Whenever we think of the "good ole days" we tend to forget that some of the horrors we associate with today’s world sometimes happened back then too. The story of Lydia Allred is one such case.
Lydia was born in Orange County, North Carolina in 1770. She was one of the younger children of John Allred who settled in North Carolina in the 1750’s. Lydia was raised on the family farm located near today’s Patterson Grove community just north of Franklinville, NC. In 1779 this same land became part of the newly formed Randolph County.
Most of the time Lydia’s neighbors were law abiding. Court documents from that time period show that there were occasional visits to court to complain about a missing cow or hog and a few accusations of theft of farm equipment, but, for the most part, life was peaceful. One important exception to that rule was the Lewis family.
John and Priscilla Lewis raised a large family on their land located just north of today’s Franklinville. This family, especially the boys and men, were well known as mean, tough, belligerent bullies. They made their own rules, followed no laws but their own and beat or killed anyone who made them mad. One account taken from the book "The Randolph Story" on file in the Randolph Room, Asheboro Public Library states:
The Lewises were tall, broad, muscular and very powerful men. The family were the lions of the country. Their character was eminently pugnacious. Nearly all of them drank to intoxication; aware of power, they insulted whom they listed; they sought occasions of quarrel as a Yankee does gold in California. They rode through plantations; killed their neighbor’s cattle; took fish from other men’s traps; said what they pleased; all more for contention than gain. Though the opposed had power, they were afraid to prosecute them, they knew these human hydras had no mercy; they dreaded their retaliating vengeance. Anything, man or beast, that crossed their path periled it’s life. The neither sheltered themselves under the strong arm of the law nor permitted others to do so, they neither gave nor asked mercy. Their pledge was sure as anything human could be. If they threatened death or torture, those threatened always thought it prudent to retire to the very uttermost part of the earth.
Stephen Lewis, the fifth child of John and Priscilla, was born June 4, 1757. Per Lewis family documents, he fought and bullied his way into adulthood. In the 1770’s he began appearing in court, charged with a variety of theft, assaults and battery. More times, than not, the court found him not-guilty, no doubt fearing retaliation from him or his family. On the few occasions he was found guilty, he was usually fined some small amount which was never collected.
This pattern continued on into the mid 1780’s. Between March and October 1786, Stephen and his brother, John, had been in court 11 different times answering a variety of charges. One of those charges was brought by Lydia’s father, John, who accused John Lewis of assault in June 1786.
State of North Carolina, Randolph County June Session 1786 The Jurors for the State and county aforesaid upon their oath present that John Lewis late of said county labourer on the Nineteeth day of May in the tenth year of American Independence AD 1786 with force and arms in the county aforesaid in and upon one John Allred then and there being in the peace of said state an assault did made on him the said John did beat injure and ill treat to his damage and against the peace and dignity of said state. A. Wood, Att for ST
John Lewis was found innocent and John Allred became the target of some vicious retaliation.
The Allred family found themselves confronted by the Lewis family over the next few months. Farm equipment disappeared. Farm animals were slaughtered. When the family members went to visit neighbors, they were followed and taunted. Finally, on a sunny afternoon in October, it all came "to a head".
October 30th no doubt began as a normal day on the farm. Chores were performed, meals were cooked and served by the women while the men worked in the fields. The colorful fall leaves were falling and the weather had a slight "nip in the air". When her chores were finished, Lydia decided to walk the well worn wagon path to her sister and brother-in-law’s home, Barbara and William York. Barbara was 17, only one year older than Lydia and a newly wed. The sisters were close and no doubt missing each other’s daily company. A visit would be welcome.
The court document filed November 6, 1786 tells the story in chilling detail.
State of North Carolina, Randolph County This day caused Lydia Aldred before me the Justice being ___ and on explanation oath that on this 30th day of October last week that Stephen Lewis over took her on the road. She was going from her father's house to her brother-in-law, William York, farm on Sandy Creek and said Lewis took hold of her and pulled her to him and let down over a log and asked her if he might have carnal knowledge of her body and in her deporment answered that she would rather suffer death that grant to that and said Lewis said if she would not consent he would forse her and then forst his hand under her close and put his hand on her privets and forst his finger into her body and she this deponant cryed out and he told her to cry no more and after some time he let her go and rode away _____ injourous much to her ___ against the peace and dignity of said Lydia. These are to command and ____ to apprehend and take the body of him the said Stephen Lewis and bring him forth with before and of the Justice of the said county to be charged conserning the premises and to be ____ doth with accordance to law fail not and under my hand and seal this 6th day of November AD 1786 Zebedee Wood, JP
Lydia was walking along the path when Stephen Lewis rode up on his horse. He, no doubt, recognized her as one of John Allred’s daughters. Lewis got off of his horse and grabbed Lydia, pulling her to him roughly and forcing her onto his lap as he sat down on a log. Holding her tightly, he asked her to have "carnal knowledge" with him. She refused, telling him she would rather die and tried to fight her way free of his clutches. Angered, he forced his hand under her skirt and "placed his hand on her privates and forced his fingers into her body". She fought valiantly, but he was bigger and stronger than the frightened 16 year old girl. He pushed her to the ground and violently beat and raped her.
When finished, Lewis left Lydia lying on the path and rode off. She pulled herself together and somehow managed to get to her sister’s home. As you can imagine, the family reacted in horror and demanded justice. On November 6, Lydia’s father, brothers and brother-in-laws came to court to file charges (4) against Stephen Lewis.
State of North Carolina Randolph County December Term 1786 The Jurors for the State and County swore upon their oath that Stephen Lewis, late of county Labourner on the tenth day of December the Eleventh year of American Independence AD 1786 with force and arms in the aforesaid County in and upon one Lidia Allred then and there being in the peace of said State did made an assault and her the said Lidia then and there did bead, wound and ill treat with an intent her the said Lidia against her will and there ____ to ravish and carnally know and other wrongs then and there did the great damage of the said Lidia and against the peace and dignity of said state.
Unfortunately, as in the past, the court continued to be reluctant to indict or convict anyone in the Lewis family of anything - even something as horrible as rape. Court records show that although the Allred family presented overwhelming evidence and Lydia herself was forced to testify in detail about the rape, little was done to Stephen Lewis. Finally, in December, the court agrees to indict Lewis and hold a trial. However, the intimidated jurors and court officials, fearing reprisals from the Lewis family, vote to post-pone the trial until Spring 1787. They were probably hoping that, with the new court session, they would not be chosen as jurors and would escape the Lewis family wrath.
On February 1, 1787, Stephen Lewis was back in court accused of threatening the life of Lydia’s father, John. He had already beat John, breaking his nose, and continued to harass the family every chance he got. John asked the court for protection. It wasn’t awarded until another week passed.
State of North Carolina, Randolph County Where as John Allred hath this present day made oath before me the presiding Justice that he is afraid that Stephen Lewis of the county aforesaid will beat, wound, maim or kill him and hath therefore prayed _____ of the peace against him. These are therefore to command to you to cause the said Stephen Lewis to come before me or some other justice for the said county to find profess causes for this good behavior and for keeping the peace and in Person to witness the above said John Allred. Here in fail not given under my hand and seal this 1 day of February AD 1787. To an Lawfull officer to Execute and Deliver Zebedee Wood JP
In response, Stephen and his family increased their campaign of harassment and terror. Finally, in March 1787, the court imposes a 100 pound bond on Lewis to guarantee his appearance in court for trial. But, the trial is post-poned once again as the Lewis family’s threats scare the jurors. By June, Lydia’s father had reached his limit and begins fighting back. However, he accomplishes nothing except getting himself arrested for "profane swearing in public".
State of North Carolina Randolph County March Session 1787 The Jurors for said county upon their oath present that John Alred is a common and profane swearer on the 14th day of March in the year 1787 did purposely swear in hearing of Jurors of the Grand Jurory for said county on the aforesaid 14th day of March 1787 to the evil example of all other citizens of said state and against the peace and dignity of said state.
The humiliation must have been unbearable as John is arrested for "swearing" while his daughter’s rapist still roamed free. While in court facing the original "swearing" charge, John loses his temper again and swears at the court officials. Again he is charged and fined.
The rape trial is postponed again and again as the jurors and court officials were harassed by the Lewis family. Court documents also show that the Lewis brothers were in court many times over the next 4 years as they continued to wreak havoc in Randolph County. But, as we’ve all heard, "you reap what you sow" and eventually everyone pays for the evil they do.
When Stephen raped Lydia, he was married. Lewis family records show that he beat his wife on a regular basis, treating her no better than he did his neighbors. Finally, in 1791, Stephen’s brother, Richard, helped Stephen’s wife escape and hid her outside of the county at the home of a friend. Richard was no better than Stephen, so this unusual act of kindness was rare. Stephen and Richard argued violently about the beatings, and finally Richard agreed to return Stephen’s wife if he would promise to quit beating her. Stephen refused. Eventually he found his wife and dragged her back home, beating her severally. Stephen then went to his brother’s home intending to kill him. Richard, seeing Stephen approach, grabbed his shot gun and ran upstairs. As Stephen climbed the stairs looking for Richard, Richard shot and wounded him. The family gathered around and soon Stephen was sent back home patched up, but very angry.
As Stephen laid at home recovering from the gun-shot wound, he swore to everyone in hearing distance that he would kill his brother as soon as he was healed. Richard, knowing Stephen fully intended to carry out this threat, finally decided to end the feud once and for all. He rode to Stephen’s house, crept quietly to the back of the house where he knew Stephen was recovering. As he looked through a crack in the wall, he could see Stephen sitting up in bed having his wound dressed. Richard stuck the barrel of the gun through the crack in the wall and shot his brother through the heart, killing him instantly.
Lydia, in the meantime, never recovered emotionally from the rape. She became a recluse, painfully shy, never wanting to go out in public or leave the confines of home. Her father, John, died in 1792 knowing that his daughter’s rapist had finally paid for his crimes. After John died, Lydia's story continues with her marriage to John Cude. Click here to read about that research.