The "Horned" Man
By Fred W. Harrison Jr. for Martin County Historical Society
Few persons today are knowledgeable concerning the historic lore associated with Martin County’s Williams Township. Yet, when it comes to fascinating true stories, there is little doubt this area located along the Roanoke River has a special aura all its own.
Old-time historians recall Williams Township as the s birthplace and childhood home of Noah Smithwick, a pioneering soul who moved south, experienced and then wrote the first textbook history of the state of Texas. In this district also, the first publicly supported school in Martin County was established in the 1840s and in the early twentieth century, the county’s first consolidated school, “Sandy Ridge’ was begun here in 1916, later to be consolidated into the Williamston school system in 1931.
Peter J. Foster’s mill, known as “Foster’s Mill and later “Big Mill” near the bridge on the current Big Mill Road was the scene of several heated battles and skirmishes during the Civil War. Peter Foster removed to Virginia soon after the war and in ensuing years, the mill site became the prime recreational haunt for the Williamston city folk as well as the surrounding neighborhood.
Mexican American War veteran, John C. Getsinger lived here with his wife the former Mary Reddick, affectionately known as Polly on the old ancestral Reddick Farm next to present-day Reddick’s Grove Church. The letters the couple exchanged have since been preserved. After the untimely death of his wife around 1850, Getsinger later relocated to and remarried in Griffins Township. His grandson, J. Sam Getsinger was a long-time Martin County Register of Deeds
Just a field or two away, the family of Henry Short gave the county its first public school superintendent after the Civil War and the neighborhood’s first home-grown ordained Methodist minister, John S. Short. Of this same family, Henry Bascom Short founded the Lake Waccamaw community near Wilmington.
We could certainly go on here but most fascinating and rare for the record is the account of Drury Reddick, an African American man, who lived in the township about five miles outside Williamston in the mid to late 19th century.
An Anson Times (Wadesboro) newspaper article entitled “Wonderful Freak of Nature—A Veritable Horned Man” and dated Jan. 2, 1882, by W.P. Williams of Davidson Collee gives the following:
Among many wonders of the “progressive age” there is one very notable which I have never seen reported in our State papers, though the subject was exhibited at the Centennial at Philadelphia. About 30 years ago a colored man—near Williamston, (my native town in this State) named Drury Reddick, had a conical shaped excrescence over his left eye. It was by some pronounced a “wart”. It gave him very little if any pain. The excrescence would occasionally “shed off”. This process continued until about the year 1865, when the excrescence continued to grow out about 1 1-2 inches, then formed two prongs very much like i.e. in substance, a sheep’s horn. Each prong attained about 4 inches in length, and remained till the Fall of 1880, when it “shed off” again; but a new “horn” began forming at once, and while on a visit to Williamston in December last, I met said “Horned Man” on the street, with one prong of the horn resting against the right side of his left cheek. If anyone wishes further information in regard to the case, I refer them to Dr. Alonzo Heapell (Hassell), Williamston, N.C., W.T. Crawford, W. J. Hardison, Sherriff, or Mr. Albert Duggan, who exhibited him at the Centennial. Respectfully W.P. Williams.
Reddick’s story appeared in several news outlets at the time and was recalled many years later in the following from the Charlotte Observer on Nov. 6, 1929.