Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Just How Many Murders Can One Family Have?

I seem to have more murders in my file than should be there.  A cousin found another one this week so I thought I would tally them up.  The funny thing is, every one of these murders is on my husband’s side of the family not mine.  What is even funnier is that I haven’t done near as much research on his side as I have on mine so there are probably even more.  The names in bold are the relatives in my file.  In some cases you will see that BOTH parties involved are related.

John Henry Spires was stabbed by Albert Aiken who owed him a debt.  John didn’t actually die but he came as close as you can get.1

Charles S. Spires was shot and killed by Dave Gulledge over a dice game that went wrong,  He was John Henry Spires’ nephew.2

Ethel (Spires) Burkett was strangled and had her throat cut in a home invasion, assailant unknown.  She was Charles S. Spires’ sister and John Henry Spires’ niece.3

Lawson G. Goodwin shot and killed his neighbor Thomas Dismuke over a long standing feud about property lines and chickens ignoring those properly lines.4

Charles P. Goodwin and his brother Jesse Clarence Goodwin (both sons of the above Lawson Goodwin) shot and killed Walter Barnes for no reason whatsoever other than he was black.5

Matt Wade hit William Edward Goodwin over the head with a gun and killed him because William was a little too friendly with Matt’s wife.6  If you guessed that William was another one of Lawson Goodwin’s sons then you guessed right.

William Nathaniel Fountain [farm foreman] was stabbed to death by Quincy Robinson [farmhand].  Quincy was a bit miffed with William because William had been on his case about not doing his job properly.7

Albert Zachary Lewis was shot and killed by Mary Lee Martin.8  The article doesn’t give a motive but according to Albert’s grandniece, Albert and Mary were living together in the Orangeburg [SC]boarding house while Albert’s wife was living in Augusta.  You know that was a recipe for disaster. Mary got angry with Albert and decided to kill him for some insurance money.9

Maynard Martin was stabbed to death with a pair of scissors by Mrs. Ruby Mitchell.10  Maynard was married at the time (and so was Ruby apparently).  Not sure what was going on.  I couldn’t find a follow-up story. [I have no idea if Maynard is related to Mary in the previous entry].

Captain William Bachelor was shot and killed by W. T. Walton.  Not sure why but Captain Bachelor was chasing Walton so Walton turned and fired.11  If you want to read a really good trial account, this is the one to read.  The Augusta Chronicle printed one of the most detailed accounts I have ever seen.12

William Maddox was beat up and thrown into the Augusta Canal by Archie Hurt and J. B. Kenny.  They had escaped from the city stockade and were out drinking and stealing.  William was out checking the water levels on the Augusta Canal.  Basically he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.13

Newspapers are one of my most favorite sources.

1 “J. H. Spires Stabbed Seriously Injured,” The Augusta Chronicle, 21 May 1909, p.1, col. 7.

2 "Pistol Wounds Prove Fatal for Chas. S. Spires," The Augusta Chronicle, 05 Jun 1919, p. 2, col. 5. 

3 “Tests Scheduled to Find Time of Woman’s Death,” The Progress-Index [Petersburg,Virginia], 02 Oct 1965, p.3, col. 7.

4 "Belair Farmer is Killed Following Dispute Over Land," The Augusta Chronicle, 03 May 1923, p. 7, col. 4.

5 "Negro Shot Down By White Men At Widener's Store," The Augusta Chronicle, 10 Aug 1930, p. 1, col. 2. 

6 "Died From a Blow," The Augusta Chronicle, 14 Aug 1914, p. 10, col. 2.

7 “Mr.. W. N. Fountain Stabbed to Death” The Augusta Chronicle, 19 Nov 1922, p. 14, col. 1… “Negro Slayer of Blythe Man Now in Richmond Jail,” The Augusta Chronicle, 20 Nov 1922, p. 2, col. 3.

8 "Orangeburg Woman Charged With Murder," The Augusta Chronicle, 22 Nov 1946, p. 20, col. 2.

9 Lottie (Lewis) Horne (Aiken, SC), oral interview by Michele Lewis, 15 Dec 2002.

10 “Mother of Five Held in Scissors Death,” The Augusta Chronicle, 14 Apr 1965, p. 13, col. 4-5.

 11 “W. A. Batchelor of Belair Killed by W. T. Walton,” The Augusta Chronicle, 29 Oct 1906, p. 3, col. 5.

12 “Charge of Judge H. C. Hammond in Trial of Walton for Murder,” The Augusta Chronicle, 13 Nov 1906, p. 4, co. 3-7, p. 7, col. 2-3.

13 “Probe Expected into Conditions Among Inmates,” The Augusta Chronicle, 13 Jun 1932, p. 1, col. 1.


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Wow. And they seem to be mostly recent too! Recent as in after 1900 anyway. Your husband is a dangerous man to be related to, haha! Ethel (Spires) Burkett got to me. That poor woman.

  2. What scares me is that I probably will find more. I haven't even really researched his side all that much.

  3. That's quite a list. It's amazing that you found all these -- often through newspapers, I assume. The late 19th and early 20th centuries were especially violent in the South, I think. My SC family experienced its share of violence, too. I've put some in my published memoir (Into the Briar Patch), but I've left out some, too. I read somewhere that the 1920s were the height of lynchings, and racial violence was always there. My grandfather was almost murdered by a sharecropper tenant. My great uncles, and their wives, shot guns and were shot at. Some people even seemed to revel in this violence -- as people do in our violent movies today. This is big subject. You could write a book about it!

  4. But I have NONE in my Mississippi family. Well, I have ONE but it doesn't count because even though convicted, he wasn't guilty. Another man confessed on his death bed. You can read about that one here...

  5. I have a few murders, but you win.

  6. Stuff like this makes genealogy all the more interesting :)

  7. So crazy! We have a family legend that says my great grandfather was killed by an Ohio garrison because he was riding nearby when the Civil War was in full swing. The grandfather spoke no English, or so it is believed, and the soldiers spoke no German, or so it was believed. I can't find anything to corroborate the story. However, that's the closest I have to murders in my family line. We have other 'shady' characters. So, it's fascinating to me that you have so many. How morbidly cool.

  8. I just wanted to let you know that your blog post is listed in my Fab Finds post today at