Crime

Change racket.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 18 September 1937.

Ed Sheppard, 23, married Sealy Black, 25, in Greene County on 24 April 1924.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 806 Oil Mill Alley, Ed Sheppard, no age given; wife Celia, no age given, cook; sons Henry, 22, oil mill laborer, Junior, 13, Moses, 11, and Raymon, 7; and lodger Earnest Ross, 11.

Robbed the watchman.

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Wilson Daily Times, 2 September 1921.

In 1917, Jake Armstrong registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 11 May 1890 in Wilson; lived at 210 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; worked as a laborer for Farmers Cotton Oil Company; and had a dependent mother and sister.

On 8 September 1919, Jake Armstrong, 23, of Wilson, married Della Jones, 22, of Wilson. B.P. Coward performed the ceremony at the A.M.E. Zion church in the presence of Rose McCullers, Berta Faulkland and Lucy A. Richards.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Broad Street, oil mill laborer Jake Armstrong, 23; wife Della, 21; and children Kathryn, 6, and Charlie, 1.

Neighborhood legend.

The Brutal Death of a Neighborhood Legend.

by Thomas Bell, Washington Post, 26 April 1990.

Seth Wilder, 88, was one of those old men who become neighborhood legends.

People saw him every day on his afternoon strolls or under the tree in front of his house, the same tree he planted when he moved his family here from a North Carolina farm 40 years ago.

Usually a friend would sit with him, and people would stop by and say hello. That’s the way he was — always making friends.

It’s also why his wife, Lillie Mae Wilder, didn’t think twice when he brought a stranger into their Capitol Hill Northeast home two weeks ago. The man she had never seen before followed her husband up the stairs to his bedroom.

There, he robbed Seth Wilder — and broke his neck, police and hospital officials say.

Seth Wilder, who would have turned 89 next month, died Tuesday, his big, six-foot frame strapped to a hospital bed.

For 12 days he could only blink his eyes. Doctors told the family that his chances for survival were a million to one, but his wife wouldn’t let the doctors shut off the machines that kept her husband alive. They had been married for 59 years.

Police say they have several suspects but have made no arrests in the case. They also say it was one of the most vicious attacks on an elderly person they have ever seen.

“It was an act of total brutality,” said 5th District Capt. Maralyn Hershey. “This man was defenseless and could offer no resistance.”

The crime has outraged the neighborhood, a changing middle-class community of longtime residents and young professionals. Elderly residents especially have been living in fear ever since the assault, said James Lawlor, who heads the local community association in Northeast.

He said one of Seth Wilder’s longtime friends has been walking around the street with a hammer “looking for the man who hurt his buddy.”

At a community meeting last week, Fred Raines, deputy chief of the 5th District, one of the busiest stations in the city, pledged to a crowd of 50 residents that he would find the man.

Police have interviewed dozens of neighborhood residents, including the men who live and work in a shelter for the homeless five houses away from the Wilder home on Maryland Avenue NE.

Wilder withdrew $500 in cash from a bank less than two blocks from his home early in the afternoon of April 13, according to bank records obtained by police. It was money he needed to buy a couple pairs of glasses, said his daughter, Callon Jacobs.

Police said the man followed Wilder home from that errand. His wife said she heard him and the man talking in hushed voices outside the front door. The stranger followed him inside and introduced himself. She doesn’t remember his name or what he looked like. The two men went upstairs, she said.

A few minutes later she saw the man leave “walking hard as he could,” she said.

Even then, Lillie Mae Wilder said, she didn’t think anything was wrong. About three hours later, their daughter came home and was chatting with her mother when she heard her father’s faint cry for help. She rushed up the stairs and found him on the foor, his head cocked down to the side.

“I said, ‘What happened, Daddy, did you fall?’

“He said, ‘No.’

“I said, ‘What happened?’

“He said, ‘A man came up here and choked me and took my money.’ ”

Jacobs said her father asked her to take off his shoes.

She said he never spoke a word after that.

“I don’t know what happened in that room,” she said. “That’s the thing I can’t deal with — what happened before and how afraid he must have been.”

——

Seth Wilder Sr. and Jr., Washington, D.C.

Many thanks to Eunice F., who posted a comment on a yesterday’s post about Seth Wilder reminding us that her uncle’s life was not defined by a single careless incident with tragic consequences. The Wilders relocated to Washington, D.C., after Seth Wilder’s release from prison. He became a fixture on his Capitol Hill street, and his 1990 murder shocked his neighborhood. In less than a week, a homeless man was arrested and charged with killing Wilder, but was released without indictment after spending eight months in jail.

Photo courtesy of Edith Jones Garnett.

Store owner convicted in accidental shooting.

An act of self-defense at a small Springhill store ended in the death of an innocent bystander:

 

Wilson Daily Times, 12 October 1948.

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Asheville Citizen Times, 9 January 1949.

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In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Wilson & Raleigh Road, Joseph Wilder, 44; wife Chestina, 40; and children Almita O., 15, Elizabeth, 11, Seth B., 8, Sidney, 6, and Luther, 4.

In the 1920 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Old Raleigh Road, widow Chestiney Wilder, 51, and children Elizabeth, 21, Seth, 17, Sidney, 15, and Luther, 13.

On 28 December 1924, Seth Wilder, 22, married Aldonia Ruffin, 20, in Johnston County.

Aldonia Wilder died 24 July 1929 in Springhill township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 24 years old, born in Wilson County to Charlie Ruffin of Johnston County and Sarah Jane O’Neil of Wilson County; was married to Seth Wilder; and was buried in Barnes cemetery.

In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Mc. Coward Tucker, 47; wife Bella, 34; and children Mildred, 18, Albert, 17, Eddie, 14, Charles, 11, Martha, 8, Joe, 4, and James, 1.

On 14 January 1931, Seth Wilder, 31, son of Josiah and Chestinie Wilder, married Lillie Mae Creech, 24, daughter of Wright and Sallie Creech, in Smithfield, Johnson County.

In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Seth Wilder, 37; wife Lillie Mae, 32; and children Willie May, 2, and Seth, 1; Chestiney Wilder, 72; Sally Creech, 57, and her children Sally, 18, Geneava, 16, and Addie Lee Creech, 13; and Waltie Monque, 26.

In the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Dowell Tucker, 71; wife Isebell, 47; and children Charles, 21, Bennie, 17, Martha, 15, Joe B., 13, James, 10, Dove, 8, Joe Lewis, 5, and daughter-in-law Mamie Ree, 14.

Seth Wilder registered for the World War II draft in 1942. Per his registration card, he was born 6 May 1902 in Wilson County; resided at Route 1, Box 261, Lucama; was self-employed; and his contact was R.H. Neal.

Seth Wilder died 2 May 1990 in Washington, D.C.

 

Feloniously and burglariously.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   } Superior Court of Law, Fall Term A.D. 1862

The Jurors for the State upon their oath present that Jacon a negro slave late of Wilson County the property of James Pender of the County of Wilson and Law a negro Slave late of said County of Wilson the property of Joshua Barnes of said County of Wilson on the first day of October A.D. 1862 about the hour of eleven o’clock in the night of the same day with force and arms at and in the County of Wilson aforesaid the dwelling house of one Levi M. Hays there situated feloniously and burglariously did break and enter with intent the goods and chattels of the said Levi M. Hays in said dwelling house there and then being found, then and there feloniously and burglariously to steal take and carry away against the peace and dignity of the State.  /s/A. Thompson Sol

——

State vs. Jacon (a slave) & Law (a slave)

Burglary

Witness Woodard (a slave), Levi M. Hays, W.W. Batts, John B. Batts, Josiah Farmer

Sworn & sent J.W. Davis Clk

Nott a true bill  Jos. H. Armstrong forman

——

All that to say that two enslaved men, Jacon and Law, were charged with breaking and entering Levi M. Hays at eleven at night, but no true bill was returned.

Court Cases Involving Slaves, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

White man arrested for shooting negro.

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Wilson Daily Times, 19 August 1921.

[Ruffin Woodard is listed in the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County, as a 38 year-old white farmer, but I have not found a listing for Hardy Johnson. Paul Lee Woodard, whose small house still stands in downtown Black Creek, was a farmer whose seed and feed store in Wilson is the city’s longest continually operating business in town. This brief article raises so many questions: Both Woodard and Johnson were tenant farmers on P.L. Woodard’s land. What was their conflict? Woodard was arrested and jailed for shooting Johnson, but Woodard’s countercharges against Johnson failed to stick. Was this a matter of Justice of the Peace Jule Hardy’s scrupulous fairness? Ruffin Woodard’s lack of standing and concomitant loss of privilege? (And, if so, why?) Hardy’s stature?]

“What in the hell you doing hauling my woman around?”

State v. Thomas Coleman, Emma Coleman   }

Tom Wilson – Testified that on one occasion last year he was passing the house of the female def’t Emma Coleman and saw the two defendants lying on the floor on a quilt. One of them Emma jumped up. He did not see what they were doing. Did not see anyone else about the house at that time. Tom is a married man and had been for a number of years. Emma has been married but is a widow. They are not married to each other. That he had frequently seen Tom at Emmas house – in day time – at night and coming away from there in the early mornings – about day brake. He could not say that he saw Tom go there any night and come away the next morning. He had not seen that but there one night and coming away another morning.

Louis Strickland – Said that there was a party on old Xmas 1912 night. A number of negroes there including both defts. That they sat by the fire place and Tom felt Emma’s breasts. That he had heard Tom say that Emma was his woman; that he looked out for her and provided for her and that he did not want her wasting his time with any other man.

M.H. Lamm – Testified to the dealings in the store. About Tom paying for provisions for Emma and bills charged to Emma amounting to 3.00 or 4.00.

J.P. Vick – Testified to seeing Tom coming out of Emmas house in early morning on several occasions. That was during the tobacco curing & also tobacco selling season. That Tom told hom Emma was his woman & that he looked out for her &c.

Sim Batchelor – Testified that one day last year the female def’t asked to ride with him to town on some business and he took her to Wilson & took her home again. That soon after that the male deft asked him what in the h___ he was doing hauling his woman around.

For Def.

Mr. Edwards – Def. Coleman’s gen. ch. [general character] good.

Mr. Briggs – Def. Coleman’s gen. ch. good.

Thos. Coleman – Emma’s money bought the provisions. She did not understand making change. The path from my house runs right by Emma’s house which I would use in going to the tobacco pack-house. X’d [cross-examined]. The money which paid her bills at the store her own money. I never beat Emma in my life about anything. Emma bought the “Estime” herself & wore it.

For Def.

Mr. Edwards – Def. Coleman’s gen. ch. [general character] good.

Mr. Briggs – Def. Coleman’s gen. ch. good.

Thos. Coleman – Emma’s money bought the provisions. She did not understand making change. The path from my house runs right by Emma’s house which I would use in going to the tobacco pack-house. X’d [cross-examined]. The money which paid her bills at the store her own money. I never beat Emma in my life about anything. Emma bought the “Estime” herself & wore it.

Emma Coleman – Been the mother of 5 children. 3 living now. My husband was their father. Have never ridden with Mr. Sim Batchelor in my life. Have bought meat & bread from Mr. Lamm’s store. My money paid for it.

Lou Gay — Mother of Emma Coleman. Ed, her husband, died 3 miles from where Thos. Coleman lived. Afterwards I lived with her. We lived in the house that got burned. 2 rooms in house we lived in last year; only one bed room. Never saw Tom put his hands on Emma.

Mollie Coleman — Wife of male deft. Been married 22 years. Have 8 children. Louis Strickland came to my house in Feb, said do you know what they ketched all those peoples up & carried them off. He said it was about Tom [keeping?] Emma. My husband did not go away from home at night except in tobacco curing time and then not all of any one night.

Fannie Coleman — I was at that dance at old Xmas. Am 21 yrs. old. Not married. Have 2 children. Staid 5 weeks last year with my grandmother Wootten.

Alice Coleman — Daughter of male def. Remember that old Xmas night.

Alphonso Coleman — Present at old Xmas night party. Am Bro of the male def.

Justus Coleman — Def. is my uncle. Present old Xmas night.

Def’t Rests

For State

Lena Williams — Daughter of Dallas Williams.

Mr. Manner Lamm.

Mr. Vick — Recalled. Did Mollie Coleman make any statement to you as to the number of nights her husband had spent away from home during 1912? Def’s obj. over’d. Defts. except. (This evidence offered & allowed only against the male deft.) Mollie about Xmas was talking to me. Said Tom had been at home about 2 nights in the last month.  X’s. Ques. Who told you that Tom Coleman said your wife had been selling liquor? State obj. Sust’d. Def. except.Ques. Did not Tom Wilson a state’s witness give you that informantion? State obj. Sust’d. Defts. excepts. Same question as to Carley Holeman, M.H. Lamm, Louis Strickland, Sim Batchellor.

R.H. Braswell — Known Tom Coleman 18 years. Gen Char. Bad.

Walter Braswell — Same as above.

——

On 24 September 1890, Thomas Coleman, 21, of Oldfields, son of Squire Coleman and Nancy Farmer, married Mollie Woodard, 17, of Taylors, daughter of Ben and Clara Woodard, in Wilson township. Witnesses were J.W. Farmer, John Barnes and Annie Peacock.

Edwin Coleman, 20, son of Gray and Harriet Coleman, married Emma Gay, 19, daughter of Henry and Louisa Gay, on 11 October 1899 in Wilson township.

In the 1900 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: Eddie Coleman, 24, and wife Emma, 22.

In the 1900 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Coleman, 34; wife Mollie, 24; and children Fannie, 10, Delany, 5, Allis, 4, and Nancy, 1 month.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Toad Town Path, widow Louisa Gay, 51, farm laborer; son Henry, 25, farm laborer; daughter Emma Coleman, 21, also a widow; and grandchildren Rosa, 7, Bertha, 5, and Frances Coleman, 4, and Lenord Williams, 10.

in the 1910 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: on the Mill Path, farmer Thomas Coleman, 39; wife Mollie, 34; and children Fannie, 19, Lonnie, 14, Alace, 12, Nancy, 9, Johnnie, 8, Esquire, 5, Connie, 2, Neva and Eva, 1. Next door, Dallas Williams, 69; wife Sarah, 61; and children Minnie, 18, Lena, 16, and Henry, 24. [Also nearby, Ed Coleman’s parents and several other Coleman families. Though the file does not mention it, Thomas Coleman was, in fact, Edwin Coleman’s paternal uncle.]

Thomas Coleman died 1 December 1933 in Oldfields township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born December 1862 in Wilson County to Squire J. and Nancy Roundtree Coleman; was married to Mollie Coleman; and worked as a farmer. Fannie Coleman of 115 West Walnut Street, Wilson, was informant.

Adultery Records, Miscellaneous Records, Records of Wilson County, North Carolina State Archives.

They are not married to each other.

In the summer of 1892, a Wilson County Superior Court grand jury took up the case in State vs. Henry Crutchfield and Dianna Simms, a matter alleging charges of fornication and adultery. Several prominent African-American townsmen were issued subpoenas commanding them to appear as witnesses at the next term of court.

The case file contains this summary of testimony:

State vs. Henry Crutchfield & Dianna Simms   }

Chas. Barber – I know deft. They are not married to each other. A man claims Dianna as his wife. They lived together up to the time. I have seen Crutchfield at Simms almost every night I heard Simms & Crutchfield quarreling & Simms told C. to stay away from his house. Crutchfield lived only a short distance from Simms’s on same Street & Dianna would go to his house almost every day. I would see her when I was passing. They were fussing nearly all the time. One Sunday morning I came by Crutchfield’s house; Simms was standing at the door & was saying to Crutchfield you have my wife in your house & then say I can’t some in there or you will kill me. I looked in at the door & saw Crutchfield & Simms’s wife on a pallet together before the fire. This was in open day light on Sunday morning. Sims & his wife moved away from there & I did not see Crutchfield after that time.

G.W. Sugg – I know Crutchfield. He passed for a colored man. I also know Dianna. I saw them together in the woods together last April. I saw them having sexual intercourse with each other. I saw Crutchfield at her house frequently. Her husband was gone at that time. She rented house from Calvin Blount. Dianna is Frank Sims’s wife.

Edmond Pool – Know defts. Dianna is wife of Frank Sims. I have seen Sims order Crutchfield from his house. Sims & wife are not living together now.

Joseph Sims – I passed where Dianna lived about 9 o’clock & she & Crutchfield had a pallet made down on floor & were on it together. Have heard Frank Sims & Crutchfield quarreling about this woman.

Henry Crutchfield – I got this woman to work for me a year or so off & on & I went back & forth from my house to her house to get my clothes. Cross Ex.

Dianna Simms – I went in Crutchfield’s to see about some clothes.

——

  • Henry Crutchfield — Crutchfield is not found in Wilson County records. However, he was likely the Virginia-born shoemaker named Henry Crutchfield, 53, found 25 miles away in the 1900 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, North Carolina, and in the 1910 census of Goldsboro as Henry Crutchfield, 58, shoemaker. [The censuses note that Crutchfield’s mother was born in Scotland. In 1900, he was described as white. In 1910, as mulatto. His racial ambiguity is likely the basis of Suggs’ comment that he “passed for a colored man.”]
  • Dianna Simms Simms — on 19 June 1879, Deana Simms, 18, married Frank Simms, 22, at A. Farmer’s in Wilson. Jerry Barnes and Mike Barnes witnessed. In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmhand Frank Simms, 23; wife Diannah, 20; and son Frank, 7 months.
  • Frank Simms
  • Charles Barber — Barber, a mechanic, was soon embroiled in his own marital drama.
  • G. Washington Suggs
  • Calvin Blount
  • Edmund Poole
  • Joseph Simms
  • Redden S. Wilkins — Though subpoenaed, Wilkins apparently did not testify.

Adultery Records, Miscellaneous Records, Records of Wilson County, North Carolina State Archives.

They came back and said they were married.

State vs. Ruffin Cook & Dora Stephens  }  Before Elias G. Barnes J.P.

Oscar Neal, being duly sworn, testifies as follows: Dora Stephens has been living on my place and near my house, about three years. Last June Ruffin Cook came to Dora’s and he or Dora or both asked me for a mule and buggy to go to Lucama to get married. They came back and said they were married, and have lived together since as man and wife so far as I have been able to see. They seemed to stay in the same room at night.

Joe Barnes being sworn testifies as follows: I went to Dora’s on the night of _____ at 3 o’clock A.M. and she and Ruffin were in bed together. I thought nothing of it as I thought they were married.

Ruffin Cook has a living wife. She was at this trial. Lives at Knightdale Wake county. Dora also has a living husband it is said.

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On [illegible] December 1898, Gillis Stevens, 20, son of Gillis and Silvey Stevens, married Dora Adams, 20, daughter of Albert and Spicey Adams in Springhill township. Spencer S. Shaw applied for the license.

In the 1900 census of Spring Hill township, Wilson County: Gillis Stephens, 22; wife Dora, 25; and son Henry, 1.

In the 1910 census of Spring Hill township, Wilson County: farm laborer Dora Stevens, 36, divorced; with children Henry, 9, James, 8, Spicy, 6, Pearl, 4, and Petdonia, 3 months.

In the 1920 census of Spring Hill township, Wilson County: Dora Stevens, 39, described as divorced; and her children Henry, 20, James, 18, Spicy, 16, Pearl 12, Pet D., 10, and Albert, 1.

Undated, Adultery Records, Miscellaneous Records, Records of Wilson County, North Carolina State Archives.

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.