The deaths of James and Oscar Lewis.

In this follow-up to yesterday’s post about James W. Lewis‘ murder of his wife Annie Bethune Lewis, we learn who killed James Lewis seven years later — James’ son (and Annie’s stepson) Oscar Lewis, who drowned himself after.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 December 1949.

“Asphyxiation die to drowning (in Great Swamp at tressle along A.C.L.R.R. near Black Creek NC; aggravated by his homicide of his father; suicide by drowning.”

Annie Lewis slain by husband.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 July 1942.

Annie Russell Bethune Lewis was felled with a blow from an axe in her own yard. Her husband James Lewis was quickly arrested and allegedly confessed, claiming he “just couldn’t get along with her.” On September 9, the Daily Times reported that Lewis had entered a plea of not guilty by virtue of insanity. On September 11, the paper reported that a jury convicted him of manslaughter, and a judge sentenced him to 10-15 years in state prison.

James Lewis did not serve his full sentence. By 1949, he had returned to Black Creek — where he was shot in the back and killed on November 25.


In the 1900 census of Sammy Swamp township, Clarendon County, South Carolina: Theodore Bethune, 34; wife Mary A., 25; and children Florence, 8, Alberta, 7, Amanda, 5, Oneitha, 3, and an unnamed girl infant, 2 months.

In the 1910 census of Stony Creek township, Wayne County, N.C.: Duckery Lewis, 42; wife Smithy, 36; and children John, 12, Ben, 10, James, 8, Floyd, 7, Albert, 6, and Needham, 3.

In the 1910 census of Manning township, Clarendon County, South Carolina: on Georgetown Road, Theodore Bethune, 45; wife Ann, 36; and children Florence, 18, Elberta, 17, Charlotte A., 15, Arnetha, 12, and Annie R., 10.

In the 1920 census of Sammy Swamp township, Clarendon County, South Carolina: Theodore Bethune, 45; wife Annie, 44; and daughters Charlotte, 17, Onithea, 15, and Annie, 13. [The children’s ages are wildly off.]

In the 1920 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Duckrey Lewis, 50; wife Smithy, 40; and children Ben, 20, James, 19, Floyd, 17, Albert, 15, Needham, 13, and Duckrey Jr., 7.

On 31 March 1931, James Lewis, 29, of Black Creek, son of Duckrey Lewis and Smithie [maiden name not given], married Annie R. Bethune, of Wayne County, 25, daughter of Theodore and Annie Bethune, in Wilson.

In the 1940 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Theodore Bethune, 70; wife Annie, 60; daughter Annie Lewis, 30; and grandchildren Annie M., 7, Willie, 5, and Ned, 2.

“Murdered hit on head with axe by husband James Lewis killing her instantly” 

In 1942, James Willie Lewis registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 7 July 1901 in Wayne County; lived on Clifton Tomlinson’s farm, Black Creek township; his contact was Sip Rogers, Route 1, Black Creek; and he worked for Clifton Tomlinson, Route 1, Black Creek.

On 25 November 1949, James Willie Lewis died at Mercy Hospital, Wilson, of a gunshot blast to the back. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 July 1900 in Wayne County to Duckrey Lewis and Smithie Barnes; was a widower; and lived at Route 1, Black Creek.

Lewis, former sailor, hangs himself.

Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 2 July 1910.


Possibly, in the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Clarisea Lewis, 43, widow, farmer; and children Emma, 18,, 15, Gertrude, 12, Whit, 10, George, 8, Mattie, 6, and Hattie, 3.

In the 1910 census of Connecticut State Prison, Wethersfield town, Hartford County, Connecticut: Edward Lewis, 25, prisoner, born in N.C., does not work; “This man is insane.”

The Government Hospital for the Insane was later known as Saint Elizabeths Hospital.

Someone to take care of her.

Like hundreds of others, Annie Mae Lewis likely came to Wilson during the Depression to seek work in the tobacco factories. She fell sick though, far from her family, and died in the winter of 1934.

Registrar Kate C. Daniels’ note on Lewis’ death certificate: “This girl came here from S.C. & the welfare dept got this woman at 313 Manchester St to take care of her.”


The wrong Turner: a correction (if not an apology).

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Wilson Daily Times, 15 July 1924.

  • Turner Lewis — in the 1920 census of Flea Hill township, Cumberland County, North Carolina: sawmill labor Turner Lewis, 40; wife Mellie, 22; and sister-in-law Gertrude Murphy, 12. In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Lewis Turner lab h 211 S Railroad. Turner Lewis died 1 March 1925 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 40 years old; his parents were Isaac and Pennie Lewis; he was single and worked as a fireman for Sims Company tobacco factor; and informant was Gertrude Murphy. Lewis died of “homicide; wound on head; skull broken; no doctor; fighting; wound produced by blow from ax.”
  • Turner Stokes — in the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 535 Nash Street, Turner Stokes, 50, carpenter; wife Morah, 39; mother-in-law Martha Pitt, 83; and boarders Isac Shade, 44, drugstore manager; wife Estella, 38; and children Kenneth, 13, and Sarah, 9. In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Stokes Turner carp 524 E Nash. Turner Stokes died 29 June 1950 in Wilson.  Per his death certificate, he was born in 1868 in Nash County to Simon Stokes and Mariah (last name unknown); was a carpenter; was married; and resided at 104 Ash Street. Jennie Kerbo, 104 Ash, was informant.

Studio shots, no. 85: John and Margaret Lewis Maryland.

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John Maryland (ca. 1872-1947)

In the 1880 census of Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County: farmer John Maryland, 58, born in Maryland; wife Melvel, 40; and children Haywood, 17, who was deaf; Schofield, 16; Walter, 10; Mary, 9; John, 7; Hattie, 6; Primas, 4; and Jonas, 2.

In the 1880 census of Upper Town Creek, Edgecombe County: farmer Handy Lewis, 38; wife Jane, 40; children Wash, 16, Joshua, 12, Margarette, 8, Caroline, 6, Tiney, 4, and Robert, 2; and step-daughter Nicey, 16.

Margaret Lewis Maryland (ca. 1872-1965)

John Maryland, 21, of Nash County, married Margaret Lewis, 19, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Handy Lewis, on 8 April 1894 in Edgecombe County. Haywood Maryland applied for the license.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: John Maryland, 40, farmer; wife Margaret, 30; children Cora, 15, Mandonia, 15, Robert, 13, Della, 10, Charlie, 6, Richard, 4, Percy, 2, and William T., 1 month.

An unnamed baby was stillborn 10 July 1914 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born prematurely in Wilson County to John Maryland and Margaret Lewis, both of Edgecombe County. John Maryland, R.F.D. 1, Elm City, served as both informant and undertaker. The child was buried in “burying ground – Wesley Williams farm.”

William Maryland died 19 September 1919 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 23 years old; a farmer; married; born in Wilson County to John Maryland and Maggie Lewis; and buried in Nash County.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer John Maryland, 50; wife Margritt, 40; children  Robert, 24, Della, 22, Charley, 18, Richard, 16, John P., 14, William, 13, and Primas, 11; nephew Walter, 14, and niece Hellen, 12; daughter-in-law Ether, 19; and grandchildren Maggie, 7, and Cuba, 2 months.

In the 1930 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Rocky Mount-Town Creek Road, John Maryland, 58, farm laborer; wife Maggie, 49; son Richard R., 23, farm laborer; daughter-in-law Mamie, 23; and grandchildren Daisy L., 6, and Willie C. Maryland, 4.

In the 1940 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer John Maryland, 67; wife Maggie, 65; and grandchildren John, 17, and Martha Maryland, 12.

Per his grave marker, John Maryland died 23 June 1947.

Maggie Margaret Maryland died 27 February 1965 in Sharpsburg, WIlson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 3 September 1885 in Nash County to Handy Lewis; was a widow; and was buried in Wesley Williams cemetery. Robert Maryland, Sharpsburg, was informant.

Robert Maryland died 14 October 1971 in Rocky Mount, Edgecombe County. Per his death certificate, he was born 4 July 1903 to John Maryland; was married to Estella Bunn; lived at 720 Brooks, Rocky Mount; and was a retired janitor at Morgan Motel. Willie Lee Maryland was informant.

Photographs courtesy of Ancestry.com user ElijahDoby.

Tucker, man, you killed him!

Coroner’s Inquest over body of Willie Crank Dec 21st 1896

State of North Carolina, Wilson County   }

Be it remembered that on the 21st day of December 1896 I William Harris a Conroner of said County attended by a Jury of Good and lawful men viz: J.F. Farmer, G.W. Ryan, Tom Hadley, Jas. Harris, R.C. Andrews, Wm. Hines col. by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly sworn and empanelled at Maggie Wade’s House in the county aforesaid did hold an inquest over the dead body of Willie Crank and after inquiring into the facts and circumstances of the death of the deceased from a view of the corpse and all the testimony to be procured the Jury find as follows that the said Willie Crank came to his death from a wound received in his head from the discharge of a pistol in the hands of Albert Tucker (col)   /s/ J.F. Farmer, G.W. Bryan, Thos. J. Hadley Jr., James H. Hariss, R.C. Andrews, William Hines


Evidence of Witnesses

1st Witness — Easter Baldin col — was sitting on box & Albert Tucker was sitting on same box with his head in my lap & Willie Crank the deceased came around to window & said Easter & Tucker look like 2 old apes whereupon Tucker shot Willie through window & Jim English who was in house with us ran out & saw deceased & came back in house & said Tucker man you killed deceased. All of us went out & found deceased lying in a tub of water with left hand in his pocket. We bought him in house all 5 of us viz — Jim & Tom English, Maggie & Tom Wade & myself were in the house of Maggie Wade    /s/ Easter Bolling

2nd Witness — Maggie Wade    Me & my bro Tom Wade, Jim & Tom English & Easter Baldin were all in my house. I was laying across my bed nursing my baby & Easter was sitting in Tuckers lap. Deceased came around to window & knocked at window saying hello Mag, then said Easter you & Tucker look like 2 monkeys (or something like that) sitting there & thereupon Tucker pulled out his pistol & shot him through the window. Knew it was deceased from his voice. Occurred early in the night. As soon as the shooting, Jim English run out of house & i said why Tucker you have shot Willie. Tucker said no I reckon not. Tom English run out of house & said Lord Mag Willie is shot. Then Tucker went out of house & with Jim brought deceased in my door & his pistol dropped out of his pocket.  /s/ Maggie Wade

3rd witness — Tom English col age about 14   we 5 witnesses all in Maggie Wage’s House & also Albert Tucker & deceased. Deceased went out to water closet & came back to window & nocked at window & said Tucker you & Easter sitting up there like 2 monkeys trying to play pretty. Tucker said get away from there before I shoot you & then pulled out his pistol & shot him.   Tom (X) English

4th witness — Tom Wade col.  Evidence same as the others. See below.

5th witness — Jim English col. Evidence about same. See below.

6th witness — Mattie Lewis col. Heard pistol shot & about 1 Hour afterward heard Albert Tucker kiss Easter Baldin & tell her that he would shoot any man for her. Gave her some money & told her to meet him in Rocky Mt Monday. Emiline Scott, Tom Jones & Lucy Scott & me followed Tucker from here up from as far as Wootten & Stevens shop & there Tucker ran away.   Mattie (X) Lewis

7th witness — Dr Albert Anderson.  About 7 1/2 o’clock I was called to Little Richmond and found a negro in a house no 2 with a gun shot wound entering the sckull about 1 1/2 in above left eye. There was brain tissue coming out of the opening and some hemorrhage. Breathing was irregular and stertorous. Circulation was good. From his Symptoms I thought he would die in few hours.   /s/ Albert Anderson

4th witness — Tom Wade col.  Willie Crank (deceased) came to window & knocked & said Easter you & Tucker look like two monkeys sitting there. Tucker said get away from there & drawer his gun out & shot Willie.    /s/ Thomas Wade

5th witness — Jim English.  We 5 were sitting in Maggie Wade’s house Willie came to window & knocked said Easter why don’t you & Tucker get up from there. You look like two monkeys trying to play pretty & Tucker said go on away & pulled out his pistol & shot Willie        Jim (X) English

Recognizance of Witnesses

State of North Carolina, Wilson County

Mattie Lewis, Maggie Wage, Tom English, Tom Wade and Jim English, acknowledge themselves indebted to the State of North Carolina in the sum of One Hundred dollars, conditioned to be void nevertheless, in case they appear before the next term of the Superior Court of Wilson County, to be held at Wilson NC Monday February 1st 1897, to give evidence concerning the death of Willie Crank and not depart the County without leave. Taken and acknowledged before me this 21st day of December 1896.  /s/ Wm. Harris, Coroner

Upon the recommendation of the Jury the witness Easter Bolling, is hereby turned over to J.W. Cherry Sheriff of Wilson County for safe keeping and appearance at next term at Superior Court of Wilson County viz Monday Feby 1/97.    /s/ Wm. Harris, Coroner


  • William Hines — I cannot identify this William Hines, who is not the same man as the barber and hospital administrator.
  • Willie Crank
  • Albert Tucker
  • Easter Bolling
  • Maggie Wade
  • Thomas Wade
  • Tom English
  • Jim English
  • Mattie Lewis — possibly, in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Mattie Lewis, 22, tobacco factory worker, single and living alone.
  • Emiline Scott
  • Tom Jones
  • Lucy Scott

Not surprisingly, given the transience and relative youth of Little Richmond’s denizens, I have found few traces of the victim or witnesses in Wilson County records.

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.