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Stranger Put To Rest: Family's connection to dark day when a man was killed links generations.

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Stranger Put To Rest: Family's connection to dark day when a man was killed links generations.

ONEIDA-Some days in the South, just like any other place on the map, can be mystifying, brutal and end in billowing sorrow.

Take July 12, 1923, the day Daley Musgrove shot down Willis Greene.

Everyone around the Narrows and Foster Cross- roads knew that Daley Musgrove was not a man to tempt.

But on this day, there was no compelling reason for the event, except that feelings were had in those years in a time of feuds and funerals, Satans and Samaritans.

Greene, a black man, appeared to be on his way to Kentucky. He was walking on dusty Big Ridge Road at a section known as The Narrows just outside Oneida.

Oral accounts reveal that Greene must have been an older man. His hair had turned white, and he walked slowly. As he moved along Big Ridge Road, Sherman Marcum, a farmer, warned Greene that to continue in the direction he was taking would be a mistake.

Down the mountain road, as it slipped sideward beside the ridge overlooking Big South Fork River drainage, Greene would eventually arrive at Foster Crossroads.

The Musgrove clan lived in the vicinity. Daley Musgrove and his shotgun were well known there. Oneida brothers Charles Marcum, 79, and Wallace Marcum, 83, recall that time with some sadness and resolve. The day Daley Musgrove killed Willis Greene linked forever the Marcum family to the shooting and its history of Oneida.

Willis Greene was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Daley Musgrove, motivated by cultural rage and greed, decided to become Greene's judge, jury and executioner. He himself later faced a judge and jury of his peers.

Here is the story as related by the Marcum brothers:

Willis Greene, whom few people knew, was on his way home. He is supposed to have said he "was going to the old country. He said he was going to Jerusalem."

As he passed the Sherman Marcum farm, now a fallow field of trees and brush, Marcum cautioned the solitary walker not to proceed.

"Grandpa tried to turn him back," says Charles Marcum while standing in front of a concrete slab, silent witness of Greene's last moments on earth. Hillery Marcum and Maude Watters Marcum, father and mother of Charles and Wallace Marcum, wrote Greene's name in script on the rough tombstone while it was still wet cement.

The 3-foot-by-2-inch thick square stone simply says, "Negro Willis Greene died 1923."

"The story is that Daley Musgrove was on a horse and driving Willis Greene back to Oneida. He had a hickory switch in his hand and was whipping him” retelling the story he heard as a child.

"He was driving him," Wallace Marcum said.

Musgrove, the brothers said, apparently heard there was some report of a reward for Greene. But there was none. It was just a rumor. Nonetheless, Musgrove was taking Greene in to claim the money when the old man tired out and collapsed on the side of the road.

"When they got to here," Charles said, standing near the old roadbed, "Daley shot Greene dead.

"Greene just gave out and rested on the side of the road. He said he could not go any more. That's when Daley shot him."

Greene died alone and tormented.

Hillery Marcum and William Esau Foster were on their way home from delivering a load of lumber. They cut the lumber in Cub Creek and took it to Oneida.

As they returned, they found Greene on the side of the road. He was dead, and the two men decided to spend the night near Greene to prevent wild animals from getting to his body, Charles and Wallace Marcum said.

The next day, the Marcum family hammered and nailed together wide slabs of yellow poplar for a casket and returned in a mule-drawn wagon with it to the site of the killing.

Riding in the wagon that hot summer day were Maude Marcum, [[Marcum-1419| Aileen Marcum, Louise Marcum - sisters of [Marcum-1416|Charles and Wallace and Maude's brother, Bud Watters. Maude and the other women in the family had lined the casket with a broad cloth of linen.

Louise Marcum rode on the casket to the gravesite and recalled that ride years later. Wallace Marcum, 4 months old at the time and also in the wagon, does not remember anything about the day, but his mother told him the story in later years, ad did his sisters.

As for why his family decided to tend to Greene's body, Wallace said, "Mom and dad were just that kind of people. They cared."

Musgrove was caught, tried and convicted of first degree murder in Scott County Circuit Court. He was sentenced to "25 years at hard labor" in prison as outlined in old court records held by the Scott County Historical Society, operated by volunteer Paul Phillips.

Musgrove appealed and in January 1924, the Tennessee Supreme Court, meeting in Knoxville, upheld the lower court decision, returning Musgrove to Petros to finish his sentence.

Musgrove, born in 1894, was a World War I veteran and died in 1932.

Greene's grave is about 50 yards off the main road, also named Big Ridge Road. Hickory, chestnut oak, white oak and sourwood trees surround the flat area overlooking Bear Creek, where the secluded grave rests quietly.

Greene is by himself. There are no other graves to crowd his small plot.

Someone has placed artificial flowers on the grave. A small white plastic replica of an iron fence railing leans against a nearby tree.

Wallace, a gentle man, remembers that through the many years, first his mother and then his sisters cared for the grave. Then after their deaths, he and his brother took turns keeping the grave cleared of brush and limbs.

"I guess the grandchildren will keep it up," Wallace said.

The brothers walk about the grave, observing. The thought of someone placing flowers on the grave touches Wallace. Tears being to well up in his eyes. “I'll bring more flowers up here in the fall," he says.

Reprinted from The Knoxville News-Sentinel, August 23, 2006 -APPALACHIAN JOURNAL COLUMN BY FRED BOWN.

A family member told me that Maude made it her life’s work to take care of his grave. She would use a broom to sweep the grave clean year round. She said that she was told about about a haunted grave when she was in high school. They thought his grave was haunted because it was always so clean. For 50 plus years she honored a man that everyone else seems to have forgotten.

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