Written and Published Online by John Silver

w/contributing articles by various Silver cousins



Hello To All!


I’m saying hello to all instead of  “Ho, Ho, Ho”.  I, for one, have had enough ho-hos for the year!

I do hope that everyone had a nice Christmas and New Year.  We enjoyed ours immensely.  We had a chance to see our children and grandchildren all together.  They, as well as we, are doing fine in every respect.

It is with deep regret that I have to announce Cousin Rex Redmon’s departure from our contributing writers.  Rex has been an excellent editor, correspondent and a fantastic historic event reporter.  We will all miss him and his commentaries.  So, good luck and Godspeed in your many endeavors, Cousin.  There will always be an open chair for you if you should ever change your mind.

We have a nice article from Jack Silver for this month.  It is one of his articles, “Special People in Our Lives.” I know you will enjoy it.  I did.  Thanks a bunch, Jack, keep them coming.

Starting with this month we will run an article of seven parts that were printed beginning January 20, 1993 in the Mitchell News-Journal.  I think you will find it interesting.

Cousin John





A letter from Laura Cowan Cooper reminds us not to ask Mrs. Ruth Silver to unlock the Church doors so that visitors might visit the museum and view “the books.” I will be picking up the books during January to bring them back to Dover for update.  I cannot give an exact date that they will be finished and returned to Kona. In the meantime, Mrs. Ruth’s family has asked everyone not to call and ask her to escort them to them Church. Mrs. Ruth’s health and the cold weather absolutely forbid Mrs. Ruth from traveling to and spending time in the cold Church. The heat is turned off during the coldest months and the water is also turned off to prevent freezing. Please be patient and wait until warmer weather.








Each of us have people who have made a lasting impression on us and they are forever in our memory as “special people.”  One such person for me is the late Ged Roberson Sr.  Mr. Roberson was my Sunday School teacher when I was 12 years old.  Later, when I was 17 in 1944, Mr. Roberson gave me a job as a mechanic’s helper at the local Ford dealer, Matthews Motors on Coxe Avenue. (Asheville, NC)  Enlistments were frozen.  All young men had to wait for the draft board to call them.  I was in this waiting period without a job.  With the help of a classmate, Jack Roberson, I was hired by his father.

In WW2, most able-bodied men were in service.  Good mechanics were hard to find.  Mr. Roberson, service manager at Matthews, found a way to get work done.  He hired old mechanics that were not able to do the work, but still had the knowledge.  He hired young men below the draft age to work with these older mechanics and do the manual labor.  I was one of these lucky young men and my friend Jack was another.

Once, me and the mechanic I was helping were working on a 1937 Ford with a little 60 horsepower engine.  We had to chisel the two aluminum cylinder heads off the engine to install new cast iron heads.  We used acid to melt the aluminum.  My mechanic said the fumes made him drunk.  Mr. Roberson had been watching him and knew the man had been drinking.  He took his tools with him when he left.

Mr. Roberson brought in his own tool box and set it up on my work bench.  He told me to put the heads on the heads on the engine.  I was to go as far as his instructions and then stop.

Little by little, as he told me how, I put the engine together.  The other mechanics were teasing me.  They said I had put the heads on the wrong side and the engine would run backwards.  I worried a lot.  They once sent me for sky hooks, and I fell for that.  The engine ran perfect.

I rode the bus to work and was always early.  The Janitor, an older black man, let me in the front door.  At Mr. Roberson’s request, I opened the shop door on the floor above and drove out the cars that were brought in for safe keeping the night before, and left the cars that were actually being worked on inside each mechanic’s stall.  One morning, I opened the door of a big black Lincoln and crawled into the driver’s seat.  Then I became aware of a long white sheet draped over a long object on the passenger side.

The long sheet covered board was on top of the seat backs and stretched from the windshield to the rear view glass.  Curiosity got the best of me and I pulled back the sheet to see what was underneath.  I looked right into the face of a gray haired old dead man.  I left the car, the dead man and the garage in a panic. I ran around the building to the front door and pounded on it until the janitor let me in.  He was laughing his head off.  He had been watching from the stairs.  I was afraid Mr. Roberson would fire me for leaving the sheet off the dead man’s face, but I waited outside the shop door until he arrived, along with his son Jack.  I told him what I had done and watched his face.  At first there was a small grin as he tried to suppress laughter, but he couldn’t hold it.  He suddenly burst into laughter that took over his whole body.  His son, Jack, started laughing and the arriving mechanics joined in.  I was embarrassed at being laughed at but I finally started laughing, too.

It seemed that the old gentleman in the black Lincoln had died away from home and was being taken back in his own car.  The car had developed trouble as it passed through Asheville during the early morning hours.  Mr. Roberson had let the driver pull the car inside to wait for the shop to open.  The driver had gone up the street for breakfast.

Mr. Roberson didn’t fire me but he did make me drive the car into my stall and my mechanic and me repaired the generator.  I still kept one eye on the passenger in that big black Lincoln.

Jack Silver



A kinder, gentler time)


Part one of a seven part series



A visitor to the historic district of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, cannot miss the Johnson J. Hayes United States Courthouse and Post Office.  It is an imposing building prominently located right in the middle of the business district.  Persons looking for needless expenditures of Federal funds may consider this structure.  Contemporaneous with the construction of the courthouse a decision was made to no longer hold federal court in Wilkesboro.  When completed, the courtroom was not needed and for a while it sat empty.  In later years the government has leased the courtroom to the North Carolina District Court at nominal rental rates.

As a monument to Johnson J. Hayes, the imposing nature of the building is not misplaced.  Hayes was an imposing man in the history of Mitchell County and northwest North Carolina.  Appointed by President Calvin Coolidge as the first United States District Court Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina in 1927, John J. Hayes served in that capacity until his death in 1970.  To be considered for appointment to the Federal judiciary, one must usually have already made notable accomplishments.  Hayes claim to fame lay in the fact that he had been a North Carolina Solicitor for twelve years.  He was elected solicitor in the seventeenth district of North Carolina in 1914 for a term which began January 1, 1915.  In his autobiography Hayes was later to write,  “The seventeenth Judicial District was composed of Alexander, Avery, Catawba, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties, all then given safe Republican majorities.  The legislature arranged it this way, hoping to make the other nineteen districts Democratic.

The word “solicitor” appears in the North Carolina constitution and refers to the prosecuting attorney in criminal court.  Throughout much of our history this was the only title used to describe the office of the state prosecutor.  During the decade of the 1970s some people felt that the term, “district attorney” best described the office, and that more people would understand the function of that official than understood the position when the term solicitor was used.  An effort was made to change the title from Solicitor to District Attorney.  Since the office is constitutional, an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution would be required.  Both Houses of the North Carolina General Assembly approved an amendment that would have made this change, but when submitted to a vote of the people the constitutional amendment failed.   The General Assembly then legislated a bill which provided that whenever the word “solicitor” appeared in the Constitution or in law, then the word, “district attorney” could be used interchangeably.  In recent times all of North Carolina prosecutors have opted to be called district attorney.

Hayes’ autobiography points out the difficulty of travel in the mountain district in the early 1900s.  He states that in order for him to be in Bakersville on Monday mornings, he had to leave his home in Wilkes County on Friday evening.  He traveled by train from his home to Winston-Salem and from there to Barber Junction in Rowan County.  His next leg took him to Newton and then to Marion where he transferred to the Johnson City train to Toecane.  From Toecane he took a hack to Bakersville.

Hayes was a sober man and in his biography tells of an incident when, as a teenager, he made a choice not to consume alcoholic beverage.  Even so, as Federal Judge serving Wilkes and mountainous counties, he often dealt with liquor cases.  Ordinarily he dealt with these cases with harshness, but Palmer Triplett of Watauga County recalls a story that Judge Hayes once had his vehicle stuck in a creek near Darby.  The road itself required traffic to ford the creek.  Judge Hayes was helped by a resident of the area.  Sometime later this man stood convicted of making liquor before Judge Hayes who was to sentence him.  Giving a probationary sentence, Judge Hayes recalled the help that this convicted man had provided him and felt this characteristic justified mitigation.

Judge Hayes during his life told a story which he attributed to one of the lawyers who rode circuit in the area later to be Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, W. C. Newton.  Presiding over court in Bakersville was a harsh who was strict about courtroom decorum.  On one court date a man from Roan Mountain came to court with a red bandana handkerchief tied around his neck.  With his wide brim cowboy hat tucked under his arm, and with spurs on his heels, he reeled and rocked as he approached the bar.  The judge, thinking the man was drunk, ordered the sheriff to arrest this man and bring him around so the judge could conduct an inquiry.  This man from Roan Mountain insisted that he was not drunk, “I hain’t had a drap since before breakfast and only a small dram at that.”  Satisfied that he was executing a trap from which this man could not extricate himself, the judge challenged this man to walk along a crack in the floor of the aisle from the bench to the rear door and promised that if the man’s foot did not miss the crack then the judge would release this man.  “In his long strides of at least three feet at a step, he centered the crack each time.  When he got within about four feet from the door, he gave a big leap and yelled out as he went through the door, ‘Whoopee, by God, I did it.”

Hayes wrote in his biography that during his twelve years as a prosecutor in North Carolina only two persons prosecuted by him were electrocuted.  “It is my firm belief that these were the only two cases in my twelve years where the punishment was deserved.”  One of the death cases involved a rape case which happened in Catawba County and the other a rape case which happened in Mitchell County.  Of the latter, Hayes wrote, “an escaped convict chased a cow around in the pasture and then entered a farmhouse in which a seventy-five year old mother was alone at the time. He ravished her and was promptly caught by the officers.  He was tried, convicted and electrocuted.”  Judge Hayes, although he did not mention the name of this condemned man, was speaking of John Goss.

Rape historically has been punished in North Carolina by the death penalty.  During the time that Richard Nixon was President, the United States Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional the laws providing for the death penalty throughout the United States.  Several states immediately responded by reenacting the death penalty.  North Carolina legislators, seeking to overcome the Supreme Court ruling, and thinking that the fault lay in the fact that death sentences had been at the whim of juries, passed a law that provided that all persons convicted of first degree murder and rape should be sentenced to death.  North Carolina had more people on death row than any other state.  To some this was an embarrassment and the North Carolina Legislature then divided rape into two degrees — first and second with only first-degree rape punishable by death.  This scheme did not work and the Supreme Court once again declared our law void.  Thereafter the legislature eliminated rape as a capital crime, but the division of the two degrees of the crime still stand as North Carolina law.

In 1923, there was no division of rape into degrees, and as to persons who were convicted of this crime, the sentence was mandatory -- death by electrocution at the state prison in Raleigh.  John Goss who was to be prosecuted that year by Solicitor John J. Hayes in Mitchell County is the only man to have been executed in a case from Mitchell County.  This series is the story of that man’s crime, trial and execution.





Part TWO of a seven part series



Prison administrators maintain that they must be allowed to give incentives for good behavior as well as punish misbehavior of prison inmates.  North Carolina has often been at the forefront of creating new ideas for incentives for good behavior.  In 1923 the idea of the “trustee” system had only recently begun.  Prisoners who had served a significant portion of their sentence and who were well behaved at times were denominated as “trustees” and were given liberties not shared with the other inmates.  A serious crime in North Carolina in early 1923 by such a trustee brought the trustee program into the public spotlight.  Many felt that any subsequent egregious crime by one designated as a prison trustee would end the program.  Mitchell County was the site for such an occurrence.

John Goss had lived in New Hanover County, North Carolina.  An African-American, Goss lived in the second generation after the end of slavery in North Carolina.  He was an illiterate and his name was sometimes spelled as “Gause” as well as “Goss.”  He had been sentenced to the state prison from New Hanover County on January 20, 1913 and had served over ten years of his fifteen-year sentence.  In 1923 he was in the prison unit which at the time was located in Mitchell County.  John Goss had no prison demerits and was allowed to be a prison trustee.  Trustee prisoners were assigned work for a construction company working on road construction in Mitchell County.  Granting parole to shortening sentences had not yet come to North Carolina, but the trusteeship program allowed prisoners an opportunity to show responsibility and have some liberty from the structure of the prison.  Goss went to work on the morning of September 26, 1923.  Mrs. Alice Thomas was sixty-four years old.  She was alone in her neighborhood when during the day of September 26, 1923, she reported that she had been raped by a black male.  The events that followed this accusation set forth a chain of events which in retrospect, even after the passage of nearly seventy years, must be viewed both as monumental and historic if not without parallel in our history.  Within days, the rural lady who had lead up to that time an unassuming life was to have her picture appear in a Sunday Edition of the Asheville Citizen, and the State of North Carolina was to provide passage by train for a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, for her and her husband.   Angry white men were to forcibly expel from Mitchell County the small number of African-Americans who had recently made their residence there.  The Town of Spruce Pine was to become an armed military encampment, news stories with a dateline “Spruce Pine” were front page material for several weeks and one of the largest crowds ever to witness a term of court were to assemble for the trial of John Goss.

On September 26,1923, a small posse was formed consisting of Deputy Sheriff Mack Buchanan and some of Mrs. Thomas’ relatives and it began searching for the fugitive known then only as a black man.  These men traveled on foot and later estimated that their efforts to have covered seventy-five miles over rough terrain.  This group operated on the assumption that their quarry would travel east and they were able to find every now and again clues that ultimately led them to a railroad pass near Drexel in Burke County.  In Burke County, the posse was joined by Burke County Sheriff Michaud and one of his deputies.  The group assumed that the fugitive had boarded a train at the overpass near Drexel.  Deputy Sheriff Haliburton boarded the next train going east and he reached Hickory, North Carolina on September 29, 1923.

Three full days had passed when during the night of Saturday, September 29, 1923, Hickory, North Carolina Chief of Police E. W. Lentz, saw a black man coming out of a house in Hickory.  The strange man was eating cheese and crackers.  Lentz arrested this man and determined that his name to be John Goss.  Word had reached Hickory concerning the incident in Mitchell County and Lentz interrogated his arrestee.  Lentz told a newspaper reporter that Goss had confessed that he had lured a woman out of her house in Mitchell County, but insisted that he had done so only to get a pair of shoes.  Since Goss was an escapee from prison, Hickory officials took Goss without delay to the State Prison at Raleigh.

In Mitchell County, on September 26, 1923, out of the coves in the mountains came men intent on capturing the black accused of rape.  As the posse had begun its journey into Burke County, a large number of angry white citizens remained in Mitchell County.  Gradually that day, word spread that a Negro had escaped from the convict camp and that he was probably the rapist.  Crowds emboldened by whisky and their fear of an unknown assailant at large in the community began a forcible roundup of all African-Americans in the area around Spruce Pine.  Later estimates placed the number of white persons to be close to two hundred and this group, armed and rowdy, corralled approximately 100 black citizens and forced them on a trek to the railroad depot in Spruce Pine.  A southern-bound train was stopped and the blacks were required to fill five freight cars and sent against their will to Spartanburg, South Carolina.  These men made advances on other black residents in Spruce Pine, but in the end contented themselves by delivering an ultimatum that all blacks leave Spruce Pine the next day.

On September 27, 1923, the anxious mob continued its work and blacks still in the area fled under threat of white retaliation.  At the conclusion of September 27, 1923, all blacks known to be in the area with the exception of one lady in Spruce Pine had been forcibly removed or had left the area under compulsion.  Spruce Pine was now a whites only town.

The town of Spruce Pine offered a two hundred dollar reward for the capture of the person who had assaulted Mrs. Mack Thomas.  The Mayor of Spruce Pine, A. N. Fuller, notified Governor Cameron Morrison of the forcible evacuation of all black citizens from Mitchell County.  Thus began the involvement of the State of North Carolina into the deteriorated condition in Spruce Pine.  On September 27, 1923, Governor Morrison in Raleigh issued a news release.


A serious situation has arisen at Spruce Pine, in Mitchell County, which caused the Governor to dispatch Adjutant General Metts there by the first train.  He is instructed to keep in touch with developments and advise the Governor immediately if any assistance is needed in maintaining law and order.


The Governor late this afternoon received a telegram from local authorities indicating that there has been some movement started toward driving colored labor away from the place.  He immediately informed the authorities that he would afford the community ample protection, in order to safeguard the rights of all its citizens, both white and colored.

On the same day, Governor Morrison telegraphed the Spruce Pine officials:  Hon. A.N. Fuller, Mayor, Spruce Pine, N.C., T. W. Deyton, Sanitary Officer, Spruce Pine, N.C., Dr. Charles A. Peterson, Spruce Pine, N.C., Dan W. Adams, Spruce Pine, N.C.


Please call on local authorities to uphold the law and protect everybody in their rights, including the colored people.  I am directing Adjutant General Metts to leave for Spruce Pine tonight.  I will afford all the protection the local authorities may require.




Parts three and four next month !





terry hall


Asheville, NC
25 December 2006


ELKIN—Terry Hall, 92, one of Yancey County’s most historic natives, died Friday, December 22, 2006, at his home in Elkin.

Mr. Hall was the sheriff of Yancey County from 1950 to 1958.  During his term as sheriff, he introduced fingerprinting to the county. After his terms of office he became a North Carolina ABC agent until his retirement. One of his most noteworthy accomplishments was for busting the most moonshine stills in North Carolina history. He was an avid hunter and fisherman.  He was a member of the Crabtree Baptist Church.  Everyone who knew him liked and respected him. That was something he held near and dear to his heart.

Terry left behind his loving wife and best friend of 72 years, Edna Sparks Hall; their two sons, Johnny Hall and his wife Lisa of Burnsville and Kenny Hall and wife, Melissa, of North Wilkesboro; four grandchildren, Terry and wife Susan, Johnny, Michael and Amanda Hall; two great-grandchildren, Andrew Hall and Ryan Briggs; two sisters, Norma Westall and Jewell Hall.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Shelby and Ruby Clontz Hall; four sisters, Elma, Donna, Glenna and Wilma; three grandchildren, David, Pamela and Johnna Hall.

The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the chapel of Holcombe Brothers Funeral Home.  The Reverend Wayne Byrd will officiate.  Burial will be in the Will Young Cemetery.

The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service.


(George Silver Sr.> George Silver Jr.> Rev. Jacob Silver > Rev. Edmund Drury Silver > Nancy Taylor “Nannie” Silver m. John L. Hall > Shelby Gilroy Hall > Terry Hall.)




John Silver
Genealogist & Editor
64S Fairfield Drive
Dover, DE 19901
[email protected]

Barney Kaufman
7408 Lake Drive
Manassas, VA 20111-1960
[email protected]