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Police Blotter: Rape, Violence, Murder, Mayhem

Think Charlotte is rough today? Let's go back in time, to the early 1900s, when crime in the Queen City was a daily sport


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THROW THE BUM IN JAIL: At the beginning of the last century, homelessness wasn't just a social problem, it also was a crime for which people were regularly arrested by Charlotte police. In April 1902, Son Woods was arrested for vagrancy and having no means of support despite being "physically able to work." Woods was found guilty. After losing an appeal to superior court, he was sentenced to 30 days in the county jail, where he was assigned to "work the public roads" as part of his punishment.

• Georgia Gilbert was arrested in May 1912 for "becoming a vagrant by leading an immoral life." She was later sentenced to 30 days in jail.

• John Chipperfield was arrested in September 1900 on vagrancy charges. Chipperfield was a "good looking white boy," according to the Charlotte News, and the mayor took pity on the defendant because he claimed to be looking for work. The mayor dropped the charges against Chipperfield in return for a promise that he would leave town.

• The same day, John Glover also went before the mayor on vagrancy charges. The News described Glover as a "little negro ragged and dirty who finds pleasure in curling up and going to sleep in a coal car or under a house." He was fined $2.50 and sent to work on a chain gang.

TO GIVE HIS WIFE BREAD: In August 1900, a young white man named Ed Ross was arrested for stealing a pistol from M.M. Thomas. When he went before the mayor, Ross told of how he and his wife, who had just been married the week before, were robbed of $23 on their way to Charlotte. He stole the gun and resold it to feed his wife because she was hungry, he said. Prison officials reported that the young wife sat by her husband's cell all night and wouldn't leave.

"As soon as the facts were known, the sympathetic heart of the public said, 'He is guiltless,'" the Charlotte News reported.

A glowing article in the News announcing that the mayor had dropped the charges ended with this: "Ross is a nice looking young man. He has a pleasant face and manner. He is going into business here, and is to establish a bicycle messenger service."

WOMEN BEHAVING BADLY: Estelle Ivens of Huntersville was charged with assault and battery in April 1911 for bashing her friend Jane Johnson over the head with a three-pound rock and shooting her. Johnson survived the attack and testified against Ivens. The verdict recorded in the court file was in illegible handwriting and is unknown.

• In August 1911, two women, Julia Sims and Mary Ellis, were charged with arson after they attempted to burn down a store owned by J.J. Padgett.

• Paw Creek Township authorities originally arrested Lillie Watts for beating Emma Houston with a rock weighing more than three pounds in October 1911. A jury later found both women guilty of beating each other with large rocks. Their sentences weren't recorded.

• Mr. P. Vanderburg limped to town in February 1889 to file charges against his wife, whom he claimed had "beaten him up with a stick" for the second time in 24 hours, which he told the Charlotte News was "one time too much." The attack left Vanderburg with a mangled, bloody hand, a knot on his elbow and a "lame" leg. "Jealous implications appear to have been the trouble," the paper reported.

• In February 1913, Hattie Ponders assaulted Dora Alexander with a knife, cutting her several times. Ponders was sentenced to 30 days in jail during which time she would be hired out during the day by the county commission.

• When Constable J.A. Porter tried to arrest Grace Miller on larceny charges in April 1902, she refused to go and beat him over the head with a pint bottle. Miller was eventually arrested. Assault and resisting arrest charges were added to her record.

• In March 1912, Hattie Flack of the Paw Creek Township was arrested for assaulting William Westbrooks with an ax.

JAIL BREAK: Lucille Boyd, 18-year-old wife of James Norwood, was arrested for sneaking hacksaw blades to her husband in jail, which he and other inmates used to break out. Several of the other inmates got away, but Norwood, who was considerate enough to allow them to go first, never made it outside the jail.

THE GREAT CHICKEN HEIST: C.M. Mears was indicted on charges of stealing 12 chickens from farmer W.L. Ware in April 1912.


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