Courthouse History
Within the Courthouse Walls
Cases of Note
Along with the ordinary activities that took place here, two court cases drew national or international attention.

Bootleggers and Stills
Stills and bootleggers are part of our history, too. They often add a humorous element to our legal side. In this 1911 case, however, being accused of selling liquor without a license led a man to shoot the local police chief. He was found guilty and became the 11th person to be executed by the electric chair in North Carolina.

Bigotry, Betrayal and Mutilation
The 1925 Needleman case began with a young woman’s response to loneliness while her soldier fiancé was away, and the bragging of a young, Jewish traveling salesman. Mobs, mutilation in the form of castration, and prejudice followed. By the time the case was over, a small but proud southern community had faced its demons down and redeemed itself under the glare of reporters from the New York Times and London newspapers.

Everyday Roles

Drama and notoriety aside, it was the role of the courthouse in daily affairs that gave it lasting significance. Shy young couples applied here for a license to wed and added their own marriage certificates to the depository that held those of their parents and grandparents. Here is where they registered, with pride, the births of their children and, with sadness, the deaths of their parents. Many of life's best and worst times were noted here in the simple ink that reminds us all of our commonality.

Land–that vital commodity of rural life–moved inside these walls. Its transfer from one generation to the next, or even from neighbor to neighbor, carried with it stories of life and death, success and failure. These walls heard the weighty pronouncements of guilt and innocence and the consequences of each. There were meetings and celebrations and solemn gatherings of community, too. Through it all, this icon of stability stood.

In a place where utility is often the norm, the scale, lines and detail of this building provided a subtle but important message: I reflect your strength and return your worthiness with something fine; something beyond necessity. 
Friends of the Old Martin County Courthouse
P.O. Box 502  |  East Main Street  |  Williamston, NC 27892  |  252-792-5243

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