death by fire

Johnson burned to death.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 February 1921.


  • Nathan Joyner
  • Roderick Johnson — There is no death certificate for Roderick Johnson. However, on 20 February 1921, Rudolph Johnson died in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in Jacksonville, N.C., to unknown parents; his age was unknown; he was single; and he worked as a sawmill helper for sawyer W.W. Sims Company. Under “cause of death”: “No further information obtainable.”

Grant burned to death in home at veneer company.

Wilson Daily Times, 26 May 1948.


Emanuel Grant had lived in Wilson only a few months when he was killed in a house fire. Though the newspaper account of his death emphasizes his alleged intoxication, Grant’s death certificate paints a different picture of his demise, describing it as “by fire in burning building” due to being “unable to escape due to unconsciousness due to smoke filled room.”

Emanuel Grant died 25 May 1948 in Wilson. He was born 21 February 1914 in Georgetown, South Carolina, to Essau Grant and Lue White; worked as a laborer at Wilson Veneer Company; lived at Wilson Veneer; was single; and was returned to Georgetown, South Carolina, for burial.

The death of Peter King.

Wilson Daily Times, 1 December 1932.


In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer Peter King, 27, and wife Bertie, 27.

On 29 February 1908, Peter King, 30, of Stantonsburg, married Lena Barnes, 30, of Stantonsburg, in Wilson.

On 22 February 1914, Peter King, 35, of Wilson, married Treacy King, 38, in Wilson. Free Will Baptist minister A.H. Moore performed the ceremony in the presence of Rosa Crank, Sarah J. Pitt, and Geneva Jones.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 620 Viola, Peter King, 50, laborer at public works; wife Trecy, 35; sons David, 7, and Thomas, 3; and stepdaughter Emma Davis, 13.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 611 Viola, rented for $6/month, Trecy King, 45, laundress; children Emma Davis, 20, laundress, David King, 17, and Thomas King, 12; adopted son Robert L. Smith, 5; and Petter King, 80.

Peter King died 30 November 1932 at Mercy Hospital in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 58 years old; was born in Fayetteville, N.C., to Haywood King; was married to Treacy King; lived at 402 Viola; and worked as a day laborer for the City of Wilson. 

“Third degree burn of right arm and chest. Two days later he developed symptoms of acute nephritis.”

[Sidenote: Newspaper clippings are also a source of fascinating evidence of changes in language — “who happened to an accident in falling into fire.” What a curious way to say “who accidentally fell into a fire.”]

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

James Woodard, 5, killed by fire.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 May 1932.


Perhaps, in the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on a rented farm, farmer Mintus Woodard, 28; wife Mary L., 26; children Nancy, 6, Johnie L., 5, Willie, 4, James, 3, and Mary E., 1; and brothers Lonnie, 17, and Jim, 12.

I have not found James Woodard’s death certificate.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.