Trial for Murder of Caroline Thompson

transcribed by Elsie Arcuri


Mar 17 1882

THE TRIAL OF DAVIS
As Accessory to the Murder of Caroline Thompson
The Evidence of Dockery and Other Witnesses

On Wednesday at 11 o’clock the trial of Ephraim Davis, of Wilkes county, as accessory before the fact to the murder of Miss Thompson, of Alexander, on the 10th of June last, was begun. The principals in this murder will be remembered to be Elijah Church and Harrison Dockery. Church was taken from the Newton jail last October and hanged. Dockery made a confession while in the Taylorsville jail, and having submitted to the charge, appeared of this trial as a witness for the State.

James Thompson was the first witness examined: On the 10th of June I was plowing in a field near home. Returned about sundown, and found my daughter, Caroline, lying at the door murdered. Her head was cut with an ax, and the ax was lying near, covered with blood. My chest was broken open, the clothes scattered over the floor, and something over $600 in money was stolen. I found several bruises on the back of her head. There was blood on the floor and on the gun. (A piece of money was handed the witness which he examined and pronounced by reason of certain marks, part of the money stolen.) Before this I found a satchel with some biscuits in it near my house in the woods.

Thomas Adams: I am brother-in-law of the deceased. Lige Church stayed at my house one night some time before the murder of Miss Thompson. I saw the deceased the morning after she was killed; saw one large cut in the back of her head and several slighter cuts. Saw drops of blood over the house and on the gun.

Harrison Dockery: I am nineteen years old. I lived in Wilkes county last year. On the 9th of June I started with Lige Church from Wilkes county. We went to George Thornburg’s that day. I left Church down below the house in a thicket. Church said it would not do for us both to go to the house together. I got my dinner and two day’s rations of provisions. We stayed there until dark, then went to the spring house and got a crock of milk. After we had eaten supper we started across the Brushy mountains.

Got to old man Thompson’s just before daylight. Watched the old man go out to plough. After he left in the afternoon we went to the house and found a woman standing in the kitchen door. Church asked for the old man’s money, after addressing her. She said he had no right to the money, but Church said, “you might as well bring it out. I am going to have it.” They then went over to the big house. I heard her ask him his name. He replied, ” I am Lige Church.” She told him he was the man who stayed at Thomas Adams’ when they carried him to the penitentiary. Church came out with his hands full of greenbacks.

We went 25 or 30 yards when Church stopped and said, “by G-d, it won’t do to leave things undone that way.” I stayed awhile and then went back fearing that he might kill her. I found him striking her with an ax. She was lying on the ground. I had on a checkered shirt, brown pants and blue jacket. Church had on a white shirt and brown pants. We both had on boots. My boots were split in the instep. There was some blood on Church’s shirt; he spit on it and tried to rub it out. We then started on and came to a little branch and knelt down to drink.

Church said the woman took down a gun to shoot him when he went back. Church took out a 20 dollar gold piece. We went on a piece when we came to another branch and Church left me, taking a large pocket book, bag of silver and bundle of papers. Would not tell me where he was going. He was gone about half an hour. He brought back some of the silver. Church then pulled off his shirt and put on a checkered one and put the other in his satchel. We then started on towards the Brushy Mountains. Went along the East side of Rocky Face Mountain.

We saw a man named Parker at a house in the Brushy Mountains. We asked the way and the course to John Adams’. I was standing with one foot upon the step and asked for some water. Church told him his name was Thompkins. I did not tell my name. We went on by another house and soon struck the graded road, and in about a mile came to John Adams’. It was pretty late at night. Church stuck a switch in at the jamb of the chimney and Adams came out. Church said, ” by G-d, I raised him.” Adams said, “it was a fine thing.” They took the money up above the house, and I heard Adams ask Church what became of the woman, and told him he must be careful and not be caught. Church said, “never mind the woman, she will never bother anybody.”

We then went down the road and built up a fire, and put down three sacks of money. After a while Adams picked up one sack, started back to the house and bid us good night. While there, Adams and Church, went out to one side and talked. I had never seen him before, but I recognized his voice in Taylorsville jail before I saw him the next time, and told Pink Thompson so. From Adams’ we went over three hundred yards, stopped a while, and then went on about a mile and a half, and then went up a little branch and stayed till morning. The next morning we went on up to our old neighborhood on the Yadkin. About a week afterwards we crossed the mountain again. .

 

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We slept in the lap of a tree on the mountain the night before we robbed old man Redman in Iredell. I saw Redman pass along the road while I was lying in the fence corner. As soon as he passed we rushed on to the house and got $168. After that we struck for the mountain, got lost, and went to a man’s house by the name of Ball. Before night we went on and got lost again, and came to a man’s house by the name of Sloop. We hired him to show us the way out. When we got home we stayed around till Sunday. On Saturday, June 11th, we hid our shirts and my old coat in a pile of rails. We forgot to hide my boots at the time we hid my clothes, but remembering that Parker looked very carefully at them while at his house, we concluded to hide them too, and did so by an old log on Henry Ellis’ land. (Here the coat, the two shirts and boots were produced, examined and recognized as the clothes they wore to Thompson’s.)

After we got home from Redman’s we hid the Thompson money in a hole under a root. I got $55 of the Thompson money and $2 of the Redman money. We hid the Redman money till we went to Virginia and back. About a week afterward we went to divide the Redman money. We left for Virginia on Sunday night. We went by Ore Knob and traded some. We also went by Flint Hill, and traded some with a man by the name of Smith. I bought a pair pants, and swapped a pair cloth boots for a pair shoes. Church bought a coat and a pistol with white handles. I think he gave $6.50 for the pistol. On the way I carried a banjo and satchel. We came to the house of Will Stugell, charged around and shot some. Next morning we stopped awhile at Weaver’s store , and Church traded some and paid coin. We stayed one day in Virginia and then came back.

The first time I ever heard of robbing old man Thompson was below Ferguson’s, on a big rock on the Stony Fork road. Lige Church, Ephraim Davis and I were talking together. After talking awhile of some meanness, Davis asked Church when he would be able to make that trip, said his leg was sore and he could not go, said he would give me $55 to go with Church to watch the house. Church said he was ready to at any time. The agreement between us was to go in order to get there by the 10th of June. Church told me while on the trip down there that he and Davis had been down about two weeks before and got all the ropes about it, and that he had lost a satchel with some bread in it. I saw Davis once after that not far from Bill White’s store, on Stony Fork road, and he asked me if I got my pay all right. I told him I did. ( A piece of oil cloth was here produced) I think I have seen it.

I saw Ephraim Davis have it at Wilkesboro court with provisions wrapped up in it. I know it by the iron book. Once before Davis gave the same cloth to me to carry for him while we were traveling along the road. The money I got was all silver, mostly half dollars. I hid $9 in a hole. After I was arrested I told Sheriff Church where it was and he went and found it there. I gave it up to Sheriff Mays at the time of my trial at Taylorsville. There was one piece of money with a hole in it, and of peculiar appearance, which he let Weaver have on our way to Virginia. (The coin was produced and recognized.) On the evening after we hid the Thompson money I went to Wash Hayes’ still-house. I saw Lawson Davis there and Jim Rector. Jim told me to go to his house and get a dollar of money from his mother, which he owed me.

 


 

Cross-examination: I was arrested about the first of July. Denied the charge. Made my confession about a month afterwards. It was before Church was brought to jail. I made it to Messrs Jones, Transau and Thompson. I had previously written to Mr Transau and Pink Vannoy to come over. I made the confession because I felt it my duty. I did not want an innocent man to suffer. No promises were made me before I made the confession.

Geo Thornburg: I live in Wilkes county, about seven miles east of Thompson’s. I know Harrison Dockery. I saw him last June, before I heard of the murder of Miss Thompson. He came to my house about 3 o’clock, while I and a young lady were at work in a sweet potato patch one afternoon. Said he lived in Ashe. Said he wanted his dinner and three days’ rations. He had a checked shirt and split boots. Next morning I found a crock of milk gone from the spring house. I found the crock about one hundred yards off empty. I next saw Dockery in Taylorsville jail and he looked at me, told me about getting his dinner and stealing the milk.

Clementine Parker: I live in Wilkes. My husband’s name is James Parker. Two men passed our house on Friday of the same week Dr York spoke in Wilkesboro. They asked for a drink of water and asked the way to John Adams’. One man put one foot up on the house step, and I noticed his boot was split on top. (Dockery stood up and the witness said she thought he was the man with the split boot.) I had not heard of the murder of Miss Thompson.

 

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Erastmus Redman: I live in Iredell county, about 20 miles north of Statesville. My house was robbed on Friday, the 17th of June. I went to the kitchen to get a pair of harness and went back to work. I saw Dockery about October 1st in Taylorsville jail. He said “you are the Redman I stole some money from.” I have a needle which I found sticking in the fork of a white oak tree, lying on the ground. Information by which I found this needle was gained before I saw Dockery from G W Holler. In jail I showed the needle to Dockery and he said it was his, and he told me that he had left it in a tree near my house.

Weaver: I live on Stony Creek, Alleghany county. I saw Harrison Dockery first at my place, which is about two miles from the Virginia line. I think it was about two miles from the Virginia line. I think it was about the 20th of June. There was a man with him who said his name was Elijah Church. I am a merchant. I sold them some crackers, some brandy peaches, and a brace and set of bits. Church seemed to have plenty of money. I got some coin from him. (A coin with a hole was produced which the witness said he got from Church.) They said they were going to Virginia and would be back in a few days. They wanted to buy a Smith & Wesson pistol. While they were gone, I bought a pistol of that kind, and sold it to Church on his return. He paid me $1 and sent $10 by letter after he went home, and ordered the pistol to be sent to H C Ella. He wrote his name, E C Church, on the box in which I put the pistol. I suspected the man, and wrote to the postmaster at Taylorsville to give him the names of the parties who had been robbed and to describe money.

Thomas Smith: I live in Alleghany county. I am a merchant at Flint Hill. I saw Dockery last June. A man was with him by the name of Church. I sold Church a coat, a pair pants, a pistol and some other things. I exchanged a pair shoes for a pair boots, which he said were too small for him. They had plenty of money. I am certain that Dockery, who is present was one of the men. I next saw him after that time in Taylorsville jail, last July. (The witness here examined a white handled pistol and said it was the one he sold Church.)

A M Church: I live in Wilkesboro. I am sheriff of Wilkes county. I have known Harrison Dockery since he was a boy. I saw Dockery immediately after his arrest. He told me he had $9 hid and took me to it. We took it to Taylorsville and gave it to Sheriff Mays. I found the boots which are shown me by an old log in the woods, about half a mile from Henry-Ella’s. I found the coat and shirts in a rail pile about 300 yards from Henry Ella’s, and about 1 1/2 miles from Lige Church’s. I saw stains on the white shirt, which I thought was blood. Lige Church had been lying out for years, except when he was in prison. He had escaped from penitentiary about five months before the murder of Miss Thompson. W W Vannoy and Mr Transau were with me when I found the clothes. I went to hunt for them in consequence of information which I got from Transau. I delivered the clothes to Sheriff Mays or Deputy Sheriff Hill.

W W Vannoy: I live in Wilkesboro. I have seen this clothing before. The first time I ever saw the boots, I saw Transau pull them from Church’s. We found the shirts and coat in a rail pile about a mile and a half from Church’s. We found the same spots on the white shirt that are now there.

 


 

Cross Examination: I saw him in jail at Taylorsville and told him he had better make a confession. Transau advised the same. We told him that if he decided to make a confession to send for us, that we were Wilkes men, and would be his friends. I afterwards got a letter from him telling me to come over. I did not go.

W B Transau, said he lived in Wilkes county. He corroborated the witness Vannoy as to the clothes and the conversation with Dockery. In addition he said he went back to Taylorsville about September the 2nd when Dockery told him where to find the boots and clothes, and made a full confession. The witness here repeated the confession which is substantially the same as the testimony of Dockery as reported above.

Joel Triplett: I live in Wilkes county, 5 or 6 miles from Davis’. He left North Carolina about the first of July. I moved him to Tennessee. I had known of the death of Miss Thompson before we left Wilkes. It was known all over the country before we left. I next saw him in October in the Taylorsville jail.

Robt Munday: I know Ephraim Davis. I have known him about 30 years. I saw him the first Monday of July, just beyond Boone, going west. I next saw him in Tennessee. I met him in the road, arrested and brought him back to Taylorsville. He said he left North Carolina before the murder occurred, and did not hear of it until August 1st, when a man by the name of Saterwaite told it. It was in October when I arrested him.

This completes the testimony for the State.

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March 24 1882

EPHRAIM DAVIS
His Trial for Complicity in the Thompson Murder
The Testimony for the Defense

John Ball: I live in Wilkes, 8 miles this side of Wilkesboro, 300 or 400 yards from James Parker’s. I live 1 /12 miles from Solomon Sloop’s. John Adams lives south-west from my house, about three miles. Two men came to my house on June 17th. They enquired the way to the graded road.

Solomon Sloop: I live in Wilkes about two miles from John Adams’. Two men came to my house one night, woke me up and asked the way to John Adams’. They gave me a quarter of a dollar to show them the way out to the road. They were never there at any other time. I had heard a day or two before of the murder of Miss Thompson.

John Adams: I live two miles from Solomon Sloop’s. Lige Church and Dockery were never at my house to my knowledge. The never ran a switch in my house. They never gave me any money. I live in a house built with hewn logs, ceiled inside and weatherboarded outside. There is no hoe nor any way by which a switch could be stuck in.

 


 

Cross Examination: I had a talk with Jim Jones a few days after the murder. I told him two men passed my house one night and heard one say, “shall we stop, or shall we go across the Yadkin.” I never heard that I was charged until Sheriff Church came to arrest me, but said if I was sent to the penitentiary and ever got back, I would kill Bill Transau. I did not make no effort to kill Dockery while under arrest. I did not send word to Jim Parker to keep his wife at home for God’s sake.

W A Fairchild: I live about 3 miles from Lige Dockery. I have a son named Gilson. He left home about sunrise on the 10th of June to go to Wilkesboro. He was to go by Wilson Walker’s store. In going by Walker’s he would have to go by Elijah Dockery’s. I was at Walker’s also. I saw Harrison Dockery that morning pass my house, going up by the mill, in the direction of his father’s. My son brought back a sack of flour that day. I feel certain that it was the day, because I wanted the flour for the approaching meeting at Mt Pleasant meeting house, which embraced the second Saturday and Sunday in June.

Cross examination: I am positive that it was Harrison Dockery I saw on the 10th of June.

Gilson Fairchild On the 10th of June I went up to Wilson Walker’s. I went by Elijah Dockery’s. He called me and got in the wagon and rode with me to the Blue Ridge road. I stopped at Wilson Walker’s, got some loading, went on to Wilkesboro and brought some goods back for Walker. Dockery never rode with me at any other time.

Wilson Walker: I live half a mile from Elijah Dockery. I am a merchant. On Friday before the second Sunday in June I got Gilson Fairchild to haul a bill of goods from Wilkesboro.

Emily Dockery: I am the stepmother of Harrison Dockery. I saw him get in Gilson Fairchild’s wagon the day he hauled goods for Wilson Walker. This was Friday before the second Sunday.

R A Rector: I saw Harrison Dockery on Friday evening at Hayes’ still house. The next day I started to Salisbury, I stopped at night in Alexander. I heard of the murder about 10 o’clock Sunday. I never saw Dockery at the still-house at any other time.

F C Ellis: I saw Harrison Dockery at Hayes’ distillery on the 10th of June.

Mrs Laura Harris: I live in Wilkes county, on Neaked Creek, [ ‘sic’ ] about two miles from Lige Church’s. I saw Lige Church and Harrison Dockery pass our house on Thursday morning, June 9th. That day I went to my uncle’s passing Lige Church’s between 9 and 10 o’clock. I saw them at work in Church’s new ground. That afternoon I saw Dockery at the same place at work by himself. I passed Elijah Dockery’s Thursday and Mrs Dockery asked me to go to meeting with her on Saturday, which was the second Saturday in June. I did not to my uncle’s but once that summer. My attention was called to the fact of seeing Dockery and Church at work that day after Dockery’s arrest about 3 weeks from that day. The new ground was about 200 yards from the road.

 

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Sidney Summerland: I saw Lige Church at work on the 10th of June, about 2 or 3 o’clock, and made an agreement with him to go to Hayes’ distillery to get a dram that evening. I went to the distillery and saw Church there late in the evening.

Jonathan Sloop: I live in Wilkes county, about 2 1/2 miles from Lige Church’s. I saw Lige Church on the 9th, 10th, or 11th of June, as I went to his father’s after some cradles which he had fixed for me. I met Sidney Summerland on the same day.

Lewis Welsh: Lige Church and Harrison Dockery were at my house on Thursday or Friday night before the June meeting. They came to my house late at night and gave me a drink of whiskey.

William Beatty: I live in Wilkes county. I know John Adams. He has a good house. I have never seen any place about the jamb which a switch could be stuck in.

Ephraim Davis: I never had any talk with Lige Church and Harrison Dockery below Ferguson’s about stealing Thompson’s money. Never talked with them anywhere about that matter. I never went with Church down to Thompson’s about two weeks before. I was never there. I went with Joel Triplett to Cranberry, and then to Tennessee. I worked for Ferguson from March to about the 11th of June. I then went to Taylorsville, Tennessee and drew a three months pension. Came back in about four days. I sold the check to Mr Eller, for $18; got two five dollar gold pieces, and some greenback and silver. I never got any money from Lige Church. I never asked Harrison Dockery if he had got his share of the money. I had a difficulty with Lige Church. Church drew a pistol on me about five or six years ago, and I prosecuted him. I was arrested in Tennessee, by Munday and Teague.

Cross examination: I left North Carolina, on the 12th of July, and had not heard of the murder of Miss Thompson before that time. I was working at Ferguson’s up to that time. The first I heard of the murder was from a man by the name of Satterwaite, who said that Lige Church and Harrison Dockery were accused of killing her and that Dockery had been arrested. This was some time in August. I have been indicted three times. Harrison Dockery and I have not been friendly.

- Eller: I live in Watauga. Am a merchant. I bought an $18 check from Ephraim Davis some time last spring. I paid him $10 in gold and some greenback and silver.

J H Ferguson: I live in Wilkes county. I have a stock farm about 18 miles distant. Ephraim Davis was working for me in last June. He worked for me up to July. During that time he went by my stock farm, and said he was going on to Tennessee. He came back in a few days and had some gold and some greenback. I got a ten dollar gold piece from him.

J O Rosseau: I saw John Adams have about $100 or $150 some time ago. His character, morally, is very bad. He always meets his contracts. Ephraim Davis’ character is bad.

John Hampton: I know John Adams. I know his general character. For truth and honesty it is good. His moral character is bad. In 1864 I sold him about $90 of old coin. About two years later I sold him $3 of the same kind.

Many other witnesses with regard to character were introduced, whose testimony was substantially the same as the last two. The jury’s verdict of guilty was returned Saturday evening, after which the judge pronounced the sentence that “Ephraim Davis be confined in the penitentiary for the term of his life.” The counsel for the defense appealed, and the prisoner on Monday was removed to the Statesville jail, to be continued until he can give bond for his appearance at the next term of court.

Sep 15 1882
Harrison Dockery, who at the recent term of Catawba Superior Court, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for complicity with Lige Church in the murder of Caroline Thompson, in Alexander county, June 10, 1881, has been landed in the penitentiary.

March 9 1883
An Arrest in Alexander

Clarke Bruce, who at the time of the Thompson robbery and murder in Alexander county, nearly two years ago, was suspected of complicity in it, was arrested one day last week in Surry county and taken to Taylorsville where there was a hearing, Saturday, of the charges against him. The investigation was conducted before three magistrates, Mr E B Jones conducting the prosecution and Mr A C McIntosh, Jr, representing the prisoner. Bruce is a relative of the Thompson family. On the afternoon when the robbery and murder were committed, he was absent from his work on the farm where he was employed. He has had abundant money ever since the murder. Asked, shortly after the tragedy, where he got his money, he answered that his employed paid it to him. His employer, Mr Lee Lackey, denied it. He was in South Carolina sometime after the crime and his relatives down there wrote to the family up here asking where Clarke got so much money. The result of the trial was that Bruce was committed.

 

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June 8 1883
The case of Clark Bruce, for participation in the Thompson murder and robbery, was continued and moved to Iredell. Messrs. Linney and Jones, of the local bar, have been retained to aid the solicitor in the prosecution, while Messrs A C McIntosh, Jr and Armfield & Armfield will appear for the defence. [ ‘sic’ ]

May 23 1889
Ephraim Davis Pardoned

The public is familiar with the story of the murder of Miss Caroline Tompson, [ ‘sic’ ] in Alexander county, eight or nine years ago, the robbery of her father’s house and the subsequent events. She and her father, James Thompson, lived alone together. On a certain afternoon while the old man was at work in the field, she was murdered and the house robbed of a very considerable sum of money – just how much nobody ever knew. Elijah Church, Ephraim Davis and one Dockery, all of Wilkes, were arrested for the crime. Church was taken to Newton jail for safe-keeping, the jail was entered by a mob and he was lynched. Dockery turned State’s evidence and was sentenced to five years in the penitentiary and on his testimony Davis was convicted as an accessory before the fact and was sentenced for life. Dockery died in the penitentiary but before his death made a statement exculpating Davis. Strong efforts were made upon Gov Scales and have been upon Gov Fowle to secure his pardon, and last week W W Barber Esq, of Wilkes, went down to see the Governor. He consented to pardon the prisoner, and after a term of six years and two months the old man arrived here a few nights ago on his way back to Wilkes. He is the only one of all those associated with the crime (supposing him to have been) who is a live. Church was lynched; Dockery died; Jack Adams, who was suspected of complicity in the dark deed, whether ever arrested and tried or not, was afterwards killed by his son, while old man Jimmy Thompson did not long survive his murdered daughter.

( ‘sic’ – as spelled in original )