Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin

Montraville’s mayhem.

I generally view with skepticism lurid newspaper accounts of Negro malfeasance, but it’s hard to ignore the cumulative record of Montraville Simmons’ outrageousness. He beat his wife and children, he seduced his neighbors’ women, he piled up lawsuits.

Here’s a smattering of not even ten years’ worth of Montraville’s mayhem:

  • In which a drunken Montraville whipped his wife Anna Henderson Simmons (but did not slit her throat) and punched his children, and they rose en masse to beat him back. After his arrest, Montraville pressed charges against his whole family for assault.

KDT 11 13 1899

Kokomo Daily Tribune, 13 November 1899.

  • In 1901, remember, he hit son Dock Simmons in the head with a rock.
  • In which, long story short: Joseph Hall was a tenant living on Simmons’ farm. Mabel Cain was his niece, and William Epperson was her boyfriend. Montraville allegedly offered Cain $5 for sex. (This, apparently, is the assault and battery with attempt to rape.) Epperson was outraged; he and Montraville fought with ax and club; and Montraville threw Epperson into a creek, nearly drowning him. On the way to court, while in custody, Montraville tried to get Cain to drink some whisky. Later, he offered to squash the matter by paying for a marriage license for Cain and Epperson. He got drunk, however, forgot his promise, and went home.

L Times 3 7 1902

Logansport Times, 7 March 1902.

  • (First, there’s the mention that Montraville was recently a “prominent figure in the colored circles of Ervin Township,” suggesting that he did live in the Bassett settlement during his time in Howard County.) Charles Baker worked for Montraville, and he and his wife Ollie Perkins Baker shared the Simmons’ home. Having noticed that his wife was on extra friendly terms with Montraville and his sons, Charles decided to move back to Logansport. Ollie initially refused, then relented and “kissed the Simmons boys” (who were men in their twenties) as they left. The next day, Ollie insisted on returning to the farm, and Charles finally agreed. He and Montraville began drinking, and the inevitable argument broke out. Ollie took Montraville’s side, grabbed Charles’ gun, and hid it under a mattress. Montraville threatened Charles with a length of wagon wheel, and Charles grabbed his gun and smashed the butt into Montraville’s head. Ollie was screaming to Montraville, “Kill him!,” and Charles ran out of the house when a Simmons son snatched the gun from him. Ollie refused to leave with him. Montraville’s version of events was more laconic: he was in bed, Charles started beating Ollie, Montraville protested, and Charles knocked him in the head.

KDT 1 9 1903

Kokomo Daily Tribune, 9 January 1903.

  • In which a white laborer named Francis Kinstler filed assault and battery charges alleging that Montraville and Ed Simmons called him vile names and attacked him. Kistler bit Ed’s thumb, and Montraville clubbed him in the hip. After tearing Ed’s shirt with his teeth, Kinstler escaped.

LPT 7 24 1907

Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 24 July 1907. 

  • Montraville and Edward were acquitted.

LPT 7 27 1907

Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 27 July 1907.

  • As mentioned here, in 1908 Montraville’s second (or third) wife Emily charged him with beating her for breaking a beer-filled mug.
  • And then there was white-collar crime. Montraville mortgaged fifty acres of growing corn for $250. Except he didn’t have any corn growing. This article recounts the tale of Montraville’s tumble from rumored wealth to a “rocky” life.

KDT 5 19 1908

Kokomo Daily Tribune, 19 May 1908.

  • Later that summer, a Logansport paper elaborated on Montraville’s downfall to homelessness, wifelessness and penury.

LDT 8 23 1908

Logansport Daily Tribune, 23 August 1908.



Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Oral History

Aunt Bert, as reported.

So, the conversation started with talk of Bill Bailey’s barbecue joint. Which was also a dance hall.  Which, though it was right up the road, was, as my grandmother put it, “strictly off-limits” to her and her sisters. “We couldn’t stand him,” she said, because “he did everything illegal and got away with it.” He had a great big stomach and was “trashy,” but his steaks pulled the best of Iredell County’s partying white folks.  And he was married to my grandmother’s Aunt Bert.

Me:  Now, she wound up … She shot somebody, or something, didn’t she?

My grandmother:  Yeah, she shot somebody.  She shot a white man.

My mother’s first cousin, N.:  What he do?  Slap her?  What did he do?  He did something to her.

My grandmother:  I don’t know what he did to her.  But maybe … seems like to me he kicked her.

N:  And she shot him.

My grandmother:  And she shot him.

N.: They had to take his leg off.


Me:  Oh.  Well, good for Bert.

When I wrote about this before, I was looking for newspaper coverage of the incident, thinking that a black woman shooting a white man in North Carolina in 1944 had to have galvanized the public. Well, sure enough, the Statesville Record & Landmark covered every step of ensuing criminal trial, though in a considerably less salacious manner than I might have expected.  The headlines pretty much tell the tale:

James Warren, Merchant Marine Home on Leave, Seriously Shot. Mae Bailey, Colored, Held in County Jail Charged with Shooting. 29 March.

Warren Shot 3 29 44Warren shot contd

Warren Holding Own, But Will Not Be Out of Danger For Week.  30 March.

James Warren’s Leg Amputated.  3 April.

James L. Warren Is Better But Not Yet Out of Danger.  6 Apr.

Mae Bailey Freed from Jail Today, Hearing May 8th.  11 April.

May Postpone Murdock Trial.  29 April.

Warren Removed to the Naval Hospital at Portsmouth, Va.  1 May.

M. Murdock Trial Postponed Until Monday, June 12.  8 May.

James Warren Starts Civil Action Against Murdocks for $25,000.  11 May.

Murdock Civil Action 11 May 44 R and L

Mae Murdock Case Continued to August.  25 May.

Judge Bobbitt to Superior Court Preside August, Case of Mae (Bailey) Murdock Will Not Be Tried At This Term.  29 July 1944.

Murdock Trial Definitely Set For November 6, Warren is Able to Leave Hospital.  6 September.

Prosecuting Witness May Not Visit Scene of Shooting. 9 October.

Mae Murdock is Bound to Court Under $5000 Bond. 16 October.

Case Hinges on Warren’s Action Before Shooting, Testimony Rapidly Nearing Completion.  9 November.

Murdock Woman is Convicted. 13 November.

Conviction 13 Nov 1944

Murdock Case to Go to State Supreme Court.  14 November.

$25,000 Law Suit Against Murdock Woman Continued.  14 November.

Aunt Bert served her time at the state women’s prison in Raleigh and returned to Statesville after to pass her few remaining years.  She had  possessed considerable wealth after her father’s death in 1929, but lost much of it while she was away. My family maintains that William “Bill Bailey” Murdock had entrusted whites to help hide his shady assets, and they betrayed him after Bert shot one of their own.

Bert died in 1955. The Landmark ran her death notice without comment or reference to the incident for which she had been infamous just ten years earlier.

Bert Murdock Obit 26 May 1955 Record and Landmark


Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.