Friday, December 16, 2022

The Black Widow

Ella Elizabeth Faulkner was the sister of my Second Great Grandmother, therefore, she was my Aunt of some degree of greatness. She and Great Great Grandma Sarah Frances were the youngest two children of John and Susan Webster Falkner of the Lanesboro area, Anson County, North Carolina. 

The exact year of birth of either of them seemed to change with the weather, and what ever fit best to their benefit at the time, so it wasn't always clear who was the eldest. As Sarah Frances was a toddler in the 1870 census, and Ella doesn't appear to have been born yet, I would have to say she was the youngest. Their father died when the girls were young, but their mother lived to see them into marriage, at least until 1900. 

Ella was born during Reconstruction and came of age during the Gay Nineties. One thing she was not was lucky in love. 

Ella had  quite an interesting, if not tragic life.  I've learned over the years that in these days, especially for women, ages were pretty fluid. You really don't know if that date of birth on great granny's tombstone is accurate or not. In 1870, Sarah Francis, as 'Sarah', was one year old. The next sister above her was Sylvia, aged 4. Ella wasn't born yet, however, in the 1900 census, Ella is shown as 33 and Fannie 31.  

Ella is also not to be confused with their older sister, Ellen, who was born about 1855. Ellen was the second wife of Michael Hoke Hartsell who had first married their older half-sister, Martha Falkner, and had divorced her after she had given birth to a child that was obviously not his. I recently covered Martha's story in a post after exploring a confusing genetic connection. Ellen and Hoke raised a large family after settling in the Clear Creek area of Mecklenburg County. 

Ella first married James Stevenson Turner on December 23, 1886, just days before Fannie married his brother William Alexander Turner in January of 1887.  Two brothers marrying two sisters was not an uncommon occurance in those early days. She may have had a Christmas wedding complete with wreaths and a tree. Her age was given as 18, however, I believe she may have been as young as 15. James was 27. Witnesses were a J. Harrington, M. W. Marsh, who also witnessed Will and Fannie's wedding and William Alexander "W. A." Turner. I wonder why they didn't just have a double wedding. 

Jim Turner was 28 years old when he married Ella. It seems he moved his young bride, for a time, over to Union County, North Carolina, bordering Anson. The marriage would last about 9 years. Jim came down with pneumonia and died in 1895 at the age of 36. Ella was left a young widow for the first time.

Ella and Jim Turner would have one child that survived adulthood, a son, named George Washington Turner III, after his grandfather. He was born on December 4, 1894. George III developed a case of the wanderlust after being drafted in WWI. He married once, to a lady named Margaret, on Dec. 30, 1914, at the age of 20 and divorced her on August 9, 1921, in Alexandria, Virginia. There were no children to my knowledge. He trapsed the country, both as a member of the military, and as a private citizen after he retired, and settled himself in San Francisco. 

Two years after Jim Turner passed away, Ella tried again for wedded bliss. On November 17, 1897, Ella Faulkner Turner married C. M. Smith, 35, of Anson County, son of Robert and E. M. Smith, both living of Anson County. Ella reported to be the daughter of John Faulkner, deceased, and Susan Faulkner, living, of Anson County. The marriage was performed by B. F. Staton at the home of Joseph Teal in Ansonville. Witnesses were J. L. Teal, W. A. Turner, her double brother-in-law and L. A. Turner, another brother-in-law, Louis Arnold Turner.

Charles May Smith was born on January 31, 1862. His  parents, Robert Edward and Mary Ellen Tadlock Smith were from Virginia. They had migrated to Chesterfield County, South Carolina, were Charlie was born, before settling in Anson County, North Carolina. 


The Messenger and Intelligencer

Wadesboro, North Carolina
22 Apr 1897, Thu  •  Page 2

The year that Charlie married Ella, he had 40 acres of land in Ansonville sold for taxes.  They had one child together, a daughter named Virginia Mae Smith, but known as Virgie. Virgie was born August 14, 1899.

The couple seemed that they were off to a good start with a new baby girl and new hopes for the future. All of that changed on January 10, 1900, when Virgie was not quite 5 months old.

Charlie and Ella had settled in Peachland, Anson County, NC and that evening, Charlie had taken the train to Wadesboro to eat supper with his sister, Maria Smith Sings, who lived with her daughter, Virginia "Jenny" Sings Dobbs. Jenny's husband, Robert Hampton Dobbs, was a superintendant at the local Silk Mill. They lived near the jail in Wadesboro, and not very far from the train depot. Joining them that evening also was Franklin J. "Frank" Smith, brother of Charlie and Maria. 

Charlie ate his fill, had a good evening with his brother, sister and niece, and said his goodbyes. Maria remembered him checking his watch and that he had a good bit of money with him. Frank said his goodbyes and set off towards home in his horse and buggy. Charlie headed the other way bound for the train which was to leave in 45 minutes. He never made it home. A transcript of the trial, in September of that same year, gives an account of the details of what happened next. 


The Messenger and Intelligencer

Wadesboro, North Carolina
13 Sep 1900, Thu  •  Page 3

Charlie had been  attacked, robbed and left to die on his way to the train. He was found on the Depot Road in front of the McKeithan home.  The Coroner gave his account at the trial. Charlie had suffered two severe wounds, one a blow to his skull that entered to a depth of five inches, and another that broke his jaw. He had been violently attacked. 


The Messenger and Intelligencer

Wadesboro, North Carolina
13 Sep 1900, Thu  •  Page 3

The witnesses to the last hours of Charlies' life were his siblings and his niece, Jenny Dobbs (incorrecly recorded as Dabbs in the paper. His sister, Maria Smith Sings, testified that Charlie had a silver watch and a bit of money. He had left for the train station with 45 minutes or so until boarding and she admitted that he drank on occasion. Her daughter, Jenny, gave nearly the same testimony, except that their recollections of the time he left differed a small bit. Frank, his brother, had left before Charlie did and only knew he was supposed to have taken the train.


The Messenger and Intelligencer

Wadesboro, North Carolina
13 Sep 1900, Thu  •  Page 3

Goodin Freeman and Henry White were the two men accused in the murder of Charlie Smith. The remainder of  the trial concentrated on them and their actions between the 10th of January and the day of their arrest, three weeks later. Goodin Freeman had originally been recommended to hang by the jury and Henry White found guilty of second degree murder. The judge sentenced them to 30 years in prison each.


The Messenger and Intelligencer

Wadesboro, North Carolina
13 Sep 1900, Thu  •  Page 3

What evidence led the jury to this conclusion?

The first witness to what had happened after the murder was Cornelia McLaughlin. She lived in Rockingham, in neighboring Richmond County, NC and had heard about the murder on Tuesday, the day after it happened. Goodin Freeman had showed up at her house that day, the day after the murder, and had arrived by train. As a matter of gossip, she had asked Goodin about the murder. 

The story that Goodin told her was that the body was found between the train depot and the home of  Eugene Little. He gave a clear and detailed 'witness' account of Charlie Smiths actions while still alive. He said he saw Charlie at the depot and that he had a pint of liquor. Goodin claimed that Charlie was in the company of two other white men and that they shared the liqour. He stated that the train was late and that Charlie stated that he would go back into town and buy some whiskey and pulled out some money. For a distant witness, Goodin was very observant, as he knew Charlie had exactly $25 or $30. That doesn't sound like much, but in 1900, the value of that would be the equivalent of over $1000 today. Goodin had ended that conversation by stating that he excpected that the two white men drank Charlies whiskey and then killed him. It was if he had painted an exact picture of what happened, with the exception of the nonexistent 'white men' being instead, him and Henry White. 

Goodin had stayed at the McLaughlin house for 10 days. Henry White arrived there the Thursday following Goodin's arrival, three days after the murder. At some point during the week they stayed there, they had went to Hamlet, in Richmond County, and after staying there a week, had left for Cheraw, South Carolina, reportedly in search for work. Cornelia did not see any blood on Goodin or Henry or a watch. However, her daughter, Helen, testified that she was at home when Goodin arrived. She stated Goodin told her that a man had died, and that he had helped move him out of the road. Goodin had a watch and asked her to pawn it for him for $1.00. He had blood on his shoe, and  had told her it was cow's blood.   He explained that he had helped a Mr. Edwards kill a cow. Oddly, the paper added that Helen was a single mother of two, as if that had anything to do with the trial.

Added information at the end of every testimony seemed to be personal issues brought out by the defense to tarnish the witnesses testimony and credibility. Tillman Little, from Rockingham, testified that he saw both Goodin and Henry the Sunday following the murder on Monday, and that Goodin tried to sell him a watch for a dollar. I like Mr. Little's turn of a phrase. Goodin offered to sell him the watch, "so cheap you would think you stole it", and Mr. Little replied it was so cheap he wouldn't buy it, but gave no description of the watch.

Tim Cromartie, currently  of South Carolina, stated that he was living in Anson County that January when the murder occured. He went on to describe a night in January when the two defendants showed up at his door on a Thursday and spent the night with him. He knew them both fairly well from the sound of it. When Henry White went to bed, Goodin Freeman began talking. Goodin told him the story of a man being killed in Wadesboro who was in possession of $30 and a watch. He admitted that he was the one who had "tapped" Smith, or rather, knocked him over the head and that he had asked Henry to watch out while he did it. They attacked him between, "a fat man's house and the depot", probably referring to Eugene Little. Goodin told him of a man named Frank Reid who came to Rockingham investigating or "spicioning around", as he had suspicions that those two had committed the murder. That's when they took off to Darlington, SC, where they were later found. 

Henry also gave some information to Tim Cromartie, stating that Goodin had left Rockingham to go to Wadesboro, that he had borrowed $2 from his mother and when he returned, he paid her back $15, and told his mother that they had been gambling. The defense brought up Cromartie's past as well, saying he lived near Cheraw, had a criminal record, primarily for fighting, had been charged with rape before and had two wives, currently or consecutively.

The Cheif of Police of Darlington, SC got on the stand and testified that after he arrested the pair of fugitives from justice, that Goodin had called him aside and threw Henry under the bus, stating Henry was the one who 'tapped' Charlie Smith and robbed him. The Coroner then returned to the stand and stated that when he examined Charlie, he had no money or watch and that his pockets were turned inside out. 

Frank Reid, the man who had came searching for the two because of suspicions, was called to the stand.  He testified that he saw Goodin at Cornelia McLauchlins house the Tuesday after the murder and that he was a boarder of Cornelia's. He testified that Goodin told him a man named Smith had been killed, that the train had been late and that Smith had walked back into town for some whiskey. He later saw Henry, and saw both of them in Darlington after they left Rockingham. He had been asked by Sheriff Gaddy to see if he could find them. Three weeks after the murder, Frank had found them in Darlington and had them arrested. Afterwards, Mr. Reid visited the two in jail and Goodin was busy throwing Henry under the bus again, stating Henry had hit Charlie with a piece of iron while Goodin watched. Trying to prevent Henry from hearing, Goodin put his arm around Frank's neck. All along, Goodin was telling the truth about what happened, he was just placing blame on anyone else other than himself. 

The defense tried to deflect on Frank Reids testimony by inferring he only wanted the reward, but all who knew Frank testfied he was a man of good charactor. 

Murrays's barroom in Wadesboro is a place I am very familiar with although I was born many decades after its existence. It belonged to John Murray, a distant relative of mine, and an arrogant bully of a man, who in the end would meet his own in an untimely manner. The next part of the trial, the evidence presented by the defense, centered around what happened in and around this bar in Uptown Wadesboro. Goodin Freeman spoke in his own behalf, talker that he was, and by this time had him a story all tied up and laid out like a buffet intended for a dignitary. It was a mistake. 

Goodin had claimed to be holed up in Joe Little's restaurant from dark on Monday until daylight the next morning. So Wadesboro had 24 hour restaurants in 1900? He stated he heard of the murder on Tuesday morning and (out of curiosity) had went to the place where the body was found. He claimed to have had a 'fuss', or arguement, with a Lid Lindsey, possibly a relative while in the restaurant on that Monday night, and then he left for Rockingham because of another 'fuss' he had with Net Kendall. So Goodin was good at getting into scraps. He denied having had the conversation with Tim Cromartie, and again threw Henry White under the bus, stating Henry told him that he had 'tapped' , or robbed and mugged, Charlie Smth. He admitted he heard Joe Little testify that he wasn't in the restaurant.

Several other people gave brief testimony as to where Goodin was and when. Mr. Redfern and Crowson said they saw Goodin on Tuesday morning where the body was found. A George Simons said he saw Goodin at Joe Little's restaurant between 7 pm and 9 or so.Two men from Rockingham testified that the character of the McLauchlins, Tillman Little and Tim Cromartie was bad, in an attempt to discredit their testimony.

Goodin's half-brother, Rupert "Purdie" Lindsey, testified he saw Goodin in Joe Little's restaurant while he was waiting on the 8 o'clock train. Oldest brother, Sanders Lindsey, said Goodin went to Rockingham on Wednesday night and left home because of the fuss with Net Kendall. Sanders had advised him to go find a job and work to help pay some bills he had acrued. Sallie Marshall Lindsey, Sanders wife, corrobarated her husbands testimony.

Goodin Freeman was a troublesome soul.  Further testimony revealed that the mud only got thicker. Ella Cromartie, Tim's daughter, along with a Henry Lilly and Rich Hammond, all said Tim Cromartie told them he knew nothing about the murder. Rich Hammond also couldn't determine the date of the arguement between Good and Lid Lindsey.

Further testimony attempted to discredit that of Tim Cromartie. A man named Will Junior backed up the testimony of Frank Reid, having witnessed the conversation in the Darlington jail. Frank Moses, of Darlington, testified that Frank Reid had asked his assistence in locating Goodin and Henry and told him of a reward, and offered to coach him on what to say to get the sizable reward. A Paul Moses stated the same thing.

Goodin Freeman kept sealing his own fate due to the fact he could not stop talking. C. B. Luther and L. H. Horton both testified that Goodin had told them both that Henry was the one who killed Smith. Then it was Henry's turn to testify.  He said he had arrived in Wadesboro about 3 in the afternoon on Monday and went to his mother's house. He left only to go to Mills barroom for a little while and had returned to his mothers house. He denied telling Goodin anything about a robbery or murder. He stated he had been out of Wadesboro around four years and that his arrival three years prior was his first time back to visit. He was asked if he had grabbed a wallet and ran with it, but he denied this having happened. Henry's mother, Nannie Williams and his sister, Beulah Williams, both testified that Henry had arrived back home from the bar about 7 and had remained there. A Caroline Little testified that she had visited Nannie Williams from 7 to 7:30 pm and that Henry was there. Several people testified that Goodwin Freeman was a bad character.

Final testimony was that of several citizens of Wadesboro, who saw Charlie Smith at Trexlers bar between 7 and 8. Others had seen Goodin Freeman in Mills bar. Another claimed the fight between Goodin and Lid Lindsey was on Saturday night, not Monday. Others testified that they had been at Little's restaurant and had not seen Goodin. Mr. Ellis P. Gaddy testified that several months after the murder, Tim Cromartie had reported to him what Goodin had said.

The full picture of what happened on that fateful night seemed to be a crime of opportunity. While poor Ella was home tending to her new baby daugther, Charlie had taken the opportunity to visit his brother and sister in Wadesboro. He had a few dollars in his pocket when he had left for the train home. As it was late, he walked back into town to stop in at Murray and Trexlers bar for a drink or two before the long ride home. He had made the mistake of flashing his money in front of a couple of hooligans, one who happened by, and another, a wayward teen who seemed to have just been born bad. His fate was sealed. 

Name:Goodwin Freeman
Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Home in 1900:Wadesboro, Anson, North Carolina
Sheet Number:7
Institution:Anson County Jail Lewis 51-64
Number of Dwelling in Order of Visitation:136
Family Number:141
Relation to Head of House:Prisoner
Marital Status:Single
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Can Read:No
Can Write:No
Can Speak English:Yes
Household Members (Name)AgeRelationship
Joel T Gaddy60Head
Flora A Gaddy58Wife
Flora C Gaddy25Daughter
Nannie Gaddy19Daughter
Hence Evans40Prisoner
William Ramsay21Prisoner
Eben Sinclair26Prisoner
Goodwin Freeman17Prisoner
Henry White30Prisoner
Charles Pratt16Prisoner

So who were these  two derelict misfeasors with no respect for life?  The 1900 census found 'Goodwin' Freeman, only 17, and Henry White, 30, languishing in the Anson County jail. Henry White, so much older, would be expected to have had a much worse criminal background than 'Goodin', who was just a teenager. But no, I couldn't find anything on Henry White prior to the murder to suggest such a life. Henry White was born in  Virginia and had come to Wadesboro with his mother, Nannie Williams and sister, Beulah.


The Messenger and Intelligencer

Wadesboro, North Carolina
18 May 1899, Thu  •  Page 3

However, this was not the case for Goodwin Freeman. Goodwin was the younger son of Malissa Lindsey, born in 1845 in Anson County, probably. He had two older half-brothers, Sanders J. Lindsey and Rupert "Purdie" R. Lindsey. His brothers were law-abiding, sensible fellows who tried to keep the young whippersnapper in line, but obviously, failed miserably.  In 1899, at age 16, a year before the murder, Goodin had been jailed for drunkeness. 


The Messenger and Intelligencer

Wadesboro, North Carolina
18 May 1893, Thu  •  Page 3

Goodin showed signs of criminal behavior early on. When he stole a watch from a jewler in 1893, he was 10 years old. This attraction to watches may have triggered his desire for Charlie Smith's watch when he was drunk and showing off that fated night.


The Morning Post

Raleigh, North Carolina
10 Aug 1904, Wed  •  Page 7

So what became of Henry and Goodin? They escaped, both of them,  and hid away for the remainder of their lives. Justice was not served and Charlie Smiths murder remains unavenged. In August, 1904, Goodin Freeman was among a group of convicts who escaped from a prison camp road crew while returning to camp after a day of working on the 'chain gang'. He was described as ,"Goodin Freeman, black, from Anson County, 20 years for murder in the second degree, Received September 18, 1900, Age 20, height 5 feet 5 inches, weight 165 lbs." Goodin was a small fellow. A reward of  25 dollars each was offered for information on the escapees.


The Messenger and Intelligencer

Wadesboro, North Carolina
28 Dec 1911, Thu  •  Page 43

Henry White also escaped from prison, but in 1911. From what I could discover, neither of them were ever captured.
Goodin Freeman served 4 years and Henry White, 11 years, for the murder and robbery of Charlie Smith. They afterwards were absorbed into the anonymous fabric of early 20th Century America.

Goodins' brother Sanders Lindsey relocated to New York City and worked there as a Carpenter. He died in the Bronx in 1948, at the age of 77 and his remains were sent back to Wadesboro for burial. He had married Sallie Marshall and had a large family with her.

Rupert "Purdie" Lindsey relocated to Philadephia, PA after all of the drama in Wadesboro. He had married Hallie Pearl White, daughter of George and Ellen Tillman White. Any relationship to Henry White is unknown. Purdie also worked as a carpenter and worked for the City of Philadelphia in that capacity. He died fairly young, before age 50, and his wife Hallie was remarried by 1930. They had one son, Rupert Jr. and Hallie died in Philly in 1959. If Goodwin escaped and took refuge among his famly in the north, there is no record. He likely changed his name and may have continued his criminal ways. His fate remains unknown.

During the course of the trial, Ella and her baby daughter, Virgie, made their home in Albemarle, in Stanly County, with her sister, Fannie, and brother-in-law, Will Turner. Here they are on June 11, 1900, living in North Albemarle precinct. Ella revealed that she had given birth to 5 children, but only two were living. The missing three were probably born during her marriage to Jim Turner, as her marriage to Charlie Smith was very brief.

Name:Ella Smith
Birth Date:Apr 1867
Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Home in 1900:Albemarle, Stanly, North Carolina
House Number:21
Sheet Number:14
Number of Dwelling in Order of Visitation:181
Family Number:208
Relation to Head of House:Sister in Law (Sister-in-law)
Marital Status:Widowed
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Mother: number of living children:2
Mother: How many children:5
Can Read:Yes
Can Write:Yes
Can Speak English:Yes
Household Members (Name)AgeRelationship
Wm A Turner31Head
Fannie Turner31Wife
Annie M Turner11Daughter
Penny W Turner8Daughter
Ella Smith33Sister in Law (Sister-in-law)
Virgie M Smith1Niece

Her son, George W. Turner III, age 8,  was sent to live with Will and Jim's siblings, headed by another brother, Robert Johnson Turner. They were living in the family homestead, after the recent deaths of their parents, in Ansonville, where George was attending school.

Name:George Turner[George Tumer]
Birth Date:Dec 1891
Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Home in 1900:Ansonville, Anson, North Carolina
Sheet Number:13
Number of Dwelling in Order of Visitation:223
Family Number:223
Relation to Head of House:Nephew
Marital Status:Single
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina, USA
Attended School:3
Can Read:No
Can Write:No
Can Speak English:Yes
Household Members (Name)AgeRelationship
Robert J Turner40Head
Bettie M Turner33Sister
Lillie V Turner Jr19Sister
Thomas Turner17Brother
George Turner8Nephew

Ella, still a young woman, did not stay single long.

Ella would try again. She married William Thomas Russell, a 37 year old widower with children of his own, just a month after the 1900 census, on August 15. She stated that her mother was living and that her father was deceased. William Thomas Russell was the son of W. H. Russell, living, and wife Mary Ann, deceased, and was a resident of Palmerville, in Stanly County. Ella was a resident, now, of Albemarle. The marriage was performed by Rev. J. A. McKaughan, at the Baptist Parsonage. Witnesses were B. L. Smith, Dixie Shankle and Lizzie Hathcock.


The Enterprise

Albemarle, North Carolina
02 Jul 1903, Thu  •  Page 3

Virgie would adopt the Russell surname, as she would never remember her father, but this marriage didn't last but  about three years. In the summer of 1903, W. T. and Ella would divorce. W. T. paid the expenses. 

Ella had now been widowed twice, divorced once and now held the title of "Grass Widow", a slang term for a divorced woman. 

It was 1903 in Stanly County. What was there for a single mother to do? The Wright Brothers had made their historic flight in the eastern part of the state, the railroads were extending and adding to growth and the textile mills were spreading faster than Dollar Generals and having their effect on the economy. 

Ella and her daughter, Virgie were not to be found in the 1910 census,or so I thought.  Her son, George Turner, was a teen, working as farm labor in Anson County. It looks as if he had been raised by his father's brother. Ella was no longer living with her sister Fannie, who had been widowed and remarried, too. William Thomas Russell's four older children by his first wife, Charlotte Austin Russell, were living with relatives, or boarding and working independantly. W. T. , himself, supposedly died between 1906 and 1907. His younger two sons by Charlotte, John Robert and Charles Marshall Russell, were both born in Texas, in 1895 and 1897, respectively, not long before he returned to Stanly County and married Ella, so he had some history there.

It appears if Ella had moved either to Charlotte, in Mecklenburg County, or Concord, in Cabarrus County, large towns with more opportunities for her to find a job and support herself and Virgie. (which was true, but stay tuned.)

The next time we find Ella is in 1915, when she marries for a fourth time, to James Edward Dull.

The marriage took place in Cabarrus County on September 25, 1915. James E. Dull, was 37, and had been born in Staunton, Virginia. He named his parents as B. B. Dull and Nannie Dull, his father living. He was presently living in Charlotte. Ella gave her name as Ella E. Smith, using the name of the last husband she was widowed from. She, too, stated that she was living in Charlotte, and gave her parents as John and Susan Falkner of Anson County, both deceased.

Name:Ella E Smith[Ella E Faulkner]
Birth Year:abt 1878
Marriage Date:25 Sep 1915
Marriage Place:Cabarrus, North Carolina, USA
Father:John Faulkner
Mother:Susan Faulkner
Spouse:J E Dull
Spouse Gender:Male
Spouse Race:White
Spouse Age:35
Spouse Father:B B Dull
Spouse Mother:Nannie Dull
Event Type:Marriage

As Charlotte was already a sizable city, I looked for James E. Dull in the 1915 City Directory to see what he did for a living.

I found him listed as living at 312 South College Street and working as a Foreman for Lon G Cruz Co. 
Remember that address. 

As he was from out-of-state, I looked back to see how long he had been in Charlotte, and also found him in 1912. Out of curiosity, I decided to see if I could find Ella in 1915, and I did.

Although she had married under the surname 'Smith', which would have been her legal name, as she was legitimately widowed under that surname, I found her living in Charlotte under Ella E. Russell, widow of Thomas, and indeed, W. T. Russell was deceased at that time, although they divorced in 1903. Her address at this time was 312 South College Street, the same address as James E. Dull. Ella was the proprietress of a boarding house. James Dull was boarding with her before their marriage.

Seeing how long Ella  had lived in Charlotte, I also found her in 1912, 1913, 1911 and 1910. All of those years, she was running a boarding house in Charlotte. I don't know where she had gotten the funds to purchase it. In 1915, her daughter, Virigina, now 16, also shows up in the City Directory, working as a clerk for a company and Branson and Low, living with her mother. So, Ella had been living in Charlotte in 1910. In 1910, her address was 310 South College Street, right next door to where she was in 1911- 1915.

In fact, the earliest I found her was in the year 1905, two years after her divorce. Here, she didn't use 'widow of Thomas'.  Thomas was still alive. She was also living at 308 South College Street, next door to where she lived in 1910. She doesn't give an occupation in 1905, either, but I had now sucessfully tracked her from her divorce in 1903 in Albemarle, NC, to her living on South College Street in Charlotte by 1905.

Charlotte- Mecklenburg Library Post Card Collection from years 1900-1910

Charlotte was a busy place even then, in the early years of the 20th century. A good and profitible time to operate a boarding house with all of the comings and goings. I looked in the newspapers for an ad, which I found, but I found much more.

On   October 25, 1905, a Russell Deas had married a Mrs. Ella Russell, but was it my Aunt Ella? Then I saw the address;

308 South College St. It was Aunt Ella! Then why had she shown up in the 1910 -1915 City Directories as Mrs. Ella Russell, widow of Thomas?

The answer was found in the September 24, 1909 edition of The Charlotte News. 

Ella had squeezed a brief marriage in between Thomas Russell and Jame E. Dull. So who was Russell Deas and what became of him? While W. T. Russell had divorced Ella, Ella had divorced Russell Deas.

The marriage certificate gave the parents of 21 year old Russell Deas as John and Louisa Deas of Rock Hill, South Carolina. Ella's reported age was also 21 as reported by Russell, who knew her parents were deceased, but did not know their names. 

Name:Thomas C Deas
Residence Year:1908
Street Address:221 E Trade
Residence Place:Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Spouse:Ella Deas
Publication Title:Charlotte, North Carolina, City Directory, 1908

While married to Thomas, it appears Ella lived on Trade Street in Charlotte, or did she run her Boarding House while Thomas lived on Trade Street and 'worked'?

This surprised me because she had doen some serious lying on her marriage certificate. Russell was young enough, nearly , to have been her son.
Ella would have been about 35.

So, knowing she had been a Deas, although she reported herself, again, in the Charlotte City Directory , as Ella E. Russell, widow of Thomas, I looked for her again, and found her. Ella Deas, correct age, with a 12 year old daughter, right age, but name given as 'Bertha', not Virgie. Could the census taker have had bad hearing and misheard 'Virgie' as 'Bertha'? Looks like that's what happened. Check the address - 312 South College Street, the same address as Ella E Russell in the 1910 City Directory.

So who was Russell Deas and what happened to him?
Thomas Russell Deas was born in 1885 in Rock Hill, South Carolina, just south of Charlotte. He was the oldest child of John Wesley and Ellen Louise Whitener Deas. 

He didn't seem possessed of any particular skills. In 1910, a year following his divorce, he was found in Marysville, Union County, NC, working as a laborer for a farmer  A rolling stone, when the WWI draft found him in 1917, he was living in Pickens County, SC, gave his occupation as 'Student' and his school as 'Clemson'. 

He was 33 years old, born January 10, 1885, and gave his younger brother, George W. Deas, as his contact person. His description was a man with black hair, brown eyes, medium height and stout, or stocky build. He signed his name Thomas C. Russell Deas.

1920 found him living in Hallettsville,  Lavaca County, Texas, working as a bookkeeper at a  Produce and Grain Store, boarding with several other young professionals with a Liscomb family, among them a reporter, a ticket agent and a chauffeur.

Two years later , he found his way to Monroe, West Virginia, and tried his hand at marriage again with a Miss Reba May Smith, this time with a lady two decades his junior, instead of the other way around. Reba was actually born the year Thomas married Ella.

Name:Thos. Chas. Russel Dease
Birth Date:abt 1886
Birth Place:North Carolina
Death Date:7 Mar 1940
Death Place:Nicholas, West Virginia
Death Age:54 years 1 month 27 days
Occupation:Janitor Of Bank
Marital Status:Married
Spouse Name:Reba Dease

West Virginia is where he spent the rest of his days. He is found working as a bank janitor in Nicholas, West Virginia, in 1930, and was still there in 1940, when he passed away at the age of 54.  That was the end of Husband Number Four.

So then,  in 1915, when Ella embarked upon marriage for a fifth time, she had been twice widowed and twice divorced.

Victim, umm, husband number five was, as previously stated, James Edward Dull of Staunton, Virginia. He had been born on Christmas Eve in 1883 to James Bristo and Nannie Hunt Dull.  He had been previously married, and hopefully divorced, by the time he met Ella, as his first wife, Bertha, lived until 1949. From the Directory, it appears he probably met Ella by being her tenant, as he was living at the same address as she was, two years prior to their marriage.

In the 1920 census, the couple have now moved to Charlotte Ward One and was living on Benwoods Street. James was a Housing Contractor and was building homes in the rapidly growing city.

Ella's daughter, Virginia, who had been working as a stenographer, married on March 20, 1923, to John Calvin Harris, a WWI Navy Vet. They settled in Charlotte and raised two boys.

Name:Ella Dulls
Birth Year:abt 1875
Age in 1930:55
Birthplace:North Carolina
Marital Status:Widowed
Relation to Head of House:Mother-in-law
Home in 1930:Charlotte, Mecklenburg, North Carolina, USA
Map of Home:
Street Address:The Plaza
Ward of City:6 part
House Number:1508
Dwelling Number:93
Family Number:94
Age at First Marriage:20
Attended School:No
Able to Read and Write:Yes
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Able to Speak English:Yes
Household Members (Name)AgeRelationship
John C Harris33Head
Virginia Harris30Wife
Jerry Harris0Son
Ella Dulls55Mother-in-law

Ella's fifth and last marriage was not the happiest either. She is found living with her daughter and son-in-law in 1930 and clamied to be a widow. James E. Dull(s) was not dead. In fact, City Directories show they went back and forth for a little while. I do not find any evidence that they ever divorced.

Ella Elizabeth Falkner Turner Smith Russell Deas Dull passed away on May 15, 1935, at her daughter's home,  of a cerebral hemmorrhage and paralysis of the throat. Her birthday, as given by her daughter, Virgie, was December 12, 1875, making her 60 years old. I don't believe the year to be correct, as that would have made her 11 at her first wedding. I believe she was more like 15 then, and born in 1871. 

Aunt Ella was buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte. Her Survivors were given as Virginia and her two sons. There was no mention of her son, George. The family may have lost touch, or there may have been some sort of division or estrangement. George did, however, stay in touch with his Turner kin. 


The Charlotte News

Charlotte, North Carolina
15 May 1935, Wed  •  Page 16

James E. Dull or Dulls remained in Charlotte and maintained a careet in house painting unitl his death in 1957.


The Charlotte Observer

Charlotte, North Carolina
05 Jan 1957, Sat  •  Page 7

Virginia Mae Smith Russell Harris passed away in 1995, her husband in 1985. They had two sons, Calvin Jerry Harris (1929-2014) and Thomas Russell Harris (1934 -1997), and many grandchildren. I wonder if Thomas Russell was named for William Thomas Russell or Thomas Charles Russell Deas?

The five husbands of Aunt Ella, the "Black Widow" were:

1)  James Stevenson Turner (1858- 1895) Anson, NC
2) Charles May Smith (1862 -1900)  Born in Chesterfield County, SC, Died in Anson County, SC.
3) William Thomas Russell (1864 -1907) Born in Montgomery County, NC, Died in Albemarle, Stanly County        NC .
4) Thomas Charles Russell Deas(e) (1885 -1940) Born in Rock Hill, York County, SC, Died in Nicholas, W.        V.
5) James Edward Dull(s) (1883-1957) Born in Staunton, V. A.,  Died in Charlotte, Mecklenburg, NC.

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