To the mountain people of western North Carolina, superstitions are as natural as breathing. Whether it’s believing thathanging the skullover a murders head will make them tell the truth, or thatangels sing on a mountainafter a rainstorm. They believe as they do anything else, with all their hearts. This plays heavily into this story where a murderer would’ve gotten away scot-free if it wasn’t for a dream…
Farming in western North Carolina is hard enough, but but in the 1870s it was double tough for a man named George Feller. George lived in McDowell County with his wife and infant. What made George’s life so difficult was that his wife, Kathy, had Chronic Asthma and was unable to help out on the farm as other wife would. Eventually, her illness got so bad, she was almost an invalid.
So it came as no shock to anyone when George came to a neighbors home early one morning sobbing for help for his wife. He said she had a violent bout of asthma the night before and he was afraid she’d die. The nearest doctor was miles away and he didn’t know where to turn. The neighbors quickly agreed to help, so off to the Feller farm they rode. When the got there, they found a tragic sight. The woman was dead, her infant son still curled up next to her still warm body.
The mountain people are well known for taking care of one of their own and this was no exception. Funeral plans were made, the body was prepared. Men gathered and made a casket while the women gathered and ‘laid out’ the body. A messenger was send to the woman’s family home far away to tell her parents of her demise and a community preacher visited the home to offer the comfort he could provide.
As was customary, a group of mourners gathered and walked behind the wagon carrying the coffin for the 4 mile journey to the cemetery. As they traveled along the winding road to Kathy’s resting place, the met a man on horseback who refused to to let them pass. As the funeral procession got closer no one recognized the man in their way. Finally, the man held up his hand and called out “You can not bury this woman, she has been murdered!”
A gasp went through the crowd.
“I don’t know any of you”, The man continued. “I live in Yancey County. But I had a dream last night that on my way into McDowell County I would meet the funeral procession of a woman killed by her husband”. “This is the party I saw in my dream”. “The same carriage, the same coffin”. “Unless you have an examination made you leave me no choice but to tell the law”.
George Feller’s neighbors gathered to talk over what the stranger had said. Some thought he was a madman, or at least evil for stopping the procession. Still, others brought up the valid point that her knew the coffin contained the body of a young woman. Agreeing that the whole thing was silly, but that it was the right thing to do, the body was carried to the county seat of McDowell, Marion, despite objections by George Feller. When the doctor examined the body, he found that Kathy had died from pressure on the outside of her body rather than her condition.
She was indeed murdered and it wasn’t long that George confessed that he and Kathy had a terrible argument that night and he had lost his mind and strangled her with a leather strap. The baby went home with neighbors while George went to jail.At the trial, George confessed everything and was sentenced to death by hanging. His death was supposedly the last execution by hanging in McDowell County, although I can’t verify that. His crime was discovered and his demise was brought about due to a dream.