Farmer

State v. Goffney, 157 N.C. 624, 73 S.E. 162 (1911).

This case reached the North Carolina Supreme Court on appeal from Wilson County Superior Court.

In summary, the lower court convicted Sylvester Goffney of housebreaking. He appealed; the Supreme Court reversed the decision and dismissed the case.

Goffney appealed on three grounds, the first two of which were deemed without merit. The third: “It is contended by the learned counsel for defendant in a well-prepared brief that, upon the state’s evidence, no crime has been committed, and with this position we fully agree.”

George Barnes and Joe Barnes were partners in Barnes Brothers, a business that Goffney was alleged to have broken into. One of the Barneses testified: “I know the defendant, have known him for four years. He has been in my employ for several years, during which time I found him honest. He assisted me in my store and business a portion of the time. In consequence of statements made to me by Richard Farmer, a negro boy in my employ, I instructed Richard to induce [Goffney] to break in my store. On the night of July 7th Policeman Wynne, myself, and others watched the store, and about 12 o’clock we saw the defendant, Sylvester Goffney, and Richard Farmer go to the store, and saw defendant, Goffney, remove tacks holding a window pane, and remove the window, and enter the store. Richard Farmer immediately afterwards also entered the store through the same window. Policeman Wynne, myself, and others, who were watching the store, after firing pistols, entered the store, and arrested the defendant, Goffney, and required said Farmer to accompany us.” The only other witness corroborated Barnes.

The court’s determination: In the case at bar it appears that Barnes, the owner of the building entered, directed his servant Richard Farmer to induce the defendant to break in his (Barnes’) store; that the servant obeyed his orders, and that he and defendant entered the store together, and that Barnes was present watching them, and arrested defendant after he entered.

If it were possible to hold the defendant guilty of a felony under such circumstances, then Barnes could be likewise convicted of feloniously breaking and entering his own store, for he was present, aiding and abetting the entry of the defendant and induced him to enter. That would of course be a legal absurdity.

“Upon the facts in evidence, no crime was committed because the entry was with the consent and at the instance of the owner of the property. His honor should have directed a verdict of not guilty. Reversed, and proceeding dismissed.”

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Here’s how the Wilson Daily Times reported the trial:

Wilson Daily Times, 11 July 1911.

A few interesting points from this account:

  • The Barnes Brothers operated a store in Samuel H. Vick‘s Odd Fellows building on East Nash Street “below the railroad.”
  • Sylvester Goffney had recently left their employ to go work for veterinarian Elijah L. Reid. The Barneses’ had regarded him as a trustworthy employee.
  • One of the Barnes brothers slept on a cot in the store. Goffney stopped by to visit, fell asleep and spent the night in the store.
  • The next day, Richard Farmer, an employee described as a “little boy” or “little negro,” cautioned Barnes that Goffney had solicited his help to rob the store — and cut Barnes’ head off.
  • The next time Goffney visited, Barnes refused to let him in. He later heard someone try the door, fired a shot, and all went quiet.
  • Barnes then directed Farmer to conspire with Goffney to break into the store. Barnes and a policeman hid while Farmer and Goffney entered through a window, then arrested both.
  • On the stand, Farmer testified that Goffney also planned to rob the restaurant of Richard Gaither, “a cripple and blind negro” and “fix” his wife.

Two months later, the Times reported a verdict:

Wilson Daily Times, 8 September 1911.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster William Gwaltney [Goffney], 56; wife Courtney, 50; step-son John Bunn, 25, blaksmith; and nephew Sylvester Gwaltney, 6.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Stantonsburg Street, widow Courtney Goffney, 50; Ada Battle, 30(?), graded school teacher; and lodger Sylvester Goffney, 16, factory laborer.

In 1914, Sylvester Goffney was designated beneficiary of the estate of his aunt, Courtney Goffney.

In 1918, Sylvester Goffney registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 10 August 1894 in WIlson; resided at 147 Suggs Street, Wilson; and was unemployed. [Goffney signed his card with a firm, strong signature, evidence of a good education and opportunity to practice.]

In the 1920 census of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan: auto factory laborer Sylvester Goffney, 25, was a lodger in the household of Ida L. Taylor, 42, on Saint Antoine Street.

In January 1937, Sylvester Goffney applied for a Social Security number. Per his application, he was born 10 August 1894 in WIlson, North Carolina, to Christopher Goffney and Kate McCowan.

In the 1940 census of River Rouge, Wayne County, Michigan: renting at 450 Holford Street, Sylvester Goffney, 45, porter at veterans hospital, and wife Mattie, 41, confectionery clerk.

In 194x, Sylvester Oliver Goffney registered for the World War II draft in Wayne County, Michigan. Per his registration card, he was born 10 August 1894 in Wilson, N.C.; lived at 450 Holford Street, River Rouge, Michigan; his contact was Mrs. P. Henry, 475 Holford; and he was unemployed.

In the 1947 Wyandotte, Michigan, city directory: Goffney Sylvester (Mattie) conf 518 Elliott h 516 [Elliott]

Sylvester Goffney died 22 March 1948 in River Rouge, Wayne County, Michigan. Per his death certificate, he was born 10 August 1894 in Wilson, N.C., and was married.

 

He yelled at her to stop.

In which a warrant is sworn out for the arrest of an African-American man who yelled at and frightened a white child standing in the path of his wagon. I have not found further reference to this “crime.”

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Kinston Daily Free Press, 20 January 1903.

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  • Will Farmer — probably, in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: teamster George Farmer, 51; wife Bettie, 46; and children George N., 21,  teamster; Miner, 19; Aulander, 18, drayman; Willie, 17; Johney, 15; and Emma, 12.
  • Finch Mill Road

1112 Carolina Street.

The eighty-seventh in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this house is: “circa 1913; 1 story; two-room, central-hall house; turned porch posts; asphalt siding.”

The 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., shows 1112 Carolina Street.

In the fall of 1929, Bettie Lofton placed an ad seeking a cooking and general housework position:

Wilson Daily Times, 17 September 1929.

Lofton apparently rented her home out shortly after. (Perhaps because she married Thomas Morning in Wilson on 17 March 1930. The couple is listed together at 518 Hadley Street, Wilson, in the 1930 census)) In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1112 Carolina, renting at $16/month, tobacco factory laborer Jessey Farmer, 34; wife Henerator, 26, laundress; and children Jessey Jr., 8, Irvin, 4, and Trumiller, 3.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Lofton Betty cook h 1112 Carolina

Wilson Daily Times, 12 December 1965.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.

Mother and daughter.

The family of Ruth Hooker Coppedge and her mother Elna Farmer Hooker paid tribute to them in Calvary Presbyterian Church‘s centennial anniversary booklet.

On 26 December 1900, Frank Hooker, 26, of Wilson County, married Elner T. Farmer, 24, of Wilson County, daughter of Gray and Argent Farmer, in Wilson. W.H. Kittrell applied for the license, and Rev. C[larence]. Dillard, Presbyterian, performed the ceremony in the presence of S.H. Vick and J.T. Harper of Wilson and Daisy Dillard of Goldsboro.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, Frank Hooker, 57 [sic], wood sawyer; wife Ella, 33; and children Emma R., 8, Grey, 6, Clarence D., 4, and Argent, [age illegible.]

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 656 Viola Street, Frank Hooker, 47, woodyard sawyer; wife Elinor, 37, sewing woman; and children Ruth, 17, Gray, 14, Henry, 12, Inez, 9, Irmadeen, 7, Sylvester, 4, and Theodore, 2.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 717 Green Street, Ellen Hooker, 47, widowed teacher; children Ruth, 25, Cilvesta, 14, and Theodo, 11; and grandchildren Montez, 8, and Clementine, 6.

On 5 June 1937, Ruth E. Hooker, 29, of Wilson, daughter of Frank and Ella Hooker, married General W. Coppedge, 45, of Wilson, son of James and Sallie Coppedge. Presbyterian minister O.E. Sanders performed the ceremony at 708 East Green Street in the presence of Annie L. Sanders, Lenora Carroll and Eleanor J. Hooker.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 708 Green Street, Eleanor Hooker, 59, widowed teacher; daughter Inez, 27, cook; and roomer Willie Boykin, 35, bricklayer, of Lawrenceville, Virginia.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 200 South Vick, George Coppedge, 55, bricklayer; wife Ruth, 40, schoolteacher at county school; [his] son George Jr., 23; daughter-in-law Elouise, 20; and grandchildren Julia, 4, Deloris, 2, and Carrol, 1.

Ruth Hooker Coppedge died 26 May 1945 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 41 years old; resided at 200 South Vick Street, Wilson; was married to George Coppedge; was born in Wilson to Frank Richard Hooker of Greene County and Eleanor Farmer of Wilson County; and was a school teacher.

Carolina Posse Kills Ex-GI.

The lynchings of two Wilson County men are recorded at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The name of the first, killed in 1887, is unknown. The second man, shot to death in 1946, was J.C. Farmer, a 19 year-old veteran of World War II.

Farmer and some friends were in Sims, a village in the western part of the county, playing around while waiting for a bus to take them into Wilson for a Saturday night out. Constable Fes Bissette confronted the group, ordering Farmer to get into his squad car. When Farmer refused, Bissette him in the back of the head with a blackjack, drew his gun and tried to force Farmer into the car. The two scuffled. Seizing control of the gun, Farmer shot Bissette through the hand and fled. An hour later, 20 to 25 white men, including Alcoholic Beverage Control agents armed with submachine guns, cornered Farmer near his mother Mattie Barnes Farmer‘s house and opened fire.

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New Journal and Guide (Norfolk, Va.), 17 August 1946.

Though the scant news accounts available are silent, it appears that Farmer was driven ten miles to Wilson to Mercy Hospital, where Dr. Batie T. Clark pronounced him dead from a “gun shot wound chest” about 30 minutes after arrival. Clark also noted on Farmer’s death certificate, by way of explanation: “shot by officer of law in gun duel” though it is not at all clear which member of the posse’s shot hit Farmer, and there had been no “duel.” (Also, who transported Farmer to town — his family or law enforcement? Why was he seen by Badie Clark, a white doctor, rather than, say, Joseph Cowan?)

In 1951, the Civil Rights Congress issued We Charge Genocide: An Historic Appeal to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government Against the Negro People, a “record of mass slayings on the basis of race.” Among the litany of such state-sanctioned crimes committed from 1945 to 1951 was the killing of J.C. Farmer.

Equal Justice Initiative’s 2015 Lynching in America report mentioned J.C. Farmer’s murder in the chapter described racial terror directed at African-American veterans: “No one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans who had proven their valor and courage as soldiers during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Because of their military service, black veterans were seen as a particular threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination. Thousands of black veterans were assaulted, threatened, abused, or lynched following military service.” Farmer’s death was just one of a wave of such lynchings in 1946.

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In the 1930 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: Josh Farmer, 51; wife Mattie, 46; and children William A., 21, Josh W., 17, Waneta, 14, Lonnie D., 12, Robert, 10, Albert H., 6, and J.C., 3.

In the 1940 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: Jack Farmer, 59; wife Mattie, 55; and children Authur, 24, Jack Jr., 23, Robert, 20, Harry, 16, J.C., 13, and Juanita Barnes, 22, and her children Mattie Lee, 3, and Marjorie, 1.

J.C. Farmer registered for the World War II draft on 21 October 1944, was honorably discharged on 16 August 1945, and was dead 13 days’ shy of a year later.

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For the hanged and beaten. For the shot, drowned and burned. The tortured, tormented and terrorized. For those abandoned by the rule of law.

We will remember.

With hope because hopelessness is the enemy of justice. With courage because peace requires bravery. With persistence because justice is a constant struggle. With faith because we shall overcome.

National Memorial for Peace and Justice

1205 Queen Street.

The sixty-eighth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District:  “ca. 1922; 1 story; bungalow with clipped-gable roof; aluminum sided.”

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In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Farmer Richard (c; Bessie) lab h 1205 Queen

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1205 Queen, rented for $12/month, divorced laundress Bessie Farmer, 27; and children Richard Jr., 10, Kary, 8, and Albert, 4; and brother James Farmer, age illegible.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: owned and valued at $1600, widowed cook Allie McNair, 40; son Linwood, 20, odd jobs at municipal building; and daughter Madeline, 18, nurse. Allie was born in Pitt County, and her children in Washington County. [The McNairs apparently moved to Wilson after the death of Luther McNair in Plymouth, Washington County, on 23 May 1930.]

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: McNair Allie (c) cook h 1205 Queen

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2018.

The division of Mary Eliza Farmer’s land.

In late September 1934, a surveyor walked the land of Mary Eliza Farmer and prepared a plat dividing it into five equal sections. Mary Eliza had inherited a life estate in the property from her husband Valentine Farmer, and upon her death or remarriage it was to pass to her children and step-children. The double line at the left edge of the plat denotes a road and fronting it, in the fourth strip of lad, a pack house and dwelling are marked.

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On 5 February 1882, Vaul Farmer, 52, married Mary E. Ruffin, 43, in Wilson County.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Valintine Farmer, 70, wife Mary, 58, children Mattie, 30, Elizabeth, 26, Mary J., 24, and Elizar, 22, son-in-law Charly Freeman and daughter Carolina. All did farm work except Elizabeth, who was a cook, and Elizar, who was a schoolteacher.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: widowed farmer Mary L. Farmer, 64; daughter Mattie, 48; and granddaughter Mary Batts, 28.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Winstead Road, widowed farmer Mary Farmer, 75, and daughter Mattie, 40.

Mary Eliza Farmer died 31 October 1928. Per her death certificate, she was born 15 February 1836 in Wilson County to Bob Shelley and Minerva Barnes; was the widow of Vol Farmer; and her informant was Mattie Stallings.

Plat book 2, page 101, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson.

1200 Queen Street.

The sixty-fifth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1930; 1 1/2 stories; James Battle house; bungalow with clipped-gable roof and dormer; Battle was a drayman.”

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In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Rutherford Geo lab h 1200 Queen. Also, Rutherford Maggie dom 1200 Queen.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Rutherford Geo (c; Maggie B) restr 551 E Nash h 1200 Queen. Also, Rutherford Mildred (c) student h 1200 Queen

George Rutherford died 15 August 1932 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 15 March 1885 in Tennille, Georgia; was married to Maggie Rutherford; resided at 1200 Queen; and worked as a cook.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Farmer Geo (c; Mamie) chauf h 1200 Queen. Also, Farmer Geo jr. (c) shoe shiner h 1200 Queen.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2018.

The children and grandchildren of Frank and Elna Farmer Hooker.

Hooker family reunion, Wilson, 1947. “L. to R. 1st Row: Catherine, Alice, Frankie. 2nd Row: Dewey, Montez, Theodore, Inez, Clementine. 3rd Row: Gray, Bernice, Sylvester. Steps: Elynore, Merida, Steven, William.” 

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On 26 December 1900, Frank Hooker, 26, of Wilson County, married Elner T. Farmer, 24, of Wilson County, daughter of Gray and Argent Farmer, in Wilson. W.H. Kittrell applied for the license, and Rev. C[larence]. Dillard, Presbyterian, performed the ceremony in the presence of S.H. Vick and J.T. Harper of Wilson and Daisy Dillard of Goldsboro.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Manchester Street, Frank Hooker, 57 [sic], wood sawyer; wife Ella, 33; and children Emma R., 8, Grey, 6, Clarence D., 4, and Argent, [age illegible.]

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 656 Viola Street, Frank Hooker, 47, woodyard sawyer; wife Elinor, 37, sewing woman; and children Ruth, 17, Gray, 14, Henry, 12, Inez, 19, Irmadeen, 7, Sylvester, 4, and Theodore, 2.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 717 Green Street, Ellen Hooker, 47, widowed teacher; children Ruth, 25, Cilvesta, 14, and Theodo, 11; and grandchildren Montez, 8, and Clementine, 6.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 708 Green Street, Eleanor Hooker, 59, widowed teacher; daughter Inez, 27, cook; and roomer Willie Boykin, 35, bricklayer, of Lawrenceville, Virginia.

Photo courtesy of History of Wilson County, North Carolina (1985).