister Olive, 8; and roomer Henry Bruce, 20, barber. All the Freemans were born in North Carolina; Bruce, in Tennessee.

In the 1910 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: blacksmith in buggy shop Oliver Freeman, 36; wife Emma, 34; and children Percy, 10, Hazel, 8, Irma, 6, and Emma, 3.

In the 1920 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: blacksmith O.L. Freeman, 44; wife Emma, 43; and children Percy, 29 [sic], Hazel,18, Erma, 16, and Emma, 12.

In the 1930 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: at 1113 West Thomas, Oliver L. Freeman, 55, blacksmith; wife Emma C., 53; and Emma Freeman, Percy Freeman and Harold L. Freeman.

In November 1938, Oliver Lovett Freeman applied for Social Security benefits. His application noted that he was born 12 November 1869 in Wilson, N.C., to Julious Freeman and Eliza Daniel.

In the 1940 census of Rocky Mount, Nash County: at 1113 West Thomas, Oliver Freeman, 64, blacksmith shoeing horses; wife Emma, 63; and daughter Emma, 31.

In 1942, Cornelius Pitt registered for the World War II draft in Nash County. Per his registration card, he was born 6 October 1921 in Rocky Mount; lived at 1110 West Thomas; his contact was Oliver Freeman, 1113 West Thomas; and he worked for Emerson Shops, A.C.L. [Railroad], Rocky Mount.

Oliver L. Freeman made out his will on 5 June 1954 in Nash County. Per its terms, daughter Irma F. Rudd was to receive the homeplace at 1113 West Thomas Street, Rocky Mount; daughter Hazel F. Whisonant, the tenant houses at 1123-1125 Gay Street, Rocky Mount; son Percy Freeman, the tenant house at 1119-1120 Gay Street; and daughter Emma Freeman, the tenant house at 1121-1122 Gay Street. His remaining property was to be divided among his children in equal shares.

Per Findagrave.com, Freeman died 26 June 1955 and is buried in Northeastern Cemetery, Rocky Mount.

Photo courtesy of Mary Freeman Ellis, The Way We Were.

The murder of Cleophus Hinnant.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 22 December 1923.

Though the Courier reported Cleophus Hinnant’s death (and, apparently, his name) as a mystery, his death certificate was clear about what happened. Hinnant “was murdered. Shot to death by a man named Turner Williamson.”

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Turner Williamson was Cleophus Hinnant’s former father-in-law, father of his deceased first wife. I have not been able to discover more about this tragedy.

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In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Josiah Hinnant, 47, farmer; wife Mary L., 38; and son Cleophus, 17.

On 11 November 1920, Cleophus Hinnant, 18, of Cross Roads, son of Josiah and Victoria Hinnant, married Montie Williamson, 19, of Cross Roads, daughter of Turner and Margaret Williamson, at Turner Williamson’s. Baptist minister Emerson Hooker performed the ceremony in the presence of Abram Deans, Henry Bynum and David Bynum, all of Lucama.

Montia Hinnant died 27 November 1921 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 19 years old; was married to Cleother Hinnant; was born in Wilson County to Turner Williamson and Margarette Barnes; and was a tenant farmer for Josiah Hinnant. Josiah Hinnant was informant.

On 2 January 1923, Cleophus Hinnant and Gessie Bunch received a marriage license.

Josiah Hinnant filed for letters of administration for his son on 4 January 19. His application listed the value of Cleophus Hinnant’s estate as about $500, and his heirs as Gessie Hinnant and an unborn child.

Smallest prints on file.

I have been unable to find more to elucidate this strange kidnapping story. The Daily Times‘ initial report, which focused more on a novelty angle than on the tragedy, misidentified the baby as “11 months old Mildred Pace,” and suggested that her birth mother had taken her from a black doctor in Washington, D.C., to whom she had sold the child for fifty dollars.

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Wilson Daily Times, 14 November 1940.

Two weeks later, while still strangely stuck on peripheral details like the light skin color of the baby and her mother, the Times had more details. The child Lorraine was 20 months’ old, and Delores Pace was accused of stealing her from her birth parents, Ida and Massie Vaughn. (Massie Vaughn was a W.P.A. worker, not a doctor.) As best I can decipher, the allegations were these:

Delores Pace befriended the Vaughns under the alias Annie Mae Johnson. On October 28, she took the youngest two of their six children to the movies, where three year-old Cephus was found alone that night. Pace’s friends told police she had taken Lorraine to Wilson. United States marshals were called in to track down Pace and the toddler, and a D.C. policeman followed, took the child into custody and stashed her in the Raleigh City Jail under the care of a janitor.

Pace did not testify at her arraignment. The Vaughns identified their daughter and produced her birth certificate (and the newspaper made much of the contrasting skin tones of all involved.) Pace was ordered to stand trial. After the hearing, Pace told someone (the reporter?) that the child had been born in New York and that her father, Marvin Knight, had promised to marry Pace if Pace showed him the child, and Knight confirmed his paternity. That’s it.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 November 1940.

The 1940 census of Washington, D.C., shows that Lorraine was the youngest of the Vaughns’ six children.

I have not found any record of Delores Pace anywhere.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, retail grocer James Henry Knight, 53; wife Ada Elsie, 52; and children Marvin, 22, retail grocery clerk; Evelyn, 19, Nancy Doris, 10, and Joseph Frank, 8. On 6 June 1944, Marvin Robert Knight, 26, of Wilson, son of James and Ada Knight, married Jewell Dean Stokes, of Middlesex, daughter of T.O. and Anna Stokes, in Wake County.