Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Murder in Bear Creek Township, North Carolina, 1898

It has been a whirlwind six weeks, filled with lots of fun trips to visit with family!  And I have loved every minute.  My family is a high priority and when asked what makes me happiest, I would have to say anytime I can spend with them.  However, I promised more on the family history of my Great, Great Grandparents, in a previous blog, way back in January, so I thought I better get with it!

For years, I have been researching the death of my Great, Great Grandmother, Nancy Martindale Welch. She lived during the height of the Civil War, in North Carolina.  I have never found anything or heard stories of what her family went through, but living anywhere in the south during that time, had to be hard.  Nancy was the daughter of Jonathan and Lydia Martindale.  She married James Welch in 1866, shortly after the Civil War ended.  James was a soldier in the war.  They lived in Bear Creek Township, about three miles outside Harpers Crossroads, in Chatham County, North Carolina.

James and Nancy Welch had, by some sources, five children, and others six.  According to a newspaper article in the Chatham Citizen, Pittsboro, North Carolina, on 18 Jan 1899(1), James died in 1882.  In another article in the Chatham County Herald, in 1980(2), it said that he died from a disease he caught while fighting in the Civil War.  Speculation was that the disease was tuberculosis.  Grandma Welch, on the other hand, died in a more tragic way.  She was murdered, on her way home from her daughter's home.  Her Findagrave file says she died on June 10, 1898, but all other accounts say January 10, 1898.   I saw a picture of her weathered gravestone and it looks like the same month as the one of her birth, which was January, which makes sense, because it was snowing.

The story goes that she was on her way home, after spending the day with her oldest daughter and grandchildren, butchering hogs.  Her grandkids said goodbye to her, as she left in the sleet and snow. It is interesting because the Chatham Citizen article was written in Jan of 1899 but states that it happened "last Tuesday evening."  That is very confusing to a researcher when everything else says she died in January of 1898.
One of the old buildings still standing in Harpers Crossroads.
Nancy Welch died a brutal death. According to a 1959 article in the Durham Morning Herald(3) , “She was dead. Her mouth was stuffed with a red handkerchief. Her throat was slashed from ear to ear.”  It also stated. “Nancy’s hands were chopped all to pieces where she had grabbed the knife and he pulled it loose.”  The Statesville Record and Landmark, on January 13, 1899(4) reported that she "was outraged and murdered", "the deed committed about 5:00 p.m." Reports say she may have been raped, as well. What a horrible way to die! How did this happen?  Who did it? Well, the local people had an idea who they thought it was....but I am not totally convinced.  Check in next week to find out who the local community accused of committing the crime.
(1) Chatham Citizen (Pittsboro, North Carolina), Wednesday, 18 Jan 1899, page 4
(2) Chatham County Herald, Wednesday, Novermber 26, 1980
(3) Durham Morning Herald, 1959
(4) Statesville Record and Landmark, Friday, 13 Jan 1899, page 6