accidental death

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.

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.