coroner’s inquest

The Oliver Marable case.

I happened upon this Notice signed by Columbus E. Artis, one of the principals of the undertaking firm Artis, Flanagan & Batts, in the Wilson Daily Times. Who was Oliver Marable? What was his “case”? What were the “false reports being circulated”?

Wilson Daily Times, 14 December 1925.

Here is Marable’s death certificate:

Filled out largely in C.E. Artis’ bold, readily recognizable hand, it states that Marable died 4 December 1925 in Spring Hill township; was about 55 years old; was married to Bettie Marable; resided at 717 Manchester Street; was born in Henderson, N.C., to Grand and Cornelia Marable. In a different script, Marable’s cause of death: “fracture of base of skull accidentally incurred in a cave-in of earth.” 

Or was it accidental at all?

An inquest held into Marable’s death revealed a bizarre set of facts. On a Friday evening, Marable, who lived on Roberson Street in East Wilson, was miles away in Springhill township digging with a dozen other men for “buried treasure.” Later that night, Marable’s battered body was taken to C.E. Artis and his business partner Walter E. Flanagan, who were preparing to bury him when the police intervened. 

When Artis and Flanagan could not produce a death certificate, the police halted the funeral and contacted the coroner, who went with several county officials to the dig site. Dissatisfied with the accounts of witnesses as to what had happened to Marable, the coroner ordered an inquest. A jury traveled out to Tobe Hinnant‘s farm in Old Fields [Springhill?] township, where they found a “huge hole” in a field near a creek bank. 

The witnesses, who had been digging the hole with Marable, testified that he had been killed when the hole’s sidewalls caved in, but the jury found foul play involved. 

The physician who conducted a post mortem of Marable’s body concluded he likely met his death from a skull fracture, but had also suffered a broken arm, collar bone, and femur and contusions of the back, neck and face.

The police arrested seven people in connection with Marable’s death. Tom Boykin, conjure doctor Richard Pitts and Amos Batts [who was both Marable’s brother-in-law and the third business partner of C.E. Artis] were held without bond; William Edwards, McKinley Edwards, Tobe Hinnant, and John Hinnant bonded out. The story these witnesses told: conjure man Pitts showed up in Hinnant’s neighborhood, claiming that there was buried treasure nearby. Hinnant said he had often dreamed of such a thing, and Pitts said he could locate it. Hinnant pointed out the X in his dreams, and Pitts performed a divination with mineral oil. Though it is not clear how the rest of the treasure hunters were assembled, digging commenced. When the tip of a seven-foot augur embedded itself in a wooden object, the treasure was found. Marable died during the attempt to dig it out. The jury viewed the stuck augur, several shovels, and some sounding rods, as well as a length of white cord festooned about the perimeter to keep out the “haints” lingering in a nearby cemetery in use during slavery. (The jury concluded the augur was more likely stuck in a coffin lid than a treasure chest.) On a side note, investigators also found a large hole, filled in, in Marable’s back yard on Roberson Street, evidence of an earlier search.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 December 1925.

The next day, Raleigh’s News and Observer reported that the jury had adjourned without a verdict, but with a recommendation that Pitts be held pending investigation by a lunacy commission. (Per the Times the same day, Pitts “in his many trips and ‘treasure hunts’ in and around Wilson county had poisoned the minds of many of the negro inhabitants in regards to buried treasure and hidden pots of gold. In many cases sections of the county Pitts has ‘engineered’ treasure hunts, receiving pay for his ‘knowledge’ while honest negroes work in good faith at the task of uncovering the treasure which is never found.”) Everyone else was released. The jury had gone back to the site to find that it had been tampered with. The augur and divining rods were gone, and someone had thrown four feet of dirt into the hole. Several convicts were put to work to shovel out the dirt, but Marable’s pick could not be found. Amos Batts had testified that he did not know about the digging until Marable had died, but when told that Marable had his hand on the money when the pit collapsed, joined the enterprise. (Presumably by agreeing to bury Marable reporting the death or issuing a death certificate.) Someone named Lee Pearce testified, but no details as to what.

Five days later, the matter was dropped. Most of the 20 witnesses had testified to hearsay, Tobe Hinnant’s six-year-old swore he had never accused his father of killing Marable, and county officials gave ambiguous testimony about whether they had seen blood in the pit. The jury was hopelessly confused. Hinnant was freed, leaving only Pitts in jail, presumably for his chicanery.

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  • Oliver Marable

In the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Marable Oliver (c) lab 501 Lucas al

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Marable Oliver (c) lab Robinson nr Stantonsburg rd

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Marable Oliver (c) lab 501 Robinson

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 501 Robinson Street, Oliver Marable, 56, oil mill laborer; wife Betie, 48; and daughter Hattie, 7; plus brother-in-law John Batts, 52, oil mill laborer.

  • Tobe Hinnant  
  • Amos Batts
  • Richard Pitts
  • Tom Boykin 
  • William Edwards and McKinley Edwards — in the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 609 South Railroad Street, rented for $16/month, farm laborer William Edwards, 52; wife Lillie, 49; son McKinly, 28, worker at Hackney Body Company; McKinley’s wife Maggie, 25, farmworkers; and his son Bernard, 6.
  • John Hinnant

Struggling and sinking.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on the 22nd day of April 1872 I, H.W. Peel one of the Coroners of said County, attended by a Jury of good and lawful men, viz J.W. Crowell, John L. Baley, Elijah Williams, M.G. Trubuthan, J.W. Fryar, W.D. Farmer, B.J. Cogins. R.S. Wells. Jas. W. Taylor, Henry Dixon, W.H. Cobb, William A. Farmer by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly sworn and impaneled at Farmer Mill Pond in the County aforesaid did hold an inquest over the dead body of Joseph Perry, col and after inquiring into the facts & circumstances of the death of deceased from a view of the corpse and all the testimony to be procured the Jury find as follow that is to say that the deceased came to his death by accidental drowning.  /s/ J.W Crowell, Foreman, L. Baley, W.A. Farmer, Wm. D, Farmer, Henry Dixon Jnr., Elijah Williams, B.J. Coggins, M.G. Trevathan, W.H. Cobb, J.W. Friar, R.S. Wells, J.W. Taylor.

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James G. Cobb being duly sworned says that on Sunday April 21 1872 himself, Ralph Faison & Bynum Arrington Crisp McNair together with Joseph Perry Deceased were at Mill Pond of W.D. Farmer in County of Wilson state of North Carolina & Proposing to go in Washing or bathing. There upon said Cobb & Ralph Faison proceeded to swim a distance of seventy five yds or thereabout & parties consisting of the other witnesses Bynum Arrington Crisp McNair & Jos Perry deceased were left on & near the shore, upon being called by Bynum Arrington he the said Cobb looked back & saw Joseph Perry deceased appearantly struggling & sinking under twice after he the said Cobb saw him. Further stating that aid Perry threatened to swim as far as any of the party & that he saw no person or persons interfere with deceased in any way by which he could have been encouraged to go beyond his depth in water. The other witnesses above being duly sworn testified to the facts as above and all agree in the matter that Joe Perry was alone & no person interfered with him while in the water.  /s/ James (X) G. Cobb, Ralph (X) Faison, Bynum (X) Arrington, Crisp (X) McNair.

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  • Joseph Perry – probably, in the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Kinchen Locust, 8, and Joseph Perry, 6, in the household of Henry Dixon, 76, a white farmer. Kinchen was black; Joseph, mulatto. Also, in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Joseph Perry, 15, farm laborer, living in the household of Eveline Evans, 52. Eveline and her children are described as white; Joseph, as mulatto.
  • Ralph Faison
  • Bynum Arrington – in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Haywood Arrington, 45; wife Louisa, 35; and children Bynum, 16, Ervin, 11, and Anthoney, 8.
  • Crisp McNair
  • James G. Cobb — in the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County, James G. Cobb, 12, the son of Gray and Martha Cobb. (Though he was still a minor, Cobb, who was white, was the only witness who actually gave testimony.)

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

“Charles, he has shot your daddie.”

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on this the 16th day of April 1901 I, John K. Ruffin, Coroner of Wilson County, attended by a jury of good and lawful men, viz Larry Bass, A.P. Moore, Green Finch, Sam Breme, L.A. Lamm, Gray White by me summoned for that purpose, according to law, after being by me duly sworn and impaneled at the residence of Joe Flora in the County aforesaid, did hold an inquest over the dead body of Dempsey Pool (Col); and after inquiring into the facts and circumstances of the death of the deceased, from a view of the corpse, and all the testimony to be procured, the Jury find as follow, that is to say, that Dempsey Pool came to his death by a gunshot wound inflicted by Stephen Sims, col: and that in our opinion said would was inflicted in self-defense. And that it is a case of justifiable homicide.  /s/ Larry Bass, A.P. Moore, Green Finch, Gray White, L.A. Lamm, Sam Brame, John K. Ruffin, Coroner of Wilson County

North Carolina, Wilson County  }

The examination of Easter Pool, Gracie Pool, Mrs. E.E. Flora, Mrs. Wethly Flora, E.F. Flora, J.S. Flora, Mary Sims, Jane Sims, Will Artis, J.T. Corbett, taken before the undersigned, Coroner of said county this 16th of April 1901, at the house of J.S. Flora upon the body of Dempsey Pool then and there lying dead to wit: —

E.F. Flora being duly sworn says: —

The fussing commenced about 7 oclock, when Stephen Sims came into the yard and got the wagon, and Easter and Annie Pool, daughters of Dempsey Pool objected. Sims went on with the wagon & got a load of guano from an out house. Coming back to the yard, a boy was driving the wagon & Stephen had his gun on his shoulder. The daughters Easter & Annie went home & come back with their father, mother & brother. These were all at the front gate as the wagon come in. Pool’s crowd has cart-rounds, sticks & a pitchfork, this latter held by Pool’s wife. Sims did not come to the gate, but got over the fence before he got to them & went around the field coming into the yard by a back gate. I told him not to come in the ward with his gun. Pool had come into the yard, following Sims along the fence cursing Sims. When Sims got into the yard, he put his gun to his face & Pool kept advancing I never heard Sims say a word. Pool got about 5 or 6 steps from Sims when Sims shot Pool. Pool ran twenty steps or more after Sims, not saying anything, Sims running from Pool around the house. At the corner of the house Pool fell. Sims went around the house & out the same gate & all of Pool’s crowd were after Sims. Charles, a son of Pool & a grown man, was here shot by Sims. The Pool crowd then struck Sims as he jumped the ditch, and broke the gun. This gun (produced) is a single barrel breech loader. As he went out the gate, Sims daughter, said “Pap, don’t put no more shell in that gun,” but Sims loaded it again. After Sims was knocked down he run down the field & fell over the fence. Charles, who was also shot, was 18 years of age. I did not go out of the house at all. After Dempsey Pool was shot, I saw something in his hand as he ran toward Sims, holding it out straight. Could not tell what it was. Don’t know as to their being on friendly terms. When the shooting was going on in the yard Pool’s children & Sims children were fighting along with the wagon.        E.F. (X) Flora

J.S. Flora being duly sworn says: —

Am a son of preceding witness. Pools girls come here this morning & Sims was hitching up to wagon. I heard them talking & went out there & found them quarreling over the wagon. I told the Pool crowd that they could use my wagon today. One wanted to come back & wanted to hitch up. The other went on & collect her sister who followed. This was about half an hour or more before the shooting, When I started to the field I met Pool, his wife, two girls, the boy, Charles. I said Dempsey, go & hitch up to my wagon & don’t have no fuss with Stephen Sims. He said, “no” & went out to the lot. I understood some of them to say that they were going to have that wagon and some one had to die. The wagon belonged to the place, none having a special right to it. I went on out to the field and heard Dempsey Pool cussing at Steven Sims, calling him to some on if he wanted to fight. I saw Stephen come down the road & get over the fence about 30 yards from the Pool crowd, who were at the gate, saw him when he come in the yard with the gun on his shoulder. In 5 minutes heard the gun fire next thing saw Pool run after Sims; did not know that Pool was hurt. Saw Sims go out same gate he come in & the Pool crowd were after him, about twenty yards behind him. The girls had sticks. Saw Charles Pool & Stephen Sims point weapons with Charles holding out hand as if presenting pistol & saw smoke when he fired. Both shot about the same time, pistol a short time before. Charles then came back to the yard & the women pursued Sims & knocked him down. Sims then run home & the Pool crowd come back in the yard.  /s/ J.S. Flora

Mary Simms being duly sworn says: —

Am daughter of Steffen Simms. Came on from home with wagon to the main house. My brothers, James Billie & Willie with me. I will be 21 in August. James is 17 years old. I opened the gate, was walking I come on in behind the wagon. The Pool crowd, Easter, Annie, and Gracie, Ella & May, met me at the gate. Dempsey Pool was with them but walked out to meet Pap Easter was standing in the road & told James not to run over her. She hit me on the arm with  a plough-bench. I did not hit her. Dempsey went out to the fence & asked Pap why did you strike at my daughter for Pap said I did not strike at her. Pool then called Pap a lie & a s__ of a b___. The fence was then between them, Dempsey followed Pap down the fence, had a pistol & shot at him once before they got to the gate. While Pool was shooting at Pap, the Pool crowd was following after us to fight, but we did not fight. When Pap says don’t come on me Pool kept coming & Pap shot him. When Pap shot, the Pool crowd went near their father & all making toward my father. Pool certainly had pistol & shot at Pa across the fence.

Don’t know where he got it. After the shooting, Pap ran around the house & out same gate & put another shell in his gun, with the Pool crowd following, Charles with pistol. Some of the Pool crowd said shoot him Charlie & Charlie shot & then Pa shot. Charles did not fall but followed Pa a little way & then came back into the yard. The rest of the Pool crowd followed Pa. When I went to get over the fence, Easter Pool hit me. When I saw Pap, he was down then got up & went home one followed us nearly home. There were seven in the Pool crowd.   /s/ Mary Simmes

James Simms being duly sworn says: —

Me & my brother Bill went & caught mules. Pa was in the yard, we come together when we were currying Easter Pool was taking our traces off the wagon. Pa says let them traces alone. He started toward the wagon. Easter then run to another wagon  flat & pulled a round out she thought Pa was after her. He told her to wait until he carried the load of guano to the field & then she could have the wagon. She called him a ___ rascal & said that her father had sent her after the wagon & she was going to have it. We hitched the wagon & went after the guano & then went by home for breakfast. Then I saw Easter her mother & sister father & brother Charles coming up to the house. We did not wait for breakfast but come on Heard Dempsey call my father & curse him & tell him he was going to have wagon or be killed or kill some body. Pa come down with gun & got over the fence before he got to Pool, Pool went up to the yard fence, had pistol in hand & shot one fence at Pa. Pa come in gate & Dempsey kept coming on him & Pa shot Dempsey & then run around house & back out of same gate.

Charles was on edge first & had pistol, all the Pools were behind Pa & some one of them told Charles to shoot & he shot & then Pa shot. Then Charles walked on a little way, then turned back & come into yard.

Aunt Grace, Easter & Annie followed Pa to the road & struck him as he went over the fence. Aunt Grace had pitchfork. The other girls had sticks. One little girl, Mary, followed us nearly home, other behind.   James (X) Simms

Grace Pool being duly sworn says: —

I am wife of Dempsey Pool. I came in the yard this morning & I went to the kitchen & asked why they allowed so much fussing here, & asked Mr. Flora whose wagon it was. Mr. Flora did not seem to talk much said Dempsey could have his wagon about this time Dempsey come in & said carry team back & [illegible] going to do nothing. I says “yes lets put up fence.” He says “no, Steve Sims wants to fight let him come on out in the road.” He hollowed to Steve who was at home to come on & he would fight. This was after Steve had carried wagon after guano. About this time the wagon come in, we all met, Steve’s crowd & my crowd met in the yard. Steve got over field fence & Dempsey stayed in yard, Steven coming around fence & into gate & Dempsey following him. Dempsey was going toward Steven, & Steven was stepping back & said Don’t come here. Dempsey kept on & Steve shot him. Steve then went on around house & Dempsey following until he fell. Steven went out same gate & all of us after him. Charles was back of us. I says “Charles, he has shot your daddie.” Charles then went for Steve & Steve shot him. Charles had no pistol and was half turned when Steve shot him. If Charles had a pistol I don’t know it. Dempsey did not have a pistol at home of abroad & did not have a pistol when he was shot.     Grace (X) Pool

Will Artis being duly sworn says: —

Don’t know anything about the fight. Took Charles Pool home. Heard him say that after Stefen Sims shot his father that he, Charles Pool, shot at Steffen.    Will (X) Artis

J.T. Corbett being duly sworn says: —

Know nothing of fight. Saw Charles Pool since fight. I was sent down to get his pistol & he said he did not know where it was unless his mother had it. He did not tell me he used it, but said his crowd had one.    /s/ J.T. Corbett

Easter Pool being duly sworn says: —

Am daughter of Dempsey Pool. Pa sent me & Annie to catch mules to haul rails to swamp. Stephen was up here.  About 5,30 oclock. When I went to take off traces Steve says “don’t do that I am going to use wagon. I said “we want to use wagon.” He says “you are not going to use it. He was coming toward me with lines in his hand. He struck at me with lines & I jumped back. I got me a wagon round & Annie says lets go home we went home & told Pa. Annie told him that Steven had struck at me. Pa told me to come back & “let Steve whip me. Then all of us, mother, sister & brother, came up to the house. Charlie went & caught mule Ma asked Mr Flora what was matter. He said he did not know, then Pa came in the gate & Mr Flora met him & told him to take his wagon. Pa refused to take Mr Floras wagon. He went down to front gate & called me & told me to go & have Steve arrested. I said that [illegible] suit was no use, to get & get wagon & go to field. Pa then got on fence & called Steve & said “You have been messing with my children all the year, now come on to whip them.” Steve took his gun & come on up here. When he got to corner of fence got over on field side & Pa come on up to back gate in yard & met at back gate. Pa was going toward Steve & Steve said “don’t come on me.” Steve then pointed his gun at Pa & Pa said “Don’t shoot here” I then heard the gun fire. Next thing I saw was Steve running around house & then followed fight in field. I have never seen Pa with a pistol.   Easter (X) Pool

—–

On 24 December 1874, Dempsey Pool, 23, married Grace Bynum, 23, in Edgecombe County.

In the 1900 census of Wilson Town, Wilson County: farmer Dempsey Pool, 50; wife Gracey, 45; and children Easter, 22, Elizabeth, 20, Dempsey Jr., 18, Charlie, 17, Annie, 14, Ella, 13, Mary, 11, Alice, 9, Haley, 8, Minnie, 5, and Richard, 2.

In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Stephen Simms, 46; wife Zanie, 40; and children Mary, 19, Lizzie, 16, James, 14, Billie, 12, Willie, 9, and Rommie, 6.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Accidental drowning.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on the 20th day of June 1878 I, H.W. Peel one of the Coroners of said County, attended by a Jury of good and lawful men, viz S.M. Warren, Ruffin Lamm, J.H. Worrell, J.T. High, J.M. White, L.T. Raper, Frank Farmer, E. Holoway, G.W. Barefoot, Aaron Skinner, Henry Wiggins & Robt. Strickland by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly sworn and Empannelled at J. Barefoot Mill Pond in the County aforesaid did hold an inquest over the dead body of William Barnett, col and after inquiring into the facts & circumstances of the death of the deceased from a view of the corpse and all the testimony to be procured the Jury find as follows that is to say that the deceased came to his death by accidental drowning.  /s/ Frank (X) Farmer, S.M. Warren Foreman, E. (X) Holoway, Ruffin (X) Lamm, G.W. Barefoot, J.H. Worrell, Aaron (X) Skinner, J.T. High, Henry (X) Wiggins, G.M. White, Robt. (X) Strickland, L.T. Raper

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State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on the 20th day of June 1878 I, H.W. Peel one of the Coroners of said County, attended by a Jury of good and lawful men, viz S.M. Warren, Ruffin Lamm, J.H. Worrell, J.T. High, J.M. White, L.T. Raper, Frank Farmer, E. Holoway, G.W. Barefoot, Aaron Skinner, Henry Wiggins & Robt. Strickland by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly sworn and Empannelled at J. Barefoots Mill Pond in the County aforesaid did hold an inquest over the dead body of Thos Hooks, cold & his son Al. Hooks and after inquiring into the facts & circumstances of the death of the deceased from a view of the corpse and all the testimony to be procured the Jury find as follows that is to say that the deceased came to there death by accidental drowning.  /s/ Frank (X) Farmer, S.M. Warren Foreman, E. (X) Holoway, Ruffin (X) Lamm, G.W. Barefoot, J.H. Worrell, Aaron (X) Skinner, J.T. High, Henry (X) Wiggins, G.M. White, Robt. (X) Strickland, L.T. Raper

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  • William Barnett — in the 1870 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County, Virginia-born farm laborer William Barnett, 21, and wife Rosa, 30.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Drunk and froze to death.

North Carolina, Wilson County } The examination of Elisha Barnes, Roscoe Morris and Mima Barnes taken before the undersigned Coroner of said county, this 25th day of Feb’y, 1907, upon the body of Robert Barnes (col) then and there lying dead, to wit:

Elisha Barnes sworn says: He saw Robert Barnes (Col) about 4 P.M. Saturday or a little after, as he was passing Demus Harriss’ house about a ¼ mile from where he died. He appeared to be drunk. He was a drinking man. He was staggering & I saw him fall down. He started to come into the house but was advised to go on home. He had a bag on his shoulder. He made no complaint of being sick. The next time I saw him was Sunday morning about 9 oclock lying in road dead about ¼ mile from where I saw him the evening before. It was snowing very hard & was very cold Saturday evening. I know of no one that I think would have injured him and my opinion is that he fell down on account of being drunk & froze to death.   /s/ E. Barnes

Roscoe Morriss sworn says: Robert Barnes came with my & my brother from Wilson Saturday evening riding in our wagon. Didn’t complain of being sick. He was under influence of liquor when he left our house but could walk very well. He had about 2/3 of a pint of liquor with him when he left us. /s/ R.O. Morris

Mima Barnes sworn says: I am the wife of Robert Barnes, dec’d. He left home Saturday morning to go to Wilson. We lived about one mile from where he was found dead Sunday morning. He has had some trouble with Eddie Coleman (col), but I don’t know when it was. Mima (X) Barnes

/s/John K. Ruffin, Coroner.

Be it remembered that on this the 25th day of Feb’y 1907 I, John K. Ruffin, Coroner of the county of Wilson, attended by a jury of good and lawful men, viz: S.J. Watson, Jesse Taylor, W.R. Bryant, Jas. D. Barnes, G.W. Walls and J.M. Leeth, by me summoned for the purpose, according to law, after being by me duly sworn and impaneled, in the county aforesaid, did hold an inquest over the dead body of Robert Barnes (Col); and after examination into the facts and circumstances of the death of deceased, from a view of the corpse, and all the testimony to be procured, the said jury find as follows, that is to say,

That Robert Barnes came to his death Saturday night, Feby 23rd, from exposure to cold while under the influence of liquor. /s/ J.K. Leath, W.R. Bryan, J.D. Barnes, G.W. Walls, S.J. Watson, J.M. Taylor.

  • Robert and Mima Barnes — on 3 June 1892, Robert Barnes, 26, married Mima Barnes, 25, at Dr. Woodards’ in Black Creek, Wilson County.
  • Demus Harris
  • Eddie Coleman — perhaps, in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Gray Coleman, 28, wife Harriet, 26, children Henrietta, 4, Lear, 2, and Eddie, 9 months, plus Molly Strickland, 7. In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Eddie Coleman, 20, and wife Emma, 22.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

They got into a play.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on this the 28th day of July AD 1871 I, H.W. Peel, Coroner of said County, attended by a Jury of good and lawful men, (viz) W.S. Dun, John Baily, Timothy Wheeler, Jim Bass, Rober Gardner, Gray Web, George Best, Willy Ellis, J.W. Amerson, P.A. Whitley, Jos. Edmundson, Jos. Peacock by me summoned for that purpose according to Law after being by me duly sworn and Empanneled at the house of Sol Woodard in the County aforesaid did hold an inquest over the dead body of Charles King (col) and after inquiring into the facts & circumstances of the death of the deceased, from a view of the corpse and all the testimony to be procured, the Jury find as follows, that is to say that the deceased came to his death by aixdently discharge of a loaded gun of the hands of Wm Woodard. /s/ J.M. Amason Forman, W.S. Dunn, Robt. Gardner, John (X) Baily, Timothy (X) Wheeler, Wiley Ellis, James (X) Bass, Geo. D. Best, Gray Webb, J.W. Peacock, Joseph Edmundson, J.A. Whitley

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I Jas. T. Graves being sworn do testify that I examined the body of Charles King col and find that he came to his death of a gun shot wound entering his head in the left eye & penetrating the brain which was the cause of death. James T. Graves M.D.

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Raford Newsom being solemly sworn says as follows. Namely that Wm Woodard Charles King Raford Newsom & Caroline King All the above names were at work on the farm except Caroline who went down to carry Charles King breakfast her husband. While eating his breakfast Wm Woodard came along and he and Charles King got into a play with the gun and while in the play the gun went off axidentily and shot Charles King near the left eye which instily killed him Raford (X) Newsom

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Caroline King the wife of the deceased being solemnly sworn says as follows. The facts stated by Raiford Newsom as above are true the best of her understanding. Caroline (X) King

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Neither Charles nor Caroline King appears in Wilson County records, but the jurors of the inquest are listed in the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives

Whiskey hurt him. (Or Tab Baker.)

I H.D. Lucas being duly sworn did examine the body of Alex Godwin & found a contusion of the left knee a lacerated wound of the right knee & fracture of the femur near its lower end, a lacerated wound on right side of face above the mouth, a wound above right eye & another on posterior part of head, & think them suficient to produce death

I saw him dead in Wilson County   /s/ H.D. Lucas M.D.   /s/ H.W. Peel

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P.S. Hicks being duly sworn Testifies as follows I saw Mr Godwin in Wilson about two oclock & sold him some medicine I saw him again about half an hour by sun and he was somewhat intoxicated though seemed to be quiet. I stoped at Mr Williamson that night & Mr Amerson come there about three quarter of an hour after dark and said he had found a man wounded on the tract of the Lattice he wanted help to get him off the tract & I went with him in company with col’d man & found Mr Godwin on the tract groaning but speechless Lying(?) with face down with his neck across the rail of the Road we got him soon as possible about twenty minutes he called for water I ask him who hurt him he answered Tab Baker hit or hurt him sometimes he spoke rational at others talk at random we found some apples bottle cologne & cartiges in coat pocket & pocket Book also with no money but a tax Recpt given on that day I ask him where his pistol was he said he had thrown it away sometime he would answer qestion refuse at other Ice water complained of being very cold frequently I helped to get him off the Road & get him in a cart this took place on Saturday & Saturday night of the seventeenth Decb AD 1881 On Tuesday morning the 20th of same months I come by Lattice & found a pearl handled pistol & a piece of Iron broken from RRoad tract at the southern end of Lattice & below the Road the Iron was stuck in ground about 9 feet from pistol Iron look to be freshly broken from RRoad tract I found Mr Godwin near the midle of Lattice all the blood we saw was where we found him  /s/ P.S. Hicks

——

Richard Johnson being duly sworn testifies as follows I found the deceased on RR bridge over contentnea creek in a wounded condition myself & Isaac Amerson carried him off the bridge, he called for water was asked who had hurt him & answered whiskey hurt him, myself & Warner Darden placed him upon a cart & started with him to his home, he died near the Town of Black Creek    Richard (X) Johnson

——

Warren Darden being duly sworn Testifies as follows I first saw Tobe Godwin in the shantie house for the RRoad bridge gard Mr Winstead ask me to go see if I knew who he was I did not know him at first then Mr Winstead hired me to carry him home he was badly hurt I then put him on a cart and started to Black Creek with him he called for water several times continued to groan seemed to be Rational he cease to groan when I got near Howell Dardens & when I got to Mr Bun Lucas tenant house south & near the mill swamp I found he was dead I carried him to Black Creek & then carried him to his house at J L Newsom this was all on Saturday night the 17th Decb 1881   Warren (X) Darden

——

Benjamin Moore being duly sworn Testifies as follows I saw Mr Godwin a few minutes after he was taken off RRoad his first words were he called for water Mr Hicks ask him how come him hurt he said it was a damned negro Tab Baker we ask him his name he answered Alex Godwin we ask him if the train hurt him & he said no he seemed to speak Rational at intervals saying Tab Baker hurt him said he was not on the train this was all on Saturday night the 17th of Decb 1881 Benjamin (X) Moore

——

E.T. Lucas being duly sworn Testifies as follows I saw Alex Godwin in Jo Lamms shop in Wilson on Saturday night the 17th Decb 1881 about six oclock seemed to be somewhat intoxicated he ask me to loan him a quarter to come to Black Creek on the train I did not Loan him any money when the train past Jo Lamms shop he turned back toward Jo Lamms shop when the train started off from the depot he then run of to the train & took hold of it I did not see him get on the train. He took hold of train at the hindmost part I did not see him after the train past was the passenger going south. E.T. (X) Lucas

——

Jordan C. Winstead being duly sworn Testifies as follows I was sent for to go down to contentnea bridge to look after a man supposed to be killed but on getting there found the man Living I ask him his name he answered his name was Alex Godwin he had been removed from R Road tract I ask him if he was a man with a family he said he had a wife & three children I ask him if the train hit or hurt him & he said no I ask him if he did not want to go him [home] he said yes and ask me to please send him home first I saw Godwin was between 8 and 9 oclock Saturday night 17th Decb 1881 /s/ J.C. Winstead

——

Isaac Amerson being duly sworn Testifies as follows I was sitting on fence about seven or eight Hundred yards from the Lattice I went up to Lattice & saw something on it I suppose it to be a newspaper I found it to be a man struggling struck a match a went to him. I called him and ask his name he did not speak. I went up to Penina Williamson a got Phis Hicks & a negro we went to the man found he was not dead the negro took him from the Lattice it was five or ten minutes before he spoke his first words were cursing called for water said his name was Alex Godwin he said next he lived at Stephen Woodards had a wife & three children we ask him what hurt him answers were the train did not hurt him. I found him about twenty or twenty five minutes after the train passed this was on the seventeenth at six oclock P.M. Isaac (X) Amerson

——

B.C. Campbell being duly sworn Testifies as follows I saw Alex Godwin at Jo Lam shop Saturday night 17th Decb 1881 he left Lams shop. I saw him again Just before the south bound passenger train come up about dark when the train stoped he wanted money from E.T. Lucas to come home on he did not let him have any money Just as the train started he run up as though he was going to get on did not see him after the train left he was somewhat intoxicated. /s/ B.C. Campbell

——

State of North Carolina, Wilson County } Know all men by these presents held and firmly bound unto the State of North Carolina in the sum of Two Hundred Dollars to make our personal appearance at Wilson on the first Monday in March next and not depart without Leave. Otherwise the bound to remain in full and effect given under our hand & seal thus the 20th day Decb AD 1881 /s/ J.C. Winstead, Isaac (X) Amerson, P.S. Hicks, E.T. (X) Lucas, N.D. Lucas, Warren (X) Darden, B.C. Campbell, Benjamin (X) Moore, Richard (X) Johnson

——

A “lattice” is a form of truss bridge. The railroad crosses Contentnea Creek about 2 miles southeast of Wiggins Mill reservoir and just above a spur leading to the town of Black Creek. Lattice Road still marks the area.

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  • Alex Godwin — in the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Elexander Godwin, 23, common laborer, with wife and three daughters.
  • Warren Darden — Warren Darden, 24, married Louisa Dew, 18, on 1 May 1873 in Wilson, before witnesses Amos Dew and Raiford Dew. In the 1880 census of Black Creek township, farmer Warren Darden, 30, wife Louisa, 25, children Warren, 3, and an unnamed infant, and farmhand Wilie Lee, 14.
  • Howell Darden was Warren Darden’s father.
  • Jordan C. Winstead — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County, age 35, listed as an overseer on the railroad.
  • Benjamin Moore — in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, age 45, listed as farm laborer.
  • Isaac Amerson — in the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, age 25, listed as a farmer.
  • B.C. Campbell — perhaps, in the 1880 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County, Bennet Campbell, 21.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives; image courtesy of Google Maps.

I am shot all to pieces, can’t get anywhere.

In April 1898, Mrs. A.V.C. Hunt placed an ad for her “uptown” grocery store, serving a white clientele, on Goldsboro Street in Wilson. A year later, on March 29 and 31, 1899, town newspapers carried an enigmatic series of articles about the trial of a “negro detective” apparently hired by white livery owner Jefferson D. Farrior to “work up a case” against Hunt’s husband, James A. Hunt, for burning her store. Farrior owned the building, and posted the detective’s bond. Almost exactly one year after that, Farrior waylaid James Hunt and shot him down in the street.

3-31

Raleigh Morning Post, 31 March 1900.

More than two dozen witnesses, black and white, testified at the inquest into Hunt’s death, held 3 April 1900.

First, the doctors’ reports.  James A. Hunt was over six feet tall and weighed 225-250 pounds. He received four gun shots to the torso. One grazed his left chest, another buried in his shoulder, another entered near his left kidney, and another lodged between his 11th and 12th ribs. Dr. Albert Anderson administered a painkiller by hypodermic at the scene, and Hunt was transported by wagon to his home. Dr. C.E. Moore determined that a perforated intestine was likely, and the doctors performed surgery the day after the shooting. Hunt died at about 7:30 the evening of March 31.

The action is somewhat difficult to follow among the multiple viewpoints, but in essence, these are the facts alleged.

A couple of weeks before the shooting, James A. Hunt spoke with Herbert Bass about getting a horse and said he did not want to get one from Jefferson Farrior because they were not on good terms. Hunt also told Bass that he was out of business but had one more piece to transact before leaving Wilson. Monday or Tuesday before the shooting, Farrior showed several people a letter that he believed Hunt had written him. On Thursday, Hunt was observed passing Farrior’s livery stable stable several times, then standing across the street and staring at him. Because it was well known that Hunt had been charged the year before with shooting at a black detective that Farrior had hired to investigate an arson, witnesses suspected that Hunt was up to something. Farrior frequently had to pass through “the colored settlement down the plank road” to get to several farms he owned in the country, and some witnesses claimed that Hunt had threatened to kill Farrior. Sitting in Foster’s bar, Hunt told someone he had had a lot of trouble with “a small man of about 120-125 pounds, a blue-eyed sharper,” adding “It’s a fellow but the fice [feist] wouldn’t bark, and [he] had a fice now that would bark and he would get recompense.”

On Friday, Hunt and Jake Tucker went to Nash County to meet with a Mr. Eatmon about Hunt purchasing property in Wilson’s Little Washington neighborhood. Eatmon lived about six miles “the other side of Finchs Mill.” They returned about five or six P.M. Later that evening, Hunt, his wife Annie V. Collins Hunt, and friend Carrie Moore headed to the Marmona Opera House to attend a benefit performance for the colored Methodist Church. They walked up Green Street, crossed the tracks, and continued up Nash Street to Tarboro Street, where they turned left. They had passed the telegraph office and were near the silversmith’s shop when Farrior suddenly stepped out in front of them and raised a pistol. Hunt, who was unarmed, grabbed Farrior’s hands, and another man ran across the street to them shouting that he would shoot Hunt if he did not let Farrior go. Annie Hunt screamed, “Murder! Fire!” Hunt loosed Farrior and ran back toward Nash Street. Farrior chased him, shooting, then followed him into Ruffin’s store where he shot Hunt again. Alf Moye grabbed Farrior, who yelled that Hunt had threatened his life. John Gaston went outside, found A.V.C. Hunt and took her home.

1897

Marmona Opera House is at the arrow at left. The Hunt party walked northwest up Nash street, then turned on Tarboro. The telegraph office occupied 638 Tarboro, shown as vacant in this 1897 Sanborn insurance map. A few doors beyond is a jewelry shop that may be the silversmith referred to. Officer Harrell likely ran up the alley shown parallel to Nash. 

Police officer Ephraim Harrell heard the shooting, ran through an alley and encountered Farrior, who did not respond when asked what was going on. Harrell saw Hunt and told him to move on. Hunt responded, “I am shot all to pieces can’t get anywhere,” and lay down in a pile of wood. Harrell called a hack to take Hunt home. Hunt told him it was “cold-blooded murder” and asked for morphine so he could “die easy.” As he lay in a wagon near Wooten & Stevens furniture store, a doctor administered a painkiller by hypodermic needle. Harrell said he had known Hunt two or three years as a merchant who had a business on Goldsboro Street that had burned out. Hunt was a large man and “regarded as having plenty of grit.” Harrell had arrested him two or three weeks before for fighting a black man named Junk Williams, who had since left town.

Sandy Henderson, who had just dropped off some passengers at the opera house, spoke to Hunt as he lay bleeding. Hunt identified the men who abetted Farrior as Skinner and Privett and said he would have not been shot had they not threatened him. Hunt said he was going to die “but God would pay Mr. Farrior for shooting him.”

At the inquest, Hunt’s wife and several of his friends testified that Hunt had neither written nor signed any letter to Farrior and said the handwriting looked like Junk Williams’. Rev. W.T.H. Woodard said, “If was a swearer, I would swear on a stack of Bibles as high as this Court House it is not [Hunt’s handwriting.]” Williams had stopped payment on a $17 check to Hunt. When Williams refused to make good, Hunt had beaten him. “I have got a good whipping,” Williams told Dennis Brooks, “but will give the man two weeks to live that whipped me.” Despite this incident and the alleged assault on the detective, for which he was acquitted, Hunt was not known to be a violent man. As to Hunt’s alleged unfinished business in town, it was not to settle a score with Farrior. Rather, Hunt had been negotiating to purchase a lot from Emma Gay, a transaction that lawyer Sidney Woodard was handling for him. Hunt also had discussed purchasing land from Rev. Woodard in Littleton for $600.

Having heard this testimony and viewed Hunt’s body, the jurors returned a verdict: “That the said J.A. Hunt came to his death by pistol shot wounds inflicted by J.D. Farrior, That said wounds came to be inflicted by said J.D. Farrior while engaged in a mutual altercation with said Hunt under the influence of a sudden passion and in heat of blood. That therefore adjudge the said J.D. Farrior is guilty of Manslaughter in killing of said J.A. Hunt.”

The inquest verdict was as surprising then as it is today.

4-6

Wilmington Messenger, 6 April 1900.

Farrior’s capital case, for which he could have received the death penalty, was set for the June 1900 docket of Wilson County Superior Court. Newspapers reported that the trial was postponed until October and then May 1901. On 6 June 1901, the Wilson News reported that Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Farrior had recently left town for a two-week trip to Washington, D.C., New York, the Pan-American Exposition, and points in Canada. Eighteen months later, the case had yet to be heard, but was expected to go to trial that month. (Note the names of defense counsel.)

1902

Raleigh Morning Post, 11 December 1902.

Finally, in February 1903, a resolution surprising only in its technicality. Certain that it could not win, the State had dropped the case.

2063_1133_854_390

Wilmington Morning Star, 8 February 1903.

town-1897

(A) marks the approximate start point for the Hunt party’s walk to the Marmona. (B) is  where Hunt was killed. Sanborn insurance map, 1897.

——

Here, except for a missing page 7, is the full transcript of the coroner’s inquest over the dead body of James Alexander Hunt.

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  • Dr. Albert Anderson — see above.
  • Annie V. Collins Hunt
  • Jefferson D. Farrior — Duplin County native Jefferson Davis Farrior (1861-1934) owned a large livery and livestock sales stable on South Tarboro Street.
  • Colored Methodist Church — Saint John African Methodist Episcopal Church.

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  • Carrie Moore
  • W.G. Williams
  • James D. High — James Draughn High (1881-1938), son of John T. and Mary Ella Draughn High. He appears in the 1900 census of Wilson as an 18 year-old salesman.

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  • John Gaston — John A. Gaston was an African-American with a popular barber shop catering to white customers.
  • C.B. Ruffin
  • Joe J. Best

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  • Ephraim Harrell — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, policeman Ephraim Harrell, 34, and wife Sarrah, 32.
  • Ned Bunch — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, teamster Ned Bunch, 50, wife Lissa, 50, and children Mary, 16, Martha, 12, Orra, 11, Nellie, 9, Mattie, 7, and Lucy, 5. Ned Bunch died 19 March 1916 in Wilson of lobar pneumonia, age 65. His death certificate reports that he was born in Wilson County, and his father was James Bunch. Malissa Bunch was the informant.
  • Sandy Henderson — On 27 May 1897, widow Mary Jane Taylor married Sandy Henderson. Both were 40 years old. Missionary Baptist Minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at the John’s A.M.E. Zion church, and the official witnesses were S.A. Smith, Charles H. Darden and Wyatt Studaway. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hack driver San[illegible] Henderson, 54, wife Mary J., 40, a restaurant keeper, and children Buxton, 19, a hotel waiter, Leonidas F., 13, a tobacco stemmer, Charles J.A.W., 9, and Mattie M.G., 7, all Hendersons. (Buxton and Leonidas were in fact Taylors and were Sandy’s step-sons.)

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  • John Hare
  • Herbert Bass

[Page 7 of the transcript, in which Bass completed his testimony and W.I. Skinner and C.H. Whitehead testified, is missing.]

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  • W.J. Flowers
  • L.A. Moore — Lee Andrew Moore was one of the earliest agents of North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association (later, Insurance Company). Moore was born about 1863 in Black Creek township, Wilson County, to Lawrence and Vinnie Moore. He died in Wilson in 1948.
  • Jake Tucker — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: salesman Jacob Tucker, 39, 40, wife Mary, 39, and children Doward, 17, Daniel, 15, Thomas, 13, Henry, 12, Smoot, 9, Walter, 7, Patience, 5, Joseph, 2, and Besse, 11 months. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Jake Tucker was described as a retail grocer.

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  • W.S. Oats
  • B.R. Selby — Benjamin Richard Selby (1877-1932) appears in the 1900 census of Wilson as a 26 year-old horse dealer. He died in East Saint Louis, Illinois, and his death certificate describes him as a livestock salesman.

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  • R.S. Rives — Robert S. Rives, pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion church.
  • Dennis Brooks — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, 35 year-old Georgia-born merchant Dennis Brooks, wife Mary, 27, and daughter Aleo[illegible], 8, shared a household with Jordan Taylor, 50, and wife Matilda, 40. [Jordan Taylor, by the way, was the father-in-law of witness Sandy Henderson.]
  • J.F. Farmer

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Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

[Personal note: I have a familial connection to J.D. Farrior via Jesse A. Jacobs and Jesse “Jack Henderson, who worked in his livery stable when they came to Wilson a few years after this killing. In addition, I grew up in Bel Air Forest, a small subdivision laid out in the early 1960s along Highway 264 East. 264 runs in the path laid by the Plank Road to Greenville, and my neighborhood was once one of the country farms that Farrior passed through Wilson’s “colored settlement” to reach.]

 

Oh, Lordy.

Wilson County, State of North Carolina.

Pearsonal appeared before me this the 5 day of Nov 1904 Sheriff W.D.P. Sharp who maketh oath that Geo Williford is dead that he hath reason to believe to doth believe that he came to his death by unlawful means.  /s/ W.D.P. Sharp

Sworn to and subscribed before me a Justice of the Peace of Wilson County on the day and date above mentions.  /s/ T.E. Keel J.P.

—–

Mattie Speight, being sworn says: Well yesterday while it was raining I went home and shortly after I got home Albert Battle came in we all were sitting down by the fire and laufing and talking and I came up town and when I went I went back Geo. Williford came up and knocked at the door and when he knocked at the door the front door was shut but my room door was open and I went out. I heard the pistol fire and I went around the house to see what the matter I found Geo Williford on the ground between the door steps and the walling I run after the police I never heard him Geo Williford say any thing except Oh Lordy.  /s/ Mattie Speight

Chas Richerson being duly sworn says: I came up town when I came back to the corner house I heard some one say they were fighting down there and I run p there and ask what was the matter this Albert Battle run by me I heard Geo Williford say O Lord and he turned over. I suppose I was coming from up town when the shooting took place Elvy was setting by the fire when I got there. I smelt powder. Chas. (X) Richerson

Mattie Speight reexamine says: after I went back from up town Albert Battle, Elvy Sutton & another woman were the only ones in the house when I got back from up town. When I got around the house from the garden Albert Battle was on the poarch.

Dennis Brooks being sworn says: I don’t know any thing about the killing about 2 1/2 years ago Geo Williford was in my bar raising sand one Monday morning I ask him what was the matter Albert Battle was there and Geo said he was going to kill a man that morning if any one bothered him Albert told him to come on an have a drink and George told him he had money enough to buy his drinks Albert took me back in the pool room and said that Geo was mad with him and I ask him what about and he said Elvy. Albert said he better not run on him.   /s/ Dennis Brooks

Minnie Hodges being sworn says: I don’t know any thing about except Albert Battle & Elvy Sutton & I were in the house when Geo Williford came there & knocked and asked for Elvy and I opened the door and let him come in and he run to the bed where Elvy was she was sleep then he runned towards Albert he Albert had gone out in the passage and Albert said get back off of me and George kept coming towards Albert and Albert shot him once then Geo went back towards the bed and I run out the front door and run up the street and when I came back Geo was out dores and had fell between steps and walling.  /s/ Minnie Hodges

Elvy Sutton being sworn says: I was asleep and when I waked up Geo was dead Albert called me to get up. George went after Albert with a knife last summer and tried to kill him I have heard George say he was goin to kill Albert if he ever caught him with me.  Elvy X Sutton

—–

State of N.C. Wilson Co.

Be it remembered that on this the 5th day of Nov. 1904, I, Albert Anderson, Coroner of Wilson County attended by a Jury of good & lawful men viz: Sanford Christman, R.J. Grantham, E.F. Killette, W.W. Tomlinson, Frank Winstead, J.D. Barnes, by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly swored and empanelled at the Mayor’s office in the county of fore said did hold an inquest over the dead body of George Williford and after examination in the facts & circumstances of the death of the deceased from a view of the corps and all the testomonal to be procured the said Jury find as follow that is to say that George Williford came to his death from a pistol shot wound inflicted by Albert Battle.          /s/ Sanford Christman, E.F. Killette, R.J. Grantham, W.W. Tomlinson, Frank Winstead, J.D. Barnes

Inquest had and signed and sealed in the presence of Albert Anderson, Coroner of Wilson Co. N.C.

—–

  • George Williford
  • Mattie Speight — possibly the Mattie Speight, 24, who married Elbert Sanders, in Toisnot township on 28 February 1906. Their marriage license shows that Primitive Baptist minister William B. Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Pennina Bottoms of Edgecombe County and Jesse L. Williams and Annie Williams of Wilson County.
  • Albert Battle
  • Charles Richardson
  • Elvy Sutton — presumably, on 3 September 1900, Elvy Sutton, 23, daughter of Isham and Exie Sutton, married Robert Allen, 40, at Primitive Baptist minister P.D. Gold’s office in Wilson. [If so, what happened to Allen between 1900 and 1904?]
  • Dennis Brooks — on 10 January 1898, Dennis Brooks, 31, son of Henry Brooks, married Mary Helms, 24, at Brooks’ residence in Wilson. H.H. Bingham, an A.M.E. Zion minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of Lizzie B. Helms, Nannie Bennet, and Rosa Bennett. On the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Georgia-born merchant Dennis Brooks, 35, wife Mary, 27, and daughter Aleordine[?], 8.
  • Minnie Hodges

Tucker, man, you killed him!

Coroner’s Inquest over body of Willie Crank Dec 21st 1896

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on the 21st day of December 1896 I William Harris a Conroner of said County attended by a Jury of Good and lawful men viz: J.F. Farmer, G.W. Ryan, Tom Hadley, Jas. Harris, R.C. Andrews, Wm. Hines col. by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly sworn and empanelled at Maggie Wade’s House in the county aforesaid did hold an inquest over the dead body of Willie Crank and after inquiring into the facts and circumstances of the death of the deceased from a view of the corpse and all the testimony to be procured the Jury find as follows that the said Willie Crank came to his death from a wound received in his head from the discharge of a pistol in the hands of Albert Tucker (col)   /s/ J.F. Farmer, G.W. Bryan, Thos. J. Hadley Jr., James H. Hariss, R.C. Andrews, William Hines

——

Evidence of Witnesses

1st Witness — Easter Baldin col — was sitting on box & Albert Tucker was sitting on same box with his head in my lap & Willie Crank the deceased came around to window & said Easter & Tucker look like 2 old apes whereupon Tucker shot Willie through window & Jim English who was in house with us ran out & saw deceased & came back in house & said Tucker man you killed deceased. All of us went out & found deceased lying in a tub of water with left hand in his pocket. We bought him in house all 5 of us viz — Jim & Tom English, Maggie & Tom Wade & myself were in the house of Maggie Wade    /s/ Easter Bolling

2nd Witness — Maggie Wade    Me & my bro Tom Wade, Jim & Tom English & Easter Baldin were all in my house. I was laying across my bed nursing my baby & Easter was sitting in Tuckers lap. Deceased came around to window & knocked at window saying hello Mag, then said Easter you & Tucker look like 2 monkeys (or something like that) sitting there & thereupon Tucker pulled out his pistol & shot him through the window. Knew it was deceased from his voice. Occurred early in the night. As soon as the shooting, Jim English run out of house & i said why Tucker you have shot Willie. Tucker said no I reckon not. Tom English run out of house & said Lord Mag Willie is shot. Then Tucker went out of house & with Jim brought deceased in my door & his pistol dropped out of his pocket.  /s/ Maggie Wade

3rd witness — Tom English col age about 14   we 5 witnesses all in Maggie Wage’s House & also Albert Tucker & deceased. Deceased went out to water closet & came back to window & nocked at window & said Tucker you & Easter sitting up there like 2 monkeys trying to play pretty. Tucker said get away from there before I shoot you & then pulled out his pistol & shot him.   Tom (X) English

4th witness — Tom Wade col.  Evidence same as the others. See below.

5th witness — Jim English col. Evidence about same. See below.

6th witness — Mattie Lewis col. Heard pistol shot & about 1 Hour afterward heard Albert Tucker kiss Easter Baldin & tell her that he would shoot any man for her. Gave her some money & told her to meet him in Rocky Mt Monday. Emiline Scott, Tom Jones & Lucy Scott & me followed Tucker from here up from as far as Wootten & Stevens shop & there Tucker ran away.   Mattie (X) Lewis

7th witness — Dr Albert Anderson.  About 7 1/2 o’clock I was called to Little Richmond and found a negro in a house no 2 with a gun shot wound entering the sckull about 1 1/2 in above left eye. There was brain tissue coming out of the opening and some hemorrhage. Breathing was irregular and stertorous. Circulation was good. From his Symptoms I thought he would die in few hours.   /s/ Albert Anderson

4th witness — Tom Wade col.  Willie Crank (deceased) came to window & knocked & said Easter you & Tucker look like two monkeys sitting there. Tucker said get away from there & drawer his gun out & shot Willie.    /s/ Thomas Wade

5th witness — Jim English.  We 5 were sitting in Maggie Wade’s house Willie came to window & knocked said Easter why don’t you & Tucker get up from there. You look like two monkeys trying to play pretty & Tucker said go on away & pulled out his pistol & shot Willie        Jim (X) English

Recognizance of Witnesses

State of North Carolina, Wilson County

Mattie Lewis, Maggie Wage, Tom English, Tom Wade and Jim English, acknowledge themselves indebted to the State of North Carolina in the sum of One Hundred dollars, conditioned to be void nevertheless, in case they appear before the next term of the Superior Court of Wilson County, to be held at Wilson NC Monday February 1st 1897, to give evidence concerning the death of Willie Crank and not depart the County without leave. Taken and acknowledged before me this 21st day of December 1896.  /s/ Wm. Harris, Coroner

Upon the recommendation of the Jury the witness Easter Bolling, is hereby turned over to J.W. Cherry Sheriff of Wilson County for safe keeping and appearance at next term at Superior Court of Wilson County viz Monday Feby 1/97.    /s/ Wm. Harris, Coroner

——

  • William Hines — I cannot identify this William Hines, who is not the same man as the barber and hospital administrator.
  • Willie Crank
  • Albert Tucker
  • Easter Bolling
  • Maggie Wade
  • Thomas Wade
  • Tom English
  • Jim English
  • Mattie Lewis — possibly, in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Mattie Lewis, 22, tobacco factory worker, single and living alone.
  • Emiline Scott
  • Tom Jones
  • Lucy Scott

Not surprisingly, given the transience and relative youth of Little Richmond’s denizens, I have found few traces of the victim or witnesses in Wilson County records.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.