We’re headed home to Eastern NC this week with the strange tale of a man’s disappearance…
Or was it murder?
James Abney was well known in his Salt’s Creek North Carolina community. Though he was not a native of the area, when he moved there after the Civil War, he quickly assimilated into the town and basically got involved in a big way. He and his wife were known to hold parties at their home quite frequently, enough that Abney started an informal social club in 1879, later called the Doorway Society. You can view their website here. He also contributed to the town’s fledgling library, but refused any attempts to name it after him.
The year was 1881, and like a lot of other towns in North Carolina at the time, Salt’s Creek was without a public school, and the citizens were pushing for somewhere affordable, where their children could be instructed. Other nearby towns, like Goldsboro and Wilson, were already opening public schools. When the town council formed a school board, James Abney was appointed to be on it. Once they had things set and planned for the opening of the school, they called a meeting open to the citizens of Salt’s Creek.
That evening, at the town meeting, while Mr. Abney was speaking to the townspeople about the school, for some reason, there was a verbal altercation between James Abney and a man by the name of Gavin Dupree. Whatever the confrontation was about, it ended quickly, but the two men were well known to be at best cool towards each other, but this was the first time an open conflict had occurred.
Later that night, according to the account of his wife, James Abney left his house to visit the Duprees.
He was never seen again.
Him, or his body.
Mr. Dupree is said to have been covered with blood, by his own admission, but it seems to have come from a rather large gash on his arm.
Despite the lack of a body, or any proof that Mr. Dupree had harmed anyone other than himself, there was a murder trial. Mr. Dupree held fast to the story that he had given chase and that James Abney had disappeared into the woods.
The problem was that there was no body. Dupree was aquitted of the murder and led a quiet life thereafter. Abney’s wife left town and only visited friends a few more times before she too dropped off the map.
Life in Salt’s Creek calmed down again, the newspaper stopped writing about it, and not much has been said since about the matter. I doubt many locals know much about it at all.
But what gets me is that there was no body. And yes, that can happen if extensive measures are taken to destroy it. Problem was, they never found any remains or any evidence that such a thing had occurred. Dupree’s farm didn’t have any nearby bodies of water to put someone, nor did he have time to dig a shallow grave, much less one deep enough to hide a freshly dead individual.
To this day, in the woods around that old property, still privately owned, no one has found the body of James Abney. Not even a hat, or clothes. He simply, and very literally, vanished.
Yet still, as far as I know, Mr. Dupree carried that burden of being an accused murderer, even if not an actual one, for the rest of his life.
It’s a spooky case that, happened a long time ago and will very likely never be solved.
Very incredibly weird.