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Charles Davis "Charlie" Lawson
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Birth: May 10, 1886
Lawsonville
Stokes County
North Carolina, USA
Death: Dec. 25, 1929
Germanton
Stokes County
North Carolina, USA

CHARLES DAVIS LAWSON
(May 10, 1886–December 25, 1929)


It was a bitter, snowy Christmas Day. The year was 1929. In the cold of that Christmas afternoon, Charlie Lawson, a respected rural North Carolina tobacco farmer from Stokes County, North Carolina committed one of the most brutal and mysterious crimes of mass family murder ever recorded in U.S. history.

Charlie's parents, Augustus "Gus" and Nancy Jane Lawson, lived in the unincorporated community known as Lawsonville, located ten miles from Danbury, the Stokes county seat. He was born there and, in 1911, married Fannie Manring. They had eight children, but the third, William, born in 1914, died of an illness in 1920. In 1918, following the move of his younger brothers, Marion and Elijah, to the Germanton area, Lawson followed suit with his family. The Lawsons worked as sharecroppers, saving enough money by 1927 to buy their own farm on Brook Cove Road.

In 1929, shortly before Christmas, Charlie Lawson took his family, his wife Fannie and their children: Arthur, Marie, Carrie, Maybell, James, Raymond, and Mary Lou into town to buy new clothes and to have a family portrait taken. Since they were far from wealthy, this seemed unusual. The new clothes ultimately became burial outfits. On that day he began the slaughter with his daughters, Carrie and Maybell, who were setting out to their uncle and aunt's house. Lawson waited for them by the tobacco barn; when they were in range, he shot them,one with a rifle and the other with a shotgun, then ensured that they were dead by bludgeoning them. He then placed the bodies in the tobacco barn.
Afterwards, he returned to the house and shot his wife Fannie, who was on the porch. As soon as the gun was fired, Marie his oldest daughter who was inside the cabin, screamed, while the two small boys, James and Raymond, attempted to find a hiding place. Lawson shot Marie and then found and bludgeoned the two boys. Lastly, he killed their baby, Mary Lou. After the murders, he went into the nearby woods and, a few hours later, shot himself. The only survivor was his eldest son, 16 year-old Arthur, whom he had sent to nearby Germanton to purchase more shotgun shells just before starting his deadly work. The bodies of Carrie and Maybell were found dead in the tobacco barn with their arms crossed with rocks for pillows under their heads. The remaining family members were found dead inside the home with their bed pillows under their heads. The gunshot signaling Charlie Lawson's own suicide was heard by the many people who learned of the gruesome event on the property and had already gathered there. A police officer who was with Charlie Lawson earlier in the day, ran down and found Charlie dead. Charlie had two incomplete suicide notes, one which read "Nobody to blame but..." and the other read "Trouble will cause..."
Charlie's footprints completely encircled the tree, it was assumed that he had been pacing around the tree prior to taking his own life.

There were rumors as to why Charlie Lawson would take the lives of himself and his family and it was speculated that Charlie did not murder his family at all, that it was staged to look as though Charlie had committed suicide. One of these explanations was that Charlie had witnessed an organized crime incident, and had been found out, and he and his family murdered for it. Another involves a black man Charlie had started a fight with. Neither of these rumors seemed plausible, or could fit with the facts. All signs obviously pointed to a murder/suicide.

It should be noted that at the time of the murders and for many years thereafter, friends and family alike who personally knew Charlie Lawson continued to say that Charlie Lawson was a good, honest and hard working tobacco farmer who loved his family.


Graveside services for Charlie Lawson and his Family were held in Browder Cemetery on the afternoon of December 27th 1929.
 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  William George Augustus Lawson (1853 - 1919)
  Nancy Jane Lawson (1862 - 1940)
 
 Spouse:
  Fannie Manring Lawson (1892 - 1929)
 
 Children:
  Marie Lavon Lawson (1912 - 1929)*
  James Arthur Lawson (1913 - 1945)*
  William Sanders Lawson (1914 - 1920)*
  Carrie Lawson (1917 - 1929)*
  Maybell Lawson (1922 - 1929)*
  James William Lawson (1925 - 1929)*
  Raymond Lawson (1927 - 1929)*
  Mary Lou Lawson (1929 - 1929)*
 
 Siblings:
  John W Lawson (1883 - 1962)*
  Sara Etta Lawson Bullin (1884 - 1908)*
  Charles Davis Lawson (1886 - 1929)
  Docia A. Kathryn Lawson Bullins (1892 - 1979)*
  Lizzie Lawson Riggs (1892 - 1920)*
  Elijah Lee Lawson (1893 - 1945)*
  Marion Fletcher Lawson (1894 - 1967)*
  George Washington Lawson (1897 - 1971)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Inscription:

Not now, but in the coming years
it will be in a better land,
We'll read the meaning of our tears,
and then sometime, we'll understand.
 
Burial:
Browder Family Cemetery
Germanton
Stokes County
North Carolina, USA
 
Maintained by: Russ Griffin
Originally Created by: Sleepless1971
Record added: Oct 03, 2003
Find A Grave Memorial# 7944187
Charles Davis Charlie Lawson
Added by: Laurie
 
Charles Davis Charlie Lawson
Added by: Russ Griffin
 
Charles Davis Charlie Lawson
Added by: Ralph Garland Tuttle Sr
 
 
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I think the answer "why"?? Is obvious when you look at the family picture Charlie had made right before the killings. Marie is clearly pregnant.
- Diane Vehorn
 Added: Dec. 14, 2014
After years of puzzling over "why", I suddenly realized that your circumambulation around the tree was the clue that led to the answer...
- John Lawson
 Added: Dec. 4, 2014

- Sherry
 Added: Nov. 1, 2014
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