Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thriller Thursday -- Finding Truth in a Family Legend

Between the gaps in the timetable dates lay a family legend . . . one that gave me an uneasy feeling right in the pit of my stomach.

For some time I had heard, from various family sources, that Hezekiah Carter killed a man over a woman. My insatiable curiosity plunged me headlong into a search for the truth. A cousin and fellow family historian reported that 
Hezekiah somehow found out about John Carter coming to his home. Hannah would lean out the side window and flirt with him. The roads were packed dirt, and there were foot paths and cart paths through the forest. Hezekiah happen to be home that day when John came strolling by. He told his wife to call John to the window, of which she did and Hezekiah shot him. They say John left a blood trail from that window, on the cart path, all the way home, where he died. I think he bleed to death.

I hated to think of my grandfather-in-law as such a calculating man, and so the search began.

John Carter's death certificate stated his cause of death as "Homicide--gun shot wound, arm;" and contrary to  the legend, he died at St. Luke's Hospital.  I contacted Victor T. Jones, Jr. at the Kellenberger Room. Were there any related homicide cases in the Superior Court Minutes?

The Sun Journal reported over two days that [John] Henry Carter "died from blood poisoning after the arm had been removed in an attempt to save him." The follow-up story expounded on the evidence which uncovered the motive for John Henry Carter's visits. . . the attempted theft of  "about $175 in cash" collected upon the sale of some hogs.

While "Hezekiah Carter, Harlowe negro, and said to be a well to do farmer, was arrested," he was released with no charges pending.  Sheriff Lane stated that his investigation indicated "that the shooting was justified in every respect."

I'm sure some people will always hold on to their family legends, passed down through generations. Perhaps there may be more to the story than what was reported to the local Sheriff, but with a lack of living eye-witnesses, I'll hold on to the evidence.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great story and a not at all uncommon example. Often family tradition becomes distorted through the retellings over the years. The retellings have value in their own way, but any evidence is always compelling. It's true, like you say, that maybe there is more to the story than is, in this case, reported to the Sheriff. That's why when we, as genealogists, bring together both the legend and the evidence, an even more interesting picture is painted and--hopefully--a more compelling tale.