State v. Daniel Sharp and Nancy Williford.

At April Term 1868 of Wilson County’s Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a grand jury charged Daniel Sharp and Nancy Williford, both of Wilson County, “being lewd and vicious persons not united together in the bonds of marriage” before and after 1 April 1868 “unlawfully lewdly and lasciviously associate bed and cohabit together … to the evil example of all others.”  Willie G. Dixon, Patience Barnes, Abel Taylor, Henry Taylor, Drew Barnes, John B. Batts and Henry Dixon were subpoenaed as witnesses, and the jury foreman returned a true bill to the clerk of court.

Daniel Sharp was African American; Nancy Williford, white. The charge against them was fornication and adultery. As best I can determine, of the six witnesses called to testify before the grand jury, Abel Taylor, Patience Barnes, and, probably, Drew Barnes were black. No records of their testimony are included in the file in which the document above was found. Records show that Sharp and Williford had at least two children together, John B., born in 1867, and Mary E., born in 1868.


In the 1860 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: farmer James G. Williford, 46; [second] wife Nancy, 26; and children Mary A., 18, John T., 16, Nancy T., 14, Caroline, 11, Arabella, 5, Elijah A., 4, and James C., 1. [James Williford’s step-mother was Elizabeth Taylor Sharpe Williford. Did Elizabeth bring Daniel into the Williford household?]

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Nancy Williford, 34, and children John B., 3, and Mary E., 2. All were described as white. [I initially assumed that this Nancy was James G. Williford’s daughter. However, her age as listed in the 1870 and 1880 censuses is more consistent with that of Williford’s wife Nancy Mears Williford. Williford died in 1861. His and Nancy’s son Elijah Elbert is listed in the 1870 census as Bertie Williford, 14 year-old apprentice to Hickman Barnes, and daughter “Arvilla” is listed in the household of her half-brother William Williford. Did Nancy lose custody of her children as a result of her relationship with Daniel Sharp?]

In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Benjamin Tillery, 27; wife Cherry; and daughter Jane, 3; Lucy Taylor, 23, and son Columbus, 8 months; and Daniel Sharp, 26, farm laborer.

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: farm laborer Jason Barnes, 26; wife Patience Barnes, 24; Lucy Barnes, 20, farm laborer; Exie Barnes, 1 month; and William Battle, 20, farm laborer.

In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Virginia-born farm laborer Abel Farmer, 57; wife Viney, 45, farm laborer; and children William, 9, Elvey, 5, David, 7, and Georgiana, 17, farm laborer.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Nancy Williford, 42, and children John, 13, farm laborer, and Mary E., 12. Here, Nancy’s children were described as mulatto.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Daniel Sharp, 40, farmer.

Mary Williford, 18, daughter of Nancy Williford, and Lorenzo Barnes, 22, son of William and Sarah Barnes, obtained (but did not return) a marriage license in Wilson County on 15 April 1891.

On 20 February 1895, John Williford, 28, married Mary Ella Barnes, 21, in Toisnot township. G.A. Gaston, J.C. Ellis and Buck Dew witnessed the ceremony.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: widower John Williford, 34, farmer; daughter Mary B., 4; and boarder Sammie Barnes. 19.

On 29 October 1893, Daniel Sharp, 52, of Toisnot, married Cynda Parker, 19, of Toisnot, in the presence of John Williford, Mose Parker and Jason Barnes.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Daniel Sharp, 58, farmer; wife Lucinda, 25; and children Joseph, 6, George W., 4, and James H., 2.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: Renza Barnes, 26; wife Mary, 32; and Nanny, 11, and Minnie, 8; and niece Bertha Williford, 4.

On 19 December 1900, John Williford, 34, son of Dan Sharp, married Lena Locust, 19, daughter of Elbert and Rose Locust, in Elm City in the presence of J.C. Ellis, Lucian Norfleet, Willie Locus, and George Braswell.

On 22 January 1908, John Gaston, 25, son of George and P[riscilla]. Gaston, married Nannie Barnes, 19, daughter of Rezo and Mary Barnes, at First Presbyterian Church in Elm City. Rev. C.E. Tucker performed the ceremony in the presence of James G. Mitchell, G.C. Cowell, and Oliver N. Freeman.

In the 1910 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: John Williford, 43; wife Lena, 28; and children Bertha, 14, Beatrice, 7, John L., 6, Edward, 4, Arnold, 2, and Odell, 2 months.

James Hardy Williford died 11 November 1914 in Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 1 October 1914 to John Williford and Lena Lucas.

Willis Albert Williford died 1 November 1915 in Elm City. Per his death certificate, he was born 16 September 1915 in Elm City to John Williford and Lena Lucas.

On 17 June 1917, Bertha Williford, 22, of Toisnot, daughter of John and Lena Williford, married Paul Kelly, 21, of Toisnot, son of John and Charlotte Kelly. Missionary Baptist minister E.S. Lucas performed the ceremony at his home.

In the 1920 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: well digger John Williford, 53; wife Lena, 38; and children John, 15, Edwin, 13, Arnel, 12, Frank, 8, and Inez, 17 months.

Mary Williford died 30 June 1920 in Elm City. Per her death certificate, she was born 18 March 1920 in Elm City to John Williford and Lena Lucas.

In the 1930 census of Elm City town, Toisnot township: John Gaston, 48, brickmason; wife Nannie, 41; daughters Pricilla, 21, and Minnie, 18; plus mother-in-law Mary Barnes, 62.

Mary [Williford] Barnes died 6 April 1949 in Elm City. Per her death certificate, she was born 5 May 1868 in Wilson County to unknown parents and was a widow. Nannie Gaston was informant.

Adultery Records-1868, Miscellaneous Records, Wilson County Records, North Carolina State Archives.

Oh, Lordy.

Wilson County, State of North Carolina.

Pearsonal appeared before me this the 5 day of Nov 1904 Sheriff W.D.P. Sharp who maketh oath that Geo Williford is dead that he hath reason to believe to doth believe that he came to his death by unlawful means.  /s/ W.D.P. Sharp

Sworn to and subscribed before me a Justice of the Peace of Wilson County on the day and date above mentions.  /s/ T.E. Keel J.P.


Mattie Speight, being sworn says: Well yesterday while it was raining I went home and shortly after I got home Albert Battle came in we all were sitting down by the fire and laufing and talking and I came up town and when I went I went back Geo. Williford came up and knocked at the door and when he knocked at the door the front door was shut but my room door was open and I went out. I heard the pistol fire and I went around the house to see what the matter I found Geo Williford on the ground between the door steps and the walling I run after the police I never heard him Geo Williford say any thing except Oh Lordy.  /s/ Mattie Speight

Chas Richerson being duly sworn says: I came up town when I came back to the corner house I heard some one say they were fighting down there and I run p there and ask what was the matter this Albert Battle run by me I heard Geo Williford say O Lord and he turned over. I suppose I was coming from up town when the shooting took place Elvy was setting by the fire when I got there. I smelt powder. Chas. (X) Richerson

Mattie Speight reexamine says: after I went back from up town Albert Battle, Elvy Sutton & another woman were the only ones in the house when I got back from up town. When I got around the house from the garden Albert Battle was on the poarch.

Dennis Brooks being sworn says: I don’t know any thing about the killing about 2 1/2 years ago Geo Williford was in my bar raising sand one Monday morning I ask him what was the matter Albert Battle was there and Geo said he was going to kill a man that morning if any one bothered him Albert told him to come on an have a drink and George told him he had money enough to buy his drinks Albert took me back in the pool room and said that Geo was mad with him and I ask him what about and he said Elvy. Albert said he better not run on him.   /s/ Dennis Brooks

Minnie Hodges being sworn says: I don’t know any thing about except Albert Battle & Elvy Sutton & I were in the house when Geo Williford came there & knocked and asked for Elvy and I opened the door and let him come in and he run to the bed where Elvy was she was sleep then he runned towards Albert he Albert had gone out in the passage and Albert said get back off of me and George kept coming towards Albert and Albert shot him once then Geo went back towards the bed and I run out the front door and run up the street and when I came back Geo was out dores and had fell between steps and walling.  /s/ Minnie Hodges

Elvy Sutton being sworn says: I was asleep and when I waked up Geo was dead Albert called me to get up. George went after Albert with a knife last summer and tried to kill him I have heard George say he was goin to kill Albert if he ever caught him with me.  Elvy X Sutton


State of N.C. Wilson Co.

Be it remembered that on this the 5th day of Nov. 1904, I, Albert Anderson, Coroner of Wilson County attended by a Jury of good & lawful men viz: Sanford Christman, R.J. Grantham, E.F. Killette, W.W. Tomlinson, Frank Winstead, J.D. Barnes, by me summoned for that purpose according to law after being by me duly swored and empanelled at the Mayor’s office in the county of fore said did hold an inquest over the dead body of George Williford and after examination in the facts & circumstances of the death of the deceased from a view of the corps and all the testomonal to be procured the said Jury find as follow that is to say that George Williford came to his death from a pistol shot wound inflicted by Albert Battle.          /s/ Sanford Christman, E.F. Killette, R.J. Grantham, W.W. Tomlinson, Frank Winstead, J.D. Barnes

Inquest had and signed and sealed in the presence of Albert Anderson, Coroner of Wilson Co. N.C.


  • George Williford
  • Mattie Speight — possibly the Mattie Speight, 24, who married Elbert Sanders, in Toisnot township on 28 February 1906. Their marriage license shows that Primitive Baptist minister William B. Williams performed the ceremony in the presence of Pennina Bottoms of Edgecombe County and Jesse L. Williams and Annie Williams of Wilson County.
  • Albert Battle
  • Charles Richardson
  • Elvy Sutton — presumably, on 3 September 1900, Elvy Sutton, 23, daughter of Isham and Exie Sutton, married Robert Allen, 40, at Primitive Baptist minister P.D. Gold’s office in Wilson. [If so, what happened to Allen between 1900 and 1904?]
  • Dennis Brooks — on 10 January 1898, Dennis Brooks, 31, son of Henry Brooks, married Mary Helms, 24, at Brooks’ residence in Wilson. H.H. Bingham, an A.M.E. Zion minister, performed the ceremony in the presence of Lizzie B. Helms, Nannie Bennet, and Rosa Bennett. On the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Georgia-born merchant Dennis Brooks, 35, wife Mary, 27, and daughter Aleordine[?], 8.
  • Minnie Hodges