habeas corpus

State vs. Percy Jones.

One Saturday evening in August 1911, 14 year-oldĀ Henrietta Faison tagged along with her sister Emma Faison to Walter F. Woodard’s house at the corner of North Goldsboro and Lee Streets. Emma Faison and an older woman, Fannie Rountree, were employed in the Woodards’ kitchen. Percy Jones, a farm hand employed by Woodard, was hanging around the back steps. Suddenly, he grabbed the girl and tried to force her to go off with him. She screamed.

Evidence presented to a county grand jury yielded this testimony, transcribed from court records:

“Henrietta Faison — I know Percy Jones; last Saturday night I was at Mr. Walter Woodards; Percy was sitting on back steps and he caught me by hands and said let’s go to the store; I told him to turn me loose; he put his arms around me and said I had to like he would me to, that he would give $5 or $10 to buy me a new dress; told him to turn me loose, that I would call Miss Fannie; I called Miss Fannie but she didn’t hear me; he asked me my age and went to pulling up my dress; he pulled me down to back part of Mr. Walter Woodard’s lot; he was on the out side of back gate, where he began to pull me; he told me if I hollered he would kill me, that he had a pistol in his pocket; he put his hand on my mouth and I tried to get it away when he slapped me in the face; when I began to holler he be tried to choke me; he turned me loose and jumped and run. After he began to run Sister Emma and Miss Fannie came out of the house. I then went to the house we were on the street where this took place. When he left me he went toward Mike Taylor‘s. He put his hand on known but clothes.

“Fannie Rountree — I saw Henrietta at Mr. Woodard’s Saturday night; I was in Mr. Woodard’s dining room and heard a scream; didn’t know who it was; sounded like it was on lawn; when I got out I heard it again saw Henrietta coming up toward steps; saw no one else. Asked her what was the matter; she said Percy snatched her out of gate and ran.She was screaming. Emma came out where we were. This was between 7 and 8 o’clock.

“Emma Faison — I am Henrietta’s sister; I was at Mr. Woodard’s last Saturday; I was washing dishes; heard some one screaming; it was Henrietta; said Percy had pulled her out of the yard, put his hand over her mouth and slapped her; that he had pulled up her clothes and asked her to go with him to the store; saw man running; don’t know who it was; her dress and waist was unfastened and her clothes was wrinkled; Percy had been working at Mr. Woodard’s. When I saw the man running he was half block away. Henrietta was crying when I got up with her.

“W.F. Woodard — I swore out warrant; I heard the screaming; my family was sitting on front porch — heard the screaming twice. Went on back porch, found Henrietta sobbing; asked her what was the matter; she said Percy had caught and dragged her down to back lot and told her if she hollered he would kill her; that he pulled her dress, put his hand on her mouth and she hollered. Phoned for officers, they came and I told them there the trouble. Didn’t notice condition of Henrietta’s clothes. This was a few minutes after 8.”

Jones was quickly caught and charged with assault with attempt to commit rape. He pled guilty to a lesser charge of simple assault and was sentenced to three months “on the roads,” i.e. working road maintenance on a chain gang.

A few weeks later, Jones’ lawyers, Daniels & Swindell, petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. Under recent state law, they claimed, absent aggravating circumstances, 30 days was the maximum sentence for simple assault. Percy Jones was transported to Raleigh for a hearing before the state Supreme Court.

Wilson Daily Times, 10 October 1911.

The wait for a decision was not long. Three days later, Percy Jones was a free man.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 October 1911.


  • Henrietta and Emma Faison

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Vance Street, widow Ellar Fason, 49, laundress, and daughters Mary, 18, laundress, Emma, 16, cook, Henretta, 13, and Flory, 10.

On 3 March 1914, John Ellis, 22, of Wilson, married Henretta Faison, 18, at Mrs. Ellar Faison’s place in Wilson. Missionary Baptist minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony in the presence of Ed Cox and Roscoe Yelverton.

In the 1916 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, Ella Faison, Henrietta Faison, and Mary Faison are listed at 802 Viola. Ella and Mary Faison worked as laundresses.

  • Percy Jones

On 3 July 1910, Percy Jones, 22, of Wilson, married Fannie Reid, 18, of Wilson, at the residence of Sam Miller in Wilson. Primitive Baptist minister Jonah Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of B.R. Winstead, Robert Talley, and Arthur Isom.

  • Fannie Rountree

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Fannie Rountree, 40, widow, cook, living alone.

Fannie Rountree died 4 June 1925 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was about 60 years old; was born in Wilson to Benjamin Rountree and Maria Dunston; was separated; lived at 710 East Vance; and worked as a cook for Mrs. Walter Woodard. Sarah Bell was informant.

  • Mike Taylor

Drayman Mike Taylor lived at 108 West Lee Street. Thus, Jones ran west when Faison began screaming.

Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson (1922), page 7.

Criminal Action Papers, 1911, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

A colored man has him.

In 1909, Edna Newsome Wilder hired a lawyer to help her get custody of her grandson, 12 year-old Purley Newsome. Purley’s mother was dead, and his father absent and uninterested. A colored man named Willie Woodard, who was “of no kin” and lived in Black Creek township, had the boy and was ill-treating him.

Judge Charles M. Cooke heard the application for writ of habeas corpus. In a somewhat enigmatically worded Order, Cooke declared that it was “inadvisable” to make a final decision at the time and that Purley’s best interests were served by remaining with Woodard for a year. Edna Wilder and her sons — the boy’s uncles — were permitted to visit him at Woodard’s, and the boy was permitted to visit his grandmother once every three months. The hearing was postponed until September term of court, 1910, and Wilder ordered to pay costs.

I have not been able to identify Purley Newsome or Willie Woodard.

On 31 January 1900, Edna Newsome, 55, married Ishmael Wilder, 60, son of Ben and Clarissa Wilder, at Edna Newsome’s house in Cross Roads township. Rev. W.H. Horton performed the service in the presence of Grant Farmer, W.T. Barnes and L.H. Newsome.

In the 1900 census of Springhill township, Wilson County: Ishmael Wilder, 63; wife Edney, 55; and daughter Clora, 26.

The Wilders’ marriage, the second for both, did not last long. Ishmael Wilder is listed in the 1910 census of Springhill township as a divorced farmer, living alone. Edna Wilder is not found.

Writ of Habeas Corpus to End Child Abuse, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.