accidental death

Runaway truck kills toddler.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 August 1949.

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Hattie McMillian was only 15 months old when she was struck by John Lee Edmundson‘s truck. The impact fractured her skull, and she died within minutes. Per her death certificate, the little girl was born 6 March 1948 in Wilson to Neil and Mary McMillian; lived at 615 Taylor Street; and was buried in Moses cemetery, Pender County, N.C.

Taylor’s Alley no longer exist. It was a short block running between the railroad and Maury Street in the shadow of a stemmery and cotton oil mills.

Wilson_CSP_6B_12, U.S.D.A. Photograph Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

Dawes suffocates in tobacco barn.

Wilson Daily Times, 6 August 1946.

Here’s another example of the value of newspaper accounts in providing broader context to the clipped conclusions set forth in death certificates. Per the coroner’s conclusion, the certificate said only “found dead, no sign foul play.”

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In the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Ed Dawes, 38; wife Cora, 27; and children Jesse, 14, Lena, 12, Della, 10, Lonny, 2, and Ned, 1 month.

In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: on the Plank Road, farmer Edward Dawes, 52; his second wife Cora F., 33; and children Lena, 18, Mary D., 17, Lonnie, 11, Ned, 8, Isaih, 7, Charlie, 6, Estelle, 3, and Cora F., 9 months.

In the 1920 census of Jackson township, Nash County: farmer Ed Daws, 62; wife Cofranza, 41; and children Lonie, 21, Mary D., 25, Ned, 18, Izel, 17, Charlie, 14, Estella V., 12, Cora, 9, David L., 7, Mathew, 5, Claudy, 3, and [granddaughter?] Dolly May Edwards, 1.

Ned Dawes, 27, son of Ed and Cora F. Dawes, married Martha Goones, 40, daughter of Arthur and Minnie Goones, in Pitt County, N.C., on 21 December 1925.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm operator Ned Dawes, 41, and Martha, 30. 

Ned Dawes registered for the World War II draft in 1942 in Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 28 December 1898 in Wilson County; lived at Route 1, Elm City, care of R.H. Hinton; his contact was R.H. Hinton; and he worked for Earl Gardner, Saratoga, N.C.

He fell from the trestle and drowned.

The body of Ed Howell, who stoked the firebox and tended the boiler on an Atlantic Coast Line passenger train, was not recovered until eleven days after he fell into Contentnea Creek south of Wilson. The strap of his overalls snagged on a tree limb or root, holding him under several feet of water. The coroner noted that the eighty-five dollars Howell had on his person was missing, but opined that it might have fallen from his pocket as he fell. (Or was he robbed and murdered?)

Wilson Daily Times, 6 February 1935.

Per his death certificate, Howell died 25 January 1935. He was a native of Pitt County, but a resident of Rocky Mount, N.C., 18 miles north of Wilson. Cause of death was described as: “accidental drowning stepping off cab steps while train on tressel over Contentna Creek near Wilson NC Train #83.”

The tragic death of Wade Vick.

News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 13 October 1929.

Wilson Daily Times, 19 October 1929.

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In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer Wade Vick, 15, boarder, in the household of white farmer James M. Morgan.

Wade Vick, 20, of Wilson township, son of Payton Vick and Ellen Vick, married William Ann “Willie” Plummer, 19, of Wilson township, daughter of William Plummer and Etta Plummer, on 8 January 1903 in Black Creek. Smith Mercer applied for the license.

In the 1910 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Wade Vick, 28; wife William Ann, 25, farm laborer; and widowed mother Martha, 60, farm laborer.

In 1918, Wade Vick registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 2 April 1881; lived at 819 Robeson Street, Wilson; was a laborer for Farmers Cotton Oil Company; and his nearest relative was wife Willie Vick.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 818 Robeson, Austin Branch, 59, oil mill laborer, and wife Cindy, 48, tobacco factory worker, and Wade Vick, 35, oil mill laborer, and wife Anne, 32, tobacco factory worker. 

Wade Vick died 12 October 1929 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 46 years old; was married to Willie Vick; lived at 1018 Robeson Street; was a day laborer at Farmers Cotton Oil Mill; and was born in Wilson County to Patten Vick. He died of a “fractured scull, sudden; caught in belt at cotton oil mill — killed instantly.”

Killed as she crossed the street.

Wilson Daily Times, 23 May 1928.

Mattie Farmer was knocked down and killed as she crossed from one side of the 500 block of Nash Street, where she lived, to the other. 

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Mattie Farmer died 23 May 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 28  years old; was married Eli Farmer; lived at 522 East Nash Street; worked as a common laborer; and was born in Laurinburg, N.C., to Henry and Hattie McLaurin. She was buried in Rountree cemetery.

Mother and child killed in oil can explosion.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 November 1921.

In 1917, Avery Johnson registered for the World War I draft in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Per his registration card, he was born 25 June 1891 in Marietta, N.C.; lived at 636 Green, Wilson; worked as a laborer for Worth Bros., Coatesville, Pennsylvania; and had a wife and one child.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Avery Johnson, 27; wife Carrie, 24; and children Evaline, 2, and John L., two months.

The child who died in the oil can explosion was a son, John Elry Johnson, not a daughter. He was two weeks past his second birthday.

Avery Johnson’s wife Carrie Wingate Johnson also succumbed to her injuries, after four days of suffering. 

Barnes dies after hunting accident.

Twenty-five-year-old Sylvester Barnes Jr. was shot in the stomach in a hunting accident in January 1948. He died in Wilson’s Mercy Hospital.

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In 1942, Sylvester Barnes Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 23 October 1923 in Wayne County, N.C.; his contact was Willie Best, Route 3, Box 217, Wilson; and he worked for Sylvester Barnes Sr., Route 3, Box 216, Wilson.

More than 17 years after his death, Sylvester Barnes’ mother Mary Barnes applied for a military headstone for him. Per the application, he had served in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 1943 to 1945 and ranked as a Seaman 1st Class. The stone was to be delivered to Darden Memorial Funeral Home.

Batts struck and killed on bicycle.

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 22 October 1937.

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In the 1900 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Amos Batts, 45; wife Clara, 43; and children Martha A., 21, Mary J., 19, Pennina, 17, Vaulentine, 15, Lena, 12, Nancy, 10, Lissie, 8, John D., 5, and Amos, 2.

In the 1910 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer Amos Batts, 56; wife Clara, 55; sons Jon, 16, and Amos, 12; and grandchildren Pearcie, 6, and Clara, 2. 

In 1917, Amos Batts registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his draft registration card, he was born in 1895 in Elm City, N.C.; lived in Black Creek, N.C.; was single; and was a self-employed farmer in Black Creek township.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: on the road east from Black Creek to Wilson, farmer Mathew Williams, 34; wife Rena, 32; sons Willie, 7, Mathew Jr., 4, and George, 2; stepson Percy Burl, 16; and brother-in-law Amos Batts, 22, farm laborer.

On 22 February 1920, Amos Batts, 25, of Black Creek, son of Amos and Clara Batts, married Elizabeth Barnes, 22, of Black Creek, daughter of Rob and Emma Barnes, at Rob Barnes’ in Black Creek. Matthew Williams applied for the license, and a justice of the peace performed the ceremony in the presence of Grant Farmer, Fred Locus, and Ernest Tucker.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Amos Batts, 29; wife Elizabeth, 29; and children Arlettie, 13, James, 8, Roosevelt, 7, and Amos Lee, 5.

“Run over on highway with auto killing him instantly”

Amos Batts’ widow Elizabeth Batts applied for a military headstone for his grave, which was located in Jim Loach’s cemetery in Black Creek.

Emma Jane Farmer fatally injured.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 December 1928.

The Daily Times misnamed the victim of this terrible accident. Emma Jane Barnes Farmer was killed near Holden’s Crossroads while standing behind her father John Barnes‘ automobile holding a lantern. Reddin Walston, a white teenager, was arrested and charged with her death, but freed after a grand jury refused to indict him. He was rearrested in January 1928 after a judge received additional evidence in the case. I have not been able to determine whether Walston was convicted. However, nine years later, Walston’s uncle shot and killed him in a dispute over liquor.

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Tom Farmer, 43, of Wilson township, married Emma Barnes, 25, of Gardners township, on 24 October 1927. Primitive Baptist minister John R. Barnes performed the ceremony in Gardners township in the presence of Charlie Davis, Florence Battle, and Elijah Barnes

Emma Jane Farmer died 11 December 1928 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 26 years old; was born in Wilson County to John Barnes and Bettie Parker; was married to Thomas Farmer; and was a tenant farmer on Sallie Gray’s farm. Her cause of death was “concussion of brain” six hours after an auto accident.

“Uncle Dortch” struck by train.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 June 1928.

In June 1928, a Atlantic Coast Line railroad worker spotted a grievously wounded elderly man lying by the tracks. He flagged a train, and the “injured negro” was taken to the company’s hospital almost twenty miles north in Rocky Mount. He died. Two days later, the Wilson Daily Times reported the death of “Uncle Dortch.”

So did his death certificate. 

Though he lived at the Wilson County Home, also known as “the poorhouse,” no one seemed to know Uncle Dortch’s surname. I regret that I have not been able to restore it to him.

“Fractured Skull (found by side of R.R. track near Wilson)”

A.C.L. Hospital, Rocky Mount, N.C. (1925), East Carolina Digital Collections.

Thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for the clipping.