Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Killing of Willie DeLozier (13 October 1888)

William L. "Willie" DeLozier (center) with sister Lillie Ivalee (on left) and brother John Cleveland
(on right). The picture was taken circa 1885.
Source: Elise DeLozier Palmer (daughter of J.C. DeLozier)

Early on in my research, I came across this fascinating little article in a North Carolina newspaper about the shooting death of an 18 year-old young man in Swain County. 

Source: The Daily Evening Patriot (Greensboro, NC)
16 October 1888

Various iterations of this article appeared in other North Carolina newspapers. I was intrigued, as I knew that the DeLozier family had lived in the Judson area and so attempted a great deal of additional research to see what else I could find out about this young man's death - and came up empty-handed. Then a couple of years later, I picked up the book, "Ash, Ashe, Stillwell: A Genealogy", a genealogical history of some of the families who had lived in the Judson and Almond areas of Swain County.  Hidden among the book's 425 pages documenting family members and their progeny, I came across exactly what I had been looking for. As it turns out, a relative of the author, John Reid Ashe, had written to him while he was authoring the book and wanted to share an old family story with him. 

It was on the death of Willie DeLozier. I'd hit the proverbial jackpot. 

I hope you will enjoy Choice Stillwell Parker's letter (below) as much as I did. 


"I've heard my Daddy speak of his Aunt Emmoline Delosier many, many times. Also of how her son, Willie, met his death at an early age. He told us that Willie had dated a Sandlin girl a few times, while at the same time some other boy was dating her. He said that someone gift wrapped a pocket knife and mailed it to the Sandlin girl. Now in those days this was considered an insult, so her brother Matt, carried the knife back to Willie Delosier. Willie assured Matt that he had not mailed the knife to the girl, that it was not his knife and he had never seen it before. Matt carried the knife back down to the general store and left it there. A few days later the knife was received through the mail by the Sandlin girl again, all gift wrapped as before.

On a Saturday afternoon, shortly thereafter, Matt Sandlin showed up at the general store, sat around and talked for a while, and was heard to say he was going over to spend the night with Willie and would kill him while he was there. Matt arrived at Willie's late in the afternoon and after supper they were sitting around talking and Matt asked Willie to go hunting with him the next morning. Willie agreed. Willie did not know the girl had received the knife a second time and no idea what was going on in Matt's mind.

When morning came, Willie fixed breakfast. His mother was in bed sick with mumps, I believe it was. Willie went up to see about his mother and found her with a headache. He tied a handkerchief around his mother's head and told her of his plans to go hunting with Matt. His mother didn't want him to go, she said she didn't 'feel right about it'. Willie assured her he would be alright and would be back in a little while.

Mary Rebecca Emaline (nee' Stillwell) DeLozier, 
mother of Willie DeLozier.
Source: "Ash, Ashe, Stillwell"

Matt borrowed a gun from Willie and they set out for the field below the house. They said when Aunt Emmoline heard the shotgun blast a little later she said 'Oh, Lord! He's killed my son.' In a short while Matt came back to the house and said there had been an accident. Said he accidentally shot and killed Willie.

Willie was brought to the house and friends and neighbors came in, bathed, dressed, and 'laid Willie out'. In the evening when the community gathered to visit with the Delosiers, Matt was among the crowd but for some reason he would not go in to look at Willie as other friends were doing. When someone asked him why, he said he would rather not see Willie dead. Now, some of the men and boys who suspected what had happened on that hunting trip got together and decided they would make Matt go in and look at Willie. When they forced Matt to look at Willie, blood started oozing out through Willie's white shirt at the spot where the heart is (Willie was shot through the heart). This, they said, was proof that Matt had murdered Willie.

They carried Matt to jail and had a sort of trial, but since no one saw what happened in that field, he came clear. But my Daddy always said, he and everyone else around there, knew Matt Sandlin had made his threat good and killed Willie Delosier."

                 Choice Stillwell Parker in "Ash, Ashe, Stillwell", by John Ashe

Documentation of the inquest for Willie DeLozier
Source: Swain County Herald, 14 February 1889


In a sad twist of fate, Willie was killed exactly three years (to the day) after the death of his father, Jesse Ridings DeLozier. Willie, his parents, and many other of his family members, are buried in the Judson section of the Lauada Cemetery. 

Note: The Matt Sandlin referred to in the tale of Willie's death was almost certainly Matison W. Sandlin (alternately recorded as Madison B Sandlin) (1869 - 30 July 1894), who was related to the DeLoziers by marriage (his brother, Will, was married to Nancy Caroline DeLozier). The Sandlin girl referred to would have likely been one of Matt's sisters: Mary (born in 1873) or Rachel Annie (born in 1874). He married Mary Lawing in Cherokee County, North Carolina, in 1891. In early November 1893, Sandlin, who was then living in Clay County, engaged in a quarrel with a neighbor and drew his gun to shoot the neighbor but instead struck the neighbor's 5 year-old son, killing him. He fled and was captured in Chester County, Tennessee, in June 1894 and was brought back to Murphy. He died of typhoid fever in the Cherokee County jail on July 30, 1894, while awaiting trial for the child's death.


Willie DeLozier Headstone, Lauada Cemetery
Source: John L Mathis for findagrave.com



"Ash, Ashe, Stillwell: A Genealogy" by John Reid Ashe; published 1977.
Asheville Weekly Citizen, 09 November 1893
Asheville Citizen-Times, 19 June 1894
Elise DeLozier Palmer and Amy Palmer Evans
Marion Record, 17 August 1894
Swain County Herald, 14 February 1889
The Daily Evening Patriot, 16 October 1888
Wilmington Morning Star, 07 August 1894

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas in Bryson City, 1888

In the past, I have published a blog piece on Christmas in 1929 in Swain County. I thought it would be fun to go back another 41 years to see how Christmas was celebrated in Bryson City's early days.  Happy holidays to you all!

"The Union Sunday School of Charleston (the name of the town was changed to Bryson City in 1889) celebrated Christmas on Christmas evening. The services were held in the court room (see pictures below of the courthouse) which had been tastefully decorated by a committee of citizens, the chief decoration naturally being a tree, which was weighed down with gifts. In addition to those on the tree, two tables were covered and nearly an hour was occupied in the distribution of them.

Second Swain County Courthouse (destroyed by fire, January 1908)
Source: Swain County Genealogical and Historical Society

Second Swain County Courthouse, year unknown
Source: Swain County Genealogical and Historical Society

At seven o'clock  the court room was crowded, the members of the Sunday school occupying seats on the rostrum, the body of the house being filled with their friends and relatives. The services opened with an instrumental duet on the violin and organ by Mr. J.H. Everett and Miss Jennie Collins. Next came a chorus from Gospel Hymns which was received with much satisfaction. Rev. Geo. H. Church read a selection from the Scriptures and led the audience in prayer. Miss Collins and Messrs Everett and Henry McLean rendered another instrumental piece. Rev. Church gave the children a short Christmas sermon and wound up with a chicken story that was received with great hilarity. The choir then sang another selection from Gospel Hymns. H. A. Hodge made a few remarks on the origin of the name Christmas, and the custom of having Christmas trees. 

Jennie (nee' Collins) Bailey (1874 - 1965)
Source: Dawna Carlton

John Henderson Everett (1857 - 1937)
Source: Ancestry.com member dwilkins0316

After another instrumental piece, D.K. Collins, superintendent of the school, briefly but feelingly recounted the efforts to build up the Sunday school and spoke of the interest he took in such work. Then came the distribution of gifts, when many hearts were made glad and the audience dispersed in great good humour. Everything passed off quietly and orderly and the committee having the arrangements in charge, and particularly the superintendent of the school are to be congratulated on the success of the evening's entertainment.

Reverend George H. Church (1849 - 1928)
Source: Findagrave.com member John M. Campbell

David Kimsey (D.K.) and 'Mattie' (nee' Franks) Collins;
Mattie was his first wife and the mother of Jennie.
Source: Dawna Carlton

A good many humorous hits were made in the selection of gifts. The biggest laugh being raised when Miss Mary Battle opened a large box and a live rabbit popped out. 

Swain County Herald, 03 January 1889

Source: www.cleanpng.com

Note: I have embedded active links for some of the individuals named in the article so that the reader may find out more about them. Two links to Friends of the Bryson City Cemetery articles (J.H. Everett and D.K. Collins) are particularly detailed. 


Dawna Carlton
Swain County Genealogical and Historical Society
www.friendsofthe bccemetery.org
www.newspapers.org (Swain County Herald, 03 January 1889

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Memorial Day - Remembering Corporal Everett Bates (1895 - 1918)

Two years ago, I published an article on the Tabor Cemetery. One of the graves I visited at the cemetery was that of Everett Robert Bates, a young Needmore-area farmer who died in World War I. Although all war deaths are tragic, his seems particularly so to me. Why? In addition to his youth and the impending birth of his first child at the time of his death, Everett died in the waning hours of the war, quite literally. He perished sometime between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918 - Armistice Day - the very day upon which the war ended. As Memorial Day is nigh, I felt that a remembrance of this brave young man was in order.
Everett Robert Bates (taken September 26, 1917)
Source: David DeHart
Everett Robert Bates was born in the Needmore section of Swain County on September 27, 1895, the fourth child (of at least 13) of William Jefferson and Sally Jane Levinia (nee' DeHart) Bates. Little is known of his young life but it may be assumed it was the typical life of a child of rural Swain County during that time. He likely attended either the Hightower School or the White Oak School as a youngster, as the 1910 census reveals him to have been able to both read and write, and probably attended one of the churches in the area - perhaps Maple Springs or Brush Creek. He appears to have farmed for a living during his brief adult life. In 1917, the 'Great War' in Europe came knocking upon the doors of the young men of Swain County and Everett was required to register for the draft. His draft card (dated June 5, 1917) reveals that at the time, he was single and working as a farmer for Charles Rastus Browning in the Needmore area. He married Lillie May Marr (1899 - 1978) just 3 months later on September 26th. 
Everett Bates draft registration card
Source: Ancestry.com and Fold3.com
Everett Bates and Lillie Marr (top row) on their wedding day (September 26, 1917).
Seated in this picture are Lillie's sister Nell and Everett's friend Columbus 'Lum' Winchester.
Source: David DeHart
It is almost certain that Everett and Lillie's marriage occurred when it did due to his being 'called up' for duty. For though he had tried to claim exemption from the draft due to disease, his number had been pulled and he left via train for Camp Jackson in South Carolina, just days later on October 2nd. He was enlisted in Company I of the 321st Infantry Unit (the 'Wildcats'), 81st Division of the U.S. Army. Over the next nine months at Camp Jackson, he actively trained for near-certain deployment to the Western Front in Europe. He appears to have had the chance to return home at least once during his training, as Lillie became pregnant in the spring of 1918 but on July 31, 1918 he embarked on the 'City of Glasgow' to go to Europe with his fellow soldiers, never to return alive. 
The 'City of Glasgow' - the ship which transported Everett Bates to Europe in 1918.
It was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland one month later.
Source: wrecksite.eu

Everett Bates embarkation record
Source: Ancestry.com and Fold3.com
The activities of Everett's division during the three months prior to his death are recorded elsewhere (link below) and in the interest of saving space, I will not detail them here. However, we are exceptionally privileged to have access to the diary of another soldier in the 321st, who wrote in great detail about the events that transpired on the date of Everett's death at the Battle of Moranville in France. The full diary is located at this link, but I have excerpted small bits and pieces to provide the reader some idea of the awful realities that Everett faced on that last day of his earthly existence.

'About 5 o'clock (am) we walked around and looked at the sleeping company in their little shell holes, every one in a shell of his own. I wondered how many of them would be living at noon that day and I thought how hard it would be to arouse them from a peaceful sleep to go out to kill and be killed. At this time we called the men....the men rubbed their eyes and tightened their belts for there was no water to wash their faces or food to fill their stomachs. The men took it good naturedly and prepared to go over the top.....
The high explosive shells were falling just as though it was raining them from above....we could hear the continuous ring of M.G. (machine gun) fire and every now and then a man could be seen going to the rear carrying a bullet pierced arm or limping back on a leg that had been shot...nothing could stop us as long as life lasted for our orders were to take Attain or die trying. 
We were lost in a fog and wading water waist deep.....we rushed on for some distance and found that we were caught in a trap.....we fought there for some time in the marsh up to our waist and the coldest water I ever felt. We were in an awful fix in a trap sure from all sides and our men were being killed by the M.G. from the front and a box barrage from the rear......Our scouts were out in front of the front wave about 40 yards and the fog was so dense that we couldn't see them at all but we knew very well when they came in contact with the enemy for they opened up with what seemed us a thousand M.G. and a few 77s#'s which they shot whiz bangs point blank at us......
At seven minutes to eleven a runner came up to the Capt. out of breath and handed him an order. I had no idea what the order meant.....as soon as he read the order he called two runners and told them to go to the platoons and give them orders to cease firing at eleven o'clock. At 11 a.m. we ceased firing and the Germans jumped up, threw their rifles down and came running to meet us....We spent the rest of the day gathering up the dead and wounded of the field and they were plentiful. We hauled many loads of dead bodies up and buried them in a hole dug like a long ditch. The men were laid close together, side by side, and covered up...... 
The Germans celebrated all night long by sending up flares and lights from the trenches and they were so glad they wouldn't sleep at all but we were perfectly willing to rest and sleep.'
Thomas 'Jack' Pinkney Shinn, Co. B, 321st Inf., 81st Div., U.S. Army 

Chaplain B.S. Vaughn presiding over the mass burial of the dead at Moranville on November 12, 1918. The graves are marked by small slabs of wood. Everett was one of the deceased soldiers for whom this service was given.
Source: https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2018/11/11/north-carolinians-respond-armistice-november-11-1918

Everett was originally interred among this sad line of deceased soldiers described by Jack Shinn. It is not known how his demise was conveyed to his wife and family, though it is almost certain they received the news via telegram. His death was announced in the Asheville Citizen-Times on December 10, 1918. 

'America's Honor List'
Source: Asheville Citizen Times, December 10, 1918
On February 27, 1919, Lillie gave birth to Everett's child, a son that she named after his father. Sadly, however, Everett Robert Bates Jr.'s life was to be cut tragically short as he died on January 1, 1921, of meningitis. Lillie, no doubt devastated by the loss of both her husband and son in such a short period of time, married James Floyd Cunningham just a few months later in March.

Everett Sr. remained in France until  July 1921, when his body was repatriated to the United States (unlike many of his comrades, whose bodies remain buried in foreign soil). He was interred in the Tabor Cemetery near the grave of his son. It is a peaceful and beautiful place for his eternal repose, in the mountains of home - far removed from the horrors of the battlefield upon which he died. 

Everett Bates repatriation documentation
Source: Fold3.com

Tombstone of Everett Robert Bates, Sr. (Tabor Cemetery)
Source: Felicia Mashburn on Findagrave.com
Sadly, for every Everett Bates, whose life is being honored in this article, there are millions more soldiers who were killed in action whose incomplete lives have been long-forgotten over time. Each of them was an Everett with their own story- full of life, with families and friends they loved and who loved them, with plans for a future that they would sadly never see come to fruition. As we celebrate Memorial Day on Monday, May 25th, I would encourage my readers to each take a moment to remember all those soldiers who gave their lives for the freedoms that we and our fellow men around the world enjoy and take for granted. May you each have a blessed holiday.

Notes to the reader: 
  • For those interested in learning more, a full-text file of the book,  'The History of the 321st Infantry' may be found for free at this link
  • The excellent movie, '1917', was released early this year. It won rave reviews for its depictions of the horrors of the Western Front during World War I - I highly recommend it. 

Asheville Citizen-Times, December 10, 1918
David DeHart