A murderous Christmas Day in Stokes County

WALNUT COVE, N.C., Dec. 25 — Becoming suddenly insane, a Stokes County farmer today slew his wife and six children, and after laying them out for burial went into a patch of woods and killed himself with a shotgun. The body of C. D. Lawson, the 43 years old father and husband, was found about a half mile from his home….”

— From “Insane farmer slays wife, six children, self” by the Associated Press (Dec. 26, 1929) 

This 2008 story in the Winston-Salem Journal offers many details — including the crime-scene tours (at 25 cents a head) arranged by Lawson’s relatives.

The murders also have been recalled with a book,  a ballad and a documentary.

Lawson’s motive remains unknown, but one author blames an agricultural depression for making the 1920s “clearly the decade of the familicide.” 


Aghast at the ‘tone of morals’ in Mitchell County

“The tourist on horseback, in search of exercise and recreation, is not probably expected to take stock of moral conditions. But this Mitchell County [North Carolina], although it was a Union county during the war and is Republican in politics (the Southern reader will perhaps prefer another adverb to ‘although’), has had the worst possible reputation.

“The mountains were hiding-places of illicit distilleries; the woods were full of grog-shanties, where the inflaming fluid was sold as ‘native brandy,’ quarrels and neighborhood difficulties were frequent, and the knife and pistol were used on the slightest provocation. Fights arose about boundaries and the title to mica mines, and with the revenue officers; and force was the arbiter of all disputes. Within the year four murders were committed in the sparsely settled county. Travel on any of the roads was unsafe.

“The tone of morals was what might be expected with such lawlessness. A lady who came up on the road on the 4th of July, when an excursion party of country people took possession of the [railroad] cars, witnessed a scene and heard language past belief. Men, women, and children drank from whisky bottles that continually circulated, and a wild orgy resulted. Profanity, indecent talk on topics that even the license of the sixteenth century would not have tolerated, and freedom of manners that even Teniers would have shrunk from putting on canvas, made the journey horrible.

“The unrestrained license of whisky and assault and murder had produced a reaction a few months previous to our visit. The people had risen up in their indignation and broken up the groggeries. So far as we observed temperance prevailed, backed by public-opinion. In our whole ride through the mountain region we saw only one or two places where liquor was sold….”

— From “On Horseback”  by Charles Dudley Warner (1885)


Out of this world recipes for National Astronaut Day

Today is National Astronaut Day.  Why not try a new recipe that’s out of this world!

Out of This World Cake-Out of Our League

Out of This World Cake from Out of our league.

Moon Pie - Sugar Pie & Jelly Roll

Moon Pie from Sugar pie & jelly roll : sweets from a southern kitchen.

Milky Way Ice Cream - Granny's Drawers

Milky Way Ice Cream from Granny’s drawers : four generations of family favorites.

Polenta Stars-An Appetite for Art

Polenta Stars with Wilted Spinach and Gorgonzola from An appetite for art : recipes and art from the North Carolina Museum of Art.

heavenly pie - Dixie Dishes

Heavenly Pie from Dixie dishes.

Moon Balls - Pass the Plate

Moon Balls from Pass the plate : the collection from Christ Church.

Memorable visitors to North Carolina (before HB2)

Second of two parts  (Part one)

Went to high school in North Carolina: Althea Gibson

Went to college in North Carolina and graduated despite having flunked his English placement test because he was imitating Faulkner: Walker Percy

Went to college in North Carolina but didn’t graduate: Shelby Foote, Emmylou Harris and Jeff MacNelly

Had three hits for Yale in a college baseball game in North Carolina: George H.W. Bush

Had to return his Olympic gold medals because he had played semipro baseball in North Carolina: Jim Thorpe

Met in North Carolina: Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll

Married in North Carolina: Horace Greeley, Walter Reed, Charlton Heston, Stephen Douglas, John Hersey and Daniel Boone

Honeymooned in North Carolina: Margret Mitchell and Woodrow Wilson (separately)

Wrote books in North Carolina: Carson McCullers, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Kerouac

Wrote books set in North Carolina despite never having been here: Jules Verne

Wrote a book set on the Mississippi River despite never having been there because she had done her research in North Carolina instead: Edna Ferber

Got drunk in North Carolina and gave a memorable reading at Duke: Dylan Thomas

Got drunk in North Carolina and lost — forever — page 12 from his “Light in August” manuscript: William Faulkner

Didn’t get drunk in North Carolina: Carry Nation

Cut his first record in North Carolina: Bill Monroe

Cut “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (in one take!) in North Carolina: James Brown

Shot out a TV set in North Carolina: Elvis

Preached a sermon in North Carolina: P.T. Barnum

Joined the Marines in North Carolina: Art Buchwald

Crowned the Azalea Queen in North Carolina: Ronald Reagan

Visited North Carolina in the Spirit of St. Louis: Charles Lindbergh

Visited North Carolina in an autogiro: Amelia Earhart

Visited North Carolina in a carriage and got stuck in the mud: Marquis de Lafayette

Visited North Carolina on a Greyhound bus and went to jail: Joe Perkins

Visited North Carolina and found it, to his surprise, “a peacefully homogenous community where money is never mentioned, where no racial tension exists either on or under the surface; & where instead of colliding with indoctrinated automata, one meets courteous individuals! For the first time I realize what ‘America’ might have been.”:  e. e. cummings


To live and die (and nearly die) in North Carolina

Just a list cobbled together in a previous century and recently happened onto….

Born in North Carolina, though not usually associated with it: Howard Cosell, Soupy Sales and Elwood Edwards

Not born in North Carolina, though usually associated with it: Michael Jordan, James Taylor and John Shelton Reed

Died of natural causes in North Carolina: Sidney Lanier, Wolfman Jack, Kate Smith, three sets of Siamese twins and the last two surviving members of baseball’s Gashouse Gang.

Died in a mental hospital fire in North Carolina: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda

Died in a Civil War prison camp in North Carolina: Dr. Livingston’s son David

Died at sea off North Carolina: Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia.

Died in North Carolina after being attacked by a turkey while nodding off on his front porch: Samuel Spencer

Died in car wrecks in North Carolina: Dr. Charles Drew, Jack Johnson and Fireball Roberts.

Nearly died in a car wreck in North Carolina: Stevie Wonder

Nearly died in a train wreck in North Carolina: Annie Oakley

Took sick in North Carolina and almost died: Babe Ruth

Took sick in North Carolina and did die: Jim Henson

Hanged in North Carolina: Tom Dula

Hanged in effigy in North Carolina: Dean Smith

Buried in North Carolina in the same cemetery in Asheville: Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry

Buried in North Carolina in the same cemetery in Shelby: W. J. Cash and Thomas Dixon

Buried in North Carolina but moved to Virginia after her monument was vandalized: Robert E. Lee’s daughter Annie Carter Lee

First of two parts