‘Omie Wise,’ early tale of true crime

“You’d be forgiven for thinking this was the plot of a moody drama or a Dateline special. Actually, it’s the story told in ‘Omie Wise,’ one of the many murder ballads that swept nineteenth-century America. After Wise became pregnant by an engaged man, he (allegedly) killed her to cover up the indiscretion. Court records of Jonathan Lewis’ trial [in Randolph County, N.C.] exist, so we know the tale is, chillingly, true….”

— From “The Murder Ballad Was the Original True Crime Podcast” by Jody Amable at JSTOR Daily (Jan. 30)

“All of North America eventually knew the story (by a number of different titles: ‘Naomi Wise,’ ‘Little Omie,’ ‘Oxford Girl’ or ‘Tragic Romance’), but only the town of Randleman, North Carolina, could embrace the murder as its own. And it did. Not only is Naomi’s grave located in Randleman but the town has named streets, churches, even mills and manufacturing plants after her. Its river is spanned by the Naomi Bridge and downstream its waters tumble over Naomi’s Falls.”

— From “Little Omie: America’s oldest murder ballad about a romance that for whatever reason just didn’t work out” by Tom Leonardi at kzfr.org (May 27, 2015)

Of course, “Omie” isn’t even North Carolina’s most famous murder ballad.

New in the collection: Lumberton license plate

Front license plate with the words "Lumberton, The Progressive City."

Just as local license plates once touted friendliness — Randleman, “City of Friendly People,” and Zebulon, “Town of Friendly People” — so too did they claim progressiveness.

While Lumberton basks in today’s Miscellany spotlight, we could have just as easily recognized Ayden (“Progressive Community”), Dunn (“Pattern for Progress”), Simpson (“Together for Progress”) or Ahoskie and Statesville (each a “City of Progress”).


New in the collection: Randleman, Zebulon license plates

Randleman license plate

Zebulon license plate


During the greater part of the 20th century, municipalities in North Carolina were empowered to collect their own vehicle taxes — and to issue license plates.  Local officials often saw this as an opportunity to add a unique self-promotional slogan.

If you’re advertising Apex, nobody’s likely to beat you to the title of “Peak of Good Living.” Or beat Benson to “Annual Sing-Mule Day,” Manteo to “Home of the Lost Colony,” Havelock to “Gateway to Cherry Point” or Love Valley to “Cowboy Capital.”

If, however, you’re claiming bragging rights to  “Friendly People,” better expect some competition.