Monday, September 27, 2021

Sunday Black Sheep: The 'Nefarious' Laura Jane Simpson OR Kudzu Part I

When it comes to researching the Simpson family of the boiling, bubbling brew that was early Tyson Township in Southern Stanly County, North Carolina, one does not encounter a family tree, but instead, a tangled, twisted, mottled jungle of kudzu.

A few members of the Simpson family married into the Aldridge family. One, a grand, Good Christian man if ever there was one, Green Wesley Simpson, married Margaret Jane Ross/Aldridge. The adopted daughter of Caleb Aldridge and adopted sister of Henry Garner Aldridge and Josiah Aldridge, my ancestors.

Jesse Filmore Aldridge, the oldest son of my Great-great Grandmother, Julina Aldridge Davis and half-brother to my beloved Papa Will Davis, married Daisy Simpson, the meek, teenaged daughter of a woman who has turned out to be the notorious Laura Simpson.

This post will examine the career of Laura Jane Simpson, and is told mainly in the newspapers. Laura herself was born an illegitimate child, the oldest of four, to Nancy Ann Simpson, who also had two sisters, Delilah and Judith, who also bore illegitimate children. So, it was not an uncommon thing in the family. 

Laura had 4 children by 4 different men in different stages of her life. She seemed to have been known head on as a woman of ill repute, and as she got older, she brought others into the fold, so became a menace to the community.

Laura lived between Rocky River Springs and Cottonville in Stanly County, North Carolina.

Cottonville, in its heyday, was known for none than - Cotton. Reported by the New York Newspapers to have the best grade of cotton on the eastern seaboard, in the 1820's and 1830's, Cottonville was larger than Charlotte. Now, you can drive right through it and never know you were there.

Museum photo of ladies at the Rocky River Springs Hotel

Rocky River Springs, during the time Laura Simpson lived, was a resort.  In the Victorian trend of  "healthy mineral springs", people went there for rest and restoration. It had a find hotel and lots sold along named streets for vacation homes. Although the town no longer exists, and was replaced by Aquadale, just north of it, in Laura's time, she was not in the 'middle of nowhere'. Her home and her business, was located between two closely located, bustling centers of wealth and activity.

Laura ran what the papers called a "Bawdy House".  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a Bawdy House as a brother, an establishment of ill-repute, kept for the resort and unlawful commerce of lewd people...

In other terms, Laura was a madam. She ran a place where people could go to drink, carouse, gamble, dance, and acquire the company of easy women and have a great deal of illegal fun. Several of the other "Bad Girls of Stanly County", that were popping up in the court records at the same time for the same 'nefarious' reasons most likely worked for Laura. There were a group of Hinson sisters and a neice, a Cranford lady, several Springers, and Laura's own younger cousin, Tirzah Simpson, whom I have posted on recently, and her own eldest daughter, Mamie. However, after Mamie, it appears that Laura and Tirzah especially, went to great measures, with the help of their supplier of illicit spirits and one of Laura's lovers in her younger days, W. R.  Krider of Rowan County, to her their girls out of Stanly County, and get them married respectifully, before the same fate befell them.

By 1900, Laura was 43, and the community had grown quite tired of the trouble she attracted, like bees to a flower bush. She began being arrested and prosecuted by 1904. Her last child had been born in 1890 and Tirzy's last child was born in 1900. 

In the beginning, Laura was avoiding prosecution.

22 December 1904 • Page 2
The Stanly Enterprise

When arrested or approached by law enforcement, Laura would feign ill-health. Her lifestyle had rendered her possibly more feeble and fragile than pious women her age, giving her the appearance of someone 20 years older than she actually was, so when they are referring to her as an unhealthy old woman, and describe someone who was 70 or 80 years old, she was actually only in her 40's or early 50's. It reminds me of someone who has undergone a lifetime of alchohol and drug abuse today. They rarely live to see 50, and if they do, their bodies are besought by a plethora of health problems, akin to someone 20 or 30 years their elders.

8 February 1906 • Page 2 The Stanly Enterprise

The courts had sent local doctors, Richard Anderson and Dr. Hill, to examine Laura and determine if she were healthy enough to survive the trip from Cottonville to Albemarle, about 12 miles, and also fit enough for the rigors of jail and mental anguish of trial. 

4 May 1905 • Page 3

The "Good Citizens" of Cottonville had finally managed to have Laura Simpson convicted and tried, in attempt to shut down her illicit business. I am sure most of those good citizens were the wives of men who turned their attention to Laura's place on the weekends and neglected their wives and children and farms. The papers told that she serviced both citizens of Stanly and Anson County, both sides of the Rocky River.

25 January 1906 • Page 2
The Enterprise

In 1906, Laura was sentenced to 5 months in the County Jail. She refused to rat on her suppliers, and begged mercy from the court, instead, because of her ill health. Her pleas fell on deaf ears, as the judge determined she could be treated by local doctors while in the jail, easier than releasing her back home, to continue her illegal adventures. Her appearance caused a 'lively rustle' in the courtroom. I'm sure there was an abundance of 'good wives' there who wanted a look at a fallen woman, and just who their husbands were handing their money to. They were probably not expecting a broken woman as I imagine Laura to have been. 

In 1910, Laura, now 53 years of age, was given 12 months in jail for 'retailing', which was actually the sale of illegal 'spririts'. According to the court docket, she was not the only person in Stanly County who had resorted to that lucrative business.

Laura Simpson: Retailing
The Enterprise
Albemarle, North Carolina)20 January 1910 • Page 3

Interested parties sought with the governor of the Great State of North Carolina for a pardon for Laura. She either had friends in high places (or low places with lots of money), and possibly had 'taken the fall', for a mover and shaker of ole' Tyson, StanCo.
Pardon for Laura

The Enterprise

Albemarle, North Carolina
28 Jul 1910, Thu  •  Page 2

Earlier, in 1905, Laura was causing a considerable cost to the county for doctor's visits as she was on the county dole and considered insolvent.

Doctor visits to Laura Simpson
The Enterprise
10 August 1905 • Page 4

In the 1900 census, Odum Asberry "Bud" Simpson, aka Bud Krider, was found living in the home of William R. Krider, a wealthy Rowan County gentleman farmer and businessman. Krider had friends and relatives, not only in the Rowan County government, but also on the state level. He operated legitmate businesses, but made more money dealing with illicit business activity. Also living with the Krider family was his older sister,  Mamie and Rosa Belle, the oldest daughter of Laura's younger cousin, Tirzah "Tirzy" Simpson.

Name:William R Crider
Birth Date:May 1850
Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Home in 1900:Providence, Rowan, North Carolina
Sheet Number:10
Number of Dwelling in Order of Visitation:181
Family Number:187
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital Status:Married
Spouse's Name:Georgia Crider
Marriage Year:1878
Years Married:22
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Months Not Employed:0
Can Read:Yes
Can Write:Yes
Can Speak English:Yes
House Owned or Rented:Own
Home Free or Mortgaged:F
Farm or House:F
Household MembersAgeRelationship
William R Crider50Head
Georgia Crider44Wife
Dora M Crider21Daughter
Bertha C Crider9Daughter
Thomas K L Crider6Son
Odum Simpson16Servant
Mamie Simpson23Servant
Rosa Simpson18Servant

Krider was not only the supplier of alchohol to Laura's 'bawdy house', but the father of her only son, Bud. The Simpson children were listed as 'servants' in the Krider home in Provindence Township.

Laura Simpson was arrested, again, in 1910. The following article from The Enterprise, out of Albemarle, gives a thorough account of what had been taking place. 


The Enterprise

Albemarle, North Carolina
20 Jan 1910, Thu  •  Page 1

And indeed, Laura is seen as an inmate in the Stanly County Jail in the 1910 census. The jail was apparently part of the home of Sheriff Silas Green, or otherwise, the County Jail provide the Sheriff and his family a home at the jail. Of note, Laura was the only female and the only person not of color in the jail.

Name:Silas R Green
Age in 1910:43
Birth Date:1867[1867]
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1910:Albemarle, Stanly, North Carolina, USA
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital Status:Married
Spouse's Name:Maggie Green
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Native Tongue:English
Industry:Stanly County
Employer, Employee or Other:Own Account
Home Owned or Rented:Rent
Farm or House:House
Able to read:Yes
Able to Write:Yes
Years Married:25
Household MembersAgeRelationship
Silas R Green43Head
Maggie Green36Wife
Elsie Green18Daughter
James Green15Son
Eunice Green14Daughter
Rittie Green12Daughter
Louise Green5Daughter
Ruth Green3Daughter
Babe Wall23Inmate
Dee Wall20Inmate
Hum Waddell18Inmate
Will Easly36Inmate
Laura Simpson58Inmate

Laura was not in jail long, when she escaped, which leads to the question of how? Certainly she had help, did someone break her out, or did dirty money in the hands of the proper greedy jailor lead to her freedom?

Laura Simpson

The Enterprise

Albemarle, North Carolina
06 Jan 1910, Thu  •  Page 1

After the Shootout Painting by William Henry Dethlef Koerner

Laura Simpson was just a small part in the larger machinery of the illicit alcohol business of Anson and Stanly Counties. A frustrated and obliterated generation had resorted to centuries old methods to drown their sorrows and entertain their weary souls. The faithful and pious was in a centuries old fight to deny them this destructive luxury in which to drown their problems. \

Lauara Simpson Charlotte blockade

16 November 1910 • Page 7
The Evening Chronicle
Charlotte, North Carolina

Bud Krider or Crider, mentioned in the above article was none other than Odum Asberry Simpson aka Bud Krider, Laura's son. He had grown up to be a whiskey runner for his father, and appears to have started at a very young age. 

Led by Krider, an appeal was made to the governor for Laura's release, due to her health and feebleness.

13 July 1911 • Page 1
The Stanly Enterprise

In 1911, Laura's case dismissed upon good behavior and she was freed to return home on the promise to sin no more. Afterwards, she simply had to survive on the public dole, or keep any other form of money making under complete wraps. No more wild parties at the Simpson place. The County was now her 'supplier'.

The Enterprise
16 December 1915 • Page 2

By 1915, W. R. McSwain was taking care of the aging Laura Simpson, making sure she had necessities and sundries. Shown in the same issue of the paper, she was recieving county support. A few dollars in those days were like a welfare check of a few hundred would be today.

In 1916 and 1917, as reported in The Enterprise, Stanly County newspaper, Laura Simpson was still recieving county support.

County Support for Laura Simpson

Laura Jane Simpson died on October 15, 1917. She was 60 years old. Her cause of death was Cardiac Insufficiency, or chronic heart failure. The informant was George W. Stinson, a Norwood merchant, who ran a furniture store. Furniture stores also sold coffins in those days, so George W. Stinson was also the undertaker. Her mother was given, correctly, as Nancy Simpson and she was buried at Rehobeth Church below Aquadale, which was in part founded by her Uncle, G. W. Simpson.

Laura left 4 children whose lives I will cover next and were just as affected by her own as she was by her precedessors. Laura was not only part of everything mentioned in the above articles, she was also one of those women who didn't exist, but did.

Her tombstone stated simply,  "At Rest."

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Bad Girls of Stanly County: Laura Jane Simpson

Laura Simpson was a Stanly County character who deserves multiple posts and examination. She was not your typical farm girl.

When it came to my category of research that I dubbed "The Bad Girls of Stanly County", very few ladies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries could hold a candle to Laura Jane Simpson of Tyson Township for the title of 'Baddest'. She broke nearly every rule of law or polite society that there was to break without resorting to hard felonies like robbery or murder. She was no Bonnie Parker.

Looking back at Laura's early life, one could see how easily she could have fallen into the seedy side of society. This post will examine her early years and her family.

As with her cousin Tirzah Simpson, who was the subject of my last post, Laura Simpsons story actually started with the death of her grandfather, Nathaniel Simpson, in 1848. The death of the patriarch left his widow, Sarah, with several children still at home, most of them girls. Her sons were the oldest in the family, and all but Green Wesley seem to have went their way and left their mother and sisters to their own devices for survival. 

Nathaniel and Sarah Simpson had 6 daughters: Margaret, Nancy, Delilah, Judith, Sarah and Winny. Three daughters married into the Poplin family: Margaret married Davidson "David" Poplin, Sarah married Thomas Poplin and Wincy, or Winnie, married Enoch Poplin. The other 3 daughters did not marry, however, they did have children and showed up in court because of that. Those 3 were Delilah "Lilla" or "Lilly" Simpson, Judith aka "Judy" Simpson and Nancy Ann, who was the mother of Laura Simpson.

Name:Laura J Simpson
Birth Year:abt 1852
Home in 1860:Stanly, North Carolina
Post Office:Albemarle
Dwelling Number:1174
Family Number:1190
Household MembersAge
Sallie Simpson65
Nancy Simpson28
Judy Simpson25
Delila Simpson23
Laura J Simpson8
Nathan A Simpson6
Susan Simpson2
James Simpson3/12

The 1960 census was the first for Laura to show up in. Although her tombstone states she was born in 1857, she shows up in the 1860 census as 8 years old. I believe her age had been fudged for several years, so her children, in particular, her son Bud, who bought her stone, believed her some years younger than she actually was. 

The household is headed by her grandmother, Sarah aka Sallie Simpson. Sallie's daughters, Nancy, 28, Judy 25 and Delilah 23, are still at home and their were 4 little children; Laura J, 8, Nathan A. 6, Susan 2 and James, 3 months old. These were the children of Nancy Ann Simpson. They are living near the families of Henry Carter, Sarah Mauldin, Jesse Whitley and Andrew Blalock.

By 1870, Nancy is in her own household. Recall what has happened between the last census. Stanly County had lost a large number of its strongest and healthiest young men. Farms had been abandoned and rewilded, and widows and orphans abounded. The economy was destroyed, the wealthy had been  bankrupted, those barely getting by had became impoverished and those who already were had starved. Many who could went west, seeking a better life, some men leaving their families behind as if they never existed. And then there were women like Nancy, half-orphaned, whose morals had already been  compromised. 

Name:Laura J Simpson
Age in 1870:18
Birth Date:abt 1852
Birthplace:North Carolina
Dwelling Number:93
Home in 1870:Center, Stanly, North Carolina
Post Office:Albemarle
Occupation:At Home
Cannot Read:Yes
Cannot Write:Yes
Household MembersAge
N Simpson30
Laura J Simpson18
Nathan Simpson14
Sarah A Simpson10
Thos J Simpson9/12

Laura was now 18, and a grown woman in those days.  Nancy, with the help of her older chidren, was making it on the farm. And she might have had more than a little help. Laura and Nathan were teenagers, and Sarah Ann almost, but little James had passed away. In his stead, was a new baby, Thomas J. Simpson. One might think he was just as likely Laura's child as Nancy, but a bastardy bond involving this child exists in the court records of Stanly County.  He belonged to Nancy.

Thomas's father was a man named George Andrews, and this is not the last time you will hear his name.

George Washington Andrews from

George Washington Andrews was from Montgomery County, North Carolina, just across the river. A descendant of old Seth Andrews, he was born in 1850, so 18 years Nancy's junior. In 1873 when Tom was born, George would have been about 23 and Nancy 40. It was not love. George was not yet married and most likely had sought out a 'bespoiled' woman in which to sow his wild oats before settling down, but it didn't stop at that.

In 1860, as a boy, George had been living at Swift Island, in Montgomery County, just across the river from Stanly County, where the Simpson family lived. By 1870, he was 16 years old, and wandering, now in neighboring Randolph County, working as a farm laborer.

Name:George Andrews
Age in 1870:16
Birth Date:abt 1854
Birthplace:North Carolina
Dwelling Number:132
Home in 1870:New Salem, Randolph, North Carolina
Post Office:New Salem
Occupation:Farm Laborer
Household MembersAge
Eunice Ledbetter60
William Staley30
Ann Kinney31
Mary Staley27
Augustine E Staley3
Arthur Staley10/12
Velna Ledbetter9
George Andrews16

Three years later, he became the father of Thomas C. Simpson in 1873. Another three years later, in 1876, he made himself respectable by marrying, and starting a family with Martha "Pattie" Scarboro, in Montgomery County. By 1880, he had moved his young family to a place called "Hickory" in Chatham County, but he was still making trips back to Stanly County. Hickory Mountain Township lies between Siler City and Pittsboro. Not that far from where he liked to roam around Randolph and Montgomery.

Two years after that, George Andrews, now a married man with several children by his wife, was back in court in Stanly County with the Simpsons. This time, not involving Nancy, but with her daughter, Laura. I've not looked to see if George Andrews had any similar situations with the law in Montgomery, Randolph or Chatham Counties. Maybe he behaved there. Whatever the case, Daisy Lee Simpson was born on January 23, 1882, to Laura Simpson and George Andrews was named as her father. That made Thomas and Daisy half-siblings, as well as Uncle and Niece.

In  1900, George Andrews, ever the rolling stone, was back in the Pee Dee Community of Montgomery County, where he started. His wife, Pattie, died in 1906 and two year later, in 1908 at the age of 57, he went to Buncombe County, in the Mountains, to marry Beulah Burns, but brought her back home to Pee Dee, where they are found, starting another family, in 1910. He spent his 70's and 80's, in the 1920 and 1930's, in Steeles Township, Richmond County. There he raised 10 children with Beulah, more than the 7 he had with Pattie.
Not one to remain still, George Andrews met his demise in Stanly County, where he died on January 12, 1934, at the age of 83. He was buried at Zion, where many of the people I have blogged about recently, lived, died or were buried. 

Name:Laura Simpson
Birth Date:Abt 1860
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1880:Center, Stanly, North Carolina, USA
Dwelling Number:7
Relation to Head of House:Daughter
Marital Status:Single
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Name:Nancy Simpson
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Occupation:At Home
Household MembersAgeRelationship
Nancy Simpson45Self (Head)
Laura Simpson20Daughter
Thomous Simpson10Son
M. Simpson2Daughter

But lets back up a little bit. Daisy was not Laura's first child and her court appearance with George was not her first either. Laura's oldest child was her daughter, Mamie, born on June 12, 1877. Not all out of wedlock births ended up in court, and if they did, there are several gaps in the records where entire years of a span of years were missing, but Mamie's birth was reported in a bastardy bond and her father was name. He was Richmond  Blalock.

In the 1880 census, Laura is living with her mother, Nancy, her brother, Thomas and her two-year-old daughter, Mamie.

This post is part of a series, so I want to take the opportunity here to break away from Laura, who will be the focus of the series, and examine what happed to the rest of Nancy's children. To take you back, Nancy was born in 1832, and was 16 years old when she lost her father. The oldest daughter, Margaret, and the youngest two, Sarah and Wincy, all married Poplins, but it seems the three girls between Maragaret and Sarah, Nancy, Judy and Delilah, all become 'bespoiled' and unfit for marriage. Judith had one child out of wedlock, Tirzah, by J. P. Lisk. Delilah, aka Lilly, had 3 boys, all out of wedlock. The first, George Filmore Simpson, was by James Allen Upchurch, and was born in 1862, the second William, by father unknown, was born in 1867, and an unknown son was born in 1877 by Josiah Pinkney Talbert, as there was a bastardy bond involving the boy, he was not named and neither he, nor Delilah, show up in the 1880 census.

Name:Lilly Simpson
Age in 1870:35
Birth Date:abt 1835
Birthplace:North Carolina
Dwelling Number:102
Home in 1870:Center, Stanly, North Carolina
Post Office:Albemarle
Occupation:At Home
Cannot Read:Yes
Cannot Write:Yes
Inferred Mother:Sarah Simpson
Household MembersAge
Sarah Simpson68
Lilly Simpson35
George Simpson10
William Simpson3
Judith Simpson40
Terry Simpson11

This is the 1870 census with Sallie, the widow of Nathaniel Simpson, with Lilly (Delilah), and her sons George and William; and Judith and her daughter Tirzy, seen incorrectly transcribed as 'Terry'. Nancy had moved out on her own with her children.

Name:William Simpson
Birth Date:Abt 1866
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1880:Center, Stanly, North Carolina, USA
Dwelling Number:7
Relation to Head of House:Son
Marital Status:Single
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Name:Sallie Simpson
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Occupation:Works On Farm
Household MembersAgeRelationship
Sallie Simpson75Self (Head)
William Simpson14Son

In 1880, Sarah is alone with Delilah's youngest son, William Simpson. He's listed as son, and she may have adopted him, to help her run her farm, but he was her grandson.

In the meantime, Nancy was the mother of  5 children. Her oldest was son, Nathan A.Simpson, obviously named for her father, Nathaniel. Born Dec 31, 1847, Nathan is shown living with his mother in both the 1860 and 1870 censuses, as shown above, with Laura. There were numerous Nathans, cousins all. I believe this is the one who died in Union County in 1918.

Younger sister, Sarah Alice Simpson, at age 20, gave birth to her only child, Lillie Fairallen Simpson with William Andrew Jackson Green in 1881. Jackson was working as a farm laborer just two houses away from where several of the Simpsons lived in a family group, including Grandma Sarah and Anna and Lucy, the widows of Nelson and Isaac Simpson, in 1880. Sarah 
Alice is living with her daughter, Lillie and Lillie's husband, Henry Floyd Aldridge, in 1900. Lilly had married at the tender age of 15. The family would later remove to Cabarrus County, where Sarah Alice would meet and marry Filas Crone Kiser in 1903. Sarah Alice would have no more children, as she was 41 when marrying Filas. They would live happily in Cabarrus County, before moving near Boone's Cave in Davidson County. She passed away in 1937 in Cabarrus County, at the age of 75.

Nancy had a son named James, who appears to have died as a child some time between 1860 and 1870.

Her last child, however, and Laura's youngest brother was Thomas C J Simpson, sometimes seen as 'Tom', other times as "T. C." or even "C. T".  Tom would marry his first cousin-once-removed, Emma Simpson, a granddaughter of Nancy's brother, Green Wesley Simpson.

They married in Richmond County, but spent the early years of their marriage in Center Township, where Tom had grown up. Later they would move to Steeles, in Richmond County, then to Mount Gilead in Montgomery County, staying east. Tom died in 1933 at the age of 60. Emma lived until age 89 in 1963. The couple is buried in Candor. 

They had 7 known children: James Thomas, John Nathan, Anna ruth, Marvin Bishop, Carl and Esther, were the 6 who grew up. A little boy, known only as J. B., died of tonsilitis just before his second birthday. There may have been another little boy named Charlie.

As far as Laura, after 1880, her life got very complicated. In 1880, we saw her with her oldest daughter, Mamie 2, in her mother's home. She would have 4 children in all; Daisy with George Andrews in 1882
Odum Asbury "Bud" Simpson in 1884 with William R. Krider and lastly, the most controversial, Jenny or Ginny, with fellow retailer, Doc Lee, in 1900.

Each has their own interwoven tale, so we will end this recap here. In Summary, Laura Simpson was born in an unfortunate situation, an illegitimate child, female, born to an 'orphan' whose family held a lot of out-of-wedlock births. She had nothing and was born into nothing and it was up to her to make her own way. And that she did.


The Enterprise

Albemarle, North Carolina
25 Jan 1906, Thu  •  Page 2