Newsletter #100 Fall 2014
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Allred Family Association
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Naomi Wise Story
(Naomi Wise wasn't an Allred, but
she had ties to the Allred family since she was killed by the nephew of Stephen
Lewis. Lewis raped Lydia Allred on October
30, 1786. Naomi's story is as tragic as it is interesting. Locals
still talk of her murder...........and they say at night she can sometimes be
heard crying along the banks of the river where she died.)
The following narrative is taken from the book "Dead and Gone"
by Manly Wade WELLMAN (on file in the Randolph
Room, Randolph County, NC Library). The book
narrates 10 classic crimes of North Carolina and
for sale via UNC Press for $20.00.
The death of Poor
'Omi occurred in Randolph County, N.C. Read on........
"WHO PITIES THE ORPHAN?"
wondered Braxton Craven, who was a Methodist minister, a college president, an
author, and a philosopher and, to complete the catalogue, an orphan.
"May the Lord pity him,"
hoped the Reverend Mr. Craven, "for man will not."
He spoke, despite the masculine
pronoun, of a girl who had neither mother, father, nor luck. She was Naomi
Wise -- "poor 'Omi," they called her in Randolph County five
generations ago and during generations more recent have so sung of her.
She did win pity, but it was too late.
In the spring of 1808 she died, in a
manner that has impelled some to think that Theodore Dreiser drew upon her
plaintive history for his novel An American Tragedy. Dreiser himself said
that his inspiration was a true story of upstate New York.
However, the motive and method of Naomi Wise's slaying almost exactly resemble
those set forth in Dreiser's novel, and, as shall be suggested in a later essay
of this collection, possibly inspired imitation in something other than a
So romantic was the tale of Naomi Wise's fate that it was
called fiction within recent years. However, study of the Randolph
County court records, sketchy but plain, show that Naomi lived and, alas,
untimely and violently died. There was a song about her, too, that has not
wholly faded away.
Randolph County, lying close to North Carolina's heart,
includes picturesque rocky heights and tree-bordered rushing streams, like
illustrations in old-fashioned German novels. It was settled in the
1740's, partly by immigrants drifting down from Pennsylvania through Virginia
and partly by westward-venturing pioneers from the coastal settlements.
"There were developed, " said the Asheboro Evergreen in 1851, "on
the one hand, men who distinguished themselves for vice, rapine and the most
villainous of crimes; on the other hand, men who displayed the noblest virtues
and highest patriotism. "Randolphians were, and are, vigorous
individualists. The classic hero of the county is Herman Husband, born and
bred to the gentle Quaker faith, who nevertheless fought British Tories so
bloodily well that King George's officers dispatched a special expedition to
burn his house and lay waste his plantation. Similarly forgetful of Quaker
tenets was Friend Jacob Cox. Riding home one day from market, he was
accosted by three highwaymen, who told him to stand and deliver. From
under his coat he whipped a most un-Quakerly pistol, and the robbers fled from
before its levelled muzzle. For this exploit he was read out of meeting by the
Society of Friends and was not readmitted until he had grown old and, it may
have been felt, full of good will even toward highway men. At the beginning of
the nineteenth century, Randolph farmers of all godly denominations were
celebrated for the quantity and quality of the brandy they distilled from their
peaches. Randolph County brandy was a ready seller at the market in
One of the Pennsylvanians to settle in Randolph County during
colonial times was David Lewis. He had arrived, hint several commentators,
a short, hurried jump ahead of the officers of that province's law. He
built a cabin on Sandy Creek and fathered a number of sons--"tall, broad,
muscular and very powerful men," says the account. They were
handsome, too, quick of temper, and ready with gun, knife, or fist to a degree
remarkable even among the roughest of the brandy-distillers and fur-trappers of
the Deep River settlements. "They sought occasions of quarrel,
"adds the same historian, "as a Yankee does gold dust in
California." It is not to be wondered at that very few Lewises died
boresomely in bed. Craven says that they scorned the law, but on occasion
they would appeal to it. At the March term of court, in 1780 according to
Randolph County's ancient minute book, the following judgment was recorded in
favor of one of the family: "That George Everby be recorded as a
public liar, for speaking and propagating falsehood against Richard Lewis.
"But Richard Lewis, whatever George Everby may have said against him, true
or false, was able to take care of his own end of whatever violence came up.
Richard was a younger son of David, this lively family's
founder. His brother Stephen, several years older than he, was so
unthriftily hot-tempered as to shoot his horse, a very fine animal, when it
fidgeted. Not long afterward his wife displeased him, and he flogged her
with something called in those days a "hobble-rod." She fled from her
home and spent several months so well hidden at a neighbor's house that her
husband could not find her. Richard sought out Stephen, offering to
persuade the runaway wife to return on promise of no more hobble-rod floggings.
This promise Stephen gave, and Richard produced the lost lady. She told her
husband that it was Richard who had hidden her, and this struck Stephen as
officious. He loaded his gun, announcing that he intended to shoot Richard
on sight. Thus determined, he approached Richard's home. Richard,
seeing him in the yard and instantly certain of his purpose, seized his own gun
and ran upstairs. Stephen came in at the front door, mounted the steps in
turn, and was knocked back to their foot by a charge of shot.
Wounded but not cowed, he crept home.
There he swore that as soon as he recovered he would go gunning for Richard
again. Informed of this, the younger brother did not wait. He returned
Stephen's fraternal call the same night. Peering through a space between
the logs of the cabin wall, he saw Stephen sitting up in bed while someone
bandaged his wounds. He aimed through the crack, and to better purpose than when
threatened in his own home. His bullet struck Stephen in the heart.
He was exonerated on a plea of self-defense and moved across the line into
Guilford County, where he built a house on Polecat Creek, near Center Church.
He had a son, Jonathan, who as he grew to manhood secured a
job as clerk in the store of Benjamin Elliott in Asheboro. Jonathan boarded with
his employer, but each Saturday night rode fifteen miles home, along the road
that ran approximately where U.S. Highway 220 runs today. Each
Sunday night he returned to Asheboro by the same route. His way took him
past the home of William Adams in upper Randolph County. Like all of the Lewis
men, Jonathan was tall and strong, and he was handsome as well. Braxton
Craven called him "a large, well built, dignified looking man. He was
young, daring and impetuous.... His smile like sunbeams bursting through a
cloud, illumined every countenance upon which it fell. "Such a
figure, afoot or mounted on a good horse, would naturally attract a susceptible
girl. As Jonathan Lewis passed the Adams farm weekend after weekend, he
was glowingly watched by an orphan named Naomi Wise.
Naomi, with no parents or other relatives, had been bound out
as a child to Mr. and Mrs. Adams, who, however, were fond of her and treated her
with affection. She was nineteen years old in 1808. "Her size
was medium," observed Braxton Craven, who
heard about her from old neighbors, "her figure beautifully formed, her
face handsome and expressive, her eyes keen yet mild, her words soft and
winning. "Other descriptions agree with this estimate, and it would
appear that Naomi was industrious and cheerful as well as singularly pretty.
She worked hard in the Adams kitchen, and on occasion wielded a hoe in the Adams
fields. Mrs. Adams, a motherly soul, treated her as
one of the family, dressing her well and lending her a horse to ride to church.
When Jonathan Lewis, riding to or from Asheboro, paused to ask her for a drink
from the spring and then dismounted to carry her bucket to the house, she fell
in love with him.
As for Jonathan, he was considerably smitten on his own part.
Again to quote Craven: "Her young and guiltless heart beat with new and
higher life; that she was loved by a man so powerful as Lewis was sufficient
recompense for a cheerless childhood." In the ordinary course of events,
these two young people with Old Testament names would have married and lived
happily ever after. Expecting to do just that, Naomi began to collect
articles toward furnishing a home of her own-pots and pans, dishes, a chair, and
a bed. Ever she watched for Jonathan's passing and welcomed him as he
reined in and swung down from his saddle. In the dusk under the trees by
the Adams' spring they spoke softly and held each other in close embrace,
strong-built Jonathan and
trim-built Naomi. But Jonathan had a calculating mother, who knew that her son
prospered in Benjamin Elliott's employment. She knew, too, that the
high in reputation and bank balance, and that Benjamin Elliott had an unmarried
sister named Hettie.
"That mothers are ambitious everybody knows,"
comments Braxton Craven sapiently, "and that they are the worst of
matchmakers is equally well known." This is, however, philosophic epigram
after the fact. Hettie Elliott would have been reckoned a good catch
anywhere, though it is remembered that she was by no means as beautiful as Naomi
Wise. It was at his mother's insistence that Jonathan Lewis showed attention to
Miss Elliott. She seemed not ill-pleased, and Elliott, the storekeeper,
considered Lewis intelligent, industrious, and a respectable possibility as a
brother-in-law. The courtship went forward on the almost routine pattern
of those days -- Lewis gallant and insistent, Miss Elliott encouraging but coy.
Meanwhile, Lewis took to riding past the
Adams farm without checking rein. If he did not come there, the news of his
attentions to Hettie Elliott did. Mrs. Adams lectured Naomi on the
faithlessness of men in general, and of Jonathan Lewis in particular.
Naomi wept, like many another jilted girl, and word of her weeping and its
reason came back as far as Asheboro and the home of the Elliotts.
Hettie Elliott, who thus far had played the coquette, taxed her suitor with the
report that he was engaged to the pretty orphan girl who worked at the Adams
farm. "With coolness and steadiness which innocence is wont to
wear," relates Craven, "Lewis affirmed to Miss Elliott that said rumor
was a base, malicious slander, circulated by the enemies of the Lewis family to
ruin his character, and offered that time, a very fair arbiter, should decide
claim to her, Miss Elliott's hand."
If this indirect quotation is any earnest of Lewis' actual
style of speech, it would seem that he was throwing his young life away clerking
in Elliott's store. Such fiery periods sound like indications of a natural
talent for Congress, even the Congress of 1808.
However worded, the disavowal of Naomi Wise impressed Miss Elliott favorably.
Yet Lewis appeared uneasy during the days that followed, neglecting his business
and seeming sick. After that, he began again to stop at the Adams place on his
between Asheboro and Polecat Creek, and Naomi continued to make him welcome,
despite Mrs. Adam's' advice. On a spring afternoon -- the exact day cannot be
established--Naomi went out the kitchen door, pail in hand, as though to fetch
water. She did not return for supper, or ever again.
Some miles southward along the road to Asheboro, an ancient
ford spanned murmurous Deep River. Indians used it in centuries past, and
later white traders headed across it for Fayetteville. Today a bridge
crosses just north of Randleman where the old ford used to be. Above the
ford, in 1808, John Hinshaw operated a grist mill, and directly beside the water
stood the farm house of a widow named Mrs. Ann Davis.
Darkness had settled down that evening, and
Mrs. Davis sat with her two young sons beside the fire. Suddenly, in the
night outside, rose a loud, frantic scream, that
abruptly throttled down into a gasping gurgle. Up sprang Mrs. Davis, shrilling
orders at her sons. They caught burning brands from the fireplace and ran
out but could see nothing beyond the glare of their torches. As they made
their way to the very brink of the river they heard loud splashing, then the
sound of departing hoofs on the south side of the ford. The Davis boys
peered and called to no avail. Finally they returned to the friendly
lights of the house, unable to learn what had happened.
Meanwhile, at the Adams home, Naomi had been missed at supper
and at bedtime. Mrs. Adams worried over her and slept badly that night.
She rose before dawn, saying that she had been troubled by nightmares. She
and her husband went out at the first gray light, and by the spring saw the
empty pail Naomi had carried. Naomi's tracks led to a stump, and on the
opposite side of that stump showed the marks of shod hoofs.
A horse, then, had come there, to stand while Naomi mounted behind the rider.
William Adams sent to summon half a dozen other farmers, and the party followed
the horse's trail away across fields. For several miles they traced the
hoof marks to the Deep River ford. The Davises were out, too, and
hailed Adams with the story of that terrible scream in the night. Mrs.
Davis' words, and something of her manner of speech, have been preserved in the
"Ah!" she said, "murder's been done, such
unearthly screams can't come of nothing; they made the hair rise on my head, and
the very blood curdle in my heart. O! if I had been young as I once
was, I would a run down there and killed the rascal afore he could a got away!
What is the world a coming to?"
For all these stout protestations, neither Mrs. Davis nor her
sons had yet explored for more evidence of what had befallen. With the
coming of reinforcements, however, they made bold to search along the river.
Very quickly it developed that Mrs. Davis' theory was correct. Murder had
been done, of a certainty, and blood curdled in other hearts than hers. A body
lay half afloat among tangled weeds that grew on a muddy little bar near the
shore. Several men waded in and dragged the body to firm ground. It
was Naomi Wise, soaked, rumpled and dead. Plainly her end had been a violent
one. Her voluminous skirt had been pulled up around her face, as though to
stifle those piteous screams. The white skin of Naomi's throat showed torn
and bruised by powerful
choking fingers. The coroner was fetched from Asheboro and empanelled a
jury from among those gathered by the ford. "Drowned by
violence," was the verdict they brought in. The coroner, making an
examination added to this another fact -- Naomi Wise had been expecting a child.
This intelligence caused faces to scowl, jaws to set. North Carolinians of
that era took, concerning the seduction of trusting maidens, a view so dim as to
be practically myopic.
No more than sixteen years previously, something like a
pattern toward such betrayals was set by young George L'Estrange of Wilmington.
When his sister Matilda was seduced by James O'Neale, L'Estrange had waylaid
that elegant spark and had discharged at him a huge horse pistol loaded
with buckshot. Nine of these shot took effect in O'Neale's body, and he
did not survive the day. O'Neale's subsequent death pleased doctors,
ministers, and even officers of the law. The sequel and the emotions it
roused can best be described by Mason L. Weems, world-famous for his
dissemination of the myth about Washington and the cherry tree:
"Many of the relatives of Mr. O'Neale, with all the
libertines of the country, made great efforts to get young George L'Estrange
condemned; but, to their immortal honor, the ladies of Wilmington and its
vicinity, made still greater efforts for his safety and comfort. They
spoke of him as their CHAMPION and AVENGER of their sex. "His prison
chamber was scoured and furnished as if for the reception of the great
Washington. It was perfumed with odours and garnished with fairest
flowers; and every day his board was spread with dainties, and every night his
bed with down. "In a little time the strength of the two parties was
fairly tried in court; and the trembling YOUTH at the bar, with all his fair
friends in the crowded galleries, heard the sentence of MANSLAUGHTER!
"Instantly the ladies dispatched a courier with a
petition to Governor Martin for a pardon, which his excellency signed with great
pleasure. The ladies then repaired to the prison and brought him forth in great
triumph, and the next day escorted him to his father's house. . . ."(*)
( * God's Revenge Against Adultery, Awfully Exampled In the Following Cases of
American Crime. Philadelphia, 1818. Capitals and italics are
In a word, he who killed a betrayer of trusting woman hood
could fairly count on, not only immunity, but a flattering social success.
The men beside Deep River expressed an immediate and earnest desire to
track down Naomi's destroyer and to drink his blood. Who was he?
Half a dozen voices offered the same name. Sheriff Isaac Lane deputized
Robert Murdock to go looking for Jonathan Lewis. Murdock did not find him
that day at Elliott's store in Asheboro, nor yet at his home on Polecat Creek in
Guilford County. However, Jonathan's matchmaking mother supplied Murdock
with news, not guessing that it might damage her son. Jonathan had come
home late the preceeding night, with wet clothes. He said that his horse
had stumbled with him while crossing the river. Changing into dry things,
he had ridden off again, presumably for Asheboro. Back went Murdock, too, and
learned more at the home of Colonel Joshua Craven. Mrs. Elizabeth Craven,
the colonel's lady, said that Lewis had ridden up to her door in the early
morning -- at about the time, perhaps, that men were wading ashore with what
they had fished from the water weeds at Deep River ford. Lewis' manner and
expression had astonished the lady.
"What's the matter, Lewis, what have you been
doing?" she had asked him. "Have you killed 'Omi Wise?"
It was a chance shot, but it had seemed to go home. Lewis had lifted his
hand to his face. "Why, what makes you ask me that question?" he
stammered. "No particular reason," was Mrs. Cravens'
answer, "only you look so
pale and wild; you don't look at all like yourself this morning." Lewis had
then ridden away.
The deputy made more inquiries. The trail led him out
of Asheboro, to the farm of a man named Hancock. An auction sale had been
held there, and Murdock arrived late at night. The sale had been something
of a gala event, with refreshments and a dance, and Lewis had attended.
Here, too, his manner had puzzled acquaintances as it had puzzled Mrs. Craven.
During the day," says the narrative, "it was remarked by many that
Jonathan Lewis had a cast of countenance by no means usual. Instead of
that bold, daring impudence that was usual to him, he seemed reserved, downcast
and restless. By indulging freely in drink, which was always to be had on
such occasions, he became more like himself toward evening, and ventured to
mingle with the ladies."
He showed special interest in Stephen Huzza's daughter Martha
and, the Hancocks told Murdock, had left to escort Martha to her near-by home.
Doggedly Murdock followed him to Huzza's. The older people had gone to
bed, and Jonathan sat in the parlor with Martha upon his lap.
Murdock, accompanied by several friends, entered the house. Encumbered by
the young woman on his knee, Jonathan Lewis surrendered quietly. Murdock
led him away -- Martha Huzza must have stared blankly -- and early the next
morning brought him to the Deep River ford, where Naomi Wise lay on a bier at
the water side, surrounded by mourners. Brought through the throng, Lewis
stood looking down at Naomi's dead face silently. He put out his hand and
smoothed her hair. This was taken by the onlookers as a sign of callous
boldness; for, says Braxton
Craven: "So greatly was the crowd incensed at this hard-hearted
audacity, that the authority of the officer was scarcely sufficient to prevent
the villain's being killed on the spot."
Naomi was buried beside the ford, and those who attended the
funeral wept unashamedly. Jonathan Lewis was locked up in the jail at
Asheboro. Craven calls it "the strong jail, that then towered in Asheboro
as a terror to evil doers." Less enthusiastically, the minute book of the
Randolph County court for 1808 says that the building was of "shackley
Stubbornly the prisoner protested his innocence, with few to
listen and fewer to believe. The evidence against him was circumstantial
but awkward. It seems to have included several interesting exhibits:
"The footprints from the stump to the river exactly fitted his horse; hairs
upon the skirt upon which [Naomi] rode, were found to fit in color; a small
piece torn from Lewis' accouterment, fitted both rent and texture; his absence
from Asheboro, and many other circumstances all conspired to the same
He was the only prisoner confined on a murder charge at that
time, and outside his barred window gathered throngs of citizens. Some of
these spoke insistently of taking him out of jail and hanging him in the public
square, sparing the state the troublesome formality and expense of a trial and
giving a wholesome example of what might be expected by those who violently
eliminate unwanted sweethearts. So threatening did
this sort of conversation become that the county officials appointed Benjamin
Elliott, Lewis's erstwhile employer, captain of a guard of twelve men.
These took turns at standing armed watch over the jail for full thirty days.
Their names are still preserved in the minute book.
The situation must have convinced Lewis that he had little to
hope for if brought to trial. At the end of the thirty days he managed to
escape from jail, perhaps with the aid of relatives. This time there was
no tracing of his tracks as he fled.
Meanwhile, a song had begun to be heard in Randolph County.
It began in the familiar come-all-ye fashion that characterizes many Old World
Come all you good people, I'd have you draw near,
A sorrowful story you quickly shall hear;
A story I'll tell you about 'Omi
How she was deluded by Lewis' lies.
In the second stanza, the narration shifted to
first person, as though Naomi herself sang from her unmarked grave by Deep
He promised to marry and use me
But conduct contrary I sadly must
He promised to meet me at Adams'
He promised me marriage and many fine
These lines are stilted, not to say repetitious.
They do not read with the savory vigor of a couple of other songs later to be
quoted in this work. Yet the spirit and purport of the verses, and those
that followed, were heard with no relish by Jonathan Lewis's kinsmen.
Worst of all was the last of them:
The wretch then did choke her, as
And threw her in the river, below the
Be it murder or treason, Oh! what a
To murder poor 'Omi and leave her
The Lewises began to depart, family by family,
from a county that sang so reproachfully of their family name. Years
passed, and report drifted back that they had settled in Kentucky, just south of
the Ohio River. By 1814, six years after Naomi's tragic death and Jonathan
Lewis's escape and flight, Jonathan himself was said to be living in the new
Lewis settlement, married and the father of a son.
Memory of the tragedy had been kept specially green by
the song. When news came of Lewis's whereabouts, the whole community urged
his capture. "Justice cried, 'Cut the sinner down,' " wrote
Craven. "Indignation cried, 'Shame to the lingering
servants of law.' "
The lingering servants of law in Randolph County were such as
hearkened dutifully to the popular wish of voters and taxpayers. The
county trustees met and voted to go after Lewis. Isaac Lane chose Colonel
Craven and sturdy young George Swearengain as his partners on the adventure.
This trio reached the neighborhood of the Lewis settlement,
and learned of Jonathan Lewis's presence there. Then they paused to take
council. All three were known to him, and their appearance would put him
and his relatives on guard. Finally they engaged two hunters, for $75, to
capture their man for them.
This pair of amateur catchpolls followed Lewis to a house
where a dance was in progress. the dialogue between them and the host, as
repeated by Craven, is backwoodsy enough to furnish a novel by Mayne Reid:
"Hallo, to the man of the house and all of his
"Hallo back to you, and maybe you'd light and look at
"Apt as not, if we're allowed to see our saddles on the
peg, our hosses eatin' fodder, and ourselves merry over hog and hominy."
"Ef you are what you look like, and not Yankee
speculators, or bamboozled officers, nor Natchez sharpers, you are welcome to
sich as we have."
"And s'pose we are not what we look like, what
"Why, the sooner you move your washing the better; we're
plain, honest folks here and deal with scatterlopers arter their deserts."
"Well, well, we'll light and take some of your pone and
a little of your blink-eye, and maybe as how we'll get better acquainted."
After this pert exchange, the two hunters were admitted to
the house and took part in the merry-making. They saw Jonathan Lewis,
dressed in fringed buckskin, with a hunting knife at his belt. There was
another picturesque conversation, Lewis speaking first:
"I reckon you are strangers in these parts."
"I reckon we are, being we know nobody and nobody knows
us; and we are perlite enough not to trouble strangers with foolish questions,
and so I guess we shall still be strangers."
"But maybe we all came from the same land, and so might
acquaintance easier than you think."
"As to that, it's no difference, without telling or
asking names, we give the right hand to every honest hunter."
"Then you're hunters I s'pose, and as we have a
great deer hunt tomorrow, perhaps you'll join."
"That we will, ef it's agreeable."
The pair attended the hunt as invited and stayed close
to Lewis. As he drew away from the others, they leaped upon him,
overpowered him and tied his hands securely. They then marched him to
where Sheriff Lane and his companions lay hidden.
Paying the two hunters who had scored so well at repartee and
man-catching, Lane's party started quickly for North Carolina with its prisoner.
They made several forced marches to get beyond any threat of pursuit by members
of the violent Lewis family. Then one night, as they paused to make camp,
Lewis slipped his bonds and ran.
He was swift of foot and quickly distanced Lane and Craven.
Swearengain young and athletic, achieved a burst of speed, overtook Lewis and
tackled him like a footballer.
As the two struggled on the ground, the others came panting
up and helped make Lewis fast as before.
Back in the Randolph County jail, Lewis was unable to escape
again from its shackley confines. He pleaded for a trial in a county less
prejudiced against him than Randolph. The court granted him a change of
venue to Guilford where, early in1815, the trial began.
Witnesses included Mrs. Mary Adams, Naomi's motherly
guardian; Benjamin Elliott, who had employed Jonathan Lewis and later had
guarded him in his cell; Hettie Elliott Ramseur, now married to someone else and
extremely glad of it; Elizabeth Craven, who had seen Lewis flinch when asked if
he had killed Naomi Wise; Ann Davis, who had heard the scream in the night;
Robert Murdock, who had arrested Lewis in Huzza's parlor.
Their testimony was not enough. Somehow -- it would be
interesting to know exactly how -- Lewis managed to convince judge and jury of
his innocence. Whatever his methods, they did not depend on a long purse,
for the minute book of Randolph County's court for the February term of 1815
carries the following notation, curiously phrased but understandable:
"Ordered of the Court that the County Trustees pay the
cost and charges of attorneys. The prosecution of Jonathan Lewis for
felony when trial is removed to the County of Guilford to the said Jonathan
Lewis there requested and said discharged from jail under the ensolvent [sic]
Thus free in Guilford County, he headed swiftly westward for
Kentucky, sensibly avoiding any farewell visit to Randolph.
He did not live long. Sickness overcame him in about
1820, and the story trickled back to Asheboro that he had died confessing his
Apparently his admission was a long and circumstantial one.
Poor Naomi had begged him tearfully to marry her.
When he neglected her, she hinted prosecution for breach of
promise. Jonathan's suit for the hand of Hettie Elliott had been much endangered
by Naomi's complaints, audible all the way to Asheboro.
Therefore Jonathan had met his former sweetheart a last time
by Adams' spring, saying that he had come to take her to a preacher and marry
Brushing aside her suggestion that they be married at the
Adams home, he induced her to mount behind his saddle and rode with her to the
ford, where he told her that he was determined to kill her. Frantically
she begged for her life, then screamed in terror. Muffling her cries in
her skirt, Jonathan strangled her to death and threw her body into the river.
Then he rode across to the other side as torches
appeared at the door of the Davis home.
"He declared," Braxton Cravens' narrative ends,
"that while in prison Naomi was ever before him; his sleep was broken by
her cries for mercy, and in the dim twilight her shadowy form was ever before
him, holding up her imploring hands. Thus ended the career of Jonathan
Lewis, for no sooner was his confession completed than his soul seemed to hasten
Braxton Craven wrote his story perhaps as early as 1840,
drawing upon the first-hand accounts of those who had known both Naomi and her
false lover. In later years he discouraged proposals to publish this
effort, referring to it as a "schoolboy composition, crude and
unpolished." Finally he relented, and in 1874 it appeared under the pen
name of Charlie Vernon, in the columns of the Greensboro Patriot.
Later it was brought out as a paper-backed pamphlet and was
republished as recently as 1944.
Naomi had other memorials. In 1879, when J. E. Walker,
John H. Ferree, J. 0. Pickard, and Amos Gregson established a cotton mill
at the old ford of Deep River, they named it Naomi Factory. Around the
site grew up the thriving town of Randleman. The name of the murdered girl
was further preserved in Naomi Falls and the Naomi Methodist Church.
Nor has the name of Naomi been uncommon among Randolph County
girls. The river still croons sadly, as though chanting the old, pathetic
(Naomi is buried at Providence Friends Church, Randolph
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