In 1940, 29 year-old Langstard Miller registered for the Word War II draft in Wilson County. A native of Saint Louis, Missouri, Miller listed his address as 700 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson, the home of his friend Betsy Freeman. [Was this actually his permanent address or just a mailing address?] Miller listed his employer as Dr. C.S. Robinson Minstrel Show, based on Wilmington, North Carolina.
I have found very little on Miller and nothing else to link him to Wilson. However, on 11 July 1932, Gurnie Langstard Miller, 25, son of Joe Miller and Mattie Langstard, married Annie Amelia Evans, 21, daughter of John Evans and Ida Ash, on 11 July 1932 in Northampton County, Virginia.
Betsy Freeman was not living at 700 Stantonsburg Street when the census enumerator arrived in 1940. Rather, the censustaker found City of Wilson laborer George Freeman, 56; wife Effie, 45, tobacco factory laborer; son James, 26, tobacco factory laborer; and grandchildren Edward, 13, and Doris Evans, 11. The latter were the children of Bessie [sic] Freeman and James Evans, whom she had married in Wilson on 23 June 1925. [Was Betsy/Bessie Freeman also a minstrel show employee?]
Robinson’s Silver Minstrels were a white-owned tent show that featured African-American performers. The “Repertoire-Tent Shows” section of the 21 November 1942 issue of The Billboard magazine featured this short piece:
A few months later, in the 27 February 1943 Billboard, Robinson’s Silver Minstrels advertised for “colored performers and musicians, girl musicians OK; trumpets, saxophones, piano player, chorus girls, novelty acts.” The company promised the “highest salaries on road today” and a “long, sure season.” “All performers who have worked for me in past, write” to the show’s Clinton, N.C., address.
L.A. Moore duly sworn says: He is a resident of Wilson and Wilson County. Della Greene lived in same house that he lived in. She had room there about two months. Judged from Della’s personal appearance that she was pregnant. Did not know stage as she was a fleshy woman. Noticed that she seemed to have shrunk about abdomen after coming from Mr. Ed Rawlings, where she had worked as cook. Della got sick there and was sent to my house to her room.
The body of the infant was found yesterday in corner of garden.
The body seemed to have been burnt, as it was scorched and fingers crumped up. She had fireplace in her room. Had staid at Mr. Ed Rawlings at night. Sent to me for help to get away from Wilson. Has been sick and unable to work since snow. Knows of no doctor attending her. Della was 33 or 34 years old. She left Wilson last Wednesday. /s/ L.A. Moore
Dr. C.E. Moore, duly sworn says:
Have seen the body. It is the remains of a well matured, full term colored child. Found it in complete stage of decomposition . Evidently been dead for four or six weeks. Extremities were charred, crust on hands could be broken through. Cant say that child was born alive. /s/ C.E. Moore
Mr. E.G. Rawlings, being duly sworn says:
I employed a woman by name Della, as a cook. Who lived part of the time she slept at my house. Was taken sick while there, was confined to her room one night and day about six weeks ago. About time of first snow. My wife went to room, found it disordered, blood on bed clothing. Della gave as excuse that it was her menstrual period. We sent her home. She asked permission to take soiled bed clothes, wash and return, but failed to return them. Neither saw nor heard at any time a disturbance as of a woman in labor. Owing to situation of room the cry of an infant could have been unheard. This woman Della lived at the house of L.A. Moore. /s/ E.G. Rawlings
Louisa Moore, duly sworn says:
Della Greene lived at my house. Same woman employed at Mr. Ed Rawlings. She had prominent abdomen. When Della came in surrey from Mr. Rawling’s colored boy came with her. He or she took a sack to her room, looked like bundle. Afterwards saw bedclothes, washed, hanging in fence. She carried bedclothes away. Smelt something, smelt like broiled meat, same week. Went to her room. She was scraping with a stick in fire place. Saw nothing except chicken bone. She said it was some turkey that Mrs. Rawlings had given her. When she came down after sickness she was much smaller. Told her that she was reported to have had a baby and to have destroyed it. She denied this. When she left said she was going to Enfield. I and others helped her with money. She asked for help. Her home is in Warrenton, but would stop at Enfield to get money to get home. Child when found looked like it had been burnt. /s/ Louisa Moore
Emma Jenkins, duly sworn says:
Lived in same house with Della, who cooked for Mr. Ed Rawlings. She had a large abdomen. I had no suspicion of pregnancy. When she returned from Mr. Rawlings she had lessened in size. I saw the child. It looked like it had been burnt. Emma (X) Jenkins
Lucinda Miller duly sworn says:
I think there was as much change in [illegible] would be from anyone who had been confined. I have not seen the child. Did not smell any thing that had been burning. The child was not borned in my house. I gave her 25 cents to leave Wilson with. She had gotten behind in her dues. I told her last Monday to leave but not on account of back rent. The Dr. was sent for last Sunday morning but I did know anything about it until Sunday aft. Lucinda (X) Miller
Wilson Times, 24 March 1899.
Answers at The Bar of God.
The case of Della Greene, the negro woman charged with infanticide, was ended last night, It will be remembered that she was in jail awaiting the next term of court in Wilson, and that the evidence was heavy against her for the destruction of her infant.
But the case will not called at any earthly [illegible]. Tuesday night the Messenger of Death came to the lonely prisoner in Wilson jail, and while the storm raged without and the lightning flashed, and the thunder pealed, her soul was required of her, and at the bar of God she will answer for the crime for which she was accused.
She was sick when arrested, broken in body and mind when she held to court to answer for the awful crime of her destroying her offspring by fire, and though the physicians did all in their power to preserve her life, last night it flickered out, and she passed into the vast beyond.