Tragic Story Illustrates Tumult After Civil War
Fayetteville, Cumberland County, North Carolina
The Civil War had been over for less than two years and there was still anger and bitterness that would
remain in the hearts of the Confederate veterans and their families. The anger was directed at the Union
Army regulators as much as against some of the citizens.
Archie Beebe died on Feb. 11, 1867, in a pool of blood at the southeast corner of the Market House in
Fayetteville. He was shot in the back of his head by a former Confederate Army Captain as he was led
from the second floor Magistrate's office through an angry crowd on his way to the town's guardhouse
(jail) on Gillespie Street.
Mr. Beebe, a drayman who also was known as Archie Walden, had been accused of attempting to rape a young
woman, Elvina [Elvira] Massey as she walked home on a Sunday Afternoon, the day before he was killed.
Mr. Beebe was the son of a carpenter and was a familiar figure to most Fayetteville residents, hauling
loads of drygoods and other merchandise in a horse-drawn wagon from the Cape Fear River landing to
merchants whose stores lined the street leading to the Market House.
As reports of the alleged sexual attack spread through Fayetteville on Sunday, the anger grew. Miss
Massey was the daughter of Lt. William H. Massey, who had been killed while serving with Co. G, 33rd
Regiment, N.C. Troops, at New Bern in early 1862. Lt. Massey was buried with Confederate comrades in
a cemetery near New Bern. His body was not brought home until March 1887, when his family had the body
dug up and carried home by steamboat up the Cape Fear River. His grave is in the side yard of Massey Hill
Sheriff Robert W. Hardie arrested Mr. Beebe at his home not long after Miss Massey told her family about
the incident. The prisoner was locked in the jail until Monday and then marched to the Market House for
a hearing before Magistrate Maj. Duncan McRae. A crowd had gathered around the Market House (then most
often called the Town House).
A reporter described the scene in the Fayetteville News. "Upstairs, a table had been placed in the southwest
corner next to the stoves. Archie Beebe was sitting on the opposite side of it. Standing nearby were
Officers J.C. Bond, L.C. Weymuss and Faircloth (first name not listed) and Sheriff Hardie. At the end
of the table was Capt. H.W. Horne, lawyer for Beebe and Magistrates James W. Strange and Joseph Arey were
sitting with Maj. McRae. Sitting in the witness seat was Elvina Massey and next to her was Billy Stewart,
a man who was said to be a witness to the assault.
Capt. William J. Tolar had been at the Market House since early before the 7 a.m. bell the day after Mr.
Beebe's arrest, getting his butcher stall ready for the morning's business. He had just come back from
a 10-day stay at his farm in Bladen County, butchering hogs, cows and sheep. Two boys, George and Rufus
Smith, sons of John H. Smith, were playing marbles in the southeast corner of the Market House, directly
in front of Icabod B. Davis' store.
As Mr. Beebe was taken up the stairs to appear at the hearing, Capt. Tolar moved to talk to several men,
including Dr. W.C. McDuffie, Edward P. Powers, Ralph Lutterlow and John Hollingsworth. Mr. Hollingsworth
was carrying a pistol at his side.
A man named David Watkins, who was known as Monk Juke, walked up and down the sidewalk with a knife in his
right hand. He was cutting on a stick and began mumbling to himself. Witnesses later said he was saying
he was going to cut a man."
After the hearing, Officer Bond escorted Miss Massey and her mother to a carriage parked beside the Market
House. The driver was Wiley Smith, a man sometimes called Wiley Wright. Just as Miss Massey stepped
into the carriage, according to one news report, a bandage around her neck fell down, which revealed
Samuel Phillips, a relative of Miss Massey, spoke to the young woman and then walked by Capt. Tolar,
asking him if he was captain of the company. Capt. Tolar replied, "No." Miss Massey's uncle, Tom
Powers, was called to the carriage by the girl's mother. "Tom, don't have anything to do with it,"
she said. Mr. Powers shook his head. James McNeill walked up to Mr. Powers and asked him if he was
kin to the girl. Mr. Powers told Mr. McNeill she was his niece. Mr. Powers walked to a bench, sat
down and began crying.
Capt. Tolar walked to Mr. McNeill and said, "You will only have to grab him when he comes down the steps
and that will break the ice and we will put him through it." Mr. McNeill became frightened and ran to
Forster's Store, about 50 yards away. Several of the men lit cigars. A witness later was to say they were
puffing continuously until the air was full of smoke.
The second-floor door opened about 4 p.m. and Sheriff Hardie appeared with the prisoner. Sheriff Hardie
had a string tied tightly around Mr. Beebe's thumb, which served as a leash. As they walked down the
stairs Monk Juke lurched at the prisoner, cursing, and tried several times to slash him with his knife.
Officers pushed him away but he tried once again under an arch.
Mr. Beebe stumbled and fell and Sheriff Hardie picked him up by the collar of his shirt. Mr. Beebe
was about three feet from the southeast corner with Sheriff Hardie walking in front of him. Other
officers encircled the prisoner. Suddenly, Capt. Tolar pushed Jim Douglas aside with his left hand,
drew a pistol and shot Mr. Beebe in the back of the head. As he fired, a gray shawl he was wearing
slipped off his right shoulder.
Capt. Tolar adjusted his shawl and walked to the office of Dr. McDuffie. The doctor looked at his
visitor and said, "Captain, do you want anything for your nerves?" The tall, muscular Captain held
out his hand and looked at it. He said, "Doctor, I am going out among the crowd again and maybe a
little Nervine might not hurt." Capt. Tolar left the office after draining a bottle of medicine given
him by Dr. McDuffie and mingled with the crowd until it began to disperse.
Mr. Beebe lay on the ground where he was shot. The pistol ball had passed near the sheriff's head and
cut off a lock of his hair. He later said he first thought he had been shot. Dr. McDuffie and another
doctor, not named, examined the prisoner and both agreed he would die in a few minutes. Monk Juke ran
up to the prisoner and "acted as though he wanted to cut his throat," a reporter wrote the following day.
He was led from the crowd by a man named James Nixon.
(Among the witnesses to the killing was a youth named Charles Chestnutt, who was to become one of the most
famous black writers in the nation in the late 1800s.)
Published reports said that Sheriff Hardie was unable to find anyone who would testify. A coroner's
jury was called to investigate the shooting and the jury ruled that the deceased met death by pistol shot
fired by some unknown person.
The Union regulators were unhappy with the investigation. They were under pressure from certain local
leaders to do something. A team of investigators, including a Captain and a Sergeant, was sent from Raleigh
to Fayetteville to conduct an inquiry. The body was exhumed to determine the caliber of the bullet that had
killed the young man. One newspaper reported that the investigators cut the head off the body so the bullet
hole could be examined by Army officials.
Records show that on Wednesday, May 15, Col. Cogswell, Military Commandant of Fayetteville, under orders of
Gen. Miles of Raleigh, arrested the Magistrate, Maj. McRae; Capt. Tolar; Thomas Powers; Samuel Phillips;
and William David "Monk Juke" Watkins. They were placed on a steamboat and taken to Fort Macon. The guards
allowed the boat to stop at the Cedar Creek Landing so that Capt. Tolar could say good-by to his family.
On Wednesday May 15, Mr. Phillips turned state's evidence and a nolle pros was entered in his case, meaning
the state agreed not to prosecute him. The charge against Maj. McRae was dropped later. Mr. Phillips
testified at a hearing that shortly after the report of the attack on Miss Massey became known, several
gatherings of angry men were called. He said it was the unanimous opinion that the only way Mr. Beebe
could be punished would be by swift and sharp justice, a bullet through the brain.
Most of the men volunteered to shoot Mr. Beebe, but there was general agreement that Capt. Tolar was the
one who could be counted on not to lose his nerve, Mr. Phillips testified. On May 27, Special Order 55
was issued by Maj. Gen. D.E. Sickle, Headquarters, Second Military District, Charleston, S.C. It placed
Cumberland County under military commission and ordered Fayetteville Mayor Thomas G. Curtis and other
municipal officials removed from office. The town commissioners who were kicked out were D.S. Maultsby,
Murdock McKinnon, John Haigh, A.G. Thornton, Hector McKethan, Johnson H. Robinson and Walter Draughon.
The order also removed James Strange and Joseph Arey as Magistrates and J.C Poe, Thomas H. Massey [grandfather
of the victim], James A. King and A.H. Whitfield as town constables. Mr. Curtis was replaced by James R.
Lee as Mayor.
Capt. Tolar, Mr. Powers and Mr. Watkins were found guilty of murder and were ordered to be "hung by the neck
until they be dead." However, two-thirds of the members of the trial commission voted to reduce the sentence
to 15 years hard labor at Fort Macon. The trial set off a long fight by Capt. Tolar's family and friends to
free the men. They appealed to President Andrew Johnson, a native of North Carolina, but he did not review
the case until a year later. He granted all three men full pardons and they were released.
There was rejoicing in Fayetteville. In an editorial in the Eagle newspaper, the editor wrote on Wednesday,
Aug. 19, 1868: "During the past few months, while strenuous efforts have been made in behalf of this
unfortunate victim (Capt. Tolar) of the tyranny and injustice of a military commission, we have forborne
to make any mention of his name in our columns or of the result of exertions in his behalf, fearing that
by agitation of the matter of his incarceration, we would arouse the spite and hate of the radicals to use
every means to frustrate any plan for his relief. You are free again; you are not disgraced; you are
honored. The right hand of every true man will receive you and help you on to prosperity and happiness."
On Sunday, Aug. 23, Capt. Tolar, Mr. Powers and Mr. Watkins arrived at the Cape Fear River wharf in
Fayetteville. All church services were suspended. When the boat whistle was heard approaching, every
church bell as well as other bells in the town rung "in glad acclaim, " a reporter wrote. A carriage was
driven to the wharf and the three men were escorted to the carriage. The horses were unhitched and groups
of men volunteered to pull the carriage to the Market House where the killing had occurred. "The passengers
alighted amidst a great concourse of people, who had congregated for the purpose of welcoming the prisoners
home, " The Eagle reported. Capt. Tolar was a hero to many Fayetteville residents during the Civil War.
He had been wounded by shrapnel while mounting captured breastworks on July 22, 1864, near Atlanta.
He had been cited for bravery.
A fund drive was started by Fayetteville residents for the three men. Capt. Tolar had served with Co.
B, 1Oth South Carolina Volunteers. Mr. Phillips had been a Sergeant with Co. 1 of the First North Carolina
Regiment. Mr. Watkins had been a member of Co. H, First North Carolina (Bethel) Regiment.
Not only did Capt. Tolar become widely known and politically powerful after the killing of Archie Beebe,
his supporters also became powers in the Democratic Party. At the state Democratic convention in Raleigh
in 1868, a Raleigh lawyer who had prosecuted the Captain was called to the rostrum to address the convention.
A Raleigh reporter wrote that the lawyer had "uttered scarcely a dozen words "before the delegation from
Cumberland County began chanting "Tolar, Tolar, Tolar. "
The speaker had to leave the platform. The crowd began yelling for lawyer James C. Dobbins to deliver
the keynote speech and, the reporter wrote, "He delivered the greatest short speech ever delivered in a
North Carolina state convention. " Mr. Dobbins had been one of Capt. Tolar's defense lawyers and later
became recognized as one of North Carolina's top lawyers.
Capt. Tolar received considerable financial support from his Confederate comrades and from others. In
1872, he bought about 2,000 acres at the point where Robeson, Cumberland and Bladen counties joined.
He acquired the contract for convict labor and built shacks or cabins to house them. He built a general
store and a blacksmith shop with a full-time blacksmith to place and remove fetters and balls and chains
to restrict the convicts' movements. He hired retired police officers, sheriff's deputies and constables
to guard the men.
In 1876, he received a commission to build a post office and named it Tolarsville. He became the first
postmaster. Records show that in 1879 he bought 10.7 acres on Dick Street and bought the Mclntyre Land
and took Edgar A. Poe into partnership in making bricks.
Capt. Tolar died Jan. 2, 1896 and was buried at Bladen Union Baptist Church. His wife, Isabella McCaskill
Tolar, had died in December 1860. When the Captain joined the Confederate Army, he had no one to take care
of his 12-year old son, John R. Tolar. So, according to records, Capt. Tolar took his son with him.
The youngster served in an unlisted capacity until the end of the war.
John, who died at 78 on July 25, 1925, had many business interests in North Carolina. He was educated
in both North Carolina and South Carolina and at the age of 24 in 1872 became a commission merchant of
naval stores in New York City. In 1900, he organized the firm of Tolar, Hart & Holt Co, manufacturers
of cotton yarn. He moved back to Fayetteville in 1916 and remained until his death.
Much of the information obtained for this story came from copies of newspapers published in Fayetteville
after the Civil War, along with actual trial records and other documents unearthed by Ray Curtis Hughes
of Fayetteville and recorded in the Hughes' papers - Reporter's note.
[This story was emailed to me without the name of the reporter who wrote it, but I believe it was published
in the Fayetteville Observer a few years ago. EMC]
Please Note: This article was edited only to remove words that might be offensive to some readers.
If anyone has further information on the above-mentioned Phillips, Powers or Massey families, please
email me, Elaine Carr
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