gun violence

Simms shot in escape attempt.

Wilson Times, 10 March 1911.

But on the next page of the newspaper ….

Wilson Times, 10 March 1911.

And what was the crime that had sent Simms to the county stockade?

Wilson Times, 13 September 1910.

Simms not only lived, he lived to re-offend.

Wilson Times, 20 October 1911.

Jesse Daws fatally shoots Thad Bynum.

Greensboro Daily News, 8 January 1911.


  • Jesse Daws — in the 1900 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Ed Daws, 38; wife Cora, 27; and children Jesse, 14, Lena, 12, Della, 10, Lonny, 2, and Ned, 4 months.
  • Thad Bynum — on 18 January 1906, Thad Bynum, 22, of Toisnot township, Wilson County, son of Jennie Bynum of Edgecombe County, married Jennie Williams, 23, of Toisnot township, daughter of White Williams, at Batts place, Toisnot township. Primitive Baptist minister Nathan Johnson performed the ceremony.

Atkinson admits killing Horne.

The early edition of the Daily Times reported that Raymond Horne‘s body had been found in dense woods near Saratoga. The man had been missing for two weeks.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 November 1942.

The late edition disclosed Payton “Pate” Atkinson‘s confession in the crime, and his retraction of an allegation that Dock Rose had helped.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 November 1942.


  • Payton Atkinson

In the 1910 census of Olds township, Greene County, N.C.: Danil E. Atkinson, 44; wife Patsy, 34; and children Cornealous, 10; Masendy, 16; Birther, 8; Peyton, 7; Ginnie, 4; and Lueser, 8 months.

In the 1920 census of Carrs township, Greene County: farmer Daniel Adkison, 54; wife Pattie, 48; and children Cornelius, 20, Bertha, 18, Patten, 15, Jennie, 13, Louise, 10, Frances, 7, and John H., 5.

On 13 September 1924, Payton Atkinson, 21, married Della Ward, 18, in Pitt County, N.C.

In the 1930 census of Ormonds township, Greene County: farmer Paten Atkinson, 25; wife Della, 22; and children Sadie H., 4, Paten Jr., 2, and James L., 1.

Payton Atkinson registered twice for the World War II draft. In February 1942, he registered in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 25 January 1903 in Greene County, N.C.; lived at Route 3, Box 125, Walstonsburg, Saratoga township; his contact was Jesse Galloway; and he worked for Rufus Beaman. He registered again in 1943, reporting that he was born 25 January 1904 in Greene County and his contact was brother Cornelius Atkinson. The card was marked “Canc. Jan. 31, 1944 Dup Reg.”

Payton Atkinson died 8 October 1969 in Farmville, Pitt County, N.C. Per his death certificate, he was born 6 January 1904 to Daniel Atkinson and Patsey Edwards; was a farmer; and was a widower. Fannie Ellis was informant.

  • Raymond Horne

On 24 February 1921, Raymond L. Horne, 23, of Edgecombe County, N.C., son of William and Dora Horne, married Dora Barnes, 22, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Benjamin and Nora Barnes, in Township Number 3, Edgecombe County.

In February 1942, Raymond Horne registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 1 January 1902 in Greene County, N.C.; lived in Saratoga township, Wilson County; and worked for Drew Horton, Saratoga township. He signed his card with an X. The card is marked “Cancelled — Dead — Oct. 19, 1942.”

Raymond Horne died 19 October 1942 in Saratoga township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born 23 April 1900 in Pitt County, N.C., to Will Horne and Dora Barrett; was married to Genevia Horne; worked in farming; and was buried in Rountree cemetery, Wilson. “Homicide gunshot wound of neck.”

  • Dock Rose

In the 1940 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: farm laborer Doc Rose, 45; wife Sara, 33; mother-in-law Mary Beaman, 70, widow; niece Alice Lane, 23; and cousin Essie Lee Rose, 4 months. The family reported living in Greene County five years earlier.

White man held for murder of Sam Jackson.

Wilson Daily Times, 2 September 1924.

On 18 August 1924, Joe Cockrell, white, interrupted four African-American men — Sam Jackson, Tom Smith, Otis Taylor, and John Smith — pulling fodder in a corn field on George Dew’s farm. After demanding liquor, Cockrell argued with Jackson. Shortly after, a shot rang out, Jackson dropped to the ground, and Cockrell fled. He was on the lam for about two weeks before being arrested at his uncle’s house, charged and held without bail.

On 6 November 1924, Raleigh’s News and Observer reported that a judge had determined there was not enough evidence to hold Cockrell on first degree murder charges and had reduced the charge to second degree and released Cockrell on $5000 bond. I have not found a report of the verdict in the case. 


On 9 December 1918, Sam Jackson, 19, of Wilson, son of Turner and Nellie Jackson of South Carolina, married Victoria Watson, 18, of Wilson, daughter of Will and Alice Watson of Clayton, North Carolina, at the courthouse in Wilson. 

On 4 January 1919, Sam Jackson, 20, of Wilson, son of Simon and Nellie Jackson of Conway, South Carolina, and Mary Carroll, 19, of Wilson, daughter of Major and Dollie Carroll, in Wilson. Free Will Baptist minister A.A.J. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of William Cassill, Molley Wright, and Mary Davis. [A month after Jackson married Victoria Watson??]

In the 1920 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farm laborer Sam Jackson, 22, and wife Mary, 23.

Sam Jackson died 18 August 1924 in Taylor’s township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 30 years old; was married; and was a farmer. He was buried in Coleman’s cemetery. George Dew was informant.

James Wiggins shot to death at tobacco barn.

Wilson Daily News, 18 November 1921.


James Wiggins, in fact, was fatally wounded. In fact, by time this article ran, he had been dead four days and buried two.

James Wiggins died 14 November 1921 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 26 years old; was born in Edgecombe County, N.C., to George Wiggins and Mary Pitt; and was a common laborer. 

  • Isaac Ford

On 10 October 1912, Isaac Ford, 22, married Jane Peaton, 21, both of Black Creek, were married at Peaton’s father’s house in Nahunta township, Wayne County (though their marriage license was issued in Wilson County.) H.R. Minshew applied for the license, and Missionary Baptist minister N.S. Newton performed the ceremony in the presence of John R. James, Peter Applewhite, and Charlie Newton.

In 1917, Isaac Ford registered for the World War I draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 6 August 1889 in Fremont [Wayne County], N.C.; lived in Fremont; was a self-employed farmer; and had a wife and child.

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Isaac Ford, 32; wife Jane, 35, farm laborer; and son Calvin, 8. 

On 28 May 1927, Isaac Ford, 37, of Black Creek, married Nora Dickerson, 26, of Black Creek, in Wilson in the presence of Braxton Davis, Hugh Campbell, and Calvin Ford.

Benjamin Whitley shot Johnny Ward at an ice cream supper.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 August 1932.

Nineteen year-old Johnny Ward succumbed to his injuries three days after this article was published.


  • Benjamin Whitley

In the 1910 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Rufus Whitley, 49; wife Mattie, 45; and children Mattie, 8, Wiley, 3, and Rufus B., newborn.

In the 1920 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Rufus Whitley, 49; wife Mattie, 45; and children Wiley, 13, Benjamin, 12, Bettie, 7, and Lizzie, 11 months.

In the 1930 census of Saratoga township, Wilson County: Rufus Whitley, 59; wife Mattie, 52; and children Ben, 20, Bettie A., 18, Lizzie J., 11, and Matta B., 6; and lodger Jesse King, 22.

On 9 December 1933, Benjamin Whitley, 24, of Wilson County, son of Rufus and Mattie Whitley, married Cillie Barnes, 20, of Wilson County, daughter of Ed and Dora Barnes, at the courthouse in Greenville, Pitt County, N.C.

Benjamin R. Whitley died 4 November 1971 in Lumberton, Robeson County, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he was born 29 November 1909 to Rufus Whitley and Mattie Dupree; was a widower; resided in Middlesex, Nash County, N.C.; and worked as a farmer.

  • Johnny Ward

Johnie Ward died 18 August 1932 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 19 years old; was born in Greene County, North Carolina, to David Ward and Nancy Barnes; was single; and worked as a common laborer.

  • Wes Bynum

The death of little Etta Parker.

“Pistol ball in brain by toy pistol in hands of boy unintentionally.”

I have not been able to learn more about the death of six year-old Etta Parker, who was fatally shot in the head by an unidentified boy with a toy pistol. (What kind of toy gun shot “pistol balls”? A BB gun?)

“Oh, you are crazy. Give me that gun.”

After Thomas Debnam allegedly shot and killed Ross Flowers, the farmer from whom he rented, he went on a bizarre loop through his neighborhood before fleeing Wilson County. According to this account, he first interrupted church services to hug his wife and bid her farewell, then went to the house of man named Henry Sing. He took Sing’s gun, then sat under an oak for a while, asking a girl to remove his shoes before running into the woods. Hearing a gunshot, John A. Jones went into the woods to find Debnam lying on the ground. When Jones spoke, Debnam sat up to say he had shot Flowers and was going to kill himself. Jones, unaware of the earlier incident, scoffed, saying, “Oh, you are crazy. You have not killed Mr. Flowers; give me that gun.”

Wilson Daily Times, 20 October 1913.

On the 19th, the Charlotte Observer somehow had beat the times to the punch, providing more details of the alleged incident. Debnam and Flowers recently had made molasses from sugar cane they raised together, and Debnam demanded his immediate share of money from the sale of the molasses. Flowers said he would sell the molasses in a few days and would pay Debnam after. Debnam raised a shotgun. Flowers tried to scramble behind an African-American man on the wagon with him, but Debnam shot him in the throat. 

Governor Locke Craig authorized a one-hundred-dollar reward for Debnam’s apprehension. A description of the suspect, along with a number of stereotypical physical features, noted that Debnam was “a negro with some intelligence.”

News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), 23 October 1913.

An article in the same edition noted that a posse comprised of Nash County sheriff R.H. Biggs, Ross Flowers’ brother A.A. Flowers, and others had searched as far west as Eagle Rock on the Norfolk Southern rail line, believing Debnam to be hiding out with friends in the Wendell vicinity.

Six days later, the Wilmington Morning Star reported that Wilson County sheriff Howard Rowe and two deputies, “following a telephone call which told them of the possible whereabouts of the negro Tom Debnam,” drove for hours “through flooded swamps”, but did not find him.

On 12 November 1931, the Charlotte News reported: 

I have found nothing further about Tom Debnam. 


  • Tom Debnam

In the 1910 census of Oldfields township, Wilson County: farmer Thomas Debnam, 23; wife Zilphia, 32; and daughter Addie, 6.