gun violence

The murder of Cleophus Hinnant.

Screen Shot 2019-12-19 at 9.12.51 PM.png

Pittsburgh Courier, 22 December 1923.

Though the Courier reported Cleophus Hinnant’s death (and, apparently, his name) as a mystery, his death certificate was clear about what happened. Hinnant “was murdered. Shot to death by a man named Turner Williamson.”

S123_154-2438.jpg

Turner Williamson was Cleophus Hinnant’s former father-in-law, father of his deceased first wife. I have not been able to discover more about this tragedy.

——

In the 1920 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: Josiah Hinnant, 47, farmer; wife Mary L., 38; and son Cleophus, 17.

On 11 November 1920, Cleophus Hinnant, 18, of Cross Roads, son of Josiah and Victoria Hinnant, married Montie Williamson, 19, of Cross Roads, daughter of Turner and Margaret Williamson, at Turner Williamson’s. Baptist minister Emerson Hooker performed the ceremony in the presence of Abram Deans, Henry Bynum and David Bynum, all of Lucama.

Montia Hinnant died 27 November 1921 in Cross Roads township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was 19 years old; was married to Cleother Hinnant; was born in Wilson County to Turner Williamson and Margarette Barnes; and was a tenant farmer for Josiah Hinnant. Josiah Hinnant was informant.

On 2 January 1923, Cleophus Hinnant and Gessie Bunch received a marriage license.

Josiah Hinnant filed for letters of administration for his son on 4 January 19. His application listed the value of Cleophus Hinnant’s estate as about $500, and his heirs as Gessie Hinnant and an unborn child.

Smith keeps a “contract.”

Screen Shot 2019-12-12 at 10.03.06 PM.png

Pittsburgh Courier, 13 December 1941.

  • Mable Smith
  • John Dallas McGirt — in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Archie McGirt, 52, fertilizer plant laborer; wife Pearl, 47, tobacco factory laborer; son John, 23, fertilizer plant laborer; daughter Lillian Simms, 21, tobacco factory laborer; son Belton [McGirt], 19, delivery boy for grocery store; [grandson] Walter, 5; and son-in-law Allen Simms, 25, cement finisher for contractor. John Dallas McGirt registered for the World War II draft in 1940 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 25 May 1916 in Maxton, N.C.; lived at 1013 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson; his contacts as father Archie McGirt, same address; and he worked for Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, Wilson. McGirt died 7 March 1972.
  • Ada Barnes

Williams admits a shooting.

Screen Shot 2019-11-24 at 2.04.58 PM.png

Statesville Record & Landmark, 16 November 1949.

Here is Delbert Williams‘ death certificate. It reports that he was born 12 May 1912 in Dillon, South Carolina, to Hat Williams and Katie Singletary, was married; lived (and died) on Dew Street; worked as a laborer; and died of a gunshot blast to the neck.

S123_351-1008.jpg

Sent to the roads.

Screen Shot 2019-11-24 at 2.22.13 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-11-24 at 2.22.28 PM.png

Wilson Times, 17 November 1911.

In this follow-up to “Teck got shot,” we get a close look at the way justice was administered (and reported upon) in 1911.

First, the Times flatly pronounced Herbert “Goldie” Horton guilty of shooting Ed Walker. The trial, however, had been on the charge of carrying a concealed weapon. The “trial for shooting … Walker will be deferred until Ed. recovers or dies.” On the basis of testimony from Jake Tucker, Annie Lewis and Elijah Saunders — testimony that sounds much more relevant to the shooting than mere concealed carry — Wilson’s mayor convicted Horton and sentenced him to four months on a road gang.

——

  • Herbert Horton
  • Edward Walker
  • Jake Tucker — Jacob Tucker was also a key witness in the inquest into the homicide of James A. Hunt and the robbery of Neverson Green‘s grocery.
  • Annie Lewis — perhaps, in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 555 Spruce Street, Ed Lewis, 49, odd jobs laborer; wife Nancy, 37, private family cook; sister Sue, 19, factory laborer; and daughter Annie, 16, private family cook.
  • Elijah Saunders

Teck got shot.

Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 2.18.38 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 2.18.56 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 2 November 1911.


The “red light district.” Goldie shot Teck at the entry to Vick’s Alley, marked with an X. Sanborn fire insurance map, 1908.

  • Ed Walker, known as “Texas” or “Teck”
  • Herbert Horton, known as “Goldie”
  • Dr. Mitchner — William A. Mitchner.
  • Mandy Bishop — in the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Spring Street, factory laborer Manda Bishop, 33; daughter Mary B., 16; and lodgers William Lucas, 49, and Eliza Walker, 21.
  • Eli Saunders

Shooting scrape.

Screen Shot 2019-07-21 at 4.32.45 PM.png

Wilson Advance, 12 March 1896.

  • James Artist — perhaps, in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: brickmason James B. Artis, 26; wife Cornelia, 31; and son Solomon, 7 months; plus brother-in-law Charlie B. Fort, 12.
  • West Barnes — perhaps, in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Willis Barnes, 30; wife Cherry, 25; and children Rachael, 7, West, 5, Jesse, 2, and Ned, 5 months. In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Willis Barnes, 42; wife Cherey, 20; stepdaughter Rachel Battle, 17; children Wesley, 15, Jesse, 13, Ned, 11, Eddie, 7, Mary Barnes, niece Ellen Battle, 2; and son Willey Barnes, 1. On 4 June 1885, Sylvester [sic] Barnes, 21, married Ellar Mercer, 22, at Dempsey Mercer’s in Wilson County. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster Wesley Barnes, 32; wife Ella, 35; and children Joseph, 14, Lucy, 11, Sylvester, 7, Viola, 5, and Charley, 3. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: West Barnes, 44; wife Ella, 47; and children Sylvester, 17, Viola, 15, and Charlie, 13. Wesley Barnes died 20 January 1919 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 54 years old; was born in Wilson County to Willis Barnes and Cherry Eatmon; was married to Ellar Barnes; and worked as a drayman for Tominson & Company.

Escaped through the cemetery.

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 5.21.45 PM.png

Wilson Daily Times, 15 July 1910.

  • Henry Hagan

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Smith Street, Katie Williams, 46, widowed boarding house cook, and boarder Henry Hagan, 54, widower, oil mill laborer. In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Hagan Henry, lab h 404 Spring St alley. In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 616 Suggs Street, rented for $12/month, Henry Hagan, 75, sanitary department laborer, and wife Sarah, 55. Henry Haggan who died 21 October 1931 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 67 years old; was born in Wayne County, North Carolina, to Napoleon Haggan and an unknown mother; worked as a common laborer; and lived at 611 Suggs. Mary Gatling of Newport News, Virginia, was informant.

Suffer the little children: death by violence.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away with stunning regularity. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children.

Few Wilson County children who died in that era were buried in marked graves. In town, original burials were in Oaklawn or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, and headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time. By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.

——

Though it appears that there was relatively little intentional homicide, death by gunshot was a dispiritingly common occurrence:

  • On 16 March 1910, Mary Lillie Loyd, 10, of Wilson, daughter of Bettie Loyd, died “from gunshot wound, accidentally fired.”
  • On 23 October 1911, Ida L. Speights, 7, of Wilson, daughter of J.C and Rebecca Robinson Speight, died of a “gun shot accidentally by Fred Davis carelessly handling gun among children.” (In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Green Street, Jake Speights, 45, laborer; wife Rebecca, 30; and children Eva, 14, Lennie, 12, Joseph, 10, Ida, 5, Bessie, 3, and Addie, 1.)

Wilson Daily Times, 27 October 1911.

  • On 28 January 1913, Floyd Anderson, 6, of Toisnot township, son of Charlie Anderson, “was accidentally shot by his brother a boy 8 years old.” (In the 1910 census of Rocky Mount, Township #12, Edgecombe County: Charlie Anderson, 24, and wife Viola, 20, both farm laborers, and sons Thomas, 4, and Floyd, 3.)
  • On 24 March 1914, James Scott Johnson, 8, of Elm City, son of James and Lola Batten [Battle] Johnson, died of an “accidental gunshot wound, self-inflicted.” (In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: James Johnson, 35, drayman for wholesale grocery; wife Lola, 34, washerwoman; and children Laurenzell, 6, and James S., 4.)
  • On 5 July 1914, Clinton Sylvester Ayers, 6, of Wilson, son of William and Zilfie Dew Ayers, died of a “gunshot wound, accidental.” A second death certificate, for Sylvester Ayers, 6, of Spring Hill, gives the cause of death as “gunshot wound in knee, death from shock after operation, accident.” (In the 1910 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: on Red Hill Road, William T. Ayres, 54; wife Zilphia, 45; and children David J., 15, Lillie, 11, Albert, 9, Walter, 7, Solomon, 4, and Clinton S., 1.)
  • On 2 January 1917, Minnie Barnhill, 11, of Wilson, daughter of Marcellus and Mary Barnhill, died from a “rifle bullet through brain by another person, accidental.”
  • On 31 January 1917, Eugenia Abram, 11, of Toisnot township, daughter of Tom and Sallie Bunn Abram, died from a “hemorrhage from gun shot wound (accidental).” (In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Tom Abram, 25, sawmill laborer; wife Sallie, 22; and daughters Genie, 4, Mary, 2, and Savannah, 1.)
  • On 18 November 1918, Simon Moore, 13, of Saratoga township, son of Marcellus and Lissie Rountree Moore, was “accidentally killed by gunshot wound.” (In the 1910 census of Otter Creek township, Edgecombe County: Marcelas Moore, 26; wife Lissie, 24; and sons Simon, 4, and Henry, 2.)
  • On 22 July 1919, Lewis Henry Williams, 15, of Toisnot township, son of Czaar and Annie Williams, died of “accidental gun shot in abdomen.”
  • On 24 March 1920, Mary Brown, 16, of Wilson, daughter of Willie and Mary Brown, died of a “stab wound above left nipple, homicide.”
  • On 20 May 1920, David Jackson Moore, 4, of Wilson, son of Andrew Moore and Minnie Mercer Moore, died of “gunshot of head, accident.”
  • On 8 July 1921, Ira Owens, 16, of Wilson, son of Mack and Mary Gardens Owens, died as a result of “punishment received while at work on county road.” [In other words, Owens was beaten or otherwise abused to death while serving on a road crew, a sentence imposed by a county court.]