Jones County, NC

Alleged offense: None (political activity)
Race: White
Gender: Male
Age: Unrecorded
Legal intervention (in alleged offense): N/A
Legal intervention (following lynching): Yes
Mob size: 5
Mob members: Frank Nobles; John B. Bard
Alleged victim: N/A
Household Status: Married
Occupation: Sawmill Manager

Around 6:00 p.m. on the 16th of August 1869, a white colonel named M.L. Shepard was working in his sawmill alongside 4 black employees just outside of Trenton in Jones County. The mill had been owned by Sheriff Colgrove, who had been murdered 2 months prior. Five men, believed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan and reportedly disguised in blackface, opened fire on Shepard from the river bank opposite his sawmill on the Trent. The group fired at least three shots at Shepard while he worked. Shots landed in the small of his back and head and injured one of Shepard’s workers, Providence Bryant. A congressional report on lynchings in the region suggested that Bryant also died. While no clear motive was given in initial newspaper accounts, it seems clear from later testimony and other evidence that the Klan targeted Shepard because he had recently headed up the formation of a militia of African American soldiers in an effort of self-defense against the KKK and other threats. Afterwards, the governor mounted an investigation, offering up to $500 for information on the killers. Although law enforcement apprehended two suspects — Frank Nobles and John B. Bard — they initially escaped custody. They were probably later part of a group of twenty five indicted for outrages in Jones, Lenoir, and other nearby counties.


Death certificate: None found
Census: None found

News coverage:

Another Brutal Murder in Jones County

More Murder in Jones County

Assassination in Jones County


Town: Trenton, North Carolina
Latitude/Longitude: 35.064883, -77.355353
Rationale:  Near approximate site of saw mill. Located probable site of saw mill by references to its location as being near the Trent river bridge and less than 200 yards from the main part of town.

Additional Resources:

Researcher’s Note: