Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Guilty or Innocent?

As promised in my last blog, I wanted to share the information on who the town thought murdered my Great, Great Grandmother. But before that, if you will recall from my blog called "Occupations in the Census", I wasn't sure which plant my Grandfather Garrison, the silk weaver, worked for. I was so surprised when I found his Military Registration Card this week and confirmed that it was Stehli and Company.
Found on

They are putting more and more of these cards online, which have some very valuable information on them. It says that my Grandfather had black hair and gray eyes. That is so cool because when I knew my grandfather he was already white-haired. A beautiful head of white hair. This form also tells where he was born. If anyone has a question about their heir, as to their birth location and physical characteristics, this form would be very helpful.

Now, onto the death of my Great, Great Grandmother, Nancy Martindale Welch. After she left her daughters and didn't show up at her home place, people began searching for her. She would probably have had a regular route back, so people started looking for her there. It had begun snowing, which made the search time sensitive, too. They found her body, around 9:00 p.m., very close to the road she had been on. With her throat cut and a handkerchief stuffed in her mouth, they knew they were looking at a murder.

According to a 1959 article in the Goldsboro News Argus, this area was known "As a place and time where death seldom struck due to a small population..." "Caucasian farmers, small-grain growers, friendly and avid conversationalists."(1) So why Nancy Welch?

I may never know for sure why or for that matter who did this, but the citizens thought they knew who. It seems that a member of the community saw Nancy go by his house and a few moments later, a black man by the name of Hen Jones was seen passing the same way. It is important to remember that at the time of the murder there were no witnesses. Only speculations.

However, when word got out that Hen Jones had been in the area at the same time as Nancy, a group of men went in search of him. As the Goldsboro article stated, "this was a time of 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'" mentality.

I don't know much about Hen Jones. A Greensboro Record article stated that "a six foot negro whose age was estimated only as 'in his forties.' Little is remembered of his life except that he did not live with his wife and was continually looking for a meal or money."(2)

Mr. Jones was found in a home near Harpers Crossroads, the intersection of State Highway 902 and Siler City/Glendon Road. The Chatham Citizen wrote that he was "a colored man of bad character" and "he was found and arrested, having blood on his clothes and a bloody razor concealed in his coat. He confessed the crime."(3) An article in the Durham Morning Herald said when, "dragged from the house and faced with the mob, Hen “owned up to the killing.”(4) In the early morning hours of January 11, 1898, "he was tied to old Doc Street's two-horse buggy and drug clear from the crossroads," to the local hanging tree. Here the search party mob, which had grown to "a crowd of some 40 or 50 men"(3), lynched him.

In a paper titled "Without Due Process: Lynching in North Carolina 1880-1900", by Sarah Burke, East Carolina University, she wrote, "Between 1880 and 1900, North Carolina recorded fifty-eight lynchings." "Many North Carolinians were not only skeptical of the state's legal system, but also deeply vested in the ideas of self-governance, honor and communal justice."(5)

The Chatham Citizen said that "lynching of course is to be deplored, but in such cases as this it is to be deplored most because of the crime which caused the men of that community to take the law into their own hands - a crime too atrocious and horrible not to arouse the indignation and passions of any civilized people."(3)

A January 19, 1899, article in The Chatham Record, stated "So shocked was everybody by the brutality of the murderer that no one (white or black) would furnish a coffin in which to bury him."(6)  So I don't know what happened to Hen Jones when he was taken down from the tree, but I do know what happened to my Great Great Grandmother. She was laid to rest in a little cemetery, with only 14 graves, and a tombstone that read "Nancy Martindale, wife of James Welch. Born Jan. 28, 1841, died Jan 10, 1898. A light from our household is gone."(1)


(1) Goldsboro News-Argus, Thursday, November 26, 1959, "Age-Old Story of 'Hanging Tree' Near Durham Almost A Legend"
(2) Greensboro Record, Greensboro, NC, Thursday, November 26, 1959, Page 12
(3) Chatham Citizen (Pittsboro, North Carolina), Wednesday, 18 Jan 1899, Page 4
(4) Durham Morning Herald, 1959
(5) "Without Due Process: Lynching in North Carolina 1880-1900", Sarah Burke, East Carolina University, accessed online at

(6)  "Horrible Crime", The Chatham Record, Thursday, January 19, 1899, Page 3

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