murder

I am shot all to pieces, can’t get anywhere.

In April 1898, Mrs. A.V.C. Hunt placed an ad for her “uptown” grocery store, serving a white clientele, on Goldsboro Street in Wilson. A year later, on March 29 and 31, 1899, town newspapers carried an enigmatic series of articles about the trial of a “negro detective” apparently hired by white livery owner Jefferson D. Farrior to “work up a case” against Hunt’s husband, James A. Hunt, for burning her store. Farrior owned the building, and posted the detective’s bond. Almost exactly one year after that, Farrior waylaid James Hunt and shot him down in the street.

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Raleigh Morning Post, 31 March 1900.

More than two dozen witnesses, black and white, testified at the inquest into Hunt’s death, held 3 April 1900.

First, the doctors’ reports.  James A. Hunt was over six feet tall and weighed 225-250 pounds. He received four gun shots to the torso. One grazed his left chest, another buried in his shoulder, another entered near his left kidney, and another lodged between his 11th and 12th ribs. Dr. Albert Anderson administered a painkiller by hypodermic at the scene, and Hunt was transported by wagon to his home. Dr. C.E. Moore determined that a perforated intestine was likely, and the doctors performed surgery the day after the shooting. Hunt died at about 7:30 the evening of March 31.

The action is somewhat difficult to follow among the multiple viewpoints, but in essence, these are the facts alleged.

A couple of weeks before the shooting, James A. Hunt spoke with Herbert Bass about getting a horse and said he did not want to get one from Jefferson Farrior because they were not on good terms. Hunt also told Bass that he was out of business but had one more piece to transact before leaving Wilson. Monday or Tuesday before the shooting, Farrior showed several people a letter that he believed Hunt had written him. On Thursday, Hunt was observed passing Farrior’s livery stable stable several times, then standing across the street and staring at him. Because it was well known that Hunt had been charged the year before with shooting at a black detective that Farrior had hired to investigate an arson, witnesses suspected that Hunt was up to something. Farrior frequently had to pass through “the colored settlement down the plank road” to get to several farms he owned in the country, and some witnesses claimed that Hunt had threatened to kill Farrior. Sitting in Foster’s bar, Hunt told someone he had had a lot of trouble with “a small man of about 120-125 pounds, a blue-eyed sharper,” adding “It’s a fellow but the fice [feist] wouldn’t bark, and [he] had a fice now that would bark and he would get recompense.”

On Friday, Hunt and Jake Tucker went to Nash County to meet with a Mr. Eatmon about Hunt purchasing property in Wilson’s Little Washington neighborhood. Eatmon lived about six miles “the other side of Finchs Mill.” They returned about five or six P.M. Later that evening, Hunt, his wife Annie V. Collins Hunt, and friend Carrie Moore headed to the Marmona Opera House to attend a benefit performance for the colored Methodist Church. They walked up Green Street, crossed the tracks, and continued up Nash Street to Tarboro Street, where they turned left. They had passed the telegraph office and were near the silversmith’s shop when Farrior suddenly stepped out in front of them and raised a pistol. Hunt, who was unarmed, grabbed Farrior’s hands, and another man ran across the street to them shouting that he would shoot Hunt if he did not let Farrior go. Annie Hunt screamed, “Murder! Fire!” Hunt loosed Farrior and ran back toward Nash Street. Farrior chased him, shooting, then followed him into Ruffin’s store where he shot Hunt again. Alf Moye grabbed Farrior, who yelled that Hunt had threatened his life. John Gaston went outside, found A.V.C. Hunt and took her home.

1897

Marmona Opera House is at the arrow at left. The Hunt party walked northwest up Nash street, then turned on Tarboro. The telegraph office occupied 638 Tarboro, shown as vacant in this 1897 Sanborn insurance map. A few doors beyond is a jewelry shop that may be the silversmith referred to. Officer Harrell likely ran up the alley shown parallel to Nash. 

Police officer Ephraim Harrell heard the shooting, ran through an alley and encountered Farrior, who did not respond when asked what was going on. Harrell saw Hunt and told him to move on. Hunt responded, “I am shot all to pieces can’t get anywhere,” and lay down in a pile of wood. Harrell called a hack to take Hunt home. Hunt told him it was “cold-blooded murder” and asked for morphine so he could “die easy.” As he lay in a wagon near Wooten & Stevens furniture store, a doctor administered a painkiller by hypodermic needle. Harrell said he had known Hunt two or three years as a merchant who had a business on Goldsboro Street that had burned out. Hunt was a large man and “regarded as having plenty of grit.” Harrell had arrested him two or three weeks before for fighting a black man named Junk Williams, who had since left town.

Sandy Henderson, who had just dropped off some passengers at the opera house, spoke to Hunt as he lay bleeding. Hunt identified the men who abetted Farrior as Skinner and Privett and said he would have not been shot had they not threatened him. Hunt said he was going to die “but God would pay Mr. Farrior for shooting him.”

At the inquest, Hunt’s wife and several of his friends testified that Hunt had neither written nor signed any letter to Farrior and said the handwriting looked like Junk Williams’. Rev. W.T.H. Woodard said, “If was a swearer, I would swear on a stack of Bibles as high as this Court House it is not [Hunt’s handwriting.]” Williams had stopped payment on a $17 check to Hunt. When Williams refused to make good, Hunt had beaten him. “I have got a good whipping,” Williams told Dennis Brooks, “but will give the man two weeks to live that whipped me.” Despite this incident and the alleged assault on the detective, for which he was acquitted, Hunt was not known to be a violent man. As to Hunt’s alleged unfinished business in town, it was not to settle a score with Farrior. Rather, Hunt had been negotiating to purchase a lot from Emma Gay, a transaction that lawyer Sidney Woodard was handling for him. Hunt also had discussed purchasing land from Rev. Woodard in Littleton for $600.

Having heard this testimony and viewed Hunt’s body, the jurors returned a verdict: “That the said J.A. Hunt came to his death by pistol shot wounds inflicted by J.D. Farrior, That said wounds came to be inflicted by said J.D. Farrior while engaged in a mutual altercation with said Hunt under the influence of a sudden passion and in heat of blood. That therefore adjudge the said J.D. Farrior is guilty of Manslaughter in killing of said J.A. Hunt.”

The inquest verdict was as surprising then as it is today.

4-6

Wilmington Messenger, 6 April 1900.

Farrior’s capital case, for which he could have received the death penalty, was set for the June 1900 docket of Wilson County Superior Court. Newspapers reported that the trial was postponed until October and then May 1901. On 6 June 1901, the Wilson News reported that Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Farrior had recently left town for a two-week trip to Washington, D.C., New York, the Pan-American Exposition, and points in Canada. Eighteen months later, the case had yet to be heard, but was expected to go to trial that month. (Note the names of defense counsel.)

1902

Raleigh Morning Post, 11 December 1902.

Finally, in February 1903, a resolution surprising only in its technicality. Certain that it could not win, the State had dropped the case.

2063_1133_854_390

Wilmington Morning Star, 8 February 1903.

town-1897

(A) marks the approximate start point for the Hunt party’s walk to the Marmona. (B) is  where Hunt was killed. Sanborn insurance map, 1897.

——

Here, except for a missing page 7, is the full transcript of the coroner’s inquest over the dead body of James Alexander Hunt.

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  • Dr. Albert Anderson — see above.
  • Annie V. Collins Hunt
  • Jefferson D. Farrior — Duplin County native Jefferson Davis Farrior (1861-1934) owned a large livery and livestock sales stable on South Tarboro Street.
  • Colored Methodist Church — Saint John African Methodist Episcopal Church.

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  • Carrie Moore
  • W.G. Williams
  • James D. High — James Draughn High (1881-1938), son of John T. and Mary Ella Draughn High. He appears in the 1900 census of Wilson as an 18 year-old salesman.

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  • John Gaston — John A. Gaston was an African-American with a popular barber shop catering to white customers.
  • C.B. Ruffin
  • Joe J. Best

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  • Ephraim Harrell — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, policeman Ephraim Harrell, 34, and wife Sarrah, 32.
  • Ned Bunch — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, teamster Ned Bunch, 50, wife Lissa, 50, and children Mary, 16, Martha, 12, Orra, 11, Nellie, 9, Mattie, 7, and Lucy, 5. Ned Bunch died 19 March 1916 in Wilson of lobar pneumonia, age 65. His death certificate reports that he was born in Wilson County, and his father was James Bunch. Malissa Bunch was the informant.
  • Sandy Henderson — On 27 May 1897, widow Mary Jane Taylor married Sandy Henderson. Both were 40 years old. Missionary Baptist Minister Fred M. Davis performed the ceremony at the John’s A.M.E. Zion church, and the official witnesses were S.A. Smith, Charles H. Darden and Wyatt Studaway. In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: hack driver San[illegible] Henderson, 54, wife Mary J., 40, a restaurant keeper, and children Buxton, 19, a hotel waiter, Leonidas F., 13, a tobacco stemmer, Charles J.A.W., 9, and Mattie M.G., 7, all Hendersons. (Buxton and Leonidas were in fact Taylors and were Sandy’s step-sons.)

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  • John Hare
  • Herbert Bass

[Page 7 of the transcript, in which Bass completed his testimony and W.I. Skinner and C.H. Whitehead testified, is missing.]

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  • W.J. Flowers
  • L.A. Moore — Lee Andrew Moore was one of the earliest agents of North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association (later, Insurance Company). Moore was born about 1863 in Black Creek township, Wilson County, to Lawrence and Vinnie Moore. He died in Wilson in 1948.
  • Jake Tucker — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: salesman Jacob Tucker, 39, 40, wife Mary, 39, and children Doward, 17, Daniel, 15, Thomas, 13, Henry, 12, Smoot, 9, Walter, 7, Patience, 5, Joseph, 2, and Besse, 11 months. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Jake Tucker was described as a retail grocer.

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  • W.S. Oats
  • B.R. Selby — Benjamin Richard Selby (1877-1932) appears in the 1900 census of Wilson as a 26 year-old horse dealer. He died in East Saint Louis, Illinois, and his death certificate describes him as a livestock salesman.

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  • R.S. Rives — Robert S. Rives, pastor of Saint John A.M.E. Zion church.
  • Dennis Brooks — in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County, 35 year-old Georgia-born merchant Dennis Brooks, wife Mary, 27, and daughter Aleo[illegible], 8, shared a household with Jordan Taylor, 50, and wife Matilda, 40. [Jordan Taylor, by the way, was the father-in-law of witness Sandy Henderson.]
  • J.F. Farmer

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

[Personal note: I have a familial connection to J.D. Farrior via Jesse A. Jacobs and Jesse “Jack Henderson, who worked in his livery stable when they came to Wilson a few years after this killing. In addition, I grew up in Bel Air Forest, a small subdivision laid out in the early 1960s along Highway 264 East. 264 runs in the path laid by the Plank Road to Greenville, and my neighborhood was once one of the country farms that Farrior passed through Wilson’s “colored settlement” to reach.]

 

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.

They intended to kill him if powder would burn.

Loney Brooks sworn says:

The frolick was at Mr Aycocks place Saturday night I think Xmas week I saw Carroll Harriss in the House & there was a brick thrown in the house. I ran outside & saw Carroll Harriss running & shooting in the direction of some one that fell & I heard Carroll Harriss & John Whitaker say it was Tobe Brooks & they intended to kill him if powder would burn.  Loney (X) Brooks

——

Fredrick Woodard sworn says: [blank]

——

Albert Woodard sworn says:

I was at the dance at Mr Aycocks on Saturday night before Christmas I think. I saw Addie Ford in the house as I walked from the fire place to the door Carroll Harriss stepped out of the door & as he stepped out of the door inside Charles Brooks & Tobe Brooks was near the door inside Charles started as if going out & I caught him by the arm & pulled him back and asked him what was the matter. He did not speak at first & I asked him again & he said that fellow cussed Buddie for a son of a bitch. I told Charles not to go out of the door if he did that fellow might shoot you for I saw the pistol in his hand (Carroll Harris hand). After that there was no more trouble for a while. After that some one hit Carroll Harriss with a brick while he was standing in the house. Carroll ran out of the house at the back door as if running at some one & shot off his pistol twice. I & others followed him & found Harris sitting down on the path with his hat off on the ground & the pistol on it. Some one asked him what was the matter & he replied that he was bleeding. Then I turned back & went to the house & left him & others there.   Albert (X) Woodard

——

Grant Brooks sworn says:

I was at the party at Aycock, on a Saturday night before Christmas & heard Carroll Harriss call Tobe Brooks a Damned son of a bitch & Jumped out of the door & I saw him draw his pistol. I heard nothing more. Am no relation.  Grant (X) Brooks

——

Izerick Brooks sworn says:

I was at the dance at Aycocks saw Carroll Harriss draw his pistol on Tobe Brooks & cussed him, dared him out of [illegible] doors, pretty soon after some one hit Carroll Harriss with a brick while he was in the house, then Carroll Harris ran out of the back door & shot at some one running & soon came back to the house & said to me that he was going to get Tobe Brooks for hitting him after that all was quiet.  /s/ Izeriah Brooks

——

Jack Woodard sworn says:

I was over there at Mr Aycocks last Wednesday a week ago the 23rd Dec 96 & the question arose among us concerning the trouble at the dance where Carroll Harriss was hit with a brick. I asked Carroll Harriss is he was hurt & he said he was, bad. I told him to go home & if he knew who it was hit him to indict him & let the law take its course & he said no I am going to get him. That is all I know about the trouble.   Jack (X) Woodard

——

Dora Woodard sworn says:

I was at Jack Woodards house (I live there with my father) I was sitting on the foot of the bed & Tobe Brooks was sitting on the other side by me & these men Carroll Harriss & John Whitaker came into the house & John Whitaker took a seat at the corner of the fire place & Carroll Harriss stood with his back to the fire. There was a [illegible] talking to this girl Tobe Brooks saw Harriss’s pistol in his hand & asked him what did he mean to do. I then jumped up started to the door in the meantime Harriss shot Tobe & by the time I got to the door he shot again. I called to Charly, Tobes brother & told him to come, that they were killing his brother then his brother ran in by me & I got out by the side of the door, looked back & saw Whitaker & Harriss have Tobe down on the the bed, heard one shot after I got out. I saw Charly run out of the house & Whitaker pursuing him with a pistol in his hand. I remarked to Whitaker if he was not ashamed to kill a man in a mans house & he replied that he was not that he had saved the Damned son of a bitch then I went back in the house & saw Tobe bleeding from a wound in the head & mouth. Both of Harriss & Whitaker had pistols one each in the house.    /s/ Dora Woodard

Dora & Julia Woodard are one and the same person

——

Maggie Brooks sworn says:

I was in Jack Woodards house when the shooting took place I was sitting on a chair by Tobe. He was sitting on the bed. Carroll Harriss was standing by the fire place with pistol in hand, pointed at Tobe Brooks. Tobe said Mr what do you mean? Harriss said nothing & then Tobe called his brother. Harriss shot or Whitaker I do not know which, Whitaker was sitting in corner of fire place. As soon as the shot was fired I ran under the bed betwixt Tobe’s legs. I then crawled out from under the bed & saw out of the doors & saw Harriss & Whitaker leave.  /s/ Maggie Brooks

——

George Bell sworn says:

On the evening of the 24th of Dec 96 I was in the Bar room of Luther Barnes at Black Creek & John Whitaker came to the door & called me out & asked me if I could tell him where Tobe Brooks lived. I said yes he lived on Frank Barnes’s place & he said for me to tell him that he was going to kill him a damned son of a bitch & turns to Harriss & ask (who came up about that time) when should they go. Harriss replied he did not care. Whitaker then said we will not go to night but will on Sunday. John Whitaker turned off & said that he would see me again but he did not.     /s/ Geo. C. Bell

——

Charles Brooks sworn says:

I was at the house of Jack Woodard the evening of the shooting of Tobe Brooks my brother. I was standing in the yard when I heard one or two shots. Dora Woodard called me & said: Come in they are killing your brother hearing also my brother Tobe calling me I ran in house, saw they have him down on the bed & shooting him. I jerked Harriss off & shot him & then I ran & some one shot me as U was running leaving the place going home.   Charles (X) Brooks

——

Leslie Brooks sworn says:

I was in Jack Woodards yard on the evening of the shooting of Tobe Brooks. I heard a pistol shot & ran in the house saw Carroll Harriss grab Tobe Brooks in the collar & slam him on the bed Whitaker holding Tobe by the shoulder at the same time, saw Harriss shoot Tobe in the face Whitaker firing also at that time Charles Brooks ran in grabbed Harriss off & shot him in the back of the neck. I then ran out doors, saw Charles running & Whitaker after him shooting him. Hearing John Whitaker saying I will kill the next son of a bitch leaving at the same time.   Leslie (X) Brooks

——

Jonas Woodard sworn says:

I was at my brother in laws John Woodard near the shooting Heard the shooting & saw them a crowd run out of Jack Woodards house & soon after Harriss & Whitaker came along. I asked John Whitaker if he had gone up there & killed Tobe & his reply was: We have killed the son of a bitch. I asked who did it & Whitakers reply was: Carroll Harriss. Jonas (X) Woodard

——

Augustus Woodard sworn says:

I was with some other boys out in the yard, saw Harriss & Whitaker come out of the house. Leslie Brooks was one of the boys with us, says Maggie Skinner(?) is talking, then Harris & Whitaker turns & goes back in the house & in about five minutes I heard a pistol shot & I ran to the door to see what was the matter. When I got there, saw Harriss & Whitaker standing over Tobe who was lying on the bed, hearing another shots & seeing pistols in the hands of both Harris & Whitaker. Then Charles Brooks ran in & shot Harriss & then ran out, then I ran to the kitchen, then John Whitaker followed Charles & shot him turning to join the house saying I will kill the other son of a bitch goes in gets his hat & leaves.  /s/ Augustus Woodard

——

Sarah [Susan written above] Woodard sworn says:

I live at Jethro Aycock’s place Carroll Harriss came to my house to have his wound washed. Pretty soon afterwards John Whitaker came said to Harriss make haste & lets go down to Jack Woodard & as soon as he had his head washed left with Whitaker in the direction of Jack Woodard’s returned that day Whitaker saying we have saved the son of a bitch.  Sarah (X) Woodard

——

Levinia Artis sworn says:

I went over to John Whitakers house on Sunday morning the day the shooting occurred. Whitaker was sitting in the corner of fire place thinking saying God damn it I believe I will get Harriss & go down there & kill him. Soon after Carroll Harriss came in & Whitaker said Harriss lets go down & get that damned son of a bitch & kill him. Harriss made no reply. They went off together  came back in the evening & John Whitaker said to me we have killed the son of a bitch & Carroll Harriss remarked they have shot me too.   Luvinia (X) Artis

——

Dr. H.R. Hoover —

I was called in to see Tobe Brooks on Dec 27th 1896 He was at Jack Woodards it was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I found him lying on the bed & there was a bullet wound on the left side of his forehead. There was blood & brain matter oosing from that wound. The face around the wound was backbend & burned from powder as I thought. I examined the wound as completely as possible & found that it was a fracture of the skull. I find that there was a bullet wound as I thought in the jaw but was not able to trace it. In regard to the wound in the skull I found the tissues very badly swollen. I washed the wound thoroughly & put cloth over it & called again Monday the 28th 96. His condition was unchanged so far as I could see. Called again 29th inst. with Dr. R.A. Smith who I called in for consultation. After finding the tissues had gone down we decided to cut in & see if we could not find the bullet. We made the incision & found the bullet had penetrated the skull & a portion of it we found just inside of the skull pressing on the brain & the other fragment lying in the brain. We removed the fragments we found washed the wound & dressed it.   /s/ H.R Hoover

——

Dr. R.A. Smith —

I saw Tobe Brooks with Dr. Hoover Tuesday Dec 29th 1896. I found him suffering with a gun shot wound he was suffering with gun shot wound in the forehead on the left side. The blood & brain were oosing from the wound. Dr. Hoover and I concluded to cut down on this wound & see if we could not find the bullet.I found a fragment of the bullet had passed through the skull & partly imbedded in the brain.Here the piece was shown. Found another piece shown imbedded in the fractured bone. Sewed the wound up & dressed it. The fracture in the skull was about three quarters of an inch.   /s/ R.A. Smith

——

Post Mortem Report

On January 4th 1897 We were requested by the Jury of inquest over the body of Tobe Brooks to make a Post Mortem examination. On opening the skull we found that a wound had been made by a bullet about 32 caliber about one inch above the left eye brow and a little over one inch to the left of the median line of the brain. The ball penetrated the brain backwards and downwards till it reached about the middle of the brain where it was found resting on the floor of the cranium. We believe that the wound produced by the bullet found in the brain was sufficient to cause the death of the deceased.  /s/ W.S. Anderson, H.R. Hoover

——

  • Loney Brooks
  • Carroll Harris — in the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: cook Rhoda Harriss, 35, and sons Benjamin, 10, Edward, 7, and Carroll, 5, living in the household of white farmer Willie [Wiley] Daniel, 60. [Carroll’s nephew Benjamin Harris is featured here.]
  • John Whitaker
  • Tobe Brooks — in the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farmer Lewis Brooks, 37, wife Lina, 35, and children Lewis, 17, Rachel, 15, Priscilla, 14, Samuel, 12, Abram, 9, Charles, 7, Lee, 5, and Toby, 3.
  • Albert Woodard — perhaps, in the 1870 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: farm laborer Redick Woodard, 54, wife Agnes, 40, and children Izaih, 20, Harriet, 20, Shade, 13, Parker, 9, Ludwell, 5, and Albert, 1. Or, more likely, in the 1880 census of Black Creek township: Jack Woodard, 35, wife Cynthia, 32, and children John, 12, Julia, 7, Cynthia, 6, Albert, 5, and Aaron, 2.
  • Grant Brooks — in the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Grant Brooks, 31, wife Sallie, 24, and children Calvin, 5, Beater, 4, Harry, 2, and Annie, 1. (They are listed next-door to the household of Maggie Brooks, below.)
  • Izerick Brooks — see Albert Woodard, above.
  • John “Jack” Woodard — in the 1880 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Jack Woodard, 35, wife Cynthia, 32, and children John, 12, Julia, 7, Cynthia, 6, Albert, 5, and Aaron, 2. In the 1900 census of Black Creek township: farmer Jackson Woodard, 56, wife Fannie, 53, children Daisy, 30, Aaron, 18, Harry, 19, Augustus, 17, Steven, 16, Mary, 11, and Harriet, 8, and grandchildren Eddie, 5, Bessie, 3, and Frank, 6 months.
  • Julia Dora Woodard — see above.
  • Maggie Brooks — in the 1900 census of Black Creek, Wilson County: farmer David Brooks, 45, wife Henrietta, 38, and children Maggie, 18, Minnie, 16, Alice, 13, Lizzie, 11, Bettie, 9, Tommie, 8, and Samuel, 2.
  • George Bell
  • Luther Barnes — in the 1900 census of Town of Black Creek, Black Creek township, Wilson County, Luther A. Barnes, 27, white, is listed as a saloon keeper.
  • Charles Brooks — on 9 January 1901, Charles Brooks, 26, son of Louis and Eveline Brooks, married Maggie Brooks, 19, daughter of Dave and Henrietta Brooks at Dave Brooks’ in Black Creek township. Witnesses were P.R. Brooks, Fred Woodard and C.F. Darden, all of Black Creek.
  • Leslie Brooks — Leslie Brooks died 12 October 1918 in Black Creek township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was born in 1881 in Wilson County to Dave Brooks and Henrietta Peacock [see Maggie Brooks, above]; worked as a shoemaker; was single; and was buried in Brooks cemetery. Jno. Williams was informant.
  • Jonas Woodard — in the 1900 census of Black Creek township, Wilson County: Jonas Woodard, 33, wife Edney, 30, and children Anna, 14, Grant, 11, Pauline, 5, Forest, 2, and Victoria, 1.
  • Augustus Woodard — see Jack Woodard, above.
  • Sarah Woodard
  • Levinia Artis
  • H.R. Hoover — the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County lists Henry R. Hoover, 36, physician.
  • R.A. Smith
  • W.S. Anderson — Dr. William S. Anderson

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

The Negro who did the shooting?

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News & Observer (Raleigh), 6 August 1901.

[There is a disconnect between the headlines and the article. “Wilson Negroes” fought, and “The Negro Who Did the Shooting Is Now in Jail.” In fact, while Reuben White was certainly African-American, Henry Langley and his father William were not and were not identified as such in the body of the article.]

In the 1900 census of Taylors township, Wilson County: farmer Reubin White, 44, and wife Anner, 39.

In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: William Langley, 48, headed a household that included his son Henry, 21.

The murder of Nettie Vick Jones.

Ten years after Caesar Wooten shot Mittie Strickland near Wilson’s railroad tracks, another man killed a woman near the Nash Street crossing. Initially, at least, this murder drew wide attention: A. Wilson Jones, the alleged killer, was a prominent African-American Republican Party leader in Wilson County, and his victim, his wife Nettie Vick Jones, was the sister of Samuel H. Vick.

As an early report from a Fayetteville paper notes, considerable confusion surrounded the crime. Jones fled in the aftermath, and a black constable searching for him got himself arrested after pulling a gun on a flagman.

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Fayetteville Observer, 28 August 1897.

The Baltimore Sun claimed that friends of the victim’s family were threatening to lynch Jones.

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Baltimore Sun, 28 August 1897.

A few days later, the Wilson Advance and Wilson Times offered more detailed versions of events. The Joneses, who were estranged, were overheard quarreling on Nash Street. Nettie rebuffed Wilkes, and he stabbed her repeatedly with a shoemaker’s knife. Wilkes then ran down Pettigrew Street to the home of one of Nettie’s friends, Annie Williams (reported earlier as Annie Battle), and shot her as she came to her door.

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Wilson Advance, 1 September 1897.

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Wilson Times, 3 September 1897.

Expressions of shocked sympathy rolled in from Nettie Jones’ contemporaries.

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Raleigh Gazette, 11 September 1897.

Quickly, though, the hubbub died away, and a few brief updates in newspapers in early 1898 suggest that Jones was never caught.

——

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: baker Samuel Williams, 30, carpenter Daniel Vick, 25, wife Fannie, 24, children Samuel, 8, Earnest, 3, and Nettie M., 5, plus Violet Drake, 52.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Daniel Vick, 38, wife Fannie, 35, children Samuel, 16, Nettie, 14, Earnest Linwood, 12, Henry, 10, and James O.F. Vick, 8, plus Frank O., 20, and Marcus W. Blount, 26.

In the 1880 census of Town of Wilson, Wilson County: on Nash Street, Wilson Jones, 22, shoemaker.

On 13 December 1884, A.W. Jones, 24, of Wilson County, married Nettie M. Vick, 20, at Thomas Johnson’s. E.H. Ward, a minister, conducted the ceremony before John Moss, Alice Johnson and Thomas Johnson. (Per the 1900 census, Thomas Johnson was a mail carrier and, presumably, therefore an associate of postmaster Sam Vick. Alice was his wife.)

The 28th arrest.

23 May 1887. A man and a woman, both African-American, argue near the railroad crossing at Vance Street in Wilson. Shots ring out. The woman, Mittie Strickland, falls to the ground, fatally struck. The man, said to be Caesar Wooten, flees.

Within weeks, the governor of North Carolina offers a $200 reward for Wooten’s capture.

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Raleigh News & Observer, 2 June 1887.

In response, toothy dark-skinned men all across North Carolina and Virginia are hauled into police stations.

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Greensboro Morning News, 10 June 1887.

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Wilson Advance, 30 June 1887.

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Wilmington Morning Star, 26 July 1887.

By August, at least eight men have been falsely identified and arrested as Wooten.

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Raleigh Weekly State Chronicle, 4 August 1887.

And then … nothing. For four years. Until:

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Wilson Advance, 30 April 1891.

The final tally: 27 false arrests before Wooten was captured in Atlanta.

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Wilson Advance, 21 May 1891.

And, finally, a conviction:

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Raleigh State Chronicle, 8 November 1891.

——

Wooten Strickland

Map of Wilson, 1882. The tiny red X at the railroad marks the approximate spot of Mittie Strickland’s murder.

[Sidenote: Wooten was appointed top-notch legal defense in that time and place. Frederick A. Woodard (1854-1915) was elected to the United States Congress two years after Wooten’s trial. Sidney A. Woodard was his brother and law partner. Avowed white supremacist Charles B. Aycock was appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina in 1893 and elected governor in 1901.]

A quarrel over house rent.

San Antonio Register 8 5 1932 MS Gilliam cut by Hargrave

San Antonio Register, 5 August 1932.

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Pittsburgh Courier, 6 August 1932.

Sometime between 1910, when he and Annie Gilliam appear in the census of Plymouth, Washington County, and 1912, Dr. Matthew Stanley Gilliam moved his family and practice to Wilson. The city directory that year lists Dr. Gilliam’s address (probably that of his office) at 532 East Nash Street. Later directories place his office at 516 East Nash and his home at 805 East Nash Street (now occupied by Edwards Funeral Home). The inventory list accompanying the Nomination Form for designation for East Wilson as a National Historic District notes that Gilliam owned rental property in the 1300 block of East Nash and on Ashe Street. Presumably, it was in one of these houses that Gilliam had his fatal encounter with Andrew Hargrave.

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Two white men running after a negro.

State of North Carolina, Wilson County  }  To any lawful officer to execute and return forthwith Whereas information has the day been made to me William Ellis one of the Justices of said County on the oath of William Thompson that he has reason to believe that John Edwards or Kinchen Page either on or the other did shoot or was accessory to the shooting of his slave Abraham this day near Stantonsburg in said County  This is therefore to command you yo arrest the said Edwards and Page and them have before some Justice of said county to answer the aforesaid complaint and be further delt with according to Law. Herein fail not Given under my hand and seal this 22nd day of March 1855.  /s/ William Ellis J.P. {seal}

Summon for the state: John W. Nobles, Nathan P. Daniel, William Jordan, Mrs. Avy Peacock, Orange Jones

——

State of North Carolina, Wilson County    }  The defendants John Edwards and Kinchen Page being brought before me William Ellis one of the Justices of said County of Wilson charged according to the terms of the foregoing warrant and being put on the examination John Edwards states that he met said boy Abraham in the road in Stantonsburg [illegible] near the bridge and told said boy that for previous conduct he [illegible] him a whipping and that he was agoing to whip him and that if he run he would shoot him whereupon the boy said if he was a mind to shoot he must shoot and troted off whereupon he did shoot him

Kinchen Page states he did not shoot the boy nor was he accessory to the shooting

Orange Jones a witness for the state being duly sworn states that John Edwards told him he did shoot the boy Abraham and gave as a reason about the same as said Edwards states in his examination as recorded above

Mrs. Elizabeth Heath being duly sworn states that she heard a gun fire and looked out and saw two white men running after a negro but did not know either of them

Mrs Avy Peacock being duly sworn states that she saw Mr. Edwards shoot the boy and then she also saw Edwards and Page run after the boy — She also states that upon interrogation that about the time Edwards had the gun raised to his face she heard Page say stop John or dont shoot or words to that effect

Slave Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

If I can’t get it in the car, I don’t want it.

“The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) conducts research and supports policy initiatives on anti-civil rights violence in the United States and other miscarriages of justice of that period. CRRJ serves as a resource for scholars, policymakers, and organizers involved in various initiatives seeking justice for crimes of the civil rights era.” In the summer of 2013, students from Northeastern University Law School’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Clinic traveled to Wilson to research the murders of Otis Newsome, a World War II veteran shot to death while attempting buy brake fluid at a filling station in Wilson on March 27, 1948, and J.C. Farmer, a 19 year-old veteran murdered by Alcoholic Beverage Control officers following a dispute with a self-deputized constable in 1946. Visit CRRJ’s website to find trial documents, media reports, and the Clinic’s essay concerning their findings in the Newsome case.