How the only photograph of this Yadkin County man surfaced is nothing short of a miracle.
Current Sheriff Michael Cain approached the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners recently at a meeting and unveiled the photograph that was recently found by Zachary family members.
“Steve and Cindy Zachary brought the photograph to me,” said Cain. When old photographs were taken out of frames, Cain said, this particular photo had “J. Zachary” written on the back.
“You can look at it and tell how old it is. It’s so delicate,” Cain said, holding the photo. “It’s got like a paper backing. It’s really a paper picture.”
History books at the Yadkinville Library show that at around 3 a.m. Friday, Feb. 13, 1920, the town “was aroused” to learn that the sheriff had been killed by “a blockader” while raiding the still.
“The report also stated that two men were at the still and both escaped,” the history books showed. “As Sheriff Zachary approached the still, he was shot one time by Robah Baity. At the time of the shooting, Spencer McNeal, a neighborhood boy and buddy of Baity, was also at the still.
According to the accounts, both men escaped, and feelings were running “high” as residents ran from house to house spreading the news.
“Forces were organized by W.E. Rutledge, then coroner, who automatically took the sheriff’s place. He was aided by four ex-sheriffs of the county who were still living and hastily sworn-in deputies. Baity was soon caught by ex-sheriff Poindexter, Walter O’Mara and posse a mile or two from the scene of the crime.”
He was brought to the Yadkinville Jail, now still standing near the Senior Center.
“A day or two later McNeal was caught in a barn loft at the home of Frank Shoaf, where he lived and near where the crime was committed. He too was lodged in jail. Another man, Jim Brown, of the same neighborhood was arrested and placed in jail as an accessory.
“The trial was an important one. A jury was secured from Surry County, and the trial lasted a week. In the end Baity was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced May 25, 1920, to be electrocuted on July 2, 1920. McNeal was found not guilty. Brown had been released earlier. Baity was removed to death row in state prison.
“Johnson J. Hayes was the solicitor and the trial judge was W.F. Harding of Charlotte. Baity’s attorneys appealed the verdict, but the Supreme Court affirmed the sentence. Then began a long fight to get Baity paroled, which succeeded 12 years later. Baity, who was a soldier in World War I, came home and made a law-abiding citizen.”
Cain recalled the story behind the legend and additional information.
“He got information on a still. I want to say it was the Courtney-Huntsville community. He walked up on Mr. Baity and reached out and grabbed him. He turned and fired the shot that immediately killed the sheriff.
“They brought him to the jail here, and once the word got out, a mob assembled. They were going to bring them out and string them up. At that time the owner and editor of the Ripple was the coroner. Therefore the Ripple couldn’t do their own story on it, so they took excerpts from the Sentinel. When the sheriff got killed, he had to take over duties of the sheriff.”
There were no photos of the sheriff, Cain said, and he even went to Raleigh looking for a photograph.
“I started trying to get every picture of every sheriff. I could not find anything in the Ripple archives or the Sentinel archives. I succeeded on some. On some I haven’t. This photograph needs to be in the hands of someone besides me.”