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Leeann Judkins


Look twice.

Don’t blink.


Could it be a resurgence of television’s “Peyton Place?”

You’ll be pleasantly and educationally surprised and shocked.

No, you’re not confused. 

You’re human.

For a lifetime, we believed that it was only one Smithville murder in one of the twin houses. 



It was two murders in the same house, located at 310 West Main Street, within walking distance to the DeKalb County Courthouse.  The twin houses, still standing, are located across the street from each other.  


And, there were two local unsolved murders in one house. That’s right.  Unsolved! That’s right. 

Two, not one!


Read on and learn more, if you dare.


Thanks to our local historian, the late Tommy Webb, we have an updated historically verbatim document, which will be among us and cherished and appreciated forever.  There are only a few documented evidences about the houses, including from local attorney and history enthusiast Sarah Cripps, and in Mr. Webb’s “History of DeKalb County.”  It reads, in part: “In 1873, two young brothers, John and Will Smith, came from Wilson County to Smithville.  They taught for two years at Fulton Academy, a four-year secondary school in DeKalb County, established in 1838.  John married a Smithville girl, Lollie Hayes.  Will married Lollie’s sister, Cannie Hayes, two years later.  In 1877, the brothers opened a general store, selling dry-goods.   The Hayes sisters married the Smith brothers and they lived in twin houses.  Sounds like a fairy tale. 


Aubrey Smith and his brother, William Smith, had financial problems and accosted their mother, Cannie, for money to sustain their overly-encompassing and vastly depleting monetary budgets.  Forcibly and without further comments or questions, Cannie immediately said “NO” in response to giving her intolerable grandsons additional operational and exorbitant funds.

 Continuing, Cripps acknowledged, “The boys honored their grandmother, Cannie Smith, with a 77th birthday celebration at her 110 Main Street home on Thursday, May 2, 1927; her murdered and mutilated body was found the next day on May 3, 1927. Shockingly, Cripps continued, “Her body was found in the living room fireplace with her head and shoulders transfixed within the andirons.  Firewood was scattered about the body and was also found underneath Cannie’s body.  Her shoulders and arms were badly burned’” as the court of law documented and preserved.

 At the Coroner’s Inquest, the following information was revealed about Cannie’s body:

1.  Severe burning to the upper torso.

2.   Cannie sustained a skull fracture, located behind her ear.

3.   She died as a result of a blow to the head by a person/persons unknown to the jury.

Razzie, the maid, later alerted other townspeople, including local county court judge Willie Harrison Atwell, Sarah’s paternal great-grandfather.  His son was Jack Atwell Hobson, Rita Hobson Cripps father and Sarah Jane Cripps great-grandfather.  The local attorney currently lives in Judge Atwell’s historically renovated home at 108 Woodlawn Street in Smithville.

 Continuing and beforehand, onlookers noticed that both the “Banner” newspaper and the daily milk cartons had not been delivered inside Cannie’s house.  Youngster, A.P. Conger was sent by his parents to Cannie’s house for evaluation and to answer unsolvable questions.  Alvin Parker was afraid to enter the house and told his parents, “She’s not there…I can’t see her.”   The youngster did not see her dead body in the fireplace, as it was difficult to view from A.P.’s angle.

 John Smith’s health forced him to retire in 1894.  “The dry-goods store was run by Will and Cannie Hayes Smith until it completely burned in the 1920’s.”  During the devastating fire, Cripps continued, Cannie almost died from her extremely serious contact burns.

 Providing more historical information, Mr. Webb continued, “After their children were born, they (the Smith’s) decided to build twin houses on opposite sides of what is now West Main Street.  Will had owned the land on the north side of the street for several years, and lived near the prestigious Fulton Academy.  John and Lollie bought seven acres on the southside of the street, including the Old Jim Allen house in 1895.  The house was torn down and an elegant new house was constructed at the top of the hill with its twin Victorian house built directly across the street.  The Smith families had done well in business and could afford to build what was probably the most beautiful houses in DeKalb County at that time.  No effort was spared on the trim.  All sorts of gingerbread and moldings were lavished on the houses with steel-roofed cupolas to top them off.  Both houses were painted tan and trimmed in chocolate brown and were completed by 1898.”  Today, 125 years later, their exterior and interior paint colors have changed.

 Continuing, Mr. Webb wrote, “Both of the Smith couples each had one child.  The Will Smith’s had one son, Aubrey.  The John Smith’s had a son, William.”  Legally, the boys were close family members.

An addendum follows: “After Will Smith’s death in 1902, Cannie lived in the house until her tragic death on Friday, May 3, 1929, when she was found murdered inside her living room fireplace.  She died intestate, one day after her 77th birthday celebration. She did not have a Will, therefore automatically making Aubrey, next in-line, the biological and the designated appointee.  She was “a high-class businesswoman, always well-dressed, and always liked and wore hats,” added Cripps. “With a comparison to local businesswoman, the late Henretta Hale,” who owned and operated Smithville Dress Shop, once located on Main Street for many years.   For clarity and precise grammar, her birth name was not spelled or spoken “Henrietta.”  It was spelled and pronounced, “Henretta.”  The middle “i” is not a part of her birthname.

In contention, the second murder, mostly publicly unknown, yet in this same house, occurred on April 8,1933.  Aubrey Smith inherited the house and let his brother, William, live there with his bride, Artis Mildred Smith (nee Griffith).  At age 33, Artis died of what was believed to be arsenic poisoning.  Contrarily, William was in Nashville working during this time, added Cripps.

  With his educational knowledge and unbelievable memory, Mr. Webb continued writing: “During the summer of 1998, Bill and Kelly Little purchased the Will Smith house from Tolbert and Bessie Hendrixson.  Following some renovations and refurbishing, Billy, Kelly, and their daughters Marcey, Madelyne, and Meredith moved into the house.”  In additional detail, Mr. Webb further writes, “After John Smith’s death in 1904, Lolli married Eli Evans, a widower.  They built a smaller house just east of the large house.  By 1905, the large house was sold to S.C. Tyree, a Smithville dry-goods merchant and pearl dealer.  In 1925, he sold a 65-foot lot on the west to Solon Conger, Alvin Parker's brother.  After Mr. Tyree died, his family moved to Texas.  The house was rented to several different families; Judge Drake, Mrs. Herman Pinkerton, and Dr. R. L. Twilla.    Mrs. Tyree sold the house to Mr. and Mrs. Lonnie Williams in 1934.  They made several changes to the house, including removals of the chimneys, the side porch, and the cupola.  A bathroom was added and the upstairs rented as an apartment.”  The Lonnie Williams family seemed to be ignorant of the many contracultural features prevalent in older homes.  Seriously, who removes fireplaces, the front porches, and the cupola’s from an ageless historical home?   

 “Fesser” (short for Professor) continued with his narrative writings; “After Elizabeth “Lizzy” and  John Williams died, their house was sold at auction in 1976.  It was bought and handsomely restored by J. Hilton Conger, a Smithville attorney.  He and his wife, Joanna Hall, and their three daughters, Julianna Conger Gassaway, the late Katherine Conger, and Martha Hall Conger occupied the ornate and the beautifully restored house until the fall, 1998.”  No murders or suspicious deaths occurred at any time in this nostalgic house. “In November, 1998, Norris and Wendy Colvert purchased the John Smith house from Conger, and with their son, Kevin Colvert, the family moved into the house by the end of the month,”  Webb further noted.


“In May of 2011, local attorneys John and Tecia Puckett Pryor purchased the John Smith house from the Colvert’s.  With their son, Harrison, the Pryor’s moved into the house, which is located at 309 West Main Street. The family has resided there for 13 years.

  Today, Mr. and Mrs. James P. Irvin purchased the 310 West Main Street house from the Bill Little family several years ago.  This white Victorian structure is located at 310 Main Street; the other twin house is located at 309 West Main Street, within “hollering” distance of each other.

 In retribution, while Thomas was away working in Nashville, William continuously mailed Artie small bakery cakes throughout his employment tenure.  Friends kept telling Artie, “If you do eat them, you’ll never live long enough to talk about it.”  Artie paid no attention to her friends and ate the cakes anyway.  She died at age 33 on April 8, 1933 in the same house (that also had another murder in 1929, Artis, from arsenic poisoning.  The first murder occurred there in 1901 when Cannie sustained a blow to the head and was placed to burn in the fireplace.

 Two similar causes of death at 310 West Main Street in Smithville:  a blow to the head and arsenic poisoning through cupcakes by mail.

Now you know something you didn't know.