This is one of those almost unbearably sad stories that one runs into sometimes when researching family history. The story is ugly, involving fratricide and alleged incest, neither action pleasant or acceptable in society, but as it involves human beings, something that’s happened since the beginning of time.
Greenberry Carpenter was born in Indiana about 1841. His parents were Jacob Carpenter, born in North Carolina, and Mary “Polly” Kerr, born in Tennessee. I’ve found at least 3 children of these parents, including Greenberry; a daughter, Catherine, and another son, Lee. Greenberry married twice. The first marriage was very short, commencing in 1862, and produced a daughter, Malinda E Carpenter, born about 1864. The first wife died not long after the birth of Malinda, because Greenberry married again in 1865 Mary E Bowling, the niece of my 4th great-grandmother, Frances Louisa Bowling Lavender.
Greenberry and Mary had 6 children who survived to adulthood; 4 daughters and 2 sons. A newspaper article written about the crimes Greenberry committed states the family was prosperous. They lived in Harrison County, Indiana, near to Greenberry’s brother, Lee, and his wife and 6 children. Life was good until 1881 when Mary Bowling Carpenter went to her brothers and told them that Greenberry was engaging in intercourse with Malinda, his daughter with his first wife. Mary’s brothers advised her to go back to her husband and not speak of it again. The newspaper article states that Mary did just that, but somehow word leaked out of what was going on in the Greenberry Carpenter household and the subject was spoken about in town. Threats of violence were made against Greenberry, and he found it prudent to leave the area, taking his daughter, Malinda, with him, for a few weeks. He returned and talked Mary into going into town and denying the story, hoping to convince everyone that the incestuous activity never happened. No one believed the denials, so the family decided to sell their farm and leave the county. Greenberry was upset as his own brother, as well as Mary’s brothers, continued to believe the story and talked about it in town. The newspaper article states that Greenberry threatened violence towards the men, promising, it said, to shoot them full of holes. On the morning of June 9th, 1881, Greenberry was on his way to town and saw his brother, Lee, working in one of his fields. The men argued and Greenberry pulled out a gun and shot his brother through the heart. One of Lee’s sons witnessed the murder and ran for help. Greenberry went to a neighbor’s house, told him what had happened, and told the man he was going to his house to wait for the law to come to him. He must have changed his mind because the paper said that officers went to Greenberry’s house, searched it, and Green was not there. He ended up turning himself in, was convicted of the murder of his brother, and sentenced to life in prison. He lived until the 14th of February, 1889, when he died of tuberculosis while still in prison.
While researching this family, I knew nothing of the story of Green’s death. I started tracing Mary and her children, having only her application for Green’s Civil War pension which was made in August of 1890. I had put that he had died before that date. Most of the family did move out of Harrison County, Indiana except for two of the daughters who married and had children there. Mary herself moved with the majority of her children to Louisville, Kentucky, where she died in 1912. I thought I’d done the impossible when I found the date and place of death of Green and Mary’s daughter, Margaret. She had been born in 1872, married 4 times, and died in Florida. She’d married her last husband there. Margaret died in Florida in 1963 and her body was returned to Harrison County, Indiana for burial. After finding the dates and places of death for all 6 of the children, I started to search for what had happened to Green and found the newspaper articles detailing his crimes. His death was marked in only one newspaper, The Indianapolis News, with only 3 lines: “Berry Carpenter, of Harrison County, who killed his brother and was sent to the Prison South for life, is dead.” That’s it. No obituary, no disposition of his body noted.
I created a Find A Grave memorial for Greenberry Carpenter without naming the 2nd crime of incest, only putting there that he’d killed his brother. I linked him to his wife, Mary, as I had created her Find A Grave memorial using her death certificate information which stated where her body had been laid to rest. Greenberry is in 12 public trees on Ancestry, none of them having a date of death for him. One tree did say that he’d killed his brother, Lee.