George Applewhite and the Lowry Gang.

When searching for information about the men and women enslaved by Council Applewhite, I ran across this transcription, which appears to reflect an article published on 8 July 1875 in the Norfolk Virginian:


George Applewhite was born in Wilson County and was the slave of Council Applewhite. His half brother, Addison Applewhite, lives in Goldsboro. His mother now lives near Stantonsburg. George was afterwards given in marriage to Mr. William R. Peacock of Wythe and apprenticed to learn the plastering trade. He is a dark mulatto stoutly built about 34 years old. In 1866 he accompanied Mr. Peacock to Robeson where he worked in turpentine. It was there he married a sister of Henderson Oxendine, one of the Lowery Gang who was afterwards hung at Lumberton. Applewhite’s wife now lives in Robeson County being thrown by marriage in association with the outlaws then warring on the citizens of Robeson County he soon became one of the gang and is said to have been a most desperate character. In 1869 he was arrested on charges of being an accomplice in the killing of Sheriff Reuben King for which he was tried and convicted and sentenced to be hanged in Columbus County.

A Wilson County man rode with Henry Berry Lowry?

[NOTE: What follows is an abbreviated account of George Applewhite’s involvement with the Lowry Band. I strongly urge you to seek out a more in-depth understanding of the Lowry War, which was rooted in the increasing marginalization of Native people and free people of color in the antebellum period and fierce conflict arising from conscription of Native men to work for the Confederacy during the Civil War.  As an introduction to the themes of resistance, revenge and redistribution of wealth that intertwine in this period, please see North Carolina Museum of History’s Community Class Series: Henry Berry Lowrie, Lumbee Legend, which features, among others, the incomparable Lumbee historian Malinda Maynor Lowery.]

After a series of raids and murders of both Native and white men, on March 3, 1865, Allen Lowry and his son William were put to a sham trial, found guilty of theft, and summarily executed. Their deaths sparked the infamous seven-year Lowry War.

George Applewhite arrived in Robeson County after the War began, and his 1868 marriage to Henry Lowry’s first cousin, Elizabeth Oxendine, presumably drew him into the conflict.

On 23 January 1869, Applewhite allegedly shot and killed former sheriff Reuben King during a robbery attempt. Applewhite and seven others were arrested in the fall of 1869. In April 1870, he and Steve Lowry were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. They were sent to Wilmington, North Carolina, to a secure jail in which Applewhite’s brother-in-law Henderson Oxendine was being held, but escaped with the help of Henry Lowry’s wife, Rhoda Strong.

In October 1870, after a raid on a neighbor’s still, a posse cornered the gang at Applewhite’s house. Applewhite was injured in the resulting firefight, but escaped into Long Swamp with others. Henderson Oxendine was captured at Applewhite’s house the following February and hanged in March. In April, Applewhite was ambushed outside his house. Though shot in the neck and back, he escaped. (His children told his attackers he had been shot twice in the mouth, but spit both bullets out.) His brother-in-law Forney Oxendine was arrested. Applewhite holed up at Henry Berry Lowry’s cabin, which came under attack on April 26. Applewhite and Lowry escaped the gun battle and spent several weeks raiding before breaking Forney Oxendine out of jail.

Officials arrested Betsy Applewhite and other family members of the Lowry band in an effort to draw the men out into the open. Lowry threatened retaliation against Robeson County white women, promising “the Bloodiest times … that ever was before.” On July 17, the Lowry band ambushed a police guardsman, resulting in several deaths.

Charlotte Democrat, 18 July 1871.

Shaken citizens demanded a release of the Lowry gang’s wives, and a truce of sorts took hold.

Eight months later, in February 1872, the Lowry Band raided Lumberton, escaping with more than $20,000 from private safes. Henry Berry Lowry was never (officially) seen again, creating a mystery that only burnished his legend to cultural icon. Applewhite, too, disappeared.

The long-winded heading of the New York Herald‘s extensive excerpts from correspondent George Alfred Thompson provides a rough summary of the entire saga (at least from the standpoint of white Robeson County), and the detailed map accompanying the article marked George Applewhite’s cabin with the letter B just south of Shoeheel, or modern-day Maxton. M, between his house and the railroad, marks the place he was shot in 1871.

The Swamp Angels. — The Blood Trail of the North Carolina Outlaws. — How Lowery Avenged the Murders of a Father and a Brother. — Cain’s Brand the Test of Admission to the Gang. — A War of Races. — The Outlaws in the Swamp-The Judge on the Bench-The Ku Klux on their Nightly Raids. — Lowery Breaks Prison Twice. — Sheriff King, Norment, Carlisle, Steve Davis and Joe Thompson’s Slave Murdered by the Band. — Killing the Outlaws’ Relatives When They Cannot Catch the Gang. — A Promise That Was Kept: “I Will Kill John Taylor — There’s No Law for Us Mulattoes.” — Aunt Phoebe’s Story. — The Hanging of Henderson Oxendine. — Outlaw Zach McLaughlin Shot By an Impressed Outlaw. — The Black Nemesis.

New York Herald, 8 March 1872.

Applewhite was arrested in Columbus, Georgia, late that fall. The Herald‘s breathless report mentions that he had committed a “terrible murder in the eastern section of the State at the close of the Civil War,” but this appears to be a misattribution. Applewhite was not in Robeson County at that time.

New York Herald, 6 November 1872.

But was this in fact George Applewhite? I have found no follow-up to this pronouncement, and no report of his extradition to North Carolina. Rather, in July 1875 Applewhite was arrested in Goldsboro, where he had been living for years under the pseudonym Bill Jackson. Two African-American men, Bryant Capps and William Freeman, violently apprehended him, and he was jailed in Columbus County, N.C.

Weekly Telegraph and Journal & Messenger (Macon GA), 13 July 1875.

Applewhite obtained top-notch counsel, who exploited a technicality to win his release under state’s Amnesty Act, which pardoned persons found responsible for political violence in the years after the Civil War. The Act had been intended to shield Ku Klux Klansmen from prosecution and contained a provision excepting Steve Lowry, alone of the Lowry Band, from its protection. (The General Assembly likely assumed Henry Lowry and Applewhite were dead.) After a North Carolina Supreme Court ruling on the issue of whether Applewhite’s appeal of his conviction and death sentence had rendered him eligible for amnesty, Applewhite was freed.

Raleigh’s Daily Sentinel published a sympathetic portrait of Applewhite shortly after his release, outlining his background and questioning his culpability in the crimes attributed to him.

Daily Sentinel (Raleigh, N.C.), 28 June 1876.

Applewhite did return to Goldsboro. His wife Betsy and children remained in Robeson County, and he remarried in 1880. His date of death is not known.


George Applewhite, “The North Carolina Bandits,Harper’s Weekly, 30 March  1872, p. 249.

On 10 September 1869, the Wilmington (N.C.) Journal published descriptions of “the Robeson outlaws,” including George Applewhite:

Though Applewhite is described elsewhere as a dark mulatto, Herald correspondent George Alfred Thompson sought to demonize him by resorting to exaggerated stereotypes:

“George Applewhite is a regular negro, of a surly, determined look, with thick features, woolly hair, large protuberances above the eyebrows, big jaws and cheek bones and a black eye.

“He is a picture of a slave at bay. Mrs. [Harriet Beecher] Stowe might have drawn ‘Dred‘ from him.”

And: “Applewhite was an alert, thick-lipped, deep-browed, wooly headed African, with a steadfast, brutal expression.”

This pixelated image of Applewhite, the only version I could find on line, is the only known photograph of the man.


George Applewhite was born in the Stantonsburg area of what is now Wilson County about 1848 to Obedience Applewhite and Jerre Applewhite.

George Applewhite married Elizabeth C. Oxendine on 15 August 1868 in Robeson County, North Carolina.

In the 1870 census of Burnt Hall township, Robeson County: Betsey Appelwhite, 28; her children John, 12, Robert, 10, Emilie, 4, and Adeline, 2; and brother Furney Oxendine, 20.

In the 1880 census of Burnt Hall township, Robeson County: Betsy Applewhite, 38, described as a widow; and children Mariah, 15, Addena, 11, Forney, 6, and Polly, 4.

In the 1880 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, North Carolina: George Applewhite, 32, plasterer, living alone.

On 12 September 1880, George Applewhite, 32, of Wayne County, son of Jerre and Beady Applewhite (father dead; mother living in Wilson County), married Martha Hodges, 16, of Wayne County, daughter of Graham and Mary Hodges, in Goldsboro, Wayne County.

The last reference to George Applewhite I’ve found is this account of Christmas Day fight between Applewhite and Arthur Williams:

Goldsboro Messenger, 31 December 1883.

The apprenticeship of Sovid Applewhite.

On 20 October 1869, a Wilson County Probate Court judge ordered three year-old Sovid Applewhite bound as an apprentice to Lewis Ellis until he reached 21 years of age.

[The spelling of this unusual name is difficult to decipher. Though “Lovid,” as in Lovett, seems more logical, the capital letter does not match the consistently double-looped L in “Lewis.”]

Sovid Applewhite (or no one with any approximation of his name) is not listed in the household of Lewis and Milly Ellis in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County.

United States Indenture and Manumission Records, 1780-1939, database at

The estate of Council Applewhite.

On 26 December 1864, a court-appointed committee divided the enslaved people held by Council Applewhite, deceased, into roughly equal parts by value. (Applewhite was the elder brother of Henry Applewhite.)

William P. Applewhite drew the first lot, valued at $12,250 and consisting of Adison, Gray, George, Delia and her child Renna, Ada, Eliza, and Bedy.

Samuel H. Applewhite drew the second lot, valued at $13,200 and consisting of Dock, Hyman, Warren, Della, Clary, Sary, McKoy, and Larrence.

The estate of Joseph J. Applewhite drew the third lot, valued at $11,600 and consisting of Luke, Rufus, John, Zany, Osker, Martha, Rose, and Abraham. This group was further divided among Joseph Applewhite’s heirs, with Sarah H. Applewhite receiving Rufus and Abraham ($2300); Isaac C. Applewhite receiving Osker and Rose ($1200); William P. Applewhite receiving Luke ($1800); and Samuel H. Applewhite receiving John ($2100).

William R. Peacock, husband of Mary Applewhite Peacock, received Martha ($2600), and Thomas J. Applewhite, Zany ($1600). Various amounts of cash exchanged hands to even out the numbers.

Four months later, all were free.


The 24 people Council Applewhite enslaved likely consisted of one or more mothers with children, young and/or adult; perhaps nuclear families with both parents present; men whose families lived elsewhere; and unattached adults. Obedience “Bedie” Applewhite was the mother of Doc Applewhite (ca. 1831), Addison Applewhite (ca. 1835), George Applewhite (ca. 1840), and Adelia Bynum (ca. 1841). Adelia Bynum, whose husband Lewis Bynum was enslaved elsewhere, was the mother of George and Ada Bynum. Della Applewhite (ca. 1836) was the mother of Sarah and Clara Applewhite.

  • Adison

On 15 August 1866, Addison Applewhite and Jane Ellis formalized their marriage by registering their two-year cohabitation with a Wayne County, N.C., justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Burnt Swamp township, Robeson County, N.C.: turpentine laborer Addison Appelwhite, 33; wife Jane, 24; and children Eustus, 9, Delia, 2 months, and John, 15.

In the 1880 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, N.C.: huckster Addison Applewhite, 46; wife Jane, 34; and children Eustace, 20, huckster, Delia, 10, Mary, 7, Hattie, 5, and Minnie, 4 months; plus mother Obedience, 75.

On 5 May 1881, the Goldsboro Messenger reported that Addison Applewhite had been elected to represent Goldsboro’s First Ward as city alderman.

In the 1900 census of Astor township, Lake County, Florida: Adison Applewhite, 65, turpentine dipper; granddaughter Mary Vanstory, 11; and boarder William Ford, 33, railroad section hand.

  • Gray

In the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Gray Applewhite, 19, farm laborer, is listed in the household of Nancy Newsom, 62.

On 25 October 1872, Gray Applewhite, 22, married Cary A. Parker, 23, in Wilson. J.P. Clark, Levi Melton, and Fanny Moody were witnesses.

  • George

A George Applewhite enslaved by Council Applewhite went on to achieve national notoriety and will be featured in a future post.

  • Delia and Renna

In 1866, Lewis Bynum and Delia Bynum registered their cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Lewis Bynum, 30, farm laborer; wife Adelia, 29; children George, 10, Ada, 9, Scott, 7, Penny, 6, Pet, 4, Isabella, 2, and Charles, 8 months; and Obedience Applewhite, 63.

I have not found Renna.

  • Ada

Probably, Ada Bynum, born about 1861, listed in Lewis and Adelia Bynum’s household in 1870, above.

  • Eliza

Is this Eliza Ellis, born about 1856, daughter of Zana Applewhite Ellis, below?

  • Bedy

See the 1870 household of Lewis and Adelia Bynum, above.

See the 1880 household of Addison Applewhite, above.

However: in August 1866, Beady Applewhite and Wilson Hagan registered their 19-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

  • Dock

In 1866, Dock Applewhite and Clara Barnes registered their cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County, N.C.: farm laborer Dock Applewhite, 35, and wife Claricy, 30.

On 9 April 1872, Doc Applewhite, son of Nathan Hooks and Beedie Applewhite, married Mervona Barnes, daughter of M[illegible] Barnes, in Wayne County.

In the 1880 census of Bullhead township, Greene County: Dock Applewhite, 46, laborer; wife Malvina, 35; and children Missouri, 15, Emma, 8, Henrietta, 6, Bud, 4, and Martha, 2.

  • Hyman

Perhaps Hyman Bynum, born about 1849, listed below in Della Applewhite’s 1870 household.

  • Warren

On 22 October 1873, Warren Applewhite, 21, married Delsey Bynum, 20, at Elbert Felton’s in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Warren Applewhite, 23; wife Delpha, 22; children Lillie, 3, and Marcellus, 2; and Sallie Ruffin, 6.

  • Della

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Della Applewhite, 34, domestic servant; Haywood, 19, farm laborer, Sarah, 14, domestic servant, Alice and Anna, 2, and Clara Applewhite, 7; Hyman Bynum, 21; Blount Best, 21; Abraham Bynum, 17; Moses Bynum, 20; and William Pittman, 21, all farm laborers.

In the 1880 census of Bullhead township, Greene County, N.C.: Della Applewhite, 40, domestic servant; daughters An, 14, nurse, Lora, 8, and Ora, 4; and son Oscar, 3 months.

  • Clary

See Clara Applewhite, born about 1863, in the 1870 household of Della Applewhite, above.

  • Sary

See Sarah Applewhite, born about 1856, in the 1870 household of Della Applewhite, above.

On 29 July 1872, Blount Best, 24, married Sarah Applewhite, 18, at Elbert Felton’s in Wilson County.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Blunt J. Bess, 32, laborer; wife Sarah, 23; children William L., 9, Nellie J., 6, Joseph H., 4, and Ivory, 8 months; plus sister-in-law Annie Barnes, 11.

In the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farmer Blount Best, 53; wife Sarah, 44; and children Joe H., 27, John I., 20, Minnie, 18, Blount, 16, Ida, 14, Annie, 13, Mariah, 10, Ella, 8, Albert, 4, Sack, 2, and Joshua, 1.

  • McKoy

Is this Macordia Ellis, born about 1860, daughter of Zana Applewhite Ellis, below?

  • Larrence
  • Luke

This is likely Luke Applewhite “Jr.,” son of Luke Applewhite (ca. 1815-bef. 1900) and Malinda [maiden name unknown].

Luke Applewhite, 22, son of Luke Applewhite and Malinda Bridgers, married Henrietta Bridgers, 20, daughter of Liberty Bridgers, on 16 October 1879, at Ben Sauls’ plantation in Nahunta, Wayne County.

In the 1880 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Eliza Bridgers, 45; daughter Emily, 11; son[-in-law] Luke Applewhite, 22, farm laborer; daughter Henry E., 20; [granddaughter] Charity B., 8 months; and Victoria, 8.

In the 1900 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Luke Applewhite, 45; wife Henrietta, 44; and children Frances, 18, Edward, 16, Liberty, 15, Bennie, 10, Lindie, 7, Willie, 4, Dancy, 2, and James, 3.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Luke Applewhite, 52; wife Henrietta, 47; children Frances, 27, Ben, 20, Malinda, 14, Willie, 12, Frank D., 10, and Anna, 7; and grandchildren  James, 11, Nancy, 6, and Roosavelt, 4.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Luke Applewhite, 69; wife Henrietta, 63; children Malindia, 23, Willie, 22, Frank, 19, Annie, 16, Nancy, 15, James, 20, Rosevelt, 14, and Stella, 8; and grandchildren Eva, 5, Edgar, 4, and Henrietta, 3.

Luke Applewhite died 13 June 1923 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1855 in Nahunta township, Wayne County, to Luke Applewhite, Nahunta, and Malindia [last name unknown], Nahunta; was a farmer; and was “Husbane of Henry Etta.” Informant, B.F. Applewhite.

  • Rufus
  • John
  • Zany

In the 1870 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: James Ellis, 48, farm laborer; wife Zana, 38; and children Eliza, 14, James, 5 months, Cora, 13, Macord, 10, Oscar, 6, and Anna, 1.

In the 1880 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: James Ellis, 59, farm laborer; wife Zany, 49; and children Mccoid, 18, Oscar, 17, Anna, 11, James, 10, Johnathan C., 8, and Benjamin S., 5.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Johnathan Ellis, 27; mother Zaney Ellis, 68, widow, sister Mccarda, 35, and brother James Applewhite, 29 [who appears to be the same James as James Ellis above in 1870 and 1880.]

Jonathan Ellis died 12 February 1944 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 14 October 1875 in Saratoga to James Ellis and Zannie Applewhite; was married to Annie Ellis; was a farmer.

  • Osker
  • Martha
  • Rose
  • Abraham

Perhaps Abraham Bynum, born about 1853, listed above in Della Applewhite’s 1870 household.

Estate File of Council Applewhite, Wilson County, North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

The estate of Henry Applewhite.

Henry Applewhite died intestate in 1850. The federal slave schedule recorded that year shows his widow Orpha Pike Applewhite in possession of eight enslaved people.

At November Term, 1851, Orpha Pike Applewhite, widow of Henry Applewhite, petitioned the Edgecombe County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions to partition the enslaved people she and her six children, Sarah, Elizabeth, Jonathan, Celia, William, and Polly, had jointly inherited. Bob, Enos, Wealthy, Mary, Sherard, Patrick, Maria, Pharba, and Penny and child Laura were to be sold if necessary to achieve equal division. Washington M. Stanton and William Barnes were appointed for this purpose.


In an unsourced post at “Among the surviving papers of Henry and Orpha Pike Applewhite of the Stantonsburg area of Wilson Co., NC are the names and ages [sic] of the following negroes: Sherod, born 16 July 1838; Patrick, born 1 May 1840; Mariah, born 27 September 1844; Penny, born August 1834; Mary, born spring 1832; Enos, born 1 January 1829.”

On 31 August 1866, Patrick Applewhite and Lovenia Peacock formalized their marriage by registering their three-year cohabitation with a Wilson County justice of the peace.

In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Patrick Applewhite, 25; wife Lavenia, 21; son George, 6; plus Lucinda Taylor, 18, and Sarah Taylor, 1.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Patrick Applewhite, 38; wife Luvenia, 27; and children George, 16, and Mattie, 5; plus Riley Barnes, 34, farm laborer, and Virgil Deans, 38.

I have not been able to identify any others of the community of enslaved people held by Henry and Orpha Applewhite.

Estate File of Henry Applewhite, Edgecombe County, North Carolina Wills and Estates, 1665-1998 [database on-line],

Jonathan H. Applewhite.

Jonathan H. Applewhite (1832-1910) was a son of Henry and Orpha Pike Applewhite. The Applewhites were major landholders and slaveowners in the Stantonsburg area and have been featured here.

Jonathan H. Applewhite (1832-1910).

In 1860, the federal slave schedule disclosed that he laid claim to five enslaved people housed in three cabins — an 80 year-old woman, a 37 year-old woman, a 27 year-old man, a four year-old boy, and a two year-old girl. This group does not appear to constitute a single nuclear family.

1860 federal slave schedule of Saratoga township [which included Stantonsburg], Wilson County.

The photo below depicts Jonathan Applewhite’s home near Stantonsburg, circa 1900. I do not know if this is the house in which he lived before the Civil War.

Jonathan Applewhite residence, circa 1900.

Photos courtesy of Stantonsburg Historical Society’s A History of Stantonsburg Circa 1780 to 1980(1981).

State vs. Doc Applewhite.

In the spring of 1912, conflict between William Henry Pender and Dock Applewhite over Pender’s wife Mollie Pender came to a violent head.

Henry Pender, witness for the state, being sworn, states that he and wife had some trouble about the intimacy existing between his wife and Doc. Applewhite. Henry and his wife had a quarrel, and his wife left him. He imagined that his wife and Doc. were together at Doc.’s sister’s. Says he went there about one or two o’clock in the night, and asked if his wife was there and was told that she was not. He lay around the house, and after day they both came out of the house and started off the same way. I spoke to my wife and she agreed to go home with me. We started along together and pretty soon I heard a gun fire. I looked and Doc. was in about sixty yards of me, his gun pointing towards me. The shot seemed to strike the ground before they got to me, then arose and struck my coat and pants, but did not enter.  He then started towards me cursing saying he was going to kill me. I moved to try to get away from him. Pretty soon my brother ran and overtook me, and said that Doc had run round and was going to cut me off. I then ran.

Mollie Pender, Henry’s wife, tells about the same as Henry, as to the assault.

Done this the 12th day of March 1912   Elias G. Barnes J.P.


  • Henry and Mollie Pender

On 7 March 1900, Henry Pender, 24, son of Ed and Caroline Pender, married Molly Pitt, 22, daughter of Joe Pitt, in Black Creek, Wilson County.

In the 1910 census of Jackson township, Nash County, N.C.: H

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Raleigh Road, farmer Henry Pender, 45; wife Molly, 41; and daughter Sally, 10.

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Pender Wm H (c; Mollie) lab 607 E Green

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Pender Henry (c; Mollie) farm hd h 710 Viola 

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 710 Viola, Earnest McCray, 22, grocery store deliveryman; wife Lizzie, 19; and son LeVaughn, 3; plus roomers Mollie Pender, 48, private servant, and husband Henry, 45, farm laborer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: carpenter helper William H. Pender, 59; wife Mollie, 52, tobacco factory stemmer; and lodgers Eva Reid, 25, from Elizabeth City, N.C., and Mary J. Pitt, 27, born in Tarboro, N.C. Both were public school teachers.

William H. Pender died 21 October 1945 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 21 May 1889 in Edgecombe County, N.C., to Edward Pender and Caroline Atkinson; was married to Mollie Pender; and worked as a carpenter.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 April 1970.

  • Doc Applewhite

In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Enos Applewhite, 71; wife Cherry, 54; children Henry [age illegible], Virginia, 20, Dock, 19, and George, 13; grandson Enos, 2; and niece Rosa Atkinson, 16.

On 22 July 1903, Dock Applewhite, 21, of Stantonsburg, son of Elias [sic]and Cherry Applewhite, married Mary Simms, 23, of Stantonsburg, daughter of Stephen and Zanie Simms, at Stephen Simms’ house in Wilson County.

In the 1910 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: railroad section hand Dock Applewhite, 27; wife Mollie, 27; and children David, 6, and Annie, 3.

In 1918, Dock Applewhite registered for the World War I draft in Greenville, Pitt County, N.C. Per his registration card, he was born 15 March 1881 and worked as a fireman for Greenville Cooperage & Tun Company.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Dock Applewhite, 39; wife Mary, 38, laundress; and children David and Annie M., 14; plus Sadie Cozart, 24.

Dock Applewhite died 20 January 1927 in Greenville, Pitt County. Per his death certificate, he was about 25 years old [actually, 46]; was born in Wilson County to Enos and Cherry Applewhite; and was married to Mary Applewhite.

Criminal Action Papers, 1912, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Drowned boy shows up?

What in the world happened here?

These articles appear back-to-back in the same issue of the Daily Times, and I have not yet found further information to clear up the confusion.

An eight year-old boy named James Applewhite had been missing a week when 13 year-old Raymond Sheppard confessed to police that he had pushed the younger boy into Toisnot Creek, where he had drowned. The very next day, James Applewhite showed up the police department claiming that he had gotten lost on his way home from school — a doubtful claim in 1940s Wilson — and wound up on a farm between Lucama and the Dixie Inn. Police had begun to drain “the lake in Maplewood cemetery” [what lake? Toisnot reservoir? It’s a half-mile north of Maplewood]* when Wiley Barnes‘ wife brought him into town, having just heard about a missing boy. He had appeared at her family’s farm, she said, and had asked for work. To compound the confusion, Raymond Sheppard and other boys claimed this was not the boy who had drowned, though that boy was also named Applewhite.

An article by John G. Thomas, often the Times‘ local-color writer, but here somewhere between straight reporter and editorialist, immediately followed the one above. The focus of the piece leaps from place to place, but these asserted facts emerge: Raymond Sheppard threw rocks at two boys trying to save Applewhite, hindering their efforts; the police rounded up eight boys and parked them in jail while investigating; the year before, Sheppard and two other boys had been charged with beating a white man, who later died of his injuries, for thirty cents’ gain; two of the boys, John Sowers, 15, and Andrew Jackson, 13, had admitted to burning down a Black man’s store and throwing a railroad spike through a truck windshield; Sheppard, Sowers, and Jackson were free because there was no place to hold them (a situation remedied on the spot); Jesse Lee Barnes, 9, Paul Mitchell, 12, Mitchell Hargrove, 13, Roy Lee Barnes, 14, and James Hall, 15, were also arrested; William Roberts, apparently owner of the burned store, pleaded with county commissioners for more police protection in East Wilson; they punted him to the Board of Aldermen.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 April 1945.

*Update: Toisnot Reservoir didn’t exist in 1945, but there was a small pond in Maplewood Cemetery that has since been filled in. Thanks, Matthew Langston!

Studio shots, no. 173: Paul Applewhite.

Paul Applewhite (1878-1955).


In the 1880 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Luke Applewhite, 67; wife Sara, [age illegible; and sons Henry, 11, and Paul, 2.

In the 1900 census of Fremont township, Wayne County: Luke Applewhite, 64, “renter” [i.e. tenant farmer]; wife Sarah, 70, “washing & orning”; daughter Lizzie, 25, “feale work,” and Caro., 8, “laborr,”and sons Paul, 22, “farmer haird,” Noah, 20, day laborer Davie, 16, Peter, 13, and Moses, 10, farm laborers. 

Paul Applewhite, 25, of Wayne County, son of Luke and Sarah Applewhite, married Mary Eliza Thompson, 21, of Wayne County, daughter of Penny Thompson, on 10 January 1905 near Fremont, Nahunta township, Wayne County. A.L. Rountree was a witness.

In the 1910 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County: farmer Paul Applewhite, 32; wife Mary Eliza, 23; and children Penny, 5, and Sarah, 1.

In 1918, Paul Applewhite registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born January 1878; lived at Route 3, Lucama, Wilson County; farmed for W.H. Tomlinson, Lucama; and his nearest relative was Mary Eliza Applewhite.

Pennie Applewhite died 29 June 1918 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 28 July 1905 in Wilson to Paul Applewhite and Mary Eliza Thompson; and was buried in the John Moore grave yard.

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Paul Applewhite, 43; wife Mary, 28; and children Sarah, 10, John, 9, May, 7, Walter, 5, Pauline, 4, and Herman, 2.

In the 1930 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Paul Applewhite, 56; wife Mary L., 42; and children Sarah, 2, John, 20, Mabel, 18, Walter, 16, Pauline, 15, and Herman, 10.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 306 Walnut Street, Paul Applewhite, 66; wife Mary Eliza, 48, cook; children Sarah, 31, laundress; Mary Belle, 27, farm laborer; Walter, 25, gasoline filling station attendant; Pauline, 24, cook and nurse; and Herman, 20, gas station attendant; and grandson William, 8.

In 1940, Walter Applewhite registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his draft registration, he was born 28 July 1915 in Fremont, N.C.; lived at 306 East Walnut Street, Wilson; his contact was father Paul Applewhite; and he worked for Lester Watson, “cor. Barnes & Lloyd Wilson.”

Herman Applewhite died 3 February 1946 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 19 November 1919 in Wilson County to Paul Applewhite and Mary Thompson; worked as a laborer; lived at 306 East Walnut; was married to Delories Applewhite; and was buried in Rountree cemetery. Pauline Applewhite, 523 South Lodge Street, was informant.

Paul Applewhite died 6 May 1955 at his home at 306 East Walnut Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 January 1881 in Wayne County, N.C., to Luke Applewhite and Sarah Greene; was a laborer; and was married. Mary Applewhite was informant.

John Ive Applewhite died 25 June 1967 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 28 April 1910 in Wayne County to Paul Applewhite and Mary Liza Thompson; lived at 306 East Walnut; was married; and worked as a laborer.

Photo courtesy of user sheppard4.

Who was the victim?

Pittsburgh Courier, 16 May 1942.

In a nutshell: James Applewhite was arrested and charged with the murder of Willie Fate. A burial society paid an undertaker to conduct Fate’s funeral. After the service, a burial society adjuster thought he saw Willie Fate on his way home. The society contacted the Wilson County draft board for information about Willie — presumably, his whereabouts, if not dead — but got none. Had the adjuster seen Willie’s brother Perry Fate instead? Or was Perry the man dead and buried? Applewhite confessed, but whom did he kill? Perry was nowhere to be found.

Willie H. Fate’s death certificate shows that he was killed on 25 April 1942 on 264 Highway by a pistol shot to the chest. Toney Funeral Home of Spring Hope, Nash County, performed the burial, but there’s no indication of the society that paid for it.

Apparently, the matter was not cleared to the satisfaction of the United States military until 10 August 1942, when Willie Fate’s registration card was cancelled.

Willie H. Fate’s draft registration card.


In the 1930 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer Robert Fate, 33; wife Monna, 31; children Alice, 17, Willie H., 17, Perry, 11, Geneva, 7, Robert Jr., 5, and Mary E., 2; and in-laws Alice Jurant, 55, and Melvin Jurant, 56. All save the youngest three children were born in South Carolina.

In 1940, Willie Henry Fate registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 27 January 1917 in South Carolina; he resided at R.F.D. #4, Wilson; his contact was Lula Fate; and he worked as a laborer for Mark Ellis, R.F.D. #4, Wilson.

In 1940, Perry Fate registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 7 January 1920 in Florence, South Carolina; resided at Route 1, C-10, Elm City; his contact was M.L. Ellis, Route 4; and he worked for James L. Ellis, Route 1, Elm City.

Aberdeen & Abraham.

In the name of God, Amen. I Elisha Applewhite of the State of North Carolina and County of Wayne being sick and weak of body but of a sound mind and memory thanks be given unto god calling into mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die do make and ordain this my last will and testament that is to say principally and first of all I give recommend my soul into the hands of almighty god that gave it and my Body I recommend to the Earth to be buried in a decent Christian Buriel at the discretion of my Ext. nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection I shall recieve the same again by the mighty power of god and as touching such worldy Estate wherewith it has pleased god to Bless me with in this life I give and devise and dispose of the same in the following manner to wit:

I lend my wife Elizabeth during her widowhood ten acres of land including all the houses and buildings where I now love I also lend her during her natural life one negro man by the name of Ishmael I also lend her during her natural life two negroes Avy & Narcissa also I give her my black mare and three cows and calves and two sows and pigs and one feather bed and stead and furniture and my loom and gear and two woolen wheels and one flax wheel and two paid of cards one painted chest and formerly called her own and six setting chairs all my kitchen furniture including the pot iron pewter and earthen ware and eight head of sheep her choice and all the gees and poultry and one years provision to be alloted her by my executors and one other respectable person and farming tools sufficient for her farm.

Item I lend my daughter Smithey Deans two negroes by the name of Aberdeen and Abram during her natural life and provided she ever has an heir begotten of her body to live to the age of twenty one years the right and title to remane in her forever but if she dies without issue the said negros to be sold and the money divided between all my children then living.

Item I give my son John Applewhite two negroes by the names of Dick and Feriba; also I give my son Peter Applewhite one negro woman Anzy and all the children she has with her and one boy by the name of Henderson; also I lend my daughter Dorotha Daniel during her natural life one negro woman by the name of Sarah and if she is taken out of the house from the said Dorotha business and put in the cornfield with out her consent it is my wish that my son Peter take the negro Sarah and higher her out or keep her himself and pay the said Dorotha the worth of her labour and after the descas of my daughter Dorotha I give the negro Sarah to my Grandson Elisha Daniel him and his heirs forever.

Also I give my son Robert Applewhite two negroes by the names of John and Imigin also I give my daughter Martha two negroes by the names of Rose and Hannah they and there increase to her and her heirs forever. Also I give to my son Lewis Applewhite two negroes Killis and Cilvy also I give my son Jesse Applewhite four negroes by the names of Jacob Chaney Eceline and Crisa also I give my daughter Elizabeth one negro boy by the name of David.I also give her after the widowhood of my wife Avy and all her increase and after the death of my wife I give her my negro man Ismail and one death bed and furniture one woolen wheel and one pair of cards.I give to my son Jesse all my land on the west side of Ballards Mill Swamp and two hundred and fifty acres where I now live lyin next to Westly Howells including the buildings where I now live the exception above named one sorrel horse also I give my daughter Elizabeth my gray horse and one cow and calf also I give my son Jesse one feather bed and furniture and one cow and calf the balance of my land not given away in legisses to be equally divided between my two sons Robert and Jesse and the balance of my Estate not given away in legisses to be sold and all my just debts to be paid lastly I nominate and appoint my friend Zadock Peacock and my son Robert Applewhite hole and sole Executors of this my last Will and Testament this the 21st of February 1835.   /s/ Elisha Applewhite

Signed, sealed and acknowledged in the presence of us  /s/ Raiford Hooks, B.W. Vail


Elisha Applewhite (1770-1835) lived in the Nahunta area northeast Wayne County, adjacent to Wilson County. He was the uncle of Henry Applewhite, whose plantation house near Stantonsburg, Wilson County, is described here, and his son Robert Applewhite married Elizabeth Deans, daughter of Bartley Deans of Nash and Wilson County. In 1848, Bartley Deans, you may recall, placed two enslaved men with the slave-trading firm of Moye & Adams for sale on speculation in Mississippi. Those two men, Aberdeen and Abraham, as shown in this will, had originally been owned by Deans’ son-in-law’s father, Elisha Applewhite, whose will devised the men to his unmarried daughter, Smithey Deans Applewhite.

North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line],