Saturday, July 2, 2016


Mr. James Blackwell, Flagman on the A.C.L.,
Shot and Killed by a Tramp Near Dunn, (Harnett Co.), N. C.
—The Murderer Escaped—A Posse in Pursuit.

            One of the most cold blooded murderers which has occurred in this State for some years was committed between Benson (Johnston Co.,) and Dunn, N. C., last Saturday night. The unfortunate victim was Mr. James Blackwell, of Foreston, S.C., flagman of the A. C. L. fast mail No. 35 and a most estimable young man. The crew of train No. 35 had been caused considerable trouble and annoyance since leaving Wilson (Wilson Co.) by several tramps, and Conductor McDonald had thought himself rid of these unpleasant and unwelcome passengers, until entering Mingo swamp (Harnett Co.), between Benson and Dunn, about twelve minutes to one o’clock, when engineer Donlanson discovered two of the tramps clambering from the tender to the baggage car. Upon reaching the water tank the train was stopped and the crew was stationed on different parts of the train to prevent the tramps getting aboard again. The most reliable statement of the shooting is that the two tramps came to that portion of the train where Flagman Blackwell was stationed and were endeavoring to get back under the train, and when stopped one picked up something from the ground, saying, “There’s — — who put us off,” whereupon Flagman Blackwell replied that it was not he but the conductor. The other tramp then spoke up and said, “I’ll fix the — —,” and pulled his pistol and fired, hitting Mr. Blackwell, the ball entering his bowels, killing him in a very few minutes.
         Engineer Donlanson hearing the firing ran back to where Mr. Blackwell was stationed, enquired the cause of firing and Mr. Blackwell’s reply was his last words on earth, “I am shot.” The train was hurried to the next station, where a doctor was secured, but too late to render any assistance, as the unfortunate victim died between ten and fifteen minutes after being shot.

            During the excitement which occurred immediately after the shooting the murderer took to the woods. The tramp was very grimy and dirty, making recognition quite difficult, but he is believed to be a man by the name of Gill, who has caused the conductors on the southern Railway between Durham (Durham Co) and Raleigh (Wake Co.) much trouble, and who is said to have been very insulting to several ladies in Johnston county.
            A special train with a posse of determined men and several bloodhounds was sent from Florence and reached the scene of the crime about six hours after the dastardly deed was committed, and are scouring the country in search of the murderer.
            The unfortunate victim’s remains were carried to Fayetteville (Cumberland Co.) Saturday night, prepared for burial and sent to ?? Sunday night, his brother accompanying them.
            Mr. Blackwell was about 27 years of age, unmarried and highly esteemed by his employers and all with whom he came in contact. He had recently, from his savings, purchased a farm at Foreston, S. C., and placed his father upon it. The A.C.L. authorities have offered a reward of $250 for the capture of the murderer.
            It is reported the bloodhounds and posse tracked the murder to the Cape Fear river near Fayetteville, where, it is thought, he crossed the river, and it is to be hoped that he will be caught, and justice will soon be meted to him in the manner he deserves.

[Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, NC) 17 Aug 1897]

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