Born ca. 1761 possibly in Northampton County, in 1802 Thomas Dickey (Dickens) received a land grant in Chatham County for 50 acres adjoining the Moore County line. Thomas Dickens’ land was close to the Cape Fear River adjoining that of John Womack. It was east of Joseph Thomas’ who later sold his land to Ishmael Roberts, who was a person of color.
Trying to connect the dots and not finding any information documenting whose son he was and exactly where he lived, it is known at some point a person by name of Anderson Dickens gave an acre of land for what was later listed in a Federal case as being a church. However, depositions indicate the land may have actually been used for a school. Either way, located near the original 50 acre grant issued to Thomas Dickens, the church/school was for the use of the community of African Americans who lived in the neighborhood.
Also of importance, Henderson Judd lived near Anderson Dickens. A prosperous white farmer, prior to the close of the civil war, Henderson had fathered at least five mulatto children born to his slave/housekeeper named Mary. And following the close of the war, Henderson Judd and Mary had an additional five children. It was in 1871 that the aging Henderson Judd conveyed land to his freed black children. It’s at this time starting in the winter of 1871 that things went horribly wrong.
On two separate occasions occurring in short succession, five disguised clansmen swept into the community. When apprehended and asked of their rationale, the five men gave the following answer: “they were going to drive the negroes out of the county; that they were not going to allow them to be there.” Of the five, only one was seen and recognized, and his name was John Yerby Thomas.
The events are well documented with a sworn examination taking place in Washington DC. Deputy US Marshall Joseph G. Hester operating out of Raleigh handled the cases and he gave testimony of events beginning in January 1871. In the first event, Joseph Hester was sent to a place called Big Poplar, at the corner of Harnett, Moore and Chatham Counties with a warrant to arrest parties going in disguise upon the public highways. They were also trespassing upon the premises of William Judd, Stokes Judd, and Anderson Dickens and of “burning a church on the land of Anderson Dickens.” A white man, Anderson Dickens had given the small black community ground near Judd’s to build a church/school. Soon after it was built, the group of disguised men came to Dickens’ house in the dark of night. Using fence rails to break down the door, Dickens and his wife were compelled to take fire from their own place and to carry it to the little church. Dickens was forced to take benches from the church and he was commanded to pile them into the middle of the floor. His wife was compelled to gather brush and sticks from the woods. A fire was kindled and soon the church was in flames. Afterward, Dickens and his wife were told to go home and to never speak of the evening. The men then went to William Judd’s and whipped his son and then to Stokes Judd and whipped him too. Both victims were people of color with Stokes possibly being Cherokee.
The five men were arrested and carried to Raleigh; however all gave bond and returned home. Two or three days afterward, William Judd, whose son had been previously whipped, came to Raleigh and made a second complaint. Upon his return, the Ku-Klux attacked him a second time. Somehow William was able to make it to the woods with his family where they were able to hide until danger had passed. They all made their escape except for a woman named Bella Douglass who was not very well. Captured in the house, the attackers cut limbs from a cherry tree and whipped her severely.
Henderson Judd loaned US Marshall Hester horses and guided him to the road leading to where the KKK men lived. Henderson told Hester that upon the men’s return from their first arrest, the said Henderson had been pulled from his own home. Henderson’s guns were taken and his dogs shot. “They carried him five miles from his home and there dismounted him, and he was compelled to walk home in the night, over a very rough, rocky road.” Henderson was an old and decrepit man some 65-70 years old. While at the home of Henderson Judd and his nephew Rora Womack, US Marshall Hester was told that on the occasion old man Judd was carried off, they cut his clothes off and made him walk naked the five miles home. Again, this was the cold of winter. Also carried away were an old infirmed black lady and a fellow named Hance or Hanks who may have been working on the barn. Some say the old lady was Henderson Judd’s Housekeeper Mary. Neither Hance nor the old black lady survived the ordeal as they were both dead within a day or two.
Henderson Judd and his neighbors had been horribly abused. Still considered wealthy and owner of much land, his respect in the community plummeted following the civil war. It was considered okay to do the things he had done while a slave master, but he had done nothing to change his ways following the war. Out of step with the prevailing winds, and though still wealthy, Henderson was viewed by many as low class. He knew he was a marked man and the blood-letting was not yet ready to end. Let’s turn the page …