Tag Archives: Susan Wells

Charlotte observer, book reviews, Susan Wells, A game called Salisbury, snubbed?

There is a rumor circulating that the Charlotte Observer has snubbed Susan Wells, penname Susan Barringer Wells. Susan has written a new book, “A Game Called Salisbury.” The book is about the murder of the Lyerly Family in 1906 and the subsequent  arrest and later lynching of 3 sharecroppers. The book is also about racial attitudes in the south and the nation. There is a Charlotte connection beyond any racial aspects. The 3 prisoners were brought to Charlotte for their safety before the trial was to begin. After their return to the Rowan County jail, an angry mob, stirred up by outsiders, lynched the 3 men.

Book signings have been taking place all over the state and the Greensboro Daily News, The Asheville Citizen and Salisbury Post have written articles about Susan and the book. With the involvement of the Mecklenburg County Jail in the story and Susan’s ancestral roots going back over 250 years all around Charlotte, one would think that sufficient to warrant coverage. Is there some other reason? Is this just a unjustified rumor? Are there still remnants of racism in Charlotte? Charlotte Observer, do you have a response?

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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

Susan,

” 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.

Sincerely,
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?

Susan

To learn more about Salisbury and  North Carolina Click here

 

Susan Wells new book A Game Called Salisbury *update*

I am correcting my posting on Susan Barringer Wells new book, A Game Called Salisbury. I had understood that it was about the last mob lynching in North Carolina. This is what Susan said:

 Hey, and thanks for the publicity!
Just want to correct a couple of things:
1)This lynching in Salisbury, NC was considered the last in Rowan County. Several more of these types of atrocities occurred in NC after 1906, and there is a good chance at least one more happened in Rowan.
2) Six were actually arrested, including a 15-year-old and the wife, rumored to be pregnant, of one of the lynching victims. Three, including the child, were lynched

Susan Wells new book A Game Called Salisbury

Susan Wells has written a new book, A Game Called Salisbury, about
the last known mob lynching in NC and the murders of The Lyerly Family.
Susan, writing under the penname, Susan Barringer Wells, is better
known as one of the premier artists at the Outer Banks of NC, where she is known by her married name of Susan Wells Vaughan. Barringer
is Susan’s mother’s maiden name. The Lyerly Family members that were murdered were close relatives of Susan’s great grandfather.
The book deals mostly with events after the night time murder. Three
sharecroppers living nearby were arrested and taken to the Rowan County Jail. Although there was much concern in the state and nation
about the prisoners safety, there were elements in society that were
racist and had their own agenda. Susan attempts to shed light on the
many components that allowed the mob to storm the jail and hang the
prisoners.
The book is published by Infinity Press and can be purchased at
Literary BookPost in downtown Salisbury NC
704-630-9788
To read more about the book and a recent book signing in Salisbury
visit:

http://archive.salisburypost.com/archive_detail.php?archiveFile=./pubfiles/sls/archive/2007/December/07/Lifestyle/95577.xml&start=0&numPer=20&keyword=susan+barringer+wells§ionSearch=&begindate=1%2F1%2F1983&enddate=12%2F31%2F2007&authorSearch=&IncludeStories=1&pubsection=&page=&IncludePages=1&IncludeImages=1&mode=allwords&archive_pubname=Salisbury+Post%0A%09%09%09