death by train

Train-auto collision kills two.

In December 1930, several North Carolina newspapers carried an Associated Press article that opened with this: “Death rode the highways in the Carolinas over the week-end, leaving in its wake eight dead persons and many injured.”

The dead included Samuel High and James B. Lucas:

Burlington Daily Times, 8 December 1930.

  • Samuel High

In the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: John High, 26; wife Treasy, 23; and children Willie, 8, and Sam, 6.

On 13 December 1915, Samuel High, 19, of Oldfields township, son of John and Treacey High, married Roberta Lucas, 19, of Taylor township, daughter of Elbert and Rose Lucas, in Oldfields township, Wilson County.

On 25 May 1925, Samuel High, 32, of Pikeville, Wayne County, N.C., son of John and Treacy High, married Rosa Arrington, 33, of Pikeville, daughter of William and Tempie Arrington, at the courthouse in Goldsboro, Wayne County.

  • J.B. Locus [James B. Lucas]

In 1917, James Lucas registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 14 August 1890 in Wilson County; lived in Wilson County; farmed for Frank Williamson; had a wife and two children; and was literate.

In the 1920 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer J.B. Lucas, 26; wife Effie, 25; and children Savanah, 6, Sallie, 4, and Pearlie, 2.

In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer James B. Lucas, 39; wife Effie, 36; and children Suvannia, 16, Sallie, 14, Peral, 12, Mae H., 10, James W., 8, Mae, 5, Zelmar, 3, and Lillion, 6 months.

Like Samuel High, Lucas “came to his death by N.S. Engine hitting car he was in at crossing in Simms, N.C.”

Leslie Mercer dies after truck struck by train.

Wilson Daily Times, 16 March 1936.


In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: day laborer Henry Mercer, 48; wife Florence, 36; children Lesley, 18, Aderns, 14, Candis, 9, Isaac, 7, and Augustus, 2; plus boarder Jesse Farmer, 29.

On 17 June 1903, Leslie Mercer, 21, of Wilson, son of Henry and F. Mercer, married Carrie Gunner, 21, daughter of James and M. Gunner, at Henry Mercer’s residence in Wilson County. Primitive Baptist minister Jonah Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of J.D. Reid, H.S. Edwards, Jason Farmer, and E.L. Reid.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Lipscomb Road, Henry Mercer, 63, town wagon driver; wife Fourence, 45, laundress; children Lesslie, 23, brickyard laborer, Odjus, 19, market butcher, Isear, 12, brickyard laborer, Augustus, 9, Henry, 3, and Cora, 22, cook, and [grand]daughter Lucel, newborn.

On 28 May 1911, Leslie Mercer, 27, son of Henry and Florence Mercer, married Cora Barnes, 22, daughter of Maddison Barnes, in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister William Baker performed the ceremony in the presence of Will Bullock, Jason Farmer, and [illegible] Baker.

On 25 December 1914, Leslie Mercer, 35, of Wilson, married Mary Jones, 37, of Wilson, in Wilson. Banks Blow applied for the license, and Baptist minister William Baker performed the ceremony in the presence of Blow, Isaac Cobbs Jr., and Willie A. Cobbs.

Mary Jane Jones died 21 July 1920 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born April 1877 in Wake County, N.C., to Henry Mathews; was married to Leslie Mercer; worked as a stemmer for Wilson Tobacco Company; and lived at 510 Narroway Street, Wilson.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Leslie Mercer, 42, tobacco factory laborer; wife Mary, 40; and son-in-law [sic] Albert Parker, 50, widower.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 712 Viola, rented for $12/month, Marrion Mercer, 32, tobacco factory laborer; wife Sarah, 28; brother Leslie Mercer, 50, tobacco factory laborer; and children Isear, 10, Marjorie, 8, and Florence Mercer, 5.

Leslie Mercer died 15 March 1936 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 59 years old; was born in Wilson to Henry Mercer of Edgecombe County, N.C., and Florence Farmer of Wilson County; was married to Bertha Mercer; lived at 614 Viola; and worked as a laborer. His cause of death: intracranial hemorrhage after “auto ran over him on Green St.”

Jones dragged by Norfolk-Southern train.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 October 1948.


In the 1930 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County: farmer Geo. T. Jones, 48; wife Minnie B., 33; and children William T., 18, Tonnie R., 15, Ronnie H., 13, Mary J., 11, Richard E., 9, George E., 8, Cellie B., 6, and Luise, 3. 

In the 1940 census of Bailey township, Nash County: farmer George T. Jones, 56; wife Minnie, 43; and children Mary Jane, 21, Richard E., 19, George E., 18, Celia, 16, Doris, 13, Louis, 7, Maggie, 5, Harold, 3; and grandson George Cornealis, 3. 

George Edward Jones registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 21 December 1921 in Wilson; lived on Route 1, Bailey, Wilson County, N.C.; his contact was George Turner Jones; and he worked for George Finch, Route 3, Bailey.

George E. Jones died 10 October 1948. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 December 1912 in Wilson County to George T. Jones and Minnie Alston; was married to Annie Doris Jones; and worked as a farmer on Sandford Wilson’s farm.

“Accident Body crushed and limbs torn off due to being dragged beneath a west bound train near the seven hills road over pass (no auto involved)”

Alec Donald found dead beside railroad.

Wilson Daily Times, 11 October 1923.


In the 1870 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Lawson Donald, 23; wife Mariah, 20; and Ellic, 6, Rufus, 1, and Hamilton Donald, 12.

In the 1880 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farmer Lawson Donnell, 39; wife Maria, 35; and children Alex, 16, Rufus, 11, Sallie, 8, Moses, 6, Lawson Jr., 2, Eunice, 4, and Ann, 1.

In the 1900 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: farm laborer Alexander Donald, 37; aunt Lizzie Williams, 67, washerwoman; and niece Elizabeth B. Williams, 12, nurse girl.

On 22 January 1902, Alex Donald, 39, of Stantonsburg, son of Lawson and Moriah Donald, married Adline Barnes, 26, daughter of Lewis and Allie Barnes, in Stantonsburg.

In the 1920 census of Stantonsburg township, Wilson County: on Railroad Street, which he owned, Alex Donald, 58, farm [croper?], and wife Adline, 44.

On 29 February 1920, Willie Donald, 31, of Stantonsburg, son of Alex Donald and Mandy Donald, married Pearl Melton, 28, of Stantonsburg, daughter of Ella Donald, at a church in Wilson. Free Will Baptist minister J.E. Brown performed the ceremony in the presence of E.S. Hargrove, C.C. Worthington, and E.H. Cox.

On 7 November 1920, Albert Thompson, 21, of Stantonsburg, son of Alex Donald and Frances T. Artis, married Ida Whitley, 17, of Stantonsburg, daughter of Council and Ida Whitley, at Council Whitley’s in Stantonsburg. Elder Isaac Barfield performed the ceremony.

Alex Donald died 14 October 1923 in Stantonsburg, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1854 in Wilson County to Lawson Donald; was married to Adline Donald; worked as a day laborer; and was buried in Bethel Cemetery. Cause of death: “Killed by train.”

Per probate records, on 27 November 1923, A.P. Moore applied for letters of administration for Donald’s estate, estimating its value at $400 and his heirs as wife Adline Donald and one brother.

Adline Donald died 1 January 1931 at a state hospital in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

In 1945, fourteen years after Adline’s death, Alex Donald’s heirs filed a petition to divide what remained of his estate. Though his children seem not to have survived, several of his siblings — far more than the one brother — laid claim to “certain real estate located in the Town of Stantonsburg … known as the Alex Donald lots.” Lawson Donald Jr. and wife Fannie Speight Donald were living in Johnston County, N.C. Rufus Donald had migrated to Baltimore, Maryland, at least 40 years earlier. I have not been able to locate Moses Donald.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 March 1945.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Lula Malone is struck by a train.

Per the first account in the Daily Times, Lula Malone (not “Lizzie”) was struck by a train, but not seriously injured, sustaining only “cuts about the head and arms.”

Wilson Daily Times, 21 June 1922.

Three days later, however, the paper reported a very different story. How could a crushed skull have been missed?

Wilson Daily Times, 24 June 1922.

Lula Malone died 21 June 1922. Her death certificate states “June 1st,” but other dates in the document, including her dates of treatment, are consistent with a death on the 21st. She was 52 years old; married to Leroy Malone; a cook for “Mrs. Daniels”; and was born in Statesville, N.C., to John Griffin. Cause of death: “‘Shock’ (possible internal injury)” with “struck by RR engine” contributing.

Apparently, then Malone’s skull was not crushed. The official cause of death is more consistent with the initial news account. 

Clippings courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.