Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   
 
Cyrus Guy
 
 
Excerpt of 1891 Tate map of Orange County showing area where Cy Guy was hanged and the Poor House
Excerpt of 1891 Tate map of Orange County showing area where Cy Guy was hanged (red X) and the Poor House
 
Cyrus Guy was born circa 1845, in Alamance County, North Carolina. He is listed in the 1860 census as "Si Guye" and as a "mulatto," living in the household of William Guye (a laborer, and likely Cy's father), along with five other members of the Guy family. The Guy family also appears in the 1850 (without Cyrus) and 1870 censuses.

According to a 1937 WPA interview with Ben Johnson, a former slave of Gilbert Craig, Cyrus Guy was hanged "for a scandalous insult to a white woman" by a group of Ku Kluxers "a hundert strong." They tried him in the woods, and scratched Guy's arm to draw blood in order to write a proclomation or "sentence" that Guy was to be hung "'tween the heavens and earth till he [is] dead, dead, dead" (which seems to have been a standard Klan hanging oath). The next morning, they hanged Guy on the road, with his sentence over his head. For at least four days, Guy's body hung from the tree, and the sheriff finally took his body down. This period of Orange County history was a time when the Klan harrassed and murdered several black residents of the county; Robert Fitzgerald, a bi-racial teacher who was living in Hillsborough at the time, reported numerous outrages against Orange County's citizens in his diary.

In a 1871 letter/official statement to the U.S. Office of the Adjutant General from North Carolina Governor William Holden, he documents a story where "A colored boy in Orange County taken at midnight from his father, while they were burning charcoal, and hanged. The charge was that he had made some improper and foolish remark about the white ladies. His body hung ten days until the vultures partly consumed it, and no one during that time dared to take him down."

A series of receipts, recently scanned by Stewart Dunaway from the North Carolina State Archives, shed some light on the incident and what eventually happened to Guy's remains. A December 2, 1869 appointment from Superior Court Judge George Clarke to John Turner to act as coroner and remove Guy's body states that Guy was hanged on the High Rock Road "above the Poore House," and that Turner was to assemble a jury of twelve men and hold "an inquest over the body" of the then "dead man unknown."

James McCracken, who lived near where Guy was lynched, was paid by the sheriff to make a coffin and transport Guy's body to the Poor House cemetery; James Bain was paid for digging the grave and for burying Guy. Someone named Fowler was also paid for his part in the burying process. Guy was buried in the Orange County Poor House cemetery, in a grave that is currently unmarked.
 
Appointment of John Turner as coroner for inquiry into Cyrus Guy's death
Appointment of John Turner as coroner for inquiry into Cyrus Guy's death, December 2 [click to enlarge]
 
Inquisition by John Turner into Cyrus Guy's death, December 2
Inquisition by John Turner into Cyrus Guy's death, December 2 [click to enlarge]
 
Receipt for James MCracken for making coffin and transportation of Cyrus Guy's body to graveyard
Receipt for James MCracken for making coffin and transportation of Cyrus Guy's body to graveyard [click to enlarge]
 
Receipt for James Bain's burial of Cyrus Guy
Receipt for James Bain's burial of Cyrus Guy [click to enlarge]
 
 
 
Sources:

Dunaway, Stewart H. Orange County, NC Road Records - Volume 3, 1850-1883. Lulu, 2008.

Hicks, Mary A. and Daisy B. Waitt (ed.). Ben Johnson interview. Hicktown, Durham. May 20, 1937. Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938. North Carolina Narratives, Volume XI, Part 2.

Holden, William W. Statements, depositions, and other records submitted by Gov. William W. Holden relating to crimes of the Ku Klux Klan against citizens of North Carolina, 1869 - 1871. Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General (Main Series), 1871 - 1880, National Archives Microfilm Publication M666 Roll 1. Online.

North Carolina State Archives. Orange County Road Records.

Robert G. Fitzgerald Diary. Part 2, Volume 4. June 28, 1867-August 8, 1871.

Wood, Peter. When the Roll is Called Up Yonder: Black History in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Northern Orange County Black History Committee. 2005.

 
 
 
[Created: 31 August 2008; Last updated: 08 January 2009]