murder

They believed they were merely playing.

On 27 March 1932, Chester Parker shot to death his sister Sarah’s husband, Ed Howard.

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Wilson Daily Times, 28 March 1932. 

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Raleigh Road, David Parker, 39; wife Elizabeth, 38; and children William E., 15, Richard, 13, Anna, 12, Sarah, 10, Sylvania, 9, Millie K., 7, Mary L., 5, Chester, 3, and John F., 7 months.

Eddie Howard, 21, of Edgecombe County, son of Tim and Mary Howard, married Sarah Parker, 20, of Gardners township, on 4 February 1920 at Joe Pender‘s house in Gardners township. Primitive Baptist elder Ruffin Hymon performed the ceremony in the presence of Crumel Farmer, John Barnes and another.

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“Murdered by Chester Parker shot through chest with revolver”

 

 

 

 

Mishaps and mayhem, no. 1.

Causes of death (or, just as often, manners of death) listed on death certificates in the early twentieth century could be surprisingly detailed or confoundedly vague. Then, as now, most people died of disease, but fatal injuries — accidental and intentional — were distressingly common, as seen below.

  • Atkinson, Lafayett. Died 19 March 1933, Spring Hill township, Wilson County; was married to Etta Atkinson; was 48 years old; was born in Wilson County to Handy Atkinson and Susan Barnes; and worked as a farmer. “Stabbed in heart — murdered with knife”

  • Atkinson, Stephen Clyde. Died 9 January 1923, Spring Hill township, Wilson County; single; born 26 March 1899 to S.T. Atkinson and Zillie Barnes; worked as a farmer; buried in Boyetts cemetery. “Embolism (cardiac) — Homicide — Gunshot wound thigh.”

  • Exum, Leslie. Died 4 July 1934, Wilson; married to Beulah Exum; resided at 304 North Reid; age 27 years, 9 months; taxi driver; born in Wayne County to Willie Exum and Ada Artis; informant, Beulah Exum. “Homicide — Hit over stomach with Brick.”

  • Fields, Peter. Died 5 May 1923, Cross Roads township, Wilson County; single; about 33 years old; worked as a tenant farmer for W.J. Scott; born Wilson County to Daniel Hodge and Chritchania Allen; buried in Lamm Cemetery. “Murdered by Walter Bethea. Death was instantly.”

  • Gaston, Fred. Died 17 November 1916, Wilson township, Wilson County; single; 27 years old; farm hand; born in Elm City to William Gaston of Virginia and Marriah Battle of North Carolina; informant, Elmer Gaston. “Injury of the brain, Homicidal — Blow with flue in head.”

  • Hawkins, Ernest. Died 7 March 1923, Toisnot township, Wilson County; married to Sulester Batts; about 20 years old; worked as a tenant farmer for H.C. Crumpler; born in Nash County to Lola Maryland. “Shot by County Sherrif Stilling whiskey.”

  • Hinnant, Cleophus. Died 8 December 1923, Cross Roads township, Wilson County; married Gessie Hinnant; born 24 March 1902 in Wilson County to Josiah Hinnant and Victoria Wilder; buried in Hinnant graveyard. “Was murdered. Shot to death by a man named Turner Williamson.”

  • Johnson, Herbert. Died 20 July 1923, Wilson township, Wilson County; married to Winnie Johnson; age 40; farmer for Petway & Anderson; born in Duplin County to Joseph Johnson and Rania Pearson; buried in Colman cemetery, Wilson. “No Doctor. Shot Gun. Cornes Inquest. Kill by gun shot. — Homicide.”

  • Perkins, Columbus. Died 2 January 1918, Saratoga township, Wilson County; was married; was 35 to 40 years old; and was a farmer/laborer. “Shot through head by unknown party or parties — Dr. S.H. Crocker held the inquest Stantonsburg — Shot to death by Walter Hopkins.”

  • Taylor, George. Died 4 May 1918, Wilson, Wilson County; married to Maggie Taylor; aged about 44; carpenter; born Wilson County to Jordan Taylor and Winnie [last name unknown]; buried in Wilson cemetery. “Shot by Police & killed while under arrest.”

The murder of Cleophus Hinnant.

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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.”

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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.

Indicted for the murder of slave Thomas.

In May 1860, on the testimony of H.F. Barnes and Warren Ellis, a grand jury indicted Hartwell Williford and James G. Williford for the murder of an enslaved man, Thomas, who belonged to Hartwell Williford. I have found no additional information about this crime.

Hartwell Williford and James Williford lived in the area of modern-day Elm City and were the father-in-law and husband of Nancy Mears Williford, written of here.

On 22 February 1957, the Rocky Mount Telegram ran a genealogy column by “An Old Reporter” [Hugh B. Johnston] that featured Hartwell Williford. Largely a compendium of Williford’s real estate transactions and estate purchases, it somehow missed his indictment for murder. However, there was this:

“Family tradition states that Hartwell Williford possessed a ready temper and a powerful physique in his youth. On one occasion he engaged in a rough-and-tumble fight with another man in the neighborhood, seized him by the ears, and slung him around with such force that these appendages were torn from the head of the unfortunate owner. On another occasion he became so infuriated with a slave fellow that kept stealing from the neighbors or running away and causing his master trouble and expense in bringing him back home, that he undertook this immediate, unique, and terrifying punishment. He knocked both heads from a barrel, drove short nails in the sides from every direction, tied the slave securely in it with his head out one end and his feet out the other, and rolled him a short distance down the road in front of the house. The nail pricks received through his clothes were probably inconsequential to the slave as compared with the moral effects, but at any rate he was for the rest of life a reliable and industrious person.”

Murder of Slave-1860, Slave Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

“I want to advise the colored people against gambling.”

Months after the fact, a North Carolina newspaper picked up this blurb about the murder allegedly committed by a Wilson man:

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Wilmington Messenger, 1 August 1893.

This short account appeared in an Atlanta paper just after the crime:

The Atlanta Constitution, 4 April 1893.

After Courney’s execution, The Constitution ran a deeply detailed story of Courney’s life and the events that led to Smith’s death:

The Atlanta Constitution, 29 July 1893.

  • Jim Courney — His real name was Burroughs Kearney. Though not found in Wilson County records, in the 1880 census of Shocco township, Warren County, North Carolina: farmer Logan Kearney, 45; wife Virginia, 35; and children Burroughs, 15, Lucy, 13, Cherrie, 10, Cilla, 7, George, 4, and Emely, 3.  The family appears in the 1870 census of Sparta township, Edgecombe County, and Burroughs Kearney was married there in 1887.

If she cooked, he would kill her.

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Twin City Daily Sentinel (Winston-Salem, N.C.), 2 May 1921.

Nolia Reid died 1 May 1921 of “homicide–stab wounds.” Per her death certificate, she was 19 years old and worked as a laundress. Her parents, George Best and Louisa Farmer, were members of the extended family of Bests who settled the Grabneck community on west Nash Street. Her uncle Thomas Farmer was informant.

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Ben Reid apparently did not succumb to his terrible self-inflicted wounds.

A pardon.

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Wilson Advance, 5 May 1882.

  • Simon Dildy
  • Charles Gay — in the 1870 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Charles Gay, 35, wife Emma, 25, children Charles, 5, and Mary, 1, and two farm laborers Rich’d Harper, 20, and Haywood Watson, 17. Though the article above states that Gay was murdered in 1875, Emma Gay was appointed administratrix of his estate in early 1874. Gay had been a shopkeeper, and his wife took over his “old stand.” On 12 March 1874, the Goldsboro Messenger  reported his murder thus:

Artis’ Cafe padlocked.

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Wilson Daily Times, 13 February 1939.

  • June Scott Artis — A history of Stantonsburg gave the date of the cafe’s opening as 1947, which apparently was off by at least a decade. It remained in business into the 1960s.
  • Edgar Artis, June S. Artis’ son.
  • Walter Ward — The 6 February 1939 edition of the Wilson Daily Times reported that Ward pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a 15 to 18-year sentence.
  • H.B. Swenson — H.B. Swinson died 28 January 1939. Per his death certificate, he was “murdered, knife wound of breast”; was born 18 April 1913 in Greene County to Allen Swinson and Henrietta Applewhite of Greene County; lived i Stantonsburg; and worked in farming.