Family House Was The Site Of A Tragedy In 1935

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Houston Family Home | Duplin County, NC | c. 1850

This old farmhouse holds more than 170 years of stories within its walls, many of which we will never know, and one particularly tragic story that has come to define the place. But for generations before that, the Houston Family led a quiet life here in this rural community in Eastern North Carolina.

The George Houston Home

In 1850, Lewis Cass Houston was born in this home, which is believed to have been built by his father, George Houston, a few years earlier. Lewis was the great great grandson of Dr. WIlliam Houston, an early Duplin County settler who served as one of the first two representatives for the county in the colonial assembly.

Dr. William Houston was most known for his term as the stamp distributor for North Carolina following Parliament’s passage of the Stamp Act of 1765.

The Greek Revival dwelling that George Houston built is a one-story, double-pile house with a hipped roof porch. The massive doorway surrounded by sidelights and a multi-light transom along with the Doric pillars on the porch give a sense of dignity associated with the Greek Revival.

The home has six over six windows flanking the porch. The rear ell containing the kitchen originally stood away from the house and the two structures were connected by an enclosed breezeway.

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Lewis Houston and Elsie Bumgarner

Lewis grew up in this home his father George built and in 1918, he married Elsie Bumgarner. She was also from Duplin County and was only 26 when she met 60-year-old Lewis, but soon after they married, the couple moved to Thomas County, Georgia where they began a family. They had Margaret there in 1920 and Lewis Jr. in 1922. But when Lewis Houston, Sr. fell ill with cancer in 1923, the couple and their 2 children moved back to Duplin County, NC where they were from. In October of 1923, he passed away and was buried at the family cemetery near this home. Elsie, Margaret, and Lewis, Jr. stayed in the Houston Family home where Lewis Houston, Sr. had grown up.

Elsie and Edward Farrior

In December 1925, Elsie married again, this time to Edward Armstrong Farrior, also from Duplin County, North Carolina. Edward was an insurance agent and landowner who was well regarded by his family and locals. Together with Elsie, they had a son, Abraham Edward Farrior, and lived a seemingly normal life, according to other locals at that time. But everything changed for them one morning in 1935.

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It’s unclear what preceded the incident, but according to newspaper reports from the time, sheriff’s officers discovered the bodies of Elsie and her son oldest son, Lewis, in the front seat of their vehicle, parked in the driveway of this home. They had been shot in the back of the head with a shotgun, owned by Elsie’s husband, Mr. Edward Farrior. After he shot his wife and stepson, he took his own life with a pistol he owned. The bodies of all 3 were discovered by Margaret Houston (who was 15 at the time) when she returned home. The couple’s youngest son, Abraham, is thought to have been home at the time, although he wasn’t harmed.

There was much speculation about what drove Mr. Farrior to commit such a heinous act and many remarked that he had given no previous indication of insanity. This left investigative officers to assume that he must have suffered from a “deranged condition” that prompted his disturbing actions that day.

Elsie, who was 42 when she was murdered, had been a nurse for the county while she raised her children and kept home. Her son, Lewis, was only 12 years old when he was killed. Their young son, Abraham became an orphan and was moved to Texas to live with relatives, but his older half-sister, Margaret, stayed. She lived here throughout her adult life until she passed away in 1998. Except for the cattle who sometimes sleep under the porch, the home has been empty ever since.

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Thanks to Bill Segars for his contributions to this entry.

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  1. Who owns this home now and why didn’t they investigate these deaths further? Something had to trigger these acts. Finish the story. Thanks.

  2. I was confused reading at first, because you called her son (that was shot in the car with her) Edward, which was her 2nd husband’s name. I believe you meant Lewis? (You mentioned his death in the follow paragraph.) What a sad story.

  3. I love your stories and photographs. I adore your work and enjoy these old places. Thank you for everything you do.

  4. Who owns the house now? It’s still beautiful – wonder what it’s like inside after all these empty years.
    Such a shame it’s been let go.

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