Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16, 1885: Noah Cherry

Today we travel in history to Virginia through the pages of the Richmond Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia) dated November 17, 1885:



End of the Princess Anne County Fiend—Miss Alice Powell Avenged—A Full Confession.

[Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]

NORFOLK, November 16, 1885.

The funeral of Miss Alice Powell, the young girl whose body was found in the woods, took place from the residence of her father, Charles H. Powell, on the Brook farm, near Kempsville, on yesterday afternoon, and was attended by several hundred people of the neighborhood, the services being conducted by Rev. R. W. Cridlin, of Portsmouth. The excitement among the people at the funeral was intense, and it was soon evident that there was a determination among the men to take the law in their own hands. 

Late Saturday night the murderer, Noah Cherry, was taken to Princess Anne Courthouse and placed in jail. On Sunday morning Constable Ferrall and John Herrick visited Jennie Linsay, the grandmother of Cherry. On her premises was found a lot of bloody clothing belonging to Cherry, and in the clothing several school-books and other things belonging to Alice Powell. The finding of these things and certain other developments fixed the guilt fully on Cherry, and after the funeral a large body of citizens left for the Courthouse. By 10 o'clock last night the crowd had reached the vicinity of the Courthouse, on the North Landing road, and numbered nearly 200 persons. Fifteen of the party was selected to do the work. It was 11 o'clock when the jail was reached. The jailer (Mr. Murden) and his wife, who occupy a portion of the prison building, were asleep, and were hastily awakened. As soon as the door was opened the crowd rushed into the house in a body. The keys of Cherry's cell were demanded, but the jailer refused to give them up. This made no difference with the crowd, as sledge-hammers and crow-bars had been brought along. The cell of the murderer was easily found, he being the only prisoner in the building. The lock gave way under a single blow, and Noah Cherry, half-dead with fright, was hurried half-dressed from the building. On getting outside of the jail the negro jerked away from his captors and attempted to escape, but was halted by a pistol shot, the ball of which entered his arm. The negro was then carried down the road to the Hickory-Bridge school-house, the place of execution. He was told that he had but a few minutes to live, and asked why he murdered Alice Powell. He at first denied the crime, but finally made a full confession, stating that he killed her for revenge, and used an axe. He said that he had planned her murder. He waited on the road for her. She came by singing, and when he assaulted her she made no outcry. She only prayed the Lord to have mercy on her soul as he dragged her into the thicket, and killed her almost instantly with the axe. He also confessed other crimes, robbery, etc., which he had committed at different times in the neighborhood. The wretch was then told to get down on his knees and pray, which he did in a rambling sort of way. After a short time had elapsed a noose (made from a clothes-line taken from Mr. Bonney's field) was placed around his neck, his hands and feet were tied, the rope was thrown over the branch of a pine-tree which stood on the road-side, the branch projecting over the road, and he was swung up, with a shout from the crowd. About one hundred pistol-shots were quickly fired into the body as it dangled from the tree. The party then quietly left the grounds, and this morning the body was cut down by the jailer for the purpose of holding an inquest. 

The lynching is very generally approved by the people of Princess Anne, both white and black, Cherry was of bad stock. Both his father and grandfather were hung in North Carolina for murder. 

Several persons from Norfolk attended the funeral of the girl, and afterwards the lynching at the Courthouse. 


We end with an article from The Rocket (Rockingham, N. C.) printed December 3, 1885:

Noah Cherry, who was lynched at Princess Anne, Va., on the 16th, was a son of Noah Cherry who was legally executed a few years ago at Goldsboro for a crime now fresh in the minds of our readers, and his father was also executed some years ago in this State. We hope the last Cherry has dropped from the tree.—Tar River Talker.

The elder Noah Cherry was executed on June 14, 1878 along with Harris Atkinson and Robert Thompson for the Worley murders. I couldn't find anything about his father's execution as mentioned in the article above. Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.


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  2. Replies
    1. Only the law should have been able to decide his fate. Murder is never "good riddance."