Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Other Documents

Investigation of death.

A coroner’s inquest is an official inquiry into the manner and cause of an individual’s death. Conducted by a county coroner when a cause of death is unknown, violent or otherwise suspicious, this legal inquiry is performed in public and often before a jury. The coroner does not establish why a death occurred, but rather determines who the deceased was and how, when and where death occurred. Here’s a link to a post about coroner’s reports in the North Carolina State Archives, where I obtained the documents below.

I searched Iredell County’s reports looking, in particular, for the inquest into the death of my great-grandmother’s sister, Elizabeth McNeely Kilpatrick Long, who burned to death in a suspicious fire. I was disappointed not to find one. However, I did find these for two men who died unexpected, but ultimately natural, deaths:

Coroners Reports_Page_1

My grandmother’s half-brother, John Walker Colvert II. (One would expect an inquest to get the spelling of a surname right. Or at least consistently wrong.) Here’s his obituary in the 16 April 1937 edition of the Statesville Record & Landmark.

Sville_Rec__amp__Landmark_4_16_1937 WColvert Obit

(“Schoolmate”??? Simonton Sanitary Shop? This obituary sets forth some interesting facts that I intend to explore elsewhere.)

And then there was the notorious William “Bill Bailey” Murdock, husband of my grandmother’s aunt Bertha Hart Murdock. He died just over a year after her conviction for shooting a white man in the leg in their restaurant.

Coroners Reports_Page_2

Education, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

The question of a half-acre in Fremont.

North Carolina, Wayne County    }         In the Superior Court Before A.T. Grady C.S.C.

A.A. Williams & R.J. Barnes          }

vs                                                               }         Complaint

John W. Moore & Isaiah Barnes   }

The plaintiffs allege

1. That the plaintiffs and the defendants are tenants in common of a lot of land situate in the town of Fremont in said State and County adjoining the lands of W.R. Ballance & others bounded as follows:

Beginning at a stake in the centre of Sycamore Street below J.P. Hopewell’s lot and running the centre of said street 47 yards; then at right angles with said street nearly East to R.E. Cox and W.R. Ballance line; then nearly North with said line 47 yards to a stake thence nearly west to the beginning containing one half acre.

2. That the plaintiffs and the defendants are seized and possessed in fee simple of said lands as tenants in common in the following proportions to wit   1. A.A. Williams to one third part thereof 2. R.J. Barnes to one third part thereof 3. Isaiah Barnes to one sixth part thereof 4. John W. Moore to one sixth part thereof

3. That the defendants Isaiah Barnes and John W. Moore refuse to [illegible] with the plaintiffs in a petition for the sale of said lands for division.

4. That the plaintiffs desire to have partition of said land made amongst the plaintiffs and the defendants according to their respective rights and interests therein so that each party may hold his interest in severalty, but the number of the parties interested it is impossible that actual partition thereof can be made without serious injury to the parties interested

Wherefore the plaintiffs demand judgment

1. That the plaintiffs and the defendants be declared tenants in common in said lands

2. That an order issue for the sale of said lands on such terms as this Court shall deem reasonable and that the proceeds of such sale may be divided among the plaintiffs and the defendants according to their respective shares and interests in the said lands.

   W.S.O’B.Robinson, Atty for plaintiffs


North Carolina, Wayne County    }   Superior Court Before the Clerk

A.A. Williams & R.J. Barnes


Jno. W. Moore et als

The defendants Jno. W. Moore, Isaiah Barnes and R.J. Barnes, answering the petition herein say:

I. That paragraph I thereof is not true.

II. That paragraph II thereof is not true.

III. That paragraph III thereof is not true.

IV. That paragraph IV thereof is not true.

For a further defense defendants allege:

I. That on the [blank] day of 1888, the plaintiffs and defendants, together with Geo. Aldridge and Wm. Durden for the purpose of obtaining a school site for a free school in District No. 6 Colored, in Wayne County, which district had been in July 1888 created at the request of the said persons above-named, paid for the lot of land described in the petition and procured a conveyance thereof from R.E. Cox to themselves, it being the intent and purpose of all the parties thereto that the parties in said deed should hold the lot therein conveyed as trustees for the said district for use as a free school in the same, and that the said deed should be executed to them as said trustees.

2. That by the eventual mistake of the parties to said deed the same was executed by the said R.E. Cox to the parties individually and not as trustees.

Wherefore defendants pray that they be hence dismissed and that they receive their costs of plaintiff A.A. Williams and for such other and further relief is they may be entitled to.

                                   Aycock & Daniels, Attys for Deft.


These undated pleadings do not exactly speak for themselves, but I hesitate to read into them something that’s not there. I don’t know how the suit turned out, but if the answer is credited, something like this happened: my great-great-grandfather John Aldridge‘s brother George and five others purchased a half-acre from R.E. Cox to be used for the erection of a school for Fremont’s African-American children. (That’s how it worked then — communities had to donate the land for schools to be built upon.) Through mistake and oversight, Cox made out the deed to the six men individually, rather than as trustees. Subsequently, Williams and R.J. Barnes, seeking to take advantage of the tenancy in common, sought to force a sale of the land — which was too small to divide — so that each owner could cash out his share.

Who were these folks?

  • A.A. Williams was a teacher and principal of the Colored Graded School in Goldsboro.
  • John W. Moore appears in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County, as a 57 year-old farmer. He is named in Goldsboro newspaper as active in colored school affairs.
  • Isaiah Barnes appears in the 1880 census of Fremont, Wayne County, as a 30 year-old farm laborer.  By 1894, he is named in Goldsboro newspapers as a poll holder for Fremont voting district.
  • R.J. Barnes cannot be identified.
  • William E. Durden is most likely the “William Darden” who appears in the 1880 census of Nahunta, Wayne County, as a 29 year-old farmer.
  • R.E. Cox was a physician and Fremont town commissioner. Goldsboro newspaper show that he also owned a drugstore and was active in other business ventures. He was white; the other men were African-American.

Document found in School Records, Miscellaneous Records, Wayne County Records, North Carolina State Archives. 

North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

A Kerchief of Sense.

Timed to coincide with the anniversaries of his father’s birth in 1923 and his mother’s death in 1963, Effenus Henderson‘s recent memoir, A Kerchief of Sense, is available at It is a simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming story of family and faith.


So much of what Effenus has written of occurred during the period that our branches of both the Henderson and Aldridge families had lost contact. I found my way back to them through my grandmother and father, who often mentioned that we had a cousin called Snook — Horace Henderson — still down in Dudley. My grandmother only knew bits and pieces of the story told here, but her recollections led to our reconnection with his children and our larger family. Tribulation was no stranger to either of our lines, but we survived and now thrive. Thank you, Effenus, for capturing this aspect of our common legacy.

snook 12 2

Horace Henderson Sr. and his twelve children, 1963.

North Carolina, Paternal Kin


Thanksgiving break of my senior year in college. My first visit to Dudley on my own. I’d cold-called my cousin L., just based on my father telling me every time we passed down Highway 117 — “we have a cousin Snook that lives there.” My grandmother had talked about Snook, too. And his brothers Dink and Jabbo. So I called, and I introduced myself, and got a warm and immediate invitation to visit. I took my first cousin T. down the next spring,

dudley 86

T.L., L.H. and me in Dudley, Spring 1986.

and the following summer, at a serendipitous family reunion, my grandmother was reunited with Hendersons and Aldridges that she hadn’t seen in decades. Aaron “Jabbo” Henderson had long ago gone on, and Horace “Snook” Henderson Sr. had passed just a few years before, but there were Johnnie “Dink” Henderson and brother K.H. and sisters O.H.D., F.H.T. and M.H.S., my grandmother’s first cousins in one direction and second in another.


My grandmother and me with cousins O.D. and F.T., Henderson Family Reunion, early 1990s.

As L. recently wrote about the first photo above, “I remember that day so vividly. I believe this was the day we were introduced as cousins. Such a beautiful and blessed moment which has caused for many good times and good memories. Praise God for bringing us and our families together. Long lost cousins!”

It’s been a blessing indeed. Over the intervening years, I’ve become closer to many of these cousins than to some I’ve known all my life. The links we’ve forged have been a testament to the meaning of family and the insolubility of its bonds. Today I got a call from one of Snook’s grandsons, inviting me to help create a video project about our family’s history. For real? “Of course!,” I nearly shouted. The blessings keep flowing.