Fourth Generation Inclusive

Historical Documents of Genealogical Interest to Researchers of North Carolina's Free People of Color

Tag: murder

He supposed she had gone to New Bern.


We learn from Mr. O.F. Alexander, that on the 24th of February last, his negro girl Sarah Jane, left his premises without any cause, and he supposed she had gone to Newbern. On Friday last, the 18th of March, he was informed that a free negro, called John Shavers, had carried her off. That night two of his neighbors and himself went to look Shavers up, and luckily succeeded in taking him. On examining him he said he had carried the girl off to the edge of Onslow county and left her in a piece of woods, in Mr. Seth King’s field, he being at the time hired at some Salt Works near by. Mr. Alexander kept Shavers secure until Saturday morning, when he made his escape, carrying off a trace chain locked around his ankles. Mr. Alexander repaired to the place Shavers had described to him where he left the girl, and about 150 yards from the road, with some friends, found the dead body of the girl covered over with limbs, straw, etc. Her head was separated from the body – by her side lay a lightwood limb, from which most probably the unfortunate girl received the fatal blow.

A jury of inquest was called, and their verdict was, “that Sarah Jane came to her death by a blow or blows inflicted on the back of her head by the hands of John Shavers.”

A reward of $100 is offered for his arrest. Wil. Journal, 26th.

North Carolina Argus (Wadesboro), 7 April 1864.

Satisfied with his guilt, the spectators immediately hung him.


MURFREESBORO, N.C., Dec. 16, 1862.

On Saturday 13th inst., Mr. Joshua Ferguson, of this (Hertford) county, left his house, taking his little son along; he soon after told the little fellow to return home and he went on. Mr. F. was not heard from for some days, when his mutilated remains, partially charred, were found near the cabin of a free negro named Artis. Artis was taken into custody and his wife and father informed the captors, that Artis had murdered Mr. Ferguson, first striking him on the head with a hoe, afterwards chopped him to pieces with an axe and attempted to burn the body up. Being satisfied of the guilt of Artis, the incensed spectators immediately hung him. S.J.W.

The Spirit of the Age (Raleigh), 22 December 1862.

Two cases of murder.

From the Halifax Advocate, Oct. 29.

Our Superior Court. — …

The next case taken up was that of a free man of color named Morgan. He was indicted for the murder of James Wiggins, a white man. The prisoner was defended by Messrs. Whitaker and Spruill. The testimony, in substance, was that the prisoner and the deceased, not long before the homicide, had a quarrel and that a few days thereafter, and before the homicide took place, the prisoner had been heard to make threats against the life of Wiggins, in the event of another dispute occurring between them; that soon after this the deceased, with three other men, went to the prisoner’s house in the night with a view of chastising him, and required him to open the door, he refused to do so, upon which the door after several attempts, was pushed open, and the deceased entered and as he did so the prisoner struck him with an axe burying the blade up to the helve in his bowels. The prisoner instantly fled and the deceased very soon died of his wound. After a lucid charge from Judge Donnell, the jury retired and in about ten minutes brought in a verdict of manslaughter.

The third case, was an indictment against Polly Carter alias Polly Harrison, a free woman of color, for the Murder of Nancy Combs, likewise a free woman of color. It appeared in evidence, that at the very moment when the deceased came in sight of the prisoner, the latter was listening to a conversation calculated to exasperate her against the former and immediately ran to her and struck her on the face. The deceased, who was a tall and athletic woman, and very far gone in pregnancy, threw the prisoner down with ease and while the parties were in this situation, a white man named _____ Hall came up and kicked the deceased violently in the side just above the hips. The parties were then separated, and soon afterwards the prisoner made another attempt to revive the fight. Upon this part of the case, there were direct contradictions among the witnesses. Some, and the greater number, affirmed that the person of the deceased was not touched, and others that she received a blow of some violence about the small part of her back. The deceased immediately complained of much pain in her side, and continued to linger in much distress for 6 or 7 days when she was delivered of a still born child, and did [sic]. In the opinon of the physicians who heard most of the testimony, the death was caused by the violence in the affray, and the prisoner was found guilty of woman slaughter, and imprisoned one month, and to pay the cost of the indictment. _____ Hall had fled from justice.


The North Carolina Star (Raleigh), 6 November 1834.

The iron bars were sawed in pieces.

Sylvester Mayo, a free negro, and a negro man by the name of John, broke the jail of Halifax county, on the night of the 28th of September. They procured a case knife, a razor and a glass bottle; and with the razor the knife was made a saw, and the razor was kept sharp by being often applied to the glass bottle. With these instruments, the iron bars of the cage were sawed in pieces, and a hole was worked in the outer wall of the prison, which is constructed of bricks, and they escaped. The Sheriff of the county offers a hundred dollars reward for the arrest of Mayo. Mayo is a free negro and stands charged with the murder of Robert Roberts another free negro. John is a runaway slave, supposed to be the property of Miss Judith Turner, of Albemarle county, Va.

The North-Carolina Star (Raleigh), 19 October 1853.

In the 1850 census of Halifax County, Sylvester Mayhoe, 30, boatman, born in Virginia, and wife Tabitha, 22, born in Halifax.

A white man was arrested.

MURDER. – A free colored man named Jordan Petteford, residing in the suburbs of this town, was shot on Wednesday last, in the public street of that part of the town, and in broad day. He died on the following Friday.

A white man named Powell was arrested on suspicion.

A Coroner’s Jury has been in session since the death of Petteford, earnestly engaged in the praiseworthy effort to elicit some testimony to identify the murdered. So far, we learn, they have not been successful.

Fayetteville Weekly Observer, 4 August 1856.

In the 1850 census of Fayetteville, Cumberland County, Jordan Pettiford, 43, laborer; wife Ailey, 36; and children Wm. H., 16, Jas. W., 13, Amos, 8, Cordelia, 7, Charles, 4, Mary J., 1, and Sarah Daniels, 1.

The murder of one Dick Jones.

To His Excellency John M. Morehead, Governor of the State of North Carolina

The Petition of the undersigned respectfully shew unto your Excellency that at the Fall Term 1842 of the Superior Court of Law for the County of Green an Indictment was tried against Joseph Suggs, Bright Cannady and Edith Brown for the murder of one Dick Jones, alias – Jeffrey Mares, a free Negro – that upon the trial of said Indictment the said Bright Cannady and Edith Brown were acquitted and the said Joseph Suggs was convicted of the murder of the said Dick Jones, that the undersigned are some of them acquainted with the said Joseph Suggs and beleive that he is a very ignorant illiterate man and has not the ordinary sense belonging to person of his age and station, that they beleive a violent assault had been commited on the said Joseph Suggs by Dick Jones and his brother Jim Jones who were both free Negroes, and that the shooting took place very soon – not more then a half hour after the assault was committed upon him by the said free Negros, but the Jury under the charge of the Court considered that rather prolong a time had elapsed before the wound was inflicted of which Jones died and therefore felt bound under the said charge to find him guilty of murder

They therefore most respectfully pray your Excellency to grant a pardon to the said Joseph Suggs

Signed this 14th day of October 1842

Jurors names who Tried the crimnal

John Beeman
John Sutton
John F. Jones
Thos Wooten
Parrott M. Hardy
Edward Carmon
Henry H. Gibbons
B.F. Hazelton
James E. Exum
John T. Pridgen
Chas. Edwards

[Names of 151 petitioners omitted.]

Governors Papers, Gov. John M. Morehead, G.P. 102, Correspondence, Petitions, etc., Sept., 1842; Correspondence, Petitions, etc., Oct. 1842; North Carolina State Archives.

He saw his money walk into a white man’s pocket.

State v. Jarrott, a slave, 23 NC 76 (1840).

This case arose in Person County. Jarrott, an enslaved man, was indicted for the murder of Thomas Chatham, who was 18 or 19 years old.  A 14 year-old white boy named John T. Brooks testified that he went with Chatham to a fish-trap in the neighborhood in a Saturday night and remained until “about two or three hours before day.” They were the only white people present.  Jarrott and a free negro named Jack Hughes argued over a card game and called on Chatham to “keep the game for them.” After a second argument, Hughes refused to play anymore.  Jarrott snatched up the handkerchief they had been playing on, knocking a twelve-and-a-half cent coin into the leaves. When he was unable to find it, he said “he saw his nine pence walk into a white man’s pocket, and that any white man who would steal a negro’s money, was not too good to unbutton a sheep’s collar.” Further, he charged Chatham with being raised on and living on stolen sheep, accused him of stealing his money, threatened to kill him if he did not give it up, and brandished a stick over his head. Chatham invited Jarrott to search his pockets, and turned them out when Jarrott refused. When Jarrott then accused Chatham of hiding the money in his shoes, he pulled off his shoes and socks. Another man got a light, searched among the leaves, and found the coin near where Chatham stood, which was “some six or seven steps from the spot” where Jarrott jerked up his handkerchief. Chatham sat down near the fire and Jarrott “continued to abuse him, using very indecent and insolent language.”  Chatham asked Brooks for his knife, saying he wanted to cut his nails. He then told Jarrott that if he did not hush, he would stick it in him. Jarrott raised his stick and dared him, and Chatham chased him around the fire with a length of fence rail. Jarrott ran off, but returned and “said something.” Chatham picked up his fence rail and approached Jarrott with the knife in his other hand. Brooks heard two blows, then saw Chatham lying on the ground.

The testimony of Isaac, an enslaved man, essentially corroborated Brooks’, but he added that there was about a 15-minute gap between the argument about the money and Chatham’s renewal of the dispute and threat to stab Jarrott.

A free negro named Nathan Jones corroborated Isaac, but denied that Jarrott ever brandished his stick over Chatham. He also swore that Chatham said he would kill Jarrott that night or go to his master Monday and have him whipped, then would waylay him and shoot him with a rifle.  Two other witnesses testified about Chatham’s wounds (two to the back of the head, about two inches in length); his size (“small and slender for a boy of his age,” said one, “not tall, but stoutly built,” said the other); and Jarrott’s stature (“about six feet high, and of the ordinary size of negroes of that height; and was about twenty-three years of age.”)

Jack Hughes testified that Chatham swung at Jarrott and missed before Jarrott knocked him down and struck him several blows.

The jury found Jarrott guilty of murder, and the judge pronounced a death sentence.

The appeal focused on the judge’s jury instructions. Though not agreeing with his every ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict, establishing that “the same matters which would be deemed in law a sufficient provocation to free a white man … from the guilt of murder, will not have the same effect when the party slain is a white man, and the offender a slave ….”

Shot through the breast.

A Homicide. – On last Sunday morning a free negro named Locklier was found dead about eight miles north of Lexington, North Carolina, dead, shot through the breast. John Shoaf has been arrested on suspicion, and is now in jail. Patriot & Flag, Greensboro.

People’s Press, Salem, 24 April 1857. 

BOLO: muscular, broad-shouldered, narrow-hipped murderer with cleft chin.

$100 Reward.


By His Excellency, WM. A. GRAHAM, Governor of North Carolina.

HAVING been officially informed, that John Brown, a free mulatto, late of the County of Halifax, did on the 11th, instant, in said County, commit murder, by killing one James Smith, of said County, and hath fled from Justice , and escaped probably beyond the limits of this State.

Now to the end that the said John Brown may be arrested and brought to trial, for said offence, I do hereby issue this my Proclamation, offering a reward of One Hundred Dollars, for his apprehension and delivery to the Sheriff of Halifax County, or for his commitment to any Jail in the United States, to answer for the crime aforesaid, provided the same be more than a hundred miles distant from the Court House of Halifax aforesaid.

The said John Brown is represented to be a bright Mulatto, a Blacksmith by trade, about 35 years of age, about, (probably above) 6 feet high, with broad shoulders, but narrow hips, large limbs, particularly his arms and hands, weighs 175 or 180 lbs., has a considerable dent, more than a dimple, in his chin, very free and bold in his speech, has free papers from Northampton County Court, had on when last seen, and usually wears, brown homespun clothes, a green Blanket overcoat, much worn, and a high bell crowned hat. He had recently sold off his property, intending to remove to Indiana or Illinois, has relatives in Danville, Va., and will probably attempt to pass that place in his flight.

Given under my hand and the Great Seal of the State of North Carolina, at the City of Raleigh, this 14th of March, 1848.   WILL: A. GRAHAM

By the Governor: W.W. MORRISON, Private Secretary.

Raleigh Register, 15 March 1848.

A stabbing over work.

MURDER—We learn that a negro man, LAWS, belonging to Mr. FRIES, of this place, stabbed a free negro by the name of MITCHELL, at High Point, causing his death. LAWS is confined in jail. The affair originated in a quarrel about some work they were engaged in.

Peoples Press, Salem, 13 February 1857.