accidental death

Ruffin Woodard dies of burns.

Ruffin Woodard fell asleep while smoking, dropped his pipe, and set his clothes afire. Suffering burns on his side, back, and arm, Woodard died within hours.


In the 1900 census of Great Swamp township, Wayne County, N.C.: Ruffin Woodard, 45, fireman on stationary engine; wife Sarah, 30; and son Luther, 7.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Street, Ruffin Woodard, 45, sawmill laborer; wife Sarah, 43; and son Luther, 18.

Ruffin Woodard died 24 February 1919 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 45 years old; was born in Wilson County to Rosa Woodard; was married to Sarah Woodard; lived at 118 Wiggins Street; worked as a wagon driver at a lumber mill; and was buried in Wilson [probably Vick Cemetery.]

Little Bobby Parker fatally struck by car.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 November 1949.

Bobby Lee Parker died 12 November 1949 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 May 1945 to Walter Parker and Daisy Harris; resided in Sharpsburg, Wilson County; and was buried in Cherry’s Chapel Cemetery.

Renfrow struck by ax, bleeds to death.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 March 1917.

I can think of a few people who surely regretted “the occurrence” more than Dempsey Haynes.


In the 19o0 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer John Rentfrow, 40; wife Marguaratt, 37; and children Franklin, 19, John T., 15, Mattie H., 12, Fannie, 10, Clinton, 7, and Orie, 1.

In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: John Rentfrow, 50; wife Margarett, 48; children Clinton, 17, Ora, 11, and Ella, 8; and granddaughter Nancy Earp, 2.

Clinton Renfrow died 29 March 1917 in Old Fields township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was b0rn 14 October 1895 to John and Margrette Rentfrow; was single; worked as a farmer; and was buried in Wilson County. Cause of death: “Accidently cut with ax while cutting with father [partner?] and bled to death.” (This is curious phrasing. Dempsey Haynes was neither Renfrow’s father nor his partner.) The death certificate further indicates that no physician saw Renfrow (before or after he bled out); there was no inquest into the circumstances. In other words, there was only Haynes’ version of events.

Johnson burned to death.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 February 1921.


  • Nathan Joyner
  • Roderick Johnson — There is no death certificate for Roderick Johnson. However, on 20 February 1921, Rudolph Johnson died in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in Jacksonville, N.C., to unknown parents; his age was unknown; he was single; and he worked as a sawmill helper for sawyer W.W. Sims Company. Under “cause of death”: “No further information obtainable.”

Arthur Lee Sharp, 9, is badly burned.

Wilson Daily Times, 25 November 1941.

Little Arthur Lee Sharpe lost his fight and passed away 8 December 1941.


In the 1940 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Larry Sharpe, 62; wife Bessie, 42; and children Edward, 17, Marie, 16, Lucinda, 13, Larry Jr., 12, Wilbert, 9, Aurthur Lee, 8, Juanita, 3, and James E. Sharpe, 1, and Debbie Barnes, 19.

Arthur Lee Sharpe died 8 December 1941 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 March 1932 in Wilson County to Larry Sharpe of Wilson and Bettie Guest of Spartanburg, S.C.; was a student; lived at Route 4, Wilson; and was buried in Simon Barnes cemetery. Cause of death: “extensive burns entire body — fell in hot grease [due to] accident.”

Corp. Amos L. Batts, Army and Navy veteran, drowns.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 September 1950.


In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Amos Batts, 29; wife Elizabeth, 29; and children Arlettie, 10, James, 8, Roosevelt, 7, and Amos Lee, 5.

In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: widowed farmer Elizabeth Batts, 43; and children James H., 19, Roosevelt, 16, and Leander, 12.

In 1944, Amos Leander Batts registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 22 May 1926 in Black Creek, N.C.; lived at 1207 Queen Street; his contact was mother Elizabeth B. Batts, 1207 Queen Street; he was a student at Darden High School; and he worked after school for Paul Bissette, Bissette’s Drug Store. 

Corporal Batts’ body was eventually recovered and returned to Wilson for burial in Rest Haven Cemetery. On 19 February 1951, his mother applied for a military headstone for his grave.

The reverse of the application card reveals interesting details of Corporal Batts’ military service:

“Prior service: induction and active duty date 6 September 1944 honorably discharged 30January 1946. Re-enlisted 31 January 1946 active duty same date honorably discharged 2 December 1946. Enlisted Reserve Corps from 3 December 1946 to 19 December 1946; re-enlisted on 20 December 1946 discharged under honorable conditions 11 February 1949.”

Presumably, this was service in the U.S. Army. At the time of his death, Batts was enlisted in the U.S. Navy and working aboard USNS Gen. W.F. Hase, a Military Sealift Command vessel.

The death of little Etta Parker.

“Pistol ball in brain by toy pistol in hands of boy unintentionally.”

I have not been able to learn more about the death of six year-old Etta Parker, who was fatally shot in the head by an unidentified boy with a toy pistol. (What kind of toy gun shot “pistol balls”? A BB gun?)

Virginia Woodard’s death ruled an accident.

The Wilson County sheriff initially believed that Virginia Woodard‘s death was suspicious and held Roland May, Jonah May, Willard Woodard, and Gertie Hilliard while it was investigated.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 September 1941.

However, after an inquest that drew a hundred nosy onlookers to the courthouse, a jury returned a verdict of “death by fall from car” and released all.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 October 1941.


In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: widower Ausbin Horne, 67; children Ausbin Jr., 18, Jessie L., 15, Anna L., 13, Wright, 12, and Virginia, 23; grandchildren J.C., 9, and George, 3;  step-daughter Zet, 24, and step-grandchildren Earnest Lee, 5, Jason, 1, and Albert, 4.  

On 13 July 1940, in Emporia, Virginia, William Woodard, 29, born in Greene County, N.C., to Charlie Woodard and Appie Speight, married Virginia Horne, 22, born in Wilson County to Osborne Horne and Virginia Applewhite.

Virginia Woodard died 28 September 1941 on Highway 222, Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 24 years old; was married to William Woodard; was born in Wilson County to Alsland Horn and Virginia Applewhite; and was buried in Ellis Cemetery. 

The death of little Bud Horne.

Four year-old Bud Horne‘s cause of death is unfathomable: “It is supposed this child swallowed matches, fire was flaming from his mouth when discovered.”


In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lodge Street, brickyard laborer Richard Horne, 59; wife Lizzie, 60, laundress; children Elizabeth, 17, Mary, 15, and Emma, 8; and granddaughter Rosa, 1.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: also on Lodge Street, widow Adeline Suggs, 48, and her children  Alex, 18, Pattie, 15, and Fannie, 14.