Wooten

Lane Street Project: Lula Dew Wooten.

This lovely little headstone was discovered in Odd Fellows cemetery this very morning by volunteers at Lane Street Project’s Clean-Up Kick-Off!

Lula Dew Wooten’s grandparents and several generations of descendants are buried in the Dew cemetery on Weaver Road, northeast of Wilson. Lula’s grave in Odd Fellows cemetery suggests that she was buried in a plot purchased for her and her husband, Simeon Wooten. Wooten died in 1950, and his death certificate lists his burial location as “Rountree.” As we know, Rountree was the name broadly applied to Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemetery.

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In the 1900 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Jeff Dew, 38; wife Jane, 32, farm laborer; children Bessie, 12, Lesse, 9, Lula, 8, Nettie, 6, James E., 3, Lizzie, 2, and Jesse, 1 month.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Nash Road, Jeff Dew, 46, farmer; wife Jane, 43, farm laborer; children Bessie, 21, Lessie, 19, Lula, 17, Nettie, 16, Eddie, 13, Lizzie, 12, Jessie, 9, Joseph, 8, Margaret, 6, and Jonah, 3. Jane and all but the youngest two children worked as farm laborers.

In the 1920 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: on Rocky Mount Road via Town Creek, Jefferson Dew, 57, farmer; wife Jane, 55; children Lula, 26, Nettie, 24, Eddie, 22, Jesse, 20, Joe, 17, Margaret, 16, and Jonie, 14.

On 11 July 1920, Sim Wooten, 38, of Wilson, son of John and Claudia Wooten, married Lula Dew, 26, of Wilson, daughter of Jeff and Jane Dew, at Jeff Dew’s residence. Daniel A. Crawford applied for the license, and Primitive Baptist minister C.H. Hagans performed the ceremony in the presence of Moses Dew, J.C. Lassiter, and John P. Battle

Lulu Jane Wooten died 7 November 1927 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 11 May 1892 in Wilson County to Jefferson Dew and Jane Weaver; was married to Simeon Wooten; lived at 510 South Lodge, Wilson; and was a dressmaker.

Photo courtesy of Jane Cooke Hawthorne.

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.

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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.]