transcribed by Elsie Arcuri
The Landmark – June 1881
Miss Caroline Thompson of Alexander County
Brutally Murdered and All Her Father’s Money Stolen
Margaret Caroline Thompson a maiden lady of about 50 years of age daughter of Mr James Thompson, of Sharpe’s township Alexander county was brutally murdered at the door of her father’s house on Friday last by some person or persons unknown. The fact of this terrible crime as gathered by the coroner seem as follows:
Mr Thompson partook of quite a late dinner in company with his daughter on Friday noon and then, leaving his daughter in charge of the house went to his plowing which was about three quarters of a mile away. There he staid hard at work until about sundown when he returned to his home. Arriving at the gate he took the harness from his horse and went through towards the kitchen a small out building near by, intending to leave his harness there as was his usual custom but as he neared the kitchen he saw his daughter Caroline lying flat on the ground near the kitchen door. Thinking she was sick and having no serious thought concerning her strange position, he spoke to her asking what was the matter and receiving no reply he bent over her and then realized that she was covered with blood and was dead. In his great agitation at this terrible discovery he hurried to the house to see if robbery had been committed as well as murder and found his worst fears realized. Everything of value had been stolen and his mortgages, notes, bonds, and money were gone and the floor strewn with bed clothing and wearing apparel taken from the chest where he had secreted his valuables. Before leaving home at noon Mr Thompson had taken the precaution as he had only commenced to do lately to lock up his house and put the key on top shelf of the cupboard in the kitchen. He told his daughter where the key was then went to the field as before related. He left her rendering quite a quantity of beeswax and alone excepting the presence of a large and ferocious dog which he kept to guard his home from danger. When he realized the full extent of his loss and the terrible fact of his daughter’s foul murder he hurried to his nearest neighbor telling him as he met him. “I’m ruined! and somebody has killed Caroline! Oh help me, come to the house quick!” Mr Kennedy was the neighbor called. He hurried to the house and found it was only too true. He raised an alarm and roused the neighbors far and near and soon they commenced to arrive from all quarters.
No sign or trace could be found of the murderer except his terrible work. His victim lay cold and still as he had left her. She lay with her face buried in a puddle of clotted blood, her right arm under her and across her breast, her left arm was drawn up in a position of as if she had tried to use after being felled to the ground. Beside of her, lying to her right, was an axe covered with blood and hair showing plainly with what terrible means her murderer had killed her. The ground towards the gate for more than ten feet from the body was – spattered with blood showing the brutal force spent in making ” -? work.” A more horrible spectacle from correspondent has never witnessed. Ver-? it was a murder in “coldblood”. Her murderer had dealt her -? terrible blows with the pole or blunt of the axe, any one of which would have been mortal, they all penetrated the brain to a considerable depth. On her body no wounds or bruises were found and Dr Little reports no evidence of an attempt at outrage.
This much seems sure that the murderer was not an accomplished villain but a burglar of the worst type. No experienced robber would have found it necessary to commit – ? – in this rage, he would have gagged and bound this woman after having obtained from her all the information he could.
Another factor looms up though. It looks as if the victim might have recognized her murderer and he had thought it best to make way with her for “dead men (and women) tell no tales.”
The deed probably done at about 3pm and the murderer had ample time to get far away from his crime and with his booty before the murder and robbery were discovered. Of some importance and pointing to the murderer as not being a stranger is the fact that not a thing in the house or kitchen was disturbed besides the chest containing the valuables with the single exception that the gun was lifted down from it’s rack over the door and was found on the night of the murder near the door in a standing position, evidently so as to be handy to the murderer in case anyone should molest him in his terrible work.
The dog spoken of for some unaccountable reason came to Mr Thompson in the field about one hour after he left his house at noon and stayed with him until about 5 o’clock pm. When Mr Thompson returned home at sundown he found the dog lying down close to his daughter’s body.
Mr James Thompson is a highly respected citizen of this township, is 81 years old and yet as hale and hearty as a man of 59. We have considered him our wealthiest land owner and it was not known that he had an enemy in the world; certain it is that he owed no man anything. He says that he had often thought that he would be robbed but never that murder would be done in connection with it. He is almost broken down with grief over his daughter’s fate, especially too as it comes so soon, only about two months after the death of his wife.
Of the money stolen about $200 of it was in bills of small denominations and the balance about $300 was in silver and gold, only a few pieces of the latter though; the bulk was small silver change.
Such a crime as this has not been known in this county before and that such is the state of feeling about the -? among the people that quick vengeance would be meted out to the murderer could he be found. His own conscience must be his greatest burden just at this time.
Sep 16 1881
Church and Dockery
The Alexander Crime
An intelligent correspondent at Taylorsville gives us an account of the incarceration of Lige Church, in Alexander jail and of the attempts which was afterwards made to lynch him. It is the common belief that Church was a contracting party to his own arrest. He is known to be a very bold, desperate man; yet his brother-in-law, one Minton, brought him easily enough to Taylorsville and into the presence of the sheriff, and was prompt to demand the reward of $300 which the Governor has offered for the apprehension of the culprit It is supposed and with good reason, that there was a deliberate plan between Church and Minton, whereby Church was to give himself into the hands of Minton (who by the by has been feeding him in the woods ever since he became a fugitive from justice) and that after the prisoner had been delivered to the sheriff and the reward obtained, his friends were to release him from jail and the reward be divided among them.
If the crowd which surrounded Taylorsville jail a few nights ago had been a little more determined, this nice little scheme would have been entirely thwarted. But there seems to have been a miscarriage somewhere in the lynching arrangements, and a demonstration of the people of Taylorsville and a speech from Mr R Z Linney served to dissuade the attacking party from it’s purpose and Church was carried across the river to Catawba jail, from which he will certainly escape unless extraordinary precautions were adopted to insure his security. If he can be held and hung according to law, it will be much better than if the plans of the lynching party had succeeded. If the negligence of jail officers shall permit him to escape, a new and powerful argument in favor of lynch law will have been advanced to the people of this section. It is said that in the presence of the crowd which surrounded the jail he weakened and cried like a child; a deadly fear took hold of him and he could not have walked a step. “Thus, conscience doth make cowards of us all.”
Dockery according to his confession which was recited last week, was not one of the original parties to the crime which resulted in the death of Miss Thompson and the robbery of her father’s premises of all the money he had. He was a mere hireling. He was to have been given $55 for his share in the nefarious transaction. He was not a partner but an employee. Dockery has confessed, too that it was he and Church who robbed the house of Mr Erastus Redman of Iredell, a few days after the Alexander murder and robbery.
Gradually the meshes of the law are being woven around the villains who planned and executed this atrocious crime, and it appears reasonably certain that the principals in guilt will be brought to the scaffold, except as remarked above, the negligence of jail officers allows them to escape.
Sep 23 1881
The reporter of THE LANDMARK is mistaken in saying that the clothes of Church and Dockery the murderers of Caroline Thompson were hid near the house of John Adams. They were found at the place designated by Dockery, between 15 and 20 miles from Adams’ house.
Oct 7 1881
Taken from Newton Jail Last Night and Swung to a Limb
Last night about 10:00 o’clock a party of about 100 mounted men appeared at the door of Newton jail and demanded the keys of Mr Andrew Helton, the jailer. He protested but finally yielded to the demand, and the party unlocked the doors and proceeded to the cell of Elijah F Church, took him out, carried him a mile and a half from the town and hung him to the limb of a tree, then quietly deposed. The proceeding occurred under the bright light of the moon and there was no interference with the lynching party.
Shorty after the party left town with the prisoner, two surgeons followed in the direction which they had taken. They found the body still hanging on the tree, with life extinct.
Church was one of the murderers of Miss Caroline Thompson, of Alexander county, in June inst. Our readers are perfectly familiar with all of the particulars of this crime. Of his guilt there is no question. He had for many years been a pest to society and public opinion will sanction the summary proceeding which has put him out of the way.
Dockery Carried to Charlotte
Sheriff Mays, of Alexander, arrived here Wednesday evening, having to charge Harrison Dockery, the accomplice of Church in the robbery of the home of James Thompson and the murder of his daughter. Dockery was locked up in jail here until train time yesterday morning, when Sheriff Mays carried him off to Charlotte to be confined in jail there for safe keeping. This precautionary measure was the result of intelligence that Church’s friends and the friends of others who are suspected of complicity in the Thompson crime had determined to lynch Dockery, he being the person who had given evidence against Church and who may testify against others. It was reported that the Taylorsville jail would be attacked Tuesday night and the authorities accodingly took Dockery out and guarded him in the woods all night.
Oct 14 1881
The Lynching of Church
Further Particulars to the Case
This article was almost impossible to transcribe. Errros are probable.
We mentioned in our last the bare fact of the lynching of Elijah Church, by a party who took him out of Newton jail Thursday night of last week. Such details were reported by the Newton Enterprise and the Piedmont Press. It is stated that the lynchers rode quietly but briskly up to the jail and then all but one dismounted and went up. When Church heard the noise he remarked to his fellow prisoner – who had heard Abernethy at ?Ball’s Creek jump up exclaim? ” My time has come”. When the crowd knocked at the door the jailer opened it and the visitors passed into the passage and demanded Church! The jailer refused to bring him out, and was told they positively would not leave until they had him even if they had be beat the jailer up; that there were 115 men in the party and that they were able to enforce their demand. Seeing the cirumstance was useless, the jailer delivered the key to Church’s cell to the leader of the party and they went upstairs and brought him down, having meantime left one man below to keep the jailer covered with his pistol. The shackles were taken from the criminal, his hands tied behind him and a rope tied around his neck. The lynchers delivered the keys to the jailer, told him to see to his remaining prisoners, and setting Church behind one of the crowd on a horse they all rode off together.
Of the further proceedings the Piedmont Press says:
Several of the young men of Newton happened to be out drinking at the time, and followed the party and saw them hang him. They were close enough to hear all that was said by them? what was gathered the lynchers endeavored to get a confession from the prisoner but he denied being guilty of the charge to the very last. Just as he was about to swing from the horse he asked the party to wait – stating he had something else to say but they told him that they had given ample time and could wait no longer, so in a few seconds the party scattered leaving the victim swinging in the air. The moon was shining very bright but not a single man of the party was recognized by any one . They were respectable and fine looking gentlemen, none masked or disguised and performed their mission and remained very quietly without any effort to disturb the citizens.