After I finished writing my last blog post about Miss Lula Gooch’s trunk, in which I mentioned that I hadn’t been able to find evidence of Lula after 1910, I stumbled upon this article from the Dec. 2, 1913, Richmond Times Dispatch:
This isn’t a great copy, so I’ll paraphrase: On Dec. 1, 1913, a man calling himself James Gooch, with an alias of James Rogers, was indicted in Richmond, Va., for killing a woman named Lula Gooch on Nov. 24, 1913.
The article doesn’t say how Lula was murdered or anything about her family, and I couldn’t find any more articles about the case online. In other words, I was having trouble connecting this particular Lula Gooch to the one I wrote about previously, who lived with her family in Richmond in 1900 and worked as a cigar roller.
I’ll admit, when initially researching Lula and her trunk, I found numerous Lula Gooches from all over the U.S. on FamilySearch. But what was the possibility, three years after I can last place Lula in a census, that this murdered Lula Gooch — in Richmond, where she lived, no less — wasn’t her?
Could this be the Miss Lula Gooch who once owned my trunk? Murdered, in Richmond?
So, on the off chance that the case was heinous enough to have made it into the Lynchburg newspaper, I went to Jones Memorial Library, a great (and free) local resource for genealogical and historical research.
There, the mystery unraveled, but not in the way I expected. On page 2, column 1 of the Tuesday, Nov. 25, edition of the Lynchburg News I found this story:
SHOOTS HIS WIFE
RICHMOND NEGRO FIRES BULLET INTO HER HEAD
Richmond, Va. Nov. 24 — (Special.) James Rogers, a negro, this afternoon shot and instantly killed his wife Lula. They had separated, and today the man went to where the woman was employed and when she stepped out into an alley he shot her in the back of the head. The man was captured by mounted officers.
One might be tempted to shout, “Whee hoo!” at this point, but not so fast. While I was glad to find the article in the Lynchburg newspaper, the Lula I was looking for was white.
In 1913 Richmond, it wasn’t likely that James and Lula were an interracial couple, and at that time in history I imagine the newspaper would have reported that fact if they were. During my research, I’ve noticed that newspapers, even into the 1960s, were quick to note if someone was “negro” or “colored.”
Also, even though murdered Lula was called “Lula Gooch” in the first article, she wasn’t actually a Gooch. She was a Rogers, with the maiden name Broadus.
When I found Lula Rogers’ death certificate a few minutes later on Ancestry.com — with the cause of death “homicidal shooting, apparently” — all questions about the identity of murdered Lula were put to rest.
According to the death certificate, Lula Broadus Rogers was “about 24” years old when she died and worked as a cook. She was the daughter of Willie and Elleanora Broadus, and she was born in North Carolina.
The death certificate says she was killed “in an alley near … 16 E. Marshall St.” I found this address on Google Earth. In the photo below, there’s an alley to the right of the building. Perhaps that was where Lula Rogers died.
As for what happened to James Rogers after his indictment, I haven’t been able to find anything (at least not without traveling to Richmond to look at court records, which I’m probably not going to do, to be honest).
He isn’t on this list of executions in the state of Virginia during that time period and I haven’t found him on the 1920 U.S. Census, where he (hopefully) would have shown up as a prison inmate.
I did find a 1916 newspaper article from Paris, Tenn., in which police were seeking a James Rogers who was wanted for murder. This James Rogers also was African American, but there’s nothing else in the article that points at him being the murderer of Lula Rogers.
Actually, while researching this story, I found several different men named James Rogers, white and black, who were accused of murder during the same decade. Interesting, huh?
In the end, though, it was a tale of two Lulas: one a cigar roller, who might have taken her trunk on an exciting trip far away, and the second a cook trying to escape a bad marriage and shot to death in an alleyway.