It’s been a while since I’ve researched my family tree let alone write a blog post. However, today I felt inspired to write something. I keep this blog active in the off chance that someone outside of my known family will contact me to help me connect the dots.
I briefly wrote about Alfred Ferebee several years ago when I found a newspaper article about his murder. It’s jarring to see your ancestors listed in the paper as murdered. It’s also sad to know that, because of the era, the killer would most likely not be charged.
I took the time out yesterday to fully transcribe the article as well as add an additional article regarding this murder. It was published in The Independent on December 28, 1923. The Independent was a newspaper for Elizabeth City, NC from Dec. 29, 1922-Sept. 4, 1936.
The Independent – December 28,1923
Mystery About this Killing Friday, December 28, 1923
No One Understands Why Alex Jones Killed This Harmless Negro Tenant.
More or Less mystery surrounds the killing of Alfred Ferebee, a negro farm worker at the home of Alex Jones, a prominent Newland Township farmer on the Newland Road about ten miles from Elizabeth City. Jones is held for a preliminary hearing Friday morning under a $25,000 bond.
Ferebee was brought to the Community Hospital in Elizabeth City last Thursday night in a semi-conscious condition as a result of a blow on his head. He was put under [illegible] and died Sunday Afternoon without regaining consciousness or making a coherent statement. The autopsy revealed that he had been dealt a crushing blow on the left temple. The blow fracturing his skull from a point over the left eye to a point just behind the left ear. It was a blow that might have been struck from the side or from behind and could not have been easily dealt face to face. Jones will plead self-defense.
Alfred Ferebee was one of the most dependable and respectful negroes in Newland township. He [illegible] lived at peace with his neighbors and his life according to reports gathered by the newspaper. For 21 years he had lived in a little [illegible] house on the lands of the late W. Frank Williams. He stuck by Mr. Williams during his life time and when Mr. Williams died, Alfred stuck by the widow of his former employer, worked her lands and did many of her chores. He was not a robust negro and is said to have been a consumptive.
Last week Alfred had done some work for Mr. Jones. Alex. Jones is a son-in-law of Mrs. Williams and lives with his mother-in-law, just across the road from Alfred’s Shanty. Came supper time in Alfred’s cabin and Alfred told his wife he was going over to Mr. Jones to get pay for his work. He also told his wife that he had loaned Mr. Jones $10 which he also expected to get, as he needed it for some Christmas shopping in town. He didn’t eat his supper, saying he would be back in a few minutes. He was brought back by two other colored men bleeding from his head and left eye and moaning with pain. He said Jones had struck him.
No one seems to have witnessed the trouble. Two Negroes named Proctor and Moore were in a barn on the Williams place and heard the disturbance; they rushed out of the barn to find Alfred writhing on the round and Jones standing by with a club. Jones is said to have brandished the club at the two negroes and threatened to use it on them if they interfered.
Sheriff Chas Reid says that when he served a warrant to Jones that night. Jones said: “Well, there’s on damn good thing about it; nobody saw it.”
And it may pan out that it was a very good thing for Mr. Jones that no one did see it, because everybody in Newland seems to have liked and respected the victim of his assault.
Mr. Jones is a brother in law of W. L. Cahoon and is interested with D.E. Williams in the construction of that segment of the State highway system which connects the village of South Mills in Camden County with Newland Road in Pasquotank. A number of colored men in Newland Township, interviewed by this newspaper say they have worked for Alex. Jones and found him to be a good boss. They don’t understand why he killed Alfred Ferebee. Some say Jones is hot-headed and impetuous. Others suggested that corn liquor was abundant in the Newland section at Christmas time. But no one seems to know anything.
Honestly, reading this article was painful. I’ve always felt that I’ve had a connection to my ancestors and I can feel the loss. I was surprised how this article spoke highly of my uncle. He seemed to have been a well liked member of the community and was helpful. Apparently his presence made such an impact that another article was published about his murder the following week. This article I just found today.
When I first found the original article in 2008, I had to travel to Elizabeth City to do research. I live in Jacksonville, FL and that’s quite a distance. So, I had to be hyper focused on what I wanted. At the time was the article publised on December 28th. However, 10 years has passed and now The Independent has been scanned by the Library of Congress and is available online. Alfred’s murder is front page news.
I decided to look at the following week, January 4, 1924, to see if there were any updates. I was excited to find an semi update on page 4 about my uncle.
THE INDEPENDENT – January 4, 1924
Making Negroes Hate
The killing of Alfred Ferebee, a negro farm tenant by Alex. Jones, Newland Township farmer, is one of the most regrettable incidents of its kind to have happened in this section in a long time. No one knows why Jones killed the negro, except that jones says he did it after the negro had cursed him and refused to leave his place. And Jones is said to have boasted that it is a “good thing that nobody saw it.” With no other witnesses, except members of his own family, Jones is left to construct his own defense.
But one aggravating fact stands out in the whole sorry business; Alfred Ferebee was a faithful servant on the lands of Jones’ people for 21 years, plodding thru summers’ broiling suns and winters’ cold and ice and slush to look after the comforts of his white folks. And when he goes on the eve of Christmas to get an inconsiderable amount of money that is due him for his menial toil, he is fetched back home with a broken head and there is no evidence that he got a penny of the money that was due him.
Mr. Jones may be acquitted upon the evidence that he and his attorneys construct, in time; but the case will always leave a bad taste in the mouths of folks. And it is one of those things that makes the negro look with more suspicion and hatred upon white folks, and fills him with that spirit of hopelessness and unrest that makes him easy prey for labor agents from northern states. It’s a pity that Alex. Jones couldn’t have found a better way to deal with a negro who had slaved for his family for more than twenty years.
My Uncle, Alfred Ferebee, worked for this family for 20 years before being murdered by Alex Jones, a son-in-law.