Our first installment of “Swinging into eternity” was all about filthy lucre…four sacks of silver. The second has nothing to do with money. It is all about passion…and three of the ten commandments.

Bethania1880

This view of Bethania, NC from 1880 shows little difference from Bethania in 1858. Looking south from Muddy Creek just below Conrad’s mill pond. Bethania Moravian Church is at left and Lash’s store & factory at right.

In the 1850s, Thomas Lash and his brother Israel were two of the wealthiest men in Forsyth County. Between them they owned over 100 slaves. They were both farmers, but Thomas operated a large store and a cigar manufacturing business in Bethania, while Israel ran the local branch of the Bank of Cape Fear in Salem, the only real bank in the area. Both of those businesses just happened to front on the Fayetteville and Western Plank Road, the longest and most expensive toll road ever built in North Carolina, which terminated at the doors of Thomas Lash’s store / factory in Bethania.

LashStoreFactory

The Lash store was on the first floor…the cigar factory, using slave labor, was on the second

The Lash’s brother-in-law, Abraham Conrad, also a significant slave owner, and the largest land owner in Bethania, was a farmer who also operated the Bethania grist mill. The mill had been founded in 1794 to benefit the citizens of Bethania. Conrad had acquired control after some legal problems in the 1820s.

BethaniaMap1858

Conrad’s daughter Julia married a prominent doctor, farmer and slave holder, Beverly Jones. In the mid 1840s, Jones contracted with the famous Richmond architect Dabney Cosby, who had designed the Virginia state capitol, to build him a plantation house less than a mile north of downtown Bethania on land owned by his father-in-law Conrad. Jones named the plantation “Oak Grove”.  Today it is a national historic landmark, one of the most complete plantations, including slave quarters and other important buildings, in North Carolina.

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When Conrad’s wife died in the early 1850s, he moved into the plantation house with his daughter and son-in-law, just across what is now the Bethania – Tobaccoville Road from his mill. Remnants of the mill, including fragments of the mill pond dam, are still visible along Muddy Creek on the Long Creek golf course.

On Monday, March 29, 1858, one of John Lash’s slaves, Eli, was found dead in Abraham Conrad’s mill pond, the water around him tinted pink with blood. Locals at the scene commenced an investigation.

Eli had been married to a free “mulatto” woman named Lucy Hine, whose house stood on the Oak Grove property. For some time, the local gossip had had it that Lucy was perhaps violating the seventh commandment. So the investigators went to her house to find out what she knew.

According to her, she had no idea where her husband was. But her floor was wet from scrubbing, and when it dried it exhibited stains that looked as if they might be blood. Lucy and her lover, Frank, a slave who belonged to Thomas Lash’s brother Israel, were called before the magistrates the next day, March 30.

By then, blood had also been traced from Lucy’s house to Conrad’s mill pond pond, and human tracks discovered along the way, corresponding to those of Lucy and Frank, both of whose shoes were also found to be bloody.Under questioning, Lucy admitted that her lover had killed her husband and dumped his body in Conrad’s pond and that she had just been tidying up.

Lucy and Frank were arrested and lodged in the Forsyth County jail in Winston to await trial. Frank was charged with murder. Lucy was charged with aiding and abetting murder, which in those days amounted to the same thing.

That same day, March 30, Eli’s funeral was held in Bethania. The text was the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Apparently, the seventh, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and the tenth “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife…” etcetera, were not mentioned.

Five days later, the Bethania congregation held their annual Easter sunrise service at the local God’s Acre.

On Friday, April 9, 1858, Frank was tried in Forsyth County Superior Court, convicted and sentenced to die by hanging. The Moravian diary noted that Lucy was also implicated, but had managed to have her trial moved to Rockingham County. Not long afterward, she was also convicted and sentenced to death on the scaffold.

Frank was scheduled to be hanged on Friday, November 26 at an unspecified site in or near the county seat of Winston. But a petition for pardon having been presented, governor Thomas Bragg, at the last minute, granted a three week respite so that the matter might better be considered. By then it was too late to prevent a large gathering in the town to watch the hanging.

When Forsyth County was created in 1849, the one thing that all Moravians had been in agreement about was that they did not want Salem to become the county seat. They were well aware that the monthly court sessions attracted a less than desirable crowd prone to music other than hymnal, dancing, drinking, gambling and who knew what else. Certainly, this time, they were proved right.

The Moravian diary described what happened next.

“About dusk (on the 26th) a shocking murder was perpetrated in Winston by P.T. Schultz (the wicked and worthless son of parents belonging to this congregation) on the person of one Costin Holder. Schultz had been engaged in the nefarious business of keeping a tippling house, and himself as well as his victim were under the effects of liquor. A great crowd of people, mostly of a decidedly degraded appearance, had collected to witness the execution of Frank — the news of his respite not having become generally known — and probably great quantities of whiskey were drunk in Winston. ‘Woe unto him that putteth the bottle to his neighbor’s lips!…The way of the transgressor is hard.’ ”

Schultz was arrested, housed in the county jail, then “extradited” to Guilford County under a writ of habeus corpus, then returned to Forsyth, bail having been refused by Judge Dick in Guilford. There was a bit of hostility toward Schultz because Holder had left a wife and a number of small children. But, ultimately, he was not charged because the grand jury found that Holder had been just as drunk as Schultz and had probably provoked his own murder.

Governor Bragg having refused the pardon, Frank was hanged on December 17, 1858. The reverend Holland preached on the “sixth commandment”, but apparently did not mention the seventh and tenth.

LashHineMap

A little less than a month later, Lucy Hine was hanged about a mile and 1/2 east of Wentworth in Rockingham County, thus becoming the only woman ever hanged for a crime committed in Forsyth County. Since the editors of the Western Sentinel and the Salem People’s Press could not find time to attend the hanging, the event was reported in the People’s Press via a letter from an unidentified citizen of Wentworth.

WentworthJail

The Rockingham County jail is seen at the left rear, and the courthouse below at far right

WentworthCourthouse

He reported that the weather was a little damp and that the crowd was small, which made him glad because “…such spectacles have anything but a good tendency…instead of morality, immorality is taught on all such occasions.”

He said that Lucy “…ascended to the gallows with a firm and resolute step…”, and proclaimed her innocence in the actual commission of the crime. The “…Rev. B. Fields of the Methodist Church (having) delivered a short and appropriate address; and …the rope being adjusted, the drop fell, and her spirit took its flight to that last resting place ‘whence no traveler returns’ .”

Next up, the only known lynching in Forsyth County history.

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