Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: Martin

Not guilty.

New Hanover Superior Court. – Last week the Spring term of the Superior Court for this county was held in this town – his Honor Judge Dick, presided. The only case which created any public interest, was the trial of John Martin (a free Mulatto) and Menus Stow (a Slave,) for the murder of Edward Kinsley, in December last. This case occupied the attention of the Court from Thursday morning till Friday afternoon about 5 o’clock. The Jury, after retiring for about half an hour, returned a verdict of “not guilty,” whereupon the prisoners were set at liberty.

Wilmington Journal, 1 May 1846.

Runaway bound boy, no. 12.


FROM me, in October last, HENRY MARTIN, a free boy of color, about 18 years of age. The said Martin is a bound apprentice to me. All persons are hereby forbid harboring or trusting him on my account. Any person so doing will be prosecuted to the extent of the law. J.G. SMITH Fayetteville, Dec’r 6, 1856.

Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 8 December 1856.

Sentenced to be hung.

J. NEWTON FLOYD, whose trial had been removed from Gaston County to Mecklenburg County, was convicted last week in the latter County’s Superior Court of murdering RICHARD MARTIN, a free Negro, and sentenced to be hung on the 10th of June next. An appeal on his behalf was taken to the Supreme Court.

North Carolina Argus, May 26, 1859.

“Floyd, you must be a damned rascal.”

State v. James N. Floyd, 51 NC 392 (1859).

James N. Floyd was indicted for the murder of Richard Martin, a free man of color, in Gaston County, and the case was removed to Mecklenburg County.

David McCullough testified that he went to Martin’s blacksmith shop about dusk on the evening of 17 December, 1858.  A few minutes later, Floyd came to the shop and remained talking with him and Martin in an apparently friendly manner.  The three men drank a dram of liquor each, and Floyd told Martin that he wanted something to eat.  Martin pointed to a piece of meat hanging up in the shop, told the prisoner to cut some of the meat, and handed him a knife.  Floyd cut off a piece of the meat and broiled on the coals of shop hearth. Martin took two biscuits from a box and gave one to McCullough and one to Floyd.  About a half hour later, Martin asked Floyd for his knife.  Floyd claimed that he did not have it, and Martin replied that he had given it to him to cut the meat, and Floyd had not returned it.  Floyd denied again that he had the knife, and the two quarreled angrily for half an hour.  Martin said, “Floyd, you must be a damned rascal, for you have got my knife and won’t give it to me.” Nothing  more was said for about five minutes, when Martin remarked, “damn the knife, I don’t care anything for it, no how.”  Another five minutes passed, then five minutes more.  McCullough got into his buggy, and Floyd on his horse and, when they got 50-75 yards away, Martin came out of his shop and said, “in a mild, friendly tone,” “I’ll give McCullough a dram, but I won’t give Floyd any.”  McCullough reigned up his horse and stopped, and Floyd turned his horse across the road.  Martin handed McCullough a small glass bottle, from which he took a drink and handed it back to him.  Martin then went up to Floyd and extended the bottle towards him.  Floyd immediately got off his horse, and, without a word, the two began to fight.  McCullough tried to reach them, but when he was about ten steps from them, he saw Martin fall on his back.  In a few minutes, he was dead.  Floyd rested with his hands on a fence for a few minutes, then rode off.  This took place about 10 o’clock on a bright moon-lit night.

Martin’s body was found about one hour after he died.  He had six wounds, three on the top of the right shoulder “from which blood was running next morning;” another on the right side extending into the stomach; a deep fifth one on the outside of the thigh; and a sixth a little to the right of the center of his body, ranging from the right to left, passing through the lungs and nearly through his body.  A large bowie knife belonging to Floyd was found near Martin’s body, covered with blood nearly up to the hilt.

Witness Costner stated that, “about two hours by the sun,” he saw Floyd at Neagle’s store, about half a mile from Martin two’s blacksmith shop. As Costner started for home, Floyd told him not to leave because that he (Floyd) might need friends that evening.  A short time later, Floyd repeated the same comment as he pulled out a bowie knife.  (The knife proved to be the one found at the scene of the homicide.) Costner asked Floyd if he would sell the knife, he said no, he expected to have a use for it that evening. He also said he had bought it in Yorkville for ten dollars.

Floyd’s nephew, who lived with him in York district, South Carolina, testified that on the morning after the homicide, he saw a wound on Floyd’s forehead, near the eyebrow, about an inch and a half long, and two or three wounds on the top of his head. In addition, Floyd’s right thumb was either broken or disjointed.

Other witnesses swore that there was a lot of blood at the murder scene, and a stone weighing almost three pounds was found about five feet from Martin’s body.  There was blood and hair and something like skin on it.  The bowie knife was also found, and its blade had two gaps in it, which were not there when Costner and Neagle saw it.

The Gaston County sheriff testified that he asked Floyd how he got the wound over his eye, and Floyd said, “I reckon I did it with my own knife; or I did it with my own knife; they say I had a fight with Dick Martin and killed him, but I know nothing about that.”

Floyd’s counsel offered testimony to prove Martin’s temper and disposition for violence, but the Court ruled to exclude it, and they filed exceptions.

The Court explained to the jury the difference between murder, manslaughter, and excusable homicide and charged, that if Martin had assaulted Floyd, with a stone, bottle, or in any other way, or had attempted to pull him from his horse, and they immediately got into a mutual combat, and during the fight Floyd killed Martin, he could not be convicted of murder, but only manslaughter only. However, “the law would excuse no one for killing another, unless there was an absolute necessity for so doing to save his own life from destruction, or to prevent great bodily harm.”  So, if the jury found that Martin had not assaulted Floyd before Floyd stabbed him to death, then Floyd was guilty of murder, even if Martin had used “offensive language” toward Floyd in the shop and as he approached him with the bottle.  Floyd’s counsel excepted to these instructions.

The jury found the defendant guilty of murder. Floyd appealed, and the Supreme Court ruled that the lower court had erred by barring evidence of Martin’s reputation. “It is error in a Judge, in a trial for murder, to make a hypothesis omitting the leading fact which goes to the exculpation of the accused. It seems that when it is necessary for the accused to account for the fact that he began a sudden mutual affray with the use of a deadly weapon, in order to repel the inference of malice arising from that fact, he may show that his adversary was a powerful, violent and dangerous man.”

Something wrong was going on.

State v. Edmund Martin, 34 NC 157 (1851).

Edmund Martin, a free man of color, was indicted in Forsyth County Superior Court for stealing a slave named Giles, the property of George W. Smith.  The State’s first witness was Edward Booker.  Booker testified that in late October or November 1850, he was on his way south with his son Henry and a man called Null carrying a load of tobacco belonging to a man named Hamlett in Stokes County.  They stopped at a campground near Martin’s property.  There one of Null’s horses became violently ill, and Martin helped secure and administer aid.  While they treated the horse, Booker gave Martin two or three drinks.  Martin told Booker that he “liked his looks,” asked if wagoning was a slow business, and told him that he could put him into a business that could make money much faster, if he could be trusted.  Martin could make Booker “rich as Hairston.” Booker asked if Martin was referring to horses, and Martin replied that he was not, but his stock was worth $600 to $1200 a piece, “and, by being smart, [Booker] could make five or six hundred dollars in a few weeks.” Booker admitted that he would like to make more money in an honest business.  Martin did not explicitly disclose his plans, but Booker inferred them and agreed to call on Martin when he returned in five or six weeks.

On the first Saturday of December, Booker returned and agreed to enter into business with Martin.  Martin told him he had several slaves concealed at some distance – “he could not keep them near him for fear of being suspected: that there were a great many fox hunters around him, and he had frequently been tracked by their dogs, and been compelled to stand in water up to his waist for an hour at a time in cold weather.” The slaves believed that Martin was going to send them to a free state.  While Booker and Martin were talking, a man named Rains came in to speak privately with Martin, and Booker learned that Rains, too, was going to transport slaves for Martin.  Booker agreed to return around Christmas when Martin would have a slave ready.  Booker was to take the slave, sell him, and divide the profits with Martin.  Booker returned the Thursday after Christmas, but Martin told him he could get things ready before Saturday.  Their plans were thwarted by the arrival of another white man, who persisted in staying all night despite Martin’s efforts to get him to leave.  On Sunday Booker returned to Martin’s house. Martin gave “Jeff.,” a slave, a dram and told him to fetch the slave.  Some time after midnight, Booker heard someone enter the kitchen-end of the house, and Martin brought the slave Giles to him and told him they needed to leave as soon as possible.  Martin told Booker to get his horse and go by himself to Thompson’s lane about a mile away.  There were too many wagoners camping nearby and his neighbor Swicegood’s dogs were “very bad.” Martin would take Giles via short-cut and meet him at the lane.  Booker took Giles to Salem to “Mr. Lash,” but, as the Forsyth jail was not completed, took him on to the jail in Germantown.  Booker, who claimed he  had been pretending to work with Martin in order to catch him in his crime, immediately sent word to Giles’ owner Smith.  Booker met with Smith, and the two hatched a plan.  Booker returned to Martin with $400 counterfeit money and a fictitious note for $300.  He paid off Martin, who was quite pleased, and made arrangements to take another slave, this one a blacksmith.  Booker then went to magistrate McDonald to tip him off to his and Smith’s plan.  When he returned to Martin’s, Martin chained his horse to the smokehouse, confronted him with the counterfeit money, accused him of betrayal and threatened to kill him that night.  Martin said that he belonged to a Murrel clan, and his brothers would kill Booker if he did not.  Another white man there opined that Booker had treated Martin badly.  Booker, alarmed, left without his horse and went to a neighbor’s house.  The next day he sent for magistrate McDonald and had Martin arrested.

Wallis McDonald, the magistrate, testified that Booker had come to his house, about four or five miles from Martin’s, and with some minor variations told him essentially what he had testified to on the stand.

Richmond Swicegood testified that he lived about 300 yards from Martin, that he saw Booker at Martin’s house frequently, that he thought “something wrong was going on” and decided to watch the house.  The night was very wet and rainy, but he “slipped up near” the house and heard Martin trying to get rid of Wood, the white man that Booker testified would not leave. Martin went into the kitchen house, and Swicegood stood near a crack and heard Martin tell his son Henry, “I never told your mother ‘till yesterday what Booker was staying here for.”  Martin then said that “by being smart” he could make five or six hundred dollars in six or seven weeks; “it was a dangerous business, but he did not know any better they could do.”  Satisfied that Martin was up to no good, he decided to consult a neighbor.

G.M. Smith testified that he lived in Davidson County, about seven or eight miles from Martin; that his slave Giles left without permission on 22 November 1850; that he found him in the Germantown jail on 8 January 1851; that he sold Giles immediately; and that on his way home from Germantown he saw Booker, who saw him and Giles.

At the close of evidence, the court’s instructions to the jury included a warning that Martin “was to be tried as if he were a white man” and that “they were to divest themselves of prejudice on account of his color.”  Having, perhaps, done so, the jury found Martin guilty, and he appealed to the state Supreme Court.  Citing State v. Hardin, the court ordered a new trial on the grounds that, as there was no evidence Martin had actually the slave from his owner, he could not have committed a capital felony under the statute.

He has taken the shop books.

CAUTION. — Supposed to have absconded from this place, on last Sunday, a colored man named CHARLES MARTIN, who says that he is free.  The fellow is by trade a Blacksmith, and has been doing work, in that line, for me and on my premises.  He has taken with him the shop books, but I believe has heretofore collected the whole of the sums that was due him.  He may, however, endeavour to trade them off.  I understand he has trumped up a large account against me, which he may possibly attempt to transfer.  This is therefore to forewarn all persons from taking any [illegible] comment thereof and have considered demands against the said fellow.  William Scott, June 2.

The Raleigh Minerva, 2 June 1815.