Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fratricide (continued)

The parishioners of Rocky Mount Baptist Church thought that Pete might have received a ticket to Paradise that morning, but he returned home in a despondent mood. 

Meanwhile Jesse was in a rage. Jerusalem Primitive Baptist Church did not have services that morning. Jesse dragged his father over to the churchyard screaming that since the church did not have a cemetery, he would start one with the body of his brother. He demanded that his father choose a place for Pete’s grave. The old man refused and, finally having got Jesse somewhat under control, returned home

Returning home from church Pete stabled his horse and sat on the porch. Jesse was upstairs and ran down the stairs with his pistol screaming. His mother grabbed him and tried to stop him, but he shoved her out of the way. Pete heard the commotion and started into the house. Jesse shot him three times and the bullets slammed him to the floor. He was dead before he hit the floor.

Mr. Edwards, unable to face the insanity of one son and the murder of the other, ran away blindly. Mrs. Edwards screamed in anguish and cradled the body of her murdered son while Jesse stood behind her holding the gun that had killed his brother. Pete’s blood pooled on the porch, dripped through the cracks between the boards and stained the big rock used as a step. It was said that the stains could never be removed from either the porch, the rock or the doorway. Finally the boards were replaced and the rock taken away.

With a return of sanity and overwhelmed by his act, Jesse went to a neighbor’s house and asked him to take him to the sheriff in Anson county. 

The elders of Jerusalem Primitive Baptist Church the next day laid off lines running east to west for a grave that would begin the new cemetery. Cyrus Field “Pete” Edwards was buried with his head to the west so that on Resurrection Day he would face the dawn. 

The judge sentenced Jesse to prison rather than hanging because he probably suspected Jesse’s insanity. His parents, having lost one son, began a campaign to get this son pardoned.

The first one to see Pete’s ghost was the painter. He was hired to paint and get the house ready for Jesse’s return and was staying with the Edwards until he finished. He was awakened the first night by footsteps coming up the stairs. The door creaked open and the drawers on the dresser that Pete used began opening and closing. When the same thing happened the second night, the painter made other arrangements.

Mrs. Edwards died 25 May 1913 shortly after Jesse returned home. His father, who was in failing health, moved in with another relative leaving Jesse alone in the house.

The murder that he had committed began to eat away at Jesse’s soul. He could not rid himself of the awful act and was unable to sleep. He could not get the bloodstains off the doorway.

He began hearing Pete’s ghost. He “felt” it leave the cemetery, walk onto the porch and open and close the front door. He could hear steps on the stairs and footsteps moving around the house. In desperation, Jesse asked his nephew, Wilson Edwards, to come and live with him. But the extra person in the house did not stop the ghost. Wilson heard the footsteps crossing the porch and when he grabbed the knob he felt it turn in his hand.

Finally Jesse and Wilson nailed the door shut and piled furniture against it, leaving them with only a window to enter and leave the house. The ghost still stalked.

In a final move Jesse decided to leave. He joined his brother, Wilson’s father, in operating a feed store in Oakboro. On the weekends he returned to the family place where the ghost still stalked.

After seven years of torment, Jesse came down with pneumonia. He was critically ill and in delirium mumbled that his brother was playing the fiddle from a faraway place. Before he died he said he would rather be a dog sleeping on the doorstep than to be his brother’s murderer. Jesse died 30 April 1917 at the age of 46.

Jesse was buried next to Pete in the Jerusalem cemetery. As the burial detail was shoveling dirt into the grave, they realized Jesse was facing the wrong way. They debated digging the coffin up, but one of them said, “No. Just leave it that way. Pete will have an even chance since Jesse ain’t got no pistol now. They can come out fightin’ face to face when they rise at Judgment.”
Source: The Marshville Home News; Thursday, February 27, 1992. “A Ghost Story The Evil Men Do” by Lee Little.

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