shooting death

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.”

The death of Alphonso Battle, age 15.

The Daily Times reported the death of 15 year-old Alphonso Battle as tragic, but straightforward — he had accidentally shot himself in the chest while squirrel hunting.

Wilson Daily Times, 15 October 1937.

Bizarrely, though, Battle’s death certificate tells a completely different story, establishing his legal cause of death as “natural cause no sign of foul play.”


In the 1930 census of Cross Roads township, Wilson County: farmer John H. Battle, 49; wife Loutoria, 40; and children Johnie L., 21, Nettie, 19, Bessie L., 16, Mary L., 15, Roosevelt, 14, Armettie, 11, Alphnza, 8, Estelle, 7, Augustus, 4, and Harvey L., 2.

“He could not have gotten him without shooting”; or, plus ça change.

That the deceased, Thomas Matthews, came to his death by a pistol shot wound inflicted by George W. Mumford, a policeman of the town of Wilson, in the lawful discharge of his duties in the execution of a certain warrant issued by the Mayor of the town of Wilson against the said Thomas Matthews for larceny. That said wound was necessary to prevent the escape of the deceased. And it further appearing that the said Mumford is in the custody of the sheriff , the jury recommends that he be forthwith discharged.   /s/ W.L. Banks, T.H. Jones, B.T Amerson, B.H. Cozart, J.T. McCrow, J.W. Corbett


Testimony taken at a coroner’s inquear held over the body of Tom Matthews, C.W. Gold Special Coroner


Coroner’s Jury, State vs. Geo. Mumford

Frank Felton

Mr. Mumford told me to assist him in making arrest, said he had a warrant vs. Tom Mathews, he went down by Graded School & come by later. He got to the house & come out at front door, the negro came out and he asked him to stop. Saw Mumford shout about 20 or 25 yards from deceased. Mumford kept hollowing at him to stop, the negro ran faster and kept running


Said he broke in Garris’ store about in Feby


Am a policeman in Wilson


Geo. M. is a police.

[Passage missing]

Started about 445 Garris store was broken into some time in Feb. I knew the goods were stolen & Tom Mathis was suspected. Mumford had arrested him in Feb. He was carried in Walston store & asked Walston to hold him, went for me & he had escaped. I took warrant vs. him & have been looking for him ever since first saw him. When I first saw Mumford the deceased was in the second house from the Graded School. Mumford kept hollowing stop. When first saw him he was about 10 ft when first told him to stop, he was running, M ran after him & ran all of 75 or 80 yds, kept hollowing stop, Mathis was going running away, he was about 60 ft from him when he shot. Heard Mumford say will shoot if don’t stop, also heard woman say stop. He could not have gotten him without shooting, he was going towards the woods & was nearly at the woods when he shot. Only 1 shot fired. I helped pick deceased up with Mumford & brought him back to the house. Deceased said he was the cause of it all, said it was all his fault that he had no business running he walked with us 60 or 70 yds got a dray brought him to sanatorium & then got a dray & carried him to station house. He did not read the warrant, said he did not need him to read Mumford had on police uniform badge & [illegible] knew we were policemen & that we had a warrant for him.   /s/ W.F. Fulton

Dr. C.E. Moore

Negro was brought to my office, & had him sent to station house, where I examined him found him suffering from shock & internal hemorrhages. Sent for Dr. W.S. A[nderson] to assist in giving chloroform We saw evidence of ball have lodged in abdominal wall, 2 inches below ombillicus made prognostic closed him up the best we could made an incision over the ball & where the ball [section missing] there was a gush of blood showing the abdominal cavity was full of blood. Then executed the incision longer [illegible] to examine the abdominal cavity, found a good many loops punctured & the ball entered the posterior part of the left hip. Had he been in an erect position the ball would have passed through the thigh and been a harmless shot. Repaired we think all of the wounded intestines we could find. Think the immediate cause of his death was the shock & infection. Had a good pulse for 24 hours after we closed him up. Rendered service at instance of the gentlemen of the town and Mrs Mumford’s father. Should have been a harmless shot had he been in an erect position. The operation was a successful one & the patient in a good condition for 24 hours. /s/ C.E. Moore

Mary Frances Scott

I was standing in my house down near the Graded School, Tom ran out of the gate, Mumford behind. I hollowed at him to stop, he didn’t stop & Mumford shot him when at 50 yds. Tom was in Sarah Grants house across the street from me. Know the deceased well. Didn’t hear Mr. Mumford hollow stop, I was scared. Didn’t remember the position the deceased was running from me. Tom and I both knew Mr. Mumford was a policeman. Tom didn’t answer at all when I told him to stop, he kept on running and Tom was gaining, Tom was running and Mr. Mumford running after him.


First I saw was Mr M at steps at Tom at door, Tom and I both knew he was a policeman, Both were running every minute, Tom was gaining on him Tom was running to the woods as fast as he could, I hollowed when he first came out the gate if you haven’t done any thing stop. Saw no one at the time of the shooting Tom come so he said from Lbg., have heard he broke away from the chain gang there. Saturday evening is the first time, I think I have seen him since he went away, when were play children together and had he been here I would have seen him. I knew at the time I hollowed to him to stop that the police were after him. /s/ Mary Francis Scott

Henry Claxton

I come from Lbg. [Lynchburg, Virginia] about 3 years ago. Knew Mathis in Lbg. He was on the chain gang in Lynchburg. He was disposed to be fussy, was up before the mayor quite often. Know nothing about the killing. He left here about 2 or 3 months ago, didn’t see him until the last game Saturday before he was shot. Heard Tom accused of the Garris robbery. Knew Tom nearly all his life he was in trouble quite often in Lynchburg & several times on the chain gang. He worked here for Maury a little while this year. After Garris store was broken open Mr Felton asked me about “the boys” and I told him Little Andrew Brown about [passage missing, page torn] the Hobos and men like Tom and his crowd. /s/ Henry (X) Claxton, witness R.W. Mumford

Dr. W.S. Anderson

Saturday evening I went to the Station house & found the man with a ball in his abdomen 3 or 4 inches below navel. We decided from symptoms it was better to cut in & see the extent of his injury, after cutting thru the skin found ball & extracted it. Enlarged opening [passage missing] found several holes in there possibly 6 or 8, didn’t think to count the number sewed up. The deceased must have been stooping over when shot an ordinary stooping running position would cause such a wound as the deceased has. Had he been standing erect don’t think the ball would not have killed him. /s/ W.S. Anderson.

M.T. Cousins

I know nothing about the killing. These knives (the ones shown him) are very much alike, if not the knives (2 large ones) I sold Mr Garris when I sold out to him. Don’t think I have ever seen in Wilson any knives like these except those I sold Garris. They are the same make or shape. Sold out to Garris abt. 18 Nov. 97. The knives are cheap knives not regularly sold thro the channels of trade. /s/ M.T. Cousins

J.H. Garris

Know nothing about the killing. The knives shown me are exactly like the knives stol from me when my store was broken open in Feb. Found the knives at Mr. G.W. Walston. They had been pond. Saw the knives the following week after my store were broken open. They are knives not usually sold, are too large. Saw dec’d in Walstons store, he was under arrest, recognized him as one who had been in my store several times. /s/ J.H. Garriss

G.D. Walston

Don’t know when the knives were left with me. Mr. Garris came over & saw the knives said they were like his, spoke to Mumford & he commenced to look into it. A few nights after M. brought in Tom Mathis & asked if he was the one left the knives there. I identified him as the one I got 2 of the knives. Mr. Mumford said if keep him there, he stepped out and the next I saw of the boy he went out the door. He (the decd) pawned there with me. I suspected at time of the knives being pawned they were those stolen of Garris, I then reported the matter to Mr. Mumford. Mr. Mumford was pointed out the deceased by my clerk. Never seen the dec’d since. When Mumford left the dec’d boy with me it was [illegible]. /s/ G.D. Walston

Geo. Athey

Know nothing about the killing or stealing. I was born in Lbg. Have known Tom about 13 yrs. He left Lbg. about 1 yr. ago. He was working in the factory at Lbg. Staying at his mothers and broke away from the chain gang when he left. Was put on the chain gang for resisting and fighting a policeman who attempted to arrest him. He then went to Richmond. Mathis trampled his way down here – by the frt [freight]. The last time he left there was account of the police being after him. /s/ George Athey

Orion Crank

Was in Sarah Grants house & when I came to the door both were running. Mr. Mumford was going to the front door & Felton to the back door. Mathews said nothing he was sitting on the floor with me & others, raised up & saw Mumford, then hopped up jumped out of the door & ran. Was so far from me when they came out that couldn’t hear anything was said. There was in the house with me Warren Crank Sarah Grant & the deceased. I was the only one that saw him until after he was laying down. Tom stayed on the road all the time here last year about two months. Tom knew the policeman had out papers for him. Didn’t see him for some time until Friday night. Have known Tom 10 or 12 years, have lived in Little Richmond since I came here about 2 years ago. Tom said Monday morning following Saturday night after Garris saw him Friday night for the first time in some time. I heard some of them talking about Tom being in the robbery knew Mr. Mumford had us all three about some knives Both Tom & I knew M. was a policeman [illegible] Was on the road as a Tramp or Hobo [illegible] from that [illegible] don’t know. Had he been here I would have seen him. Tom heard this. There is what is called a “Band” down in Little Richmond, composed of people who don’t work, they offer for sale goods of different kinds, such as soap, handkerchiefs, they were all together, Tom stopped with 2 others stayed out in the street there were 5 in all 2 came in and Tom & 2 others stayed in the street. Haven’t seen anything of the band since the Garris store was broken in. Heard from my wife that Tom was in trouble in Richmond about shooting at a policeman. There is lots of complaint among the better class of store was broken in follow me & lets go up street & get drunk had only 10 cents the day before, he was not working. Mr. Mumford had Jim English Tom Mathis & myself to go on Monday to see about some knives of Mr. Garris. Mr. Mumford recovered Mr Garris [section missing] ran out of this side door & didn’t see him any more until Friday before the shooting. Tom knew the police were after him. Tom was running pretty fast & Mumford after him, he was 50 or 60 yards from him when Mumford shot. He would have gotten away had not Mumford shot him   /s/ Orion Crank

J.T. Wiggins

Know Geo. W. Mumford, have know him since a boy his general character is good

J.K. Monk

Am town clerk Came into contact with Mumford daily his character for a police officer is good

P.B. Deans

Geo. W. Mumford is a policeman, his character is very good. He is one of the best policemen I have ever had. He surrendered to the sheriff Saturday evening. I signed his bond for $500.00 for his appearance. Have always considered him of a very even temperament.

Geo. W. Mumford

I knew Thos. Mathis, have known him since he first came here. I am a policeman of the town of Wilson have been such since Feby 1897. On Saturday night the later part of Feby 1899 Mr Garris store was broken open. The next week Mr. Walston called my attention to 2 knives I then saw Garris & he said he believed they were his knives. I swore out a warrant & the next day went down to the store. The boy was pointed out by Walstons clerk I saw him carried him to Walston and he identified the boy as the one who had pawned the knives. Left him with Walston when I came back he had gone. Mr [passage missing] him Saturday and went down with a warrant after him. (Warrant is shown and read) I asked Mr. Frank Felton to help me to arrest him, he went down Saratoga road and I the Stantonsburg road got thru first saw dec’d thru window, he ran out the door, I hollowed to him to stop, he saw Felton and turned to the woods. I hollowed if you don’t stop at least 20 times [illegible] shoot & did shoot after he had got over a ditch. Shot to try & stop him. I could not stop him he was going [illegible] me. We were about 10 or 12 ft when I first started after him, he was all of 40 ft before I shot. Heard several women hollering at him to stop. I had no grudges or ill feelings against him. He knew me, my beat being below the RR am known to most of the people below there. I shot him in an attempt to arrest him, could not have gotten him otherwise. I surrendered to the sheriff Saturday evening. I could have killed him had I desired when in a few feet of him. I ran him fully 75 feet before I shot. /s/ G.W. Mumford


  • Dr. William S. Anderson — in the 1900 census of the town of Wilson, listed as a 55 year-old physician.
  • George Athey
  • Henry Claxton — married Caroline Jackson in Wilson on 22 December 1897 at age 54.
  • Major Thomas Cousins — in the 1900 census of the town of Wilson, listed as a grocer.
  • Orion Crank
  • Warren Crank — died in Wilson on 2 June 1917; death certificate lists birthplace as Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1880; worked in tobacco factory.
  • Patrick Bolan Deans — in the 1900 census of the town of Wilson, listed as a 44 year-old broker.
  • Jim English
  • W. Frank Felton — in the 1900 census of the town of Wilson, listed as a 34 year-old policeman.
  • J.H. Garris — in the 1908 Wilson city directory, listed as a clerk in the grocery of John H. Gill.
  • Sarah Grant
  • Thomas Mathis (or Matthews)
  • J.K. Monk
  • Dr. Charles E. Moore — in the 1900 census of the town of Wilson, listed as a 45 year-old doctor.
  • George Washington Mumford — in the 1900 census of the town of Wilson, listed as a 31 year-old policeman.
  • Mary Frances Scott
  • Golden D. Walston — in the 1900 census of the town of Wilson, listed as a 54 year-old grocer.
  • James T. Wiggins — in the 1908 Wilson city directory, listed as a grocer.

[Sidenote: Officer Mumford went on to become a Wilson County deputy sheriff. He was killed in 1911 in a shoot-out while trying to arrest members of the “Louis West Gang.” More about that notorious set of events later.]

Coroner’s Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives; federal population schedules, 1900; North Carolina Deaths, 1906-1930 [database on-line],; U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line],