Gary Strader/gStrader Photography

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Oldest Murder Ballad in US History - A True Story

            Naomi WHO?
You know who she was right? The one the street in Randleman is named after. The same one as "Poor Omie", that the song was written for. "Omie Wise" is a murder ballad, and said to be the oldest murder ballad in US history. 

The traditional folk song has been performed by lots of people, including Bob Dylan.

The song was written about her death, and it is her death that she is remembered for. According to the historical accounts, Naomi Wise was a servant girl, who had been orphaned, and lived with the Adam's in New Salem.

Being somewhat interested in the local history of that period, I like to pin down these places, and imagine what it looked like in their day. I can almost trace in my mind how Jonathan Lewis might have traveled by my house, en route to date, and seduce Naomi Wise.

While the account in history says she was a young servant girl, that was orphaned at young age,there are historical documents that say she actually had more than one child all born out of wedlock;and therefore would not be married, as she was marked, and had bastard bonds that paid her for her children's upkeep. 

I would also keep in mind that The Adams family were good Quaker people, and Quakers were opposed to slavery, and servitude in all its forms. As a result I would also doubt that she were a servant, and Jonathan Lewis certainly did not treat her as a servant.

Jonathan Lewis, her accused murderer,lived on Polecat Creek within spitting distance of Centre Friends Meeting, in Guilford County. (That would be just off Hwy 62.)

 Adams Springs, in the song was the meeting spot, the spring house for the Adams Plantation, just off New Salem Rd. 

So the song says poor Omie was expecting to be taken to Asheboro to be married,but instead was taken to Deep River, just off Naomi Street, and drowned with her skirt tied over her head, and beaten.

Jonathan Lewis was the suspected killer; but evaded capture.  He was however eventually captured, but he of course denied killing her. After being held in the jail in Asheboro awaiting trial he escaped. During this time period, the other Lewis family members moved to Kentucky. Jonathan left the settlement, and fled the state to go and live with his relatives in Kentucky for a number of years. before being brought back for trial by bounty hunters. He was acquitted of charges in his trial at Guilford Courthouse. He returned to Kentucky, and admitted on his deathbed to his father, that he had indeed killed her.
 Naomi was buried at Providence Friends Meeting, (another historic landmark from the late 1760s), in 1808.

That is the short short story of Naomi Wise, but I invite you to read about it for yourself. Everyone should know the story of Naomi Wise.

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