accidental death

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.

He heard a bump and stopped; second highway death in three days.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 August 1942.


  • Fred Woodard — in the 1940 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Fred Woodard, 36; wife Maggie, 36; and children Roy, 15, John D., 13, Doris N., 11, Fred Jr., 9, and Rosie Lee, 7. Fred Woodard died 30 August 1942 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 1904 in Wilson County to William Woodard and Cora [maiden name unknown]; was engaged in farming; and was buried in Newsome cemetery.
  • George Allen — in the 1940 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: farmer George Allen, 45; his children George Love, 18, Clinton, 16, Ula Pearl, 14, Petronia, 13, and Josephine, 10; niece Jessie, 18; sister Rosa Creech, 35, and niece R. Virginia Creech, 14.
  • Mamie Daniel — in the 1940 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Louis Daniel, 56; wife Mamie, 42; and farm hand Willie R. Bynum, 18. Mamie Daniel died 27 August 1942 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 1902 in Johnston County, N.C., to Willie Wilson and Phillis Smith; was married to Louis Daniel; and was buried in Beckie Pate cemetery.

A cook is crushed by a circus trailer.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 October 1929.

In 1929, a circus cook died instantly after falling under the wheels of a large truck on South Goldsboro Street. Per the Daily Times‘ October 1 issue, circus officials identified him as Frank Whitley, but knew little else about him. 

By time his death certificate issued the following day, more information was available. The man’s name, instead, was Henry Thompson, and he was a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He was 25 years old, but his marital status was unknown. 

Per the news article, Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Circus paid undertaker C.H. Darden & Sons to bury Thompson in Wilson. Rest Haven had not yet been established; he was probably laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Vick Cemetery.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Peoples suffers fatal heart attack while driving.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 March 1950.

Tragedy befell Eugene “Genie” Peoples and his son Earnest Peoples at nearly the same spot south of Elm City two years apart.


In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: odd jobs farm laborer Jennie Peoples, 52; wife Ella, 51; and children Gennie, 19, garage laborer, William, 13, Ernest, 10, Clifton, 8, and Annie, 5.

Earnest Peoples registered twice for the World War II draft, first in 1941 in Wilson County. On that registration card, he was born 5 January 1922 in Wilson County; lived in Elm City; his contact was his brother-in-law McKinley Whitley; and he was unemployed. In 1942, he registered in Union County, New Jersey. Per that registration card, he was born 5 January 1922 in Elm City, N.C.; lived at 276 Carnegie Place, Vaux Hall, Union County; his contact was Pattie Johnson of the same address; and he was employed by Woolworth Company, Irvington, New Jersey.

Ernest Peoples died 30 April 1948. Per his death certificate, he was born 5 January 1922 in Wilson County to Genie Peoples and Ella Parker, both born in Northampton County; lived on Railroad Street, Elm City; and worked as a laborer. His cause of death: “decapitation and dismemberment of body due to Train #91 South Atlantic Coast Line R.R. passing over body.”

Genie Peoples died 15 March 1950 in Elm City, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born November 1886 in Jackson, Nash County, to Henry Peoples and Leair Peoples; resided on Railroad Street, Elm City; was married; and worked as a carpenter. Informant was Cora Robbins, Elm City.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

The death of Junius Woodard, another victim of the Contentnea Guano collapse.

We’ve read of the death of Rev. Basil B. Tyler, crushed under a cascade of fallen timber. Two other men, Junius Woodard and Tobe Bellamy, were seriously injured.  Bellamy recovered and lived to see 104 years. Junius Woodard, on the other hand, was dead within weeks from septicemia arising from a compound fracture of his lower leg.


In the 1880 census of Speights Bridge township, Greene County: laborer Jesse Woodard, 36; wife Pennie, 28; and children Caroline, 14, Junius, 6, Margarett, 4, Mary, 3, Willie, 2, and Minnie, 11 months.

On 24 April 1901, Junius Woodard, 26, married Ella Barnes, 20, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of G.H. Holden, W.M. Foster, and J.S. Jackson.

This version of the accident offers slightly different details, but is not entirely accurate. Woodard, not “Woodward,” was not white. The Times-Mercury (Hickory, N.C.), 24 November 1909.

The death of Rev. B.B. Tyler, killed by falling timbers.

Death certificates were newly required in 1909, and undertakers sometimes struggled to complete the personal information section accurately. The basic facts are clear though. Fifty-two-year-old Basil B. Tyler, a minister and native of Piscataway, Maryland, was “killed suddenly by falling timbers.”

What was Rev. Basil Benjamin Tyler, an Episcopal priest, doing in Wilson, and how did he come to his death under a pile of logs?

The News and Observer answered the second question. B.B. Tyler was part of a construction crew building a new Contentnea Guano factory. A truss gave way, sending twenty-three more trusses cascading into one another and destroying the building. Carpenter Junius Woodard and laborer Tobe Bellamy were badly injured. White workers Frank Batts, Speight McKeel, and George Farmer suffered bruises. Basil B. Tyler was killed.

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 24 November 1909.

The horrible circumstance of Rev. Tyler’s death is clear here, but the reasons he was in Wilson stirring cement at a guano factory are still confounding. He was ordained a deacon in 1883 in the Diocese of Albany, New York, and in 1888 transferred to the Diocese of Virginia, where he headed a mission in Hampton.

On 1 November 1888, in Manhattan, New York, New York, Basil Benjamin Tyler, 29, minister, born in Prince George’s County, Maryland, married Alice F. Davis, 22, born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, daughter of Thomas Davis.

By 1892, Rev. Tyler was deacon in charge of Saint Philip’s Chapel in Charlestown, West Virginia.

Baltimore Church Advocate, 6 February 1892.

By 1900, the family had returned to Prince George’s County, Maryland, where they appear in the 1900 census of Aquasco District: clergyman Basil B. Tyler, 40; wife Alice F., 38; children Basil B., 10, John J., 8, and James E., 5 months; and boarder Wade W. Butler, 13. Rev. Tyler and his son James were born in Maryland; Alice Tyler and son Basil were born in Virginia; and son John was born in West Virginia.

Baltimore Sun, 29 October 1900.

The published text of Bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire’s address to the Episcopal convention, delivered in 1903, lands Rev. Tyler in Wilson as deacon of Saint Mark’s Church.

Consulting Patrick Valentine’s The Episcopalians of Wilson County: A History of St. Timothy’s and St. Mark’s Churches of Wilson, North Carolina, 1856-1995, I found this:

“… [Rev. John Henry Mingo] Pollard was in charge for two years, then was succeeded by Basil B. Tyler who stayed two years.

“Tyler had been admitted as a candidate for holy orders in Washington, D.C. He then transferred to Virginia, and came to Wilson in 1902. That very year the bishop had to omit St. Mark’s on his Visitation because of the ‘prevalence of small pox among the Negroes’ but visited the next two years. ‘The congregations of late have been generally good,’ Tyler reported in 1903, by which we assume he meant generally ‘good’ in size.

“According to his successor, Tyler ‘was a man of scholarly attainments, an interesting speaker, and most eloquent preacher.’ There were rumors, however, that Tyler’s wife was leading a scandalous life and had the minister ‘completely under her thumb.’ In any case, he ‘failed to arouse any interest in the people scarcely and was forced to with draw [sic].’ He left in 1904 for South Carolina.”

Valentine adds in a footnote: “Tyler later returned to Wilson, was baptized ‘by immersion in the creek hard by,’ and became a Baptist before he ‘crossed the river,'” i.e. died in the wreckage of a collapsing building.

What happened to Tyler between 1904, when he left Wilson to assume a new pastorate in South Carolina, and 1909 when he returned, disillusioned with the Episcopal Church and constrained to manual labor that would kill him?

The death of Ollie Vick, killed in an explosion.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 March 1945.

Ollie Vick, sentenced to 60 days’ labor on a road crew for public drunkenness and vagrancy, was killed by an exploding asphalt storage tank in Vance County, North Carolina.

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 28 March 1945.


In the 1900 census of Stony Creek township, Nash County, North Carolina: John Vick, 45; wife Hanna, 40; and children Tassey, 21, Clara, 19, Johnie, 17, Berry, 15, Elisha, 13, Joseph, 10, Westray, 4, Paul, 3, and Baby [Ollie], 1.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer John Vick, 50; wife Liw, 40; sons Paul, 13, and Ollie, 10; and stepson Flecster [Fletcher] Austin, 18.

On 14 January 1922, Ollie Vick, 21, of Toisnot township, son of John and Lou Vick, married Eva Foreman, 19, of Toisnot township, daughter of Eddie and Lucy Foreman, in Wilson County. Baptist minister Elias Lucas performed the ceremony in the presence of T.R. Lucas, W.D. Vick, and Carry Joyner, all of Elm City.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 504 Daniel Street, paying $8/rent, widow Irene Mitchel, 40, cook, and lodger Ollie Vick, 40, single, delivery truck driver for general store.

In 1942, Ollie Vick registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 27 May 1900 in Nash County, N.C.; lived at 212 South Goldsboro Street; his contact was Carrie Body, Route 1, Rocky Mount; and he worked on Oscar Simpson’s farm, Route 3, Kenly, Wilson County.

Ollie Vick died 27 March 1945 in Henderson, Vance County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was about 43 years old; was born in Nash County, N.C.; resided in Wilson County; and was single. Clara Barnes was informant. Cause of death was listed as shock from tar tank explosion at prison camp.