Susan Wells, A game called Salisbury, awaiting response

Several responses from descendants of the Lyerly Family, subjects of A Game Called Salisbury by Susan Barringer Wells have not been answered. This is an attempt to get answers from the author. Below are the posted responses by Lyerly family descendants:

Sheena Lyerly
December 28, 2007

Issac Lyerly was my Great-great
Grandfather, and you wrote in your
book that Joseph Lyerly lived about
a half a mile from Issac’s house but
by our families account he lived at
least a mile or more away from his
fathers house, and you listed that
he was a possible suspect because
the girls did not go to their
brothers home. Joseph’s house was a
half a mile off of old U.S 70,
therefore that was the reason his
sisters did not go to his house for
help! If you have any record of
Joseph Lyerly living in another home
other then the one our family knows
of then please get back to me

 Renea Julian
January 3, 2008


” It is noted “that you have more speculation, rather than fact.

Do you not remember the July 1974 news article in the Salisbury Post
which gives reference to the Testimony before a Grand Jury
of said Murderers of my Family? As the writer of: The Game Called
Salisbury, I am sure you must know without a shadow of a doubt what that
Testimony is. There is no Mystery to solve. What is “IS” and you can’t
change History. Evil ,Hideous murder is what happened in that house. GOD
rest the souls of “All” people involved. Also, another question to you
is “Why do you not have compassion for a family that was so brutally
Murdered? Is your compassion one sided?

Please note: I already knew you are not a Lyerly descendant before
your correction. I have read a thoroughly researched book compiled by
Harry Lyerly which was my Uncle.

I am anxiously awaiting your reply. I have more comments for you, but I
think that this is an appropriate place to stop.

Renea Lyerly Julian

Below is the prior dialogue between Susan Wells and a Lyerly Family member:

Issac Lyerly was my Great-great
Grandfather, and you wrote in your
book that Joseph Lyerly lived about
a half a mile from Issac’s house but
by our families account he lived at
least a mile or more away from his
fathers house, and you listed that
he was a possible suspect because
the girls did not go to their
brothers home. Joseph’s house was a
half a mile off of old U.S 70,
therefore that was the reason his
sisters did not go to his house for
help! If you have any record of
Joseph Lyerly living in another home
other then the one our family knows
of then please get back to me

Sheena Lyerly

The information in my book is compiled from numerous sources, about which I explain, at the beginning of the book, much is questionable.  Nevertheless, I sometimes gave more notice to details on which more than a few sources agreed. And more than a few agreed that Joseph lived 1/2 mile from Issac’s home, including Joseph himself (according to 2 sources).

Also, in my opinion, the members of the Lyerly family, of which I am also a  descendant (I am related to both Isaac and Augusta and doubly related to their offspring), in the absence of tangible evidence, should have been, at least initially, as suspect as those who were arrested and punished for the crime.  And given the lack of proof that those punished were guilty, and evidence I found of their innocence,  we have to consider the possibility of another or others’  involvement.

I quote two sources which independently present themselves as transcripts of the solicitor’s investigation on July 20 and 21st, both quoting Joseph saying he lived about a half mile from his father’s house. This and other printed testimony, as well as relatives’ recollection of the location of Joseph’s house and my own clocking the distance in my car, led me to the understanding that his house was located about a half mile from Isaac’s.

Writing the book, I used every piece of information I could gather in 10 years, and still, as in the case of why the girls went to Cook’s rather than Joseph’s house, I presented the situation as a question, rather than a point of fact.  I actually presented very little as fact in the book, if you noticed, again, how everything is introduced in the beginning.

 Also, throughout my research of this story, I  persistently sought oral history from relatives — any I could find and also through an ad in the paper, – and I included all information that people were willing to share with me, though I often felt there was more I wasn’t being told.

Though it’s very possible that the two  papers that covered the investigation misquoted Joseph saying he lived about 1/2 mile away, it’s not likely both of them did so over what would probably have seemed a trivial issue at the time.

Moreover, in sharing my findings on this story, I felt it was important to explore  possibilities that anyone NOT related to the family might consider, so that I would not appear or be biased as a member of the family.

Also, I think it important that the possibility of guilt from other sources be considered out of fairness.  Times being what they were, people automatically focused on any info that led to the guilt of black citizens, to the exclusion of all others.  There were likely more in both the white and black communities who held a grudge against Isaac or Augusta, but because the press and the public focused only on those arrested, I had very little else to go on.

It’s very likely that Nease was singled out, because he set an example in the community that was often not welcome. He left a poor-paying sharecropping job and took more profitable work at a sawmill.  Often the dominant black male in a community was culled, and this may have been the only crime that Nease committed, being a bit too uppity for the liking of whites who wanted hard labor for little or no pay.   I can’t prove this was the case with Nease, I only know that it was a common occurrence during that time.  So, it is just another possibility of why Nease was targeted.

If all we have as “evidence” against the accused is the arguments the tenant farmers had with Isaac, then we must, in fairness, consider, first, Mary’s problems with her mother, Joseph’s issues with Augusta, and any other grudges we know about.  It would have been wrong for me to ignore this information I received from another family member.

This does not mean that I personally believe either Joseph or Mary or Matt were involved, but I also do not believe John or Nease Gillespie were involved.  I have doubts about Jack, but I also believe strongly in the presumption of innocence in his case as well as anyone else’s.

I hope you understand that I’m trying to make a point here.  The point is why should the public and the press focus only on the points of contention between the sharecroppers and Isaac to the exclusion of all others?  If we’re going to point out the tension between the Lyerlys and the mixed raced neighbors, then we should point out the tension within the Lyerly family or else we should not use this kind of  flimsy “evidence” against any of them, because it is ALL flimsy.

Again, I believe people outside the family will ask these questions, and I felt the questions should be addressed.

And I also still question why Joseph did not go to the house immediately to see about his parents as soon as he heard of the attacks. Without seeing for himself, how could he be sure all were really dead?  He waited hours, as I recall, according to  his own testimony — as it was recorded.  I still have many questions about this case.

Thanks for asking.  What do you base your measurements on, other than oral history?


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33 responses to “Susan Wells, A game called Salisbury, awaiting response

  1. 1) In response to the comment that you “already knew I was not a Lyerly descendant…”
    I am, indeed, a Lyerly descendant, and of the same Lyerly family as yours, if you are indeed Isaac’s descendant. I was trying to correct any impression that I am a DIRECT descendant of Isaac Lyerly. I AM a DIRECT descendant of Isaac Lyerly’s Grandfather. Issac’s father, Christopher S. Lyerly was brother to my ancestor, Daniel Lyerly. Daniel was Nancy Lyerly’s father, and Nancy Lyerly married William Rufty (he died and she remarried a Cauble, and was later known as Granny Cauble, who by the way, aided and abetted, I’m told, Rufus Rufty when he went AWOL from the Civil War and hid in her barn –GOOD FOR HER!). Anyway, William Rufty was George Rufty’s father, and George Rufty, the one with the fingernails and noose (now that’s compassion for you), is my great-grandfather, whose house on highway 70 was recently torn down. I have boards from the house in my bedroom.

    So that’s my relationship to Isaac and my connection to the Lyerly ancestry, which makes us cousins, I believe.

    Now about the Grand Jury investigation. ie:
    “I am sure you must know without a shadow of a doubt what that
    Testimony is. There is no Mystery to solve.”

    MY RESPONSE: I have to wonder if you have finished the book yet, because there is NO available record of the Grand Jury testimony that I could find ANYWHERE, and I checked with Rowan County Courthouse and the N.C State Archives. I also tried my best to hunt down relatives of any of those who testified to see if they passed on what was spoken in that room that day. I found relatives, but they had no details.
    Furthermore, since Grand Jury investigations are closed to reporters and the public, there is no newspaper report of what was said during that investigation. What I DO have is Court Records that show WHO was listed as witnesses at that Grand Jury investigation, and I point out that a Major Witness, one of the cell mates of Jack Dillingham, was omitted from this list, even though news reportS predicted that this man would be testifying, along with the other who allegedly knew about an in-jail confession Jack made, which, like a lot of other details in the book, is also questionable — and yet still possible.

    So, if you want to know all that I read over the last 10 years, please refer to the endnotes, and if you like, get the hundreds of newspaper articles on film and see for yourselves that the 1974 brief recap of the story is nowhere near the whole story, nor could it be, given that no reporter has 10 years to spend on a story.

    Concerning compassion: I got a note from a librarian in Greensboro who did finish the book and said she recognized the compassion I showed for all the victims. So this is a very subjective thing, and you’re certainly entitled to see it the way you see it.

    But I hope that you will finish the book, and then decide if I have offended you, somehow, by pointing out what I found in newspaper reports or saw as possibilities in your and my relatives’ roles in this story — and possibilities for the innocence of at least some of the lynching victims.

    I will tell you that I do understand your emotions. When I first learned about the gruesomeness of the murders and found the lynching highlighted in the exhibit and book, Without Sanctuary, I wrote the author of that book and told him it would be just as prejudiced to assume that the “blacks” didn’t commit the murders, as to assume they did. And I made a point to emphasize how horrible these murders were, which, I said, might have explained why these men were lynched.
    But that’s before I did 10 years of research and read dozens of books on this period of our southern history. Afterward, my perspective changed, and there’s nothing I can do about that but be honest.

    I can’t prove anything in this story, partly because of the prejudice and the biased reporting that immediately focused on the suspects (to the exclusion of all other possibilities), and because it’s really hard to PROVE someone is a murderer or not, without evidence. That’s why our system is set up so that an accused does not have to prove his/her innocence. It is required that the State PROVE guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
    I believe it was Voltaire that said something to the effect that it is better for 99 guilty men to go free than to convict 1 innocent man. I have felt that way since I was a child, and I have not changed my opinion about that, mainly because I believe God is in control — God is the judge.

    In this case, the presumption of innocence was ignored — and there was no trial, so there was no chance of legally examining the “evidence,” and even if there’d been a trial, chances are it still would not have been fair; and that is based on plenty of evidence.

    So I have compassion for all the victims in this story, even if some of those lynched DID commit the murders. The real murderers, in my view, were the leaders who misled whites and demonized all black citizens, merely for exploitive purposes, creating a situation that was volatile for people in both (black & white) communities – a situation in which something like this was bound to happen sooner or later, and often did, even if, in this case, it didn’t involve those who were accused.

    I clearly say in the book that, even though the reporters were sensationalizing the murder account, their words of compassion for Mary, Janie and Addie were warranted – that no one should have to lose loved ones in this way.

    One last thing, and if you want to argue in length about this afterward, we’ll have to do it in person, though I’ll be glad to answer specific questions in this format, ones that are not accusatory.

    ” It is noted “that you have more speculation, rather than fact.

    Noted by whom? I say at the beginning, that because of the nature of the reporting of that period, little is certain, as far as I’m concerned, about this story. The information I present and DOCUMENT is NOT made up in any way. What I present with endnotes, is FACTUAL, in the sense that IT WAS PRINTED IN THE NEWS, WITHIN THE SOURCE AND STORY I NOTED. That is factual. Now, whether or not the source presented Facts or exaggeration is up to the reader to decide, but I think the reader should not do so out of context with other reports.
    I tried to present the BEST VERSION OF THE TRUTH I could find. I included any printed view that was different from another, but I also give the reader background about sources so he/she can judge how reliable that source is.

    When I speculate in the book, it is clear that I am speculating, and I do so without guilt because of all the speculation that was done in 1906 — in a very biased way.
    Again when I’m not clearly speculating, I am quoting or paraphrasing accurately what other sources printed, fact or fiction.

    Your comment

    I am sure you must know without a shadow of a doubt what that
    Testimony is. There is no Mystery to solve. What is “IS” and you can’t
    change History. Evil ,Hideous murder is what happened in that house. GOD
    rest the souls of “All” people involved. Also, another question to you
    is “Why do you not have compassion for a family that was so brutally
    Murdered? Is your compassion one sided?

    Please note: I already knew you are not a Lyerly descendant before
    your correction. I have read a thoroughly researched book compiled by
    Harry Lyerly which was my Uncle.

  2. Sheena,
    I want to add that I appreciate the info you shared about the distance to Joseph’s house.
    Another person suggested that the girls may have picked a home that had a telephone, which is quite possible.

    Also if taking the main (and clear) road to Joseph’s was a longer distance, as your family’s recollections show, then that too might explain the girl’s choice. Even though going a back way might have been a shorter distance, there may have been obstacles on that path.

    None of this, though, yet answers all my questions about their choice, first because there were obstacles on the path they chose.

    Other questions come up, for instance, let’s say Joseph’s and Cook’s were both equidistant from Isaac’s. Even then, why would they choose what they later described as the path that went by Dillingham’s, whom, it was reported several times, they suspected to be the murderer?

    It would certainly be helpful to know where Filmore and Sam Cook were living at the time, but nobody I asked (and I asked a lot of people), could recall where Cook was living in 1906. The census records show him North of Isaac’s, very near Matt Webb’s place in 1900 (and what looks to be much farther away than Joseph’s). Then in 1910, census records show he has moved to the Steele Township, somewhere South of Isaac’s place, but apparently somewhere near William & Sallie Lyerly’s (William is dead by now), because Joseph reportedly says he went to Cook’s “by” Sallie Lyerly’s.

    We may never find all these answers. A trial might have helped tremendously, but even then the “transcripts” of the court proceedings I could find were handwritten, if a transcriber was even hired at all.

    Typewriters were a novelty back then – I think Mark Twain had one, but few others, and so certainly a lot was left out in the records that were kept.

  3. Barbara Sweeney

    I was at the library in Statesville when you presented your book. I especially wanted to buy it(and did) to give to my very good friend for Christmas because she lives in Cleveland,NC and does her shopping,etc. in Salisbury. When I heard the subject matter, I knew then that she would not agree with it! She is a very southern lady, you know!
    In case you might remember, I mentioned on that evening at the library that I had watched a Klan parade in Goldsboro Years before and it was the most vile event I has ever seen.

  4. Barbara,
    I do remember you well, and it was great meeting you and hearing your comments. A lot of us have “closet” stories to tell about those bad old days that aren’t completely over yet.
    And thanks for buying the book.

  5. I have some new info for Sheena.

    A Rowan resident just mailed me a copy of a more recent census map, one drawn after 1906. On this map, Roseman is shown, correctly, as the new owner of Isaac’s property, but Joseph’s place is noted to be father back off Hwy 70 than shown on the earlier map. Also the road his house was on in 1900 is extended so it connects to another on this newer map.

    Is it possible that Joseph rebuilt farther back off the road after the selling of his and the girls shares of their inheritance from Isaac? Is it possible that the original site of his home was on the land included in the sale, so he moved his house or rebuilt?

    You may be able to find out by researching the Rowan Co. property records in Salisbury.

    I know that my gr. grandfather George Rufty built a new house closer to the highway on his land, even though the house he had already was very nice (I found this older home in an old family photo).

    Anyway, this may explain some of the discrepancies between what your family remembers and what I found in information recorded during and prior to 1906.

    The other possibility, of course, is that one or both of the maps are not precisely drawn.

  6. First let me say I am not a relative of Will Wetmore. In your book you state that a descendant of the Benson girl who was murdered stated that Will Wetmore was involved in the lynchings following her murder, but the person stating this did not want his name given. You were willing to publish a statement like that about a man who has descendants scattered all over the Woodleaf area on the basis of a statement by one person who would not let his name be used.

  7. susan barringer wells

    Dear Joy,
    Your observation is correct. I apparently was willing to publish this information, and I presented it, as I recall, as a statement made by a relative of Cornelia’s, who would not give me permission to use his name. That is simply the truth.

    My intent was to include all the information I could gather about these stories. There was repeated discussion in the press about whether or not lynchers were outsiders, and this piece of information, if true, would add to the view that they were not outsiders, at least not all of them.
    As with all the information, the reader must decide for herself what to believe.

    I certainly would like to have included the name of the source, but I did not have permission to do so. I did however identify the source as much as I could — as a Benson descendant.

    Throughout this book, I believe I have been consistent in providing any information I could gather about these stories, while respecting the rights of those who gave the information to keep their names out of the book, if they so requested.

    And I was not selective. As you must know, I included information that does not put my own close relatives in a positive light, only as far as the lynchings are concerned.

    Nevertheless, I do hope I make it clear that the true villains in this story are the leaders who knew better, but nevertheless used their powers to brainwash and manipulate the general white population, exploiting the masses for their own political and economic purposes — that many whites were deceived by the daily negative assaults on black citizens — that whites were force-fed negative thoughts, perceptions, and images of black folk, making it difficult for them to see them as ever innocent or even as human beings.

    Perhaps Will Wetmore’s descendants have information that will either confirm his participation or clear him of any involvement in the lynching. If so, I would like to hear it.

    So far none of my relatives can explain why my great-grandfather kept souvenirs or how he obtained them.
    And yet I do not find that I have or will be injured by an honest assessment of my own family’s possible involvement, and I don’t see how or why Wetmore’s descendants can be damaged by what Will Wetmore may have done over 100 years ago, but maybe I’m missing something.
    What I have learned from the information about my family members is that good people can be influenced to do bad things.

    I welcome your views and those of the Wetmore family. And I certainly invite the person who made the comment about Will Wetmore to identify himself and elaborate on what he knows or believes. But, I will not go back on my promise to him; he will have to make that decision.

    More important I welcome a discussion about the significance of what happened in 1902 and 1906 as it relates to today. Have our views about race changed? Do we understand that the deception was so complete and the methods so effective that some perceptions are still, a hundred years later, distorted? “Blink” is a good book to consider on this topic.

  8. susan barringer wells

    I want to add that I included another accusation by this same Benson descendant – that both the boys killed Cornelia. Certainly I question the validity of that accusation, so it’s just as likely that the statement about Wetmore is false.

    I think it’s also very likely that the boys the Benson descendant accused of murder have relatives scattered all over that same community, and yet I was still willing to publish what he had to say about them.

    I didn’t try to screen his comments. And I think it’s obvious why he didn’t want to disclose his name.

    But I’m am puzzled as to why so many who shared oral history with me were not also willing to share their names.

    If I put such limitations (requiring name disclosures) on sharing the oral history I gathered, a lot would have been left out.

    And again, I think I really did emphasize that very little of what I gathered is certain.

  9. I just learned it is likely that Will Wetmore’s grandson is the Roger Wetmore incarcerated for allegedly killing his father, Edwin H. Wetmore, and decapitating him with an ax. I confirmed through census records that an Edwin H is the son of a Will Wetmore, living in Rowan County in 1920.
    Can anyone in Rowan County confirm that this Roger Wetmore is the grandson of the same Will Wetmore the Benson relative said was involved in the 1902 lynching?

    Could this be further support of my guess that violence may indeed be a boomerang?

    I’m just throwing this out there for discussion, as I suggested a karmic involvement in my own family’s tragedies, and the Lexington paper did the same concerning a lynching in Davidson County.

  10. Your last paragraph is just further proof of how warped your thinking is.

  11. mariyn harrison

    Whew, Where’s the Bible Club when you need them. I know that Exodus 34:6-7, Exodus 20:5, and good ole Deuteronomy 5:9 has debated this since scribes picked up a pen.
    I do not believe that Susan Barringer Wells
    meant anything more than perhaps the laws
    of cause and effect in her karmic reference….generations to follow us
    will benefit from a little light shed on
    understanding our past. She doesn’t seem
    to be fearful of discovering the terrible
    decision her great grandfather possibly
    made with the wave of his hat to give
    approval of a murderous crowd to proceed.
    I am not proud of what my great grandfather did either…or other relatives of mine that feel vindicated
    and a bit self righteous, maybe they are
    not willing to take the responsibility of
    looking carefully at what happened and
    declare that to lynch anyone with or with
    out a trial is just plain wrong. That
    mindset affects the future…pretty simple. We all have relatives all over the
    county. We can move forward. Yes, we can.
    I think the world would be a better place
    if there were more thinkers like the
    Author of The Game called Salisbury,
    Susan Barringer Wells. Joy, you have a
    beautiful name. I don’t think there is
    the intention to create pain. I hope you
    understand that. Peace.

  12. Dear Joy, all comments are welcome and open opportunities for discussion.

    Warped? Perhaps. However, I am not the only writer to consider whether or not “sins of the father are visited upon the children.”

    Exodus 20:5, for example, says, in the Revised Standard Version: “…for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me….

    Other writers include Horace (“For the sins of your fathers you, though guiltless, must suffer.”) and Shakespeare (“The sins of the fathers are to be laid upon the children.”) I think I remember the same theme in a play of Ibsen’s I read ages ago.

    I’m no Bible scholar, but as I understand it, the premise of Christianity says that Jesus has broken the cycle of sin and death, as well as damnation for sin, as long as repentance is involved.

    Perhaps black folk back then chose to believe in this premise because it was the only thing they had to help them cope with the sins committed against them, the justice system being a joke where they were concerned.

    I saw the information about my ancestors’ probable/possible involvement in the lynching or lynchings as an opportunity for me to apologize for what they had kept secret so many years – for the sins they had never atoned for. I didn’t apologize to Nease’s great granddaughter because I felt I had to do so to avoid further consequences to my family or generations to come; I did so because I wanted to — because I believe, on some spiritual level, my ancestors led me to this information so that I could apologize on their behalf. Perhaps, as spirits, they no longer see “through a glass darkly” so to speak. Maybe that’s “warped” thinking also, but that’s the way I feel when I don’t let my head interfere with my heart.

    I don’t know whether or not Will Wetmore was involved in the 1902 lynching. If he was, he was certainly not the only one — many were involved, either directly or indirectly. Many whose “sins” have not been atoned.

    Perhaps Wetmore’s descendants will agree with you that my reasoning is “warped,” and then again maybe they will choose to see things differently.

    They might choose to investigate the Benson descendant’s claim further. (I get the feeling they can figure out who the Benson descendants living in that area are.) They may learn that the claim is true, and if so, they too may seize that opportunity to apologize on their ancestor’s behalf.

    And, of course, they may choose differently, again and again and again.

  13. One more note — repentance was important also in the Old Testament view:
    Leviticus 26:40
    ” ‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers-their treachery against me and their hostility toward me…if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity; then I will remember my covenant….
    (Whole Chapter: Leviticus 26 In context: Leviticus 26:39-41)

  14. Of course, lynching was wrong, whoever did it. All I was saying was that Susuan Wells should not have suggested that Will Wetmore was involved on the basis of only one statement from someone who would not even let their name be used.

  15. Renea lyerly Julian

    You have contradicted yourself. December 28th,
    2007 you stated: I’m a relative, not a
    descendant” of Isaac and Augusta, 5th cousin,
    great,great niece. Your comment of: If I really
    am a descendant? Without a doubt, I know who I
    am. Eubert Lyerly is my Father, Joseph, my Grandfathere
    and so on……… This is not argumentive,just
    facts. For someone who has gathered information
    for 10 years (so you say) would ask a question
    like this? It seems I have upset you with facts.
    That is not my intention.

    I stick with facts rather than speculation. I have
    the actual 1974 Salisbury Post, as well as other
    things that you will not be able to obtain.

    I wonder where the Sanctuary was for MY family
    that were axed,beaten,burned,teeth knocked out
    Were they given a fair trail? Oh, I beg your
    pardon, they commited no crime!!

    Per the facts Sheena Lyerly, my Niece gave you,
    I look at those planted fields of today,
    Everyday, it is my HOME. It is a shame that you
    can not let them rest in peace. All you are
    doing is bringing back pain and sorrow.

    Good luck to you. I hope that you one day
    accomplish whatever it is you are trying to do.

    Renea Lyerly Julian

  16. Dear Renea,
    I apologize for any confusion on my relationship, WHICH DOES EXIST, with Isaac Lyerly.
    Isaac is my FIRST COUSIN, thrice removed (not 5th cousin, as I said earlier, which is not a contradiction, it is a matter of still learning how these relationships are labeled, cousin-wise – the info about Daniel’s relationship to me and Isaac has not changed).

    AUGUSTA is my great grandfather’s ONLY SISTER, my grandfather’s AUNT, my mother’s great aunt –MY GREAT GREAT AUNT.

    ALICE AND JOHN ARE MY DOUBLE COUSINS. Addie, Janie, and Mary are my double cousins. Your ancestor, Joseph Lyerly, is my cousin. So when you speak of YOUR relatives, you also speak of mine.

    And please consider this: With all the raping that went on before and during 1906 –white slave owners or landlords, raping slaves or former slaves — it’s likely that Nease Gillespie and Fannie are ALSO our relatives.

    It is a fact that General Rufus Barringer had a son by an African slave. He was the brother, as I understand, of a well-known, enterprising African American who ran the Coleman Cotton Mill in Concord, proving that Blacks were as capable as whites in doing that type of work, which the powers that be tried to spin otherwise.

    There were more mulattos living in Unity township (check census records, 1870, 1880 for yourself if you doubt it) than in any other township in the area — and many of them were named Lyerly.

    RE: YOUR COMMENT: “I stick with facts rather than speculation. I have
    the actual 1974 Salisbury Post, as well as other
    things that you will not be able to obtain.”

    MY RESPONSE: I have several photocopies of the 1974 Post story by Joe Junod, whom I contacted and talked to, personally, to see if Addie told him anything he did not record in that article. So, your “facts,” from the get-go, are NOT facts. Nor does that one report, written 7 decades after the crime, contain the entire collection of information published about the tragedies. I have 4 crates of newspaper articles from all over the country, and I still don’t have all the facts.
    What exactly are YOUR facts, and how did you obtain them?

    One more time, for the record, I investigated this story because it interested me — there were things I wanted to know, and I found out many others wanted to know too. Also because either a very poor investigation was conducted in 1906 – OR, a good investigation was NOT published, and I wanted to try to expose the way this story was spun. Whatever the case, you should know by now that those accused NEVER got a trial. They deserve to have the truth told, as much as can be established.

    I explore possibilities of OTHER suspects simply because the press did NOT do so at the time, and again, because the accused did not get a trial, which MIGHT HAVE explored other possibilities, at least ruled them out.

    This does NOT mean that I believe ANY of those possibilities are what happened. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. HOWEVER, because I AM NOT CONVINCED that those who were accused are the ones who killed MY and YOUR relatives, I must accept the fact that SOMEONE ELSE DID. AND I’D LIKE TO KNOW WHO IT WAS, IF IT’S STILL POSSIBLE TO FIND OUT.

    I only explore the possibilities that I could come up with, based on all the info I could gather in that time and with the income I had to work with, because that’s all I have.


    I would love to hear who you think did this.

    Now, about Will Wetmore:(re Joy’s remark)
    I DID NOT say that he was involved in the lynching of those two young boys. I said, for the record, that a Benson descendant said he was. Those are two different things.

    And finally,
    I spoke at the History Club last Tuesday night (or, I stuttered )– During that meeting, a woman sitting at the back stood up and spoke to the audience. If I recall correctly, she said that Deputy Pat Sloop was her grandfather. He was the deputy who testified that while he was attempting to defend the jail on August 6, a bullet grazed his head. The woman (and I haven’t had a chance to ask permission to use her name, so I am not using it now) had not read my book, so when she mentioned the part about the bullet, I told her that was in the book.
    She went on to say (again, as I recollect) that her mother told her that her father had said that the one who killed the Lyerlys GOT AWAY — that it was generally understood, at least among the officers, that the blacks who were accused were innocent. I had her repeat this.

    I believe the history club will have a transcript of that meeting available soon, if you’d like to hear it for yourself.

    So tell me why I should have let this whole thing just lie as it was. Should we let the descendants of likely innocent men live with the shame of paying for a crime they did not commit? Does only your pain matter?

    I, personally would like to see some residents in that area go down to Cedar Grove AME Zion Church and ask the congregation for forgiveness for all the hell their/our ancestors put theirs through — at least, for God’s sake, think about something besides your own pain. Think about how we were all robbed by this scourge on our land. Think of ways to make it right, rather than bury it.

    I, for one, want to stop burying the past, at least until it stops repeating itself.

    Or think what you want to. It’s a free country — for some, that is.

  17. Renea lyerly Julian

    The world is full of opinions but, I know that
    what I have ARE facts. You may say whatever
    you chose, that does not change anything. You
    may defer others thinking not mine. This is
    anything but interesting, it is demented! You
    can not end the pain and sorrow for anyone.
    Only Christ can do that. Talk with all the
    people you want to, see if it makes you feel
    better. They are sins of others and you can’t
    change it. I have read the comments of other
    people on this site. We do not need a Bible
    Scholar or something else for you to try to
    make a BIG ISSUE over. GOD said:Thou Shall Not
    KILL! As far as your comment: Some of us
    are free: Whom the SON has set free is free
    Indeed. Also, you may want to think more about
    what you say because, the Tounge Cuts Like a
    Two Edeged Sword. This is not A Game Called
    Salisbury, it is peoples lives. It seems to me
    that for some reason your way of thinking is
    stuck in the 1960’S with some 1906 thinking
    stuck in the middle of it all. Are you Okay
    Susan? Is there something out there torturing
    you? GOD be with you through this, whatever this
    IS? Only you know.


  18. Renea lyerly Julian

    There is one more important thing (To Me That
    IS)I forgot to say. I do not feel like I
    should apologize to anyone! I had nothing to
    do with any of these murders! I will not comment
    on the people that killed the Lyerly’s but, I
    will say I DON’T NEED an apology from their family.
    It will not bring anyone back, nor will it make
    it right. I think on a different level than
    you do. Also, here we go again with who is kin
    to whom. I know who I am related to. Here again
    you try to plant doubt. Guess what? It’s not
    working. Rape still goes on today, it sickens
    me! Why would you imply somethng so hideous
    about someone you don’t even know? More
    speculation on your part and the saga

  19. Ms. Julian,

    I am trying to understand exactly where your
    anger is coming from. If you could clear this up for me, I would appreciate it very
    Do you believe that the folks lynched were
    responsible for the murder of our relatives? My great grandfather was Augusta’s brother. And do you believe that
    that the boys lynched for Cornelia’s
    murder were guilty? It is indeed a tragedy
    that some believe that those responsible
    for the horrible butchery of the Lyerly
    family might have gone free. I can not
    for the life of me understand how or
    why you call Susan, demented, warped,
    etc.. Could you possibly misunderstand
    her intentions? If my great grandfather
    failed to use his influence to disband a
    mob hellbent on public murder…I have to
    admit that I feel disappointment and
    maybe even shame. I am grateful for others
    in my family, that taught me that Justice
    is not found by a MOB, ever. I really
    think that you misunderstand Susan. She is
    a very kind, patient and compassionate
    person. We are cousins. I did not know of
    my kinship to Augusta Lyerly through my
    great grandfather until a few years ago.
    Why are you so angry with her?

  20. Renea,
    I give you the last word on this “discussion.” I have nothing more to say to you.

  21. Salisbury is my home town, with relatives
    scattered over Western Rowan County, I would
    like to say that because of Ms. Wells book,
    I have experienced an introduction to many
    wonderful people and my sense of family has
    grown. Many folk
    acknowledge that our families are examples of diversity, reaching beyond German, Scotch Irish, English, Prussian and Native American. Renea, you are so
    adamant…so positive that Susan is not
    related to you. I ask you honestly, WHY?
    You seem to see things as Black or White.
    You do not have exclusive rights to THE
    FAMILY as you so agressively and piously
    demand. Why do you not recognize her
    as someone clearly relative? Does her
    discovery of African DNA require that you
    distance yourself and discredit her
    shared lineage? You know, color,
    as defined by percentages. I could be
    blue eyed and blonde and according to the ole
    one drop rule, be legally black. There
    have been some in my family that would’ve
    preferred that not be shared. What
    about you? I just can’t figure out where
    your insistence that she be denied comes
    from. Only you can answer that


    Marilyn Harrison
    Great Grandaughter of
    John Redwine Barringer,
    brother to Augusta Lyerly

  22. Renea lyerly Julian

    That is fine, I guess it’s because we
    agree to disagree and have different ways of

  23. Renea lyerly Julian

    Ms. Harrison,
    I am not angry nor, do I dislike Susan. It
    seems to me that I hit nerves in people that
    I have never heard of before in my life. I am
    not ashamed of my Descendants. I know who I am
    and I know what my race is. As far as what I
    think and KNOW about the lynchings, I will
    keep it to myself. These types of things are
    are not for public discussion. As far as
    exclusive rights, no one has those. As far as
    respect for the murdered, I do have rights. It
    is a shame that they are not here to defend
    themselves againist someone who uses tragedy for
    profit! So, Ms. Harrison, how many times have
    you visited a grave site? As far as I can see
    with my own EYES, no one puts flowers or keeps
    up the grave sites but, LYERLY’s.
    So, in conclusion of this discussion I hope your
    questions are answered. Thank you Ms. Harrison
    for your questions, I was happy to answer
    Renea Lyerly Julian
    Daughter of Eubert and Ruby Lyerly
    Grandaughter of Joseph Lyerly

  24. Renea lyerly Julian

    Ms. Harrison,
    Please forgive me, I left something out.
    I have alot of friends but, you know we don’t
    have these discussions about I’m white,your
    black, your Native American, Korean,Pakistane.
    I wanted you to know this because, all of these
    colors that seem to be such an issue are my

  25. Dear Cousin Renaa,
    I changed my mind (which perhaps you will view as another contradiction, but so be it.)
    I will make one more response. I ended the discussion with you because you called me a liar, in so many words, still apparently believing I lie when I say I am related to Isaac and YOU. You called my thinking warped and demented, because I suggested the words in the Bible might actually be true and because I brought up the reality of the situation between slaves/sharecroppers and masters/owners, as evidenced by U.S. Census records from 1880 and 1870. You can ask the librarian to help you see these for yourself.

    How can I have a discussion with someone who so abuses me? This is not about whether or not we agree or disagree.

    Also, for the record, I would have to be on Oprah’s book club or get a NY Times review to make a profit on this book. I enjoyed the process of researching it, but it cost me thousands of dollars to tell this story. And I lived on a disability income, widowed with two children, which is why it took me so long.

    And finally, you contend, repeatedly, that you have the “facts” and yet you refuse to disclose where/how you got them, other than through one 1974 article that contains NO facts about who committed the murders of OUR relatives.

    Are you trying to say that you were old enough in 1906 to have witnessed the murders? Or that you know someone who has personally confessed to having murdered the Lyerlys? I can think of no other situation that would enable you to KNOW what happened that night, unless you want to tell us all what that is.

    Perhaps you are just confused and mean no harm. In that case, no offense taken.

  26. Renea lyerly Julian

    For the record,I didn’t call you warped,
    Joy did. Demented, I said that.
    Please get it straight. Furthermore, I AM
    finished with this. I have nothing more to
    say to you or anyone else. Good Luck……..

  27. Oh, good, glad you straightened that out; demented sounds so much better.

  28. Susan Barringer Wells

    One additional comment to any relatives of mine or others who have been upset by the book or taken offense at any errors of speculation on my part (or errors of fact). None were intentional or meant to cause anyone pain, especially considering that pivotal events in the story occurred over a century ago.
    My intent was to merely give the accused the benefit of the doubt and to publish all I could find out, written or spoken, about the story.
    And, I used this story to illustrate a serious phenomenon I believe continues to corrupt, deceive, and harm us all, especially our country.
    Given my intent, it’s hard for me to apologize for writing this book or for any pain it may cause anyone, nevertheless, I am sorry if anyone has suffered anything because of its publication.
    It is Easter, can we bury the axe about who might have done what and concentrate on the more important purpose of the book, to reveal our errors and resurrect the good intent in us all.

  29. Nancy Murphrey

    To Bloggers and Descendants of Susan Wells:

    I would like to state that Susan B. Wells became a personal close friend in the course of producing a film on many stories similiar to the 1906 lynchings in Salisbury. This is America’s past. No one should be afraid to confront injustices no matter when or where they occurred.
    Susan is one of the most compassionate, kind and non-judgemental people I know. On the course of interviewing some folks in the Salisbury area some years back, it was Susan who reprimended me for being judgemental. At no time did she point fingers at white people and make them quilty for horrendous crimes and injustices perpetrated against the African-American population; instead, she had an attitude of compassion that many southerners have simply been brainwashed into believing somehow that they are entitled to their white skin privilege.
    I have a similiar history as Susan’s. It took time for me to grow into the compassion that Susan holds for her fellow Southerners. I moved away from the south many years ago and never wanted to return after all I witnessed and experienced. It is Susan who has given me a softened edge to my film. It is Susan who has gone personally to the families of the lynching victims. It is Susan who has had the courage to confront the Southern pride and white supremacy that allowed to little boys to be hung in 1902 in Salisbury as well. Have any of you bloggers shown any compassion for the ongoing terror and shame that has endured for these black families who know that at ANY moment one of them could be dragged from their homes with no chance of justice from the system that was against them from the start?
    Susan is a modern-day Joan of Arc who blazed a new trail for those of us who carry the collective guilt that our ancestors and forebearers perpetrated on the African-American race. She has a heart of gold and a mind of steel to take on this task of unpleasantry of digging up these crimes. All the naysayers ragging on Susan are just self-centered and mean individuals who care only about the white pride who sent thousands of men, women and children to horrific deaths, strung up like cattle and their body parts paraded like a circus freak show.
    Horray for Susan. I wish there were a million more like her. Unfortunately, she is a rare breed.
    Thanks to those relatives who have seen what Susan’s true intent for this book was all about. And her honesty and straightforwardness are there for all to see. Please change your hearts, relatives. Instead of pointing the finger at Susan, take the plank out of your own eye.

  30. What is so sick about this book is that you
    accuse Joseph Lyerly of murdering his parents
    and siblings. You have no proof, and furthermore
    admit that it is speculation. But, this is
    TERRIBLE to do to the descendants of Joseph
    Lyerly. You have no evidence whatsoever, yet
    you put the blame on him. If I were the direct
    descendents, I would sue you for slander. I
    am also a Lyerly, born a Lyerly and am a DIRECT
    descendant of Jacob Lyerly, Johann Christopher
    Layrle (Lyerly). If I were descended from
    Johann’s son Christopher, I would have you in
    court. You would have to RETRACT your unfounded
    and unproven accusations against my ancestor.

  31. marilyn harrison

    In reference to the comment made August 8th,
    and signed by Marilyn. It is not
    Marilyn Harrison. A Marilyn Lyerly perhaps?
    Thanks, Marilyn Harrison

  32. Susan Barringer Wells

    Dear Marilyn (of August 2008 comment)

    Please re-read the book and correct
    your accusations against me.
    I do NOT accuse Joseph Lyerly, and I ALSO share ancestry with Joseph and Isaac and, if you are correct, with YOU.

    What I do in the book is provide evidence
    of FRICTION between Joseph and Augusta (my
    great aunt) and possibly with her and
    Issac’s daughters, my DOUBLE cousins.

    My point is that the excuse for BLAMING the tenant farmers for the ax murders was
    not too different than what was also true
    of Joseph’s relationship with at least some of the Lyerlys.


    I provide an ALTERNATE speculation to the widely-publicized and long-standing assumption that
    the tenant farmers were unquestionably guilty.
    Where this story is concerned, it is ALL speculation.

    Also, in the book, are discussions of other possibilities based on any information I was able to obtain in the time I spent researching the story. But it was hard to
    obtain other views on what happened, since ,despite the weak case against the tenant farmers,the press hardly considered any other suspects. Also because, of course, the lynching truncated the trial before ANY evidence was heard.

  33. “Often the dominant black male in a community was culled, and this may have been the only crime that Nease committed, being a bit too uppity for the liking of whites who wanted hard labor for little or no pay. I can’t prove this was the case with Nease, I only know that it was a common occurrence during that time.”

    REALLY? And just what is the source for this? I am VERY curious!

    You should drop over to my site, where I am building quite an extensive list of black male atrocities. Of course, I do believe the black males in this particular atrocity were guilty. Question: Did you write this book the way you did, implying innocents on the part of the blacks, because that was the only way to get the book published?

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