05/06/09 — Sheriff's deputy finds name to add to memorial

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Sheriff's deputy finds name to add to memorial

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on May 6, 2009 1:46 PM

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Sheriff's Sgt. Craig Edwins reads the description of the details of the death of Constable Zeb B. Lancaster.

The name of a Wayne County lawman who was killed in the line of duty in 1900 was added to the county's Emergency Services Memorial today.

Pikeville Township Constable Zeb B. Lancaster was killed on June 10, 1900, while trying to arrest a man for "beating his wife," according to a story in the Goldsboro Daily Argus at the time.

Lancaster's story was discovered by a Wayne County Sheriff's Office sergeant and a Pikeville librarian.

His name will be the first added to the monument at Wayne Community College since 2002, when Sheriff's Office Capt. Jerry K. Best was honored. Best was killed in an accident while trying to remove a dead deer from N.C. 581.

Before the discovery of Lancaster's fate by Sheriff's Sgt. Craig Edwins, there were nine officers whose names were on the monument.

With the help of Pikeville librarian Lisa Stevens, Edwins learned more about the death of Constable Lancaster.

Edwins first stumbled across the constable's name when browsing the Officer Down Memorial Page, which notes the most recent law enforcement deaths in the United States.

Stevens pored through the archived editions of the Goldsboro Daily Argus, one of the predecessors of this publication.

The June 11 newspaper reported: "The circumstances which led up to the shooting that resulted in the death of Lancaster are that a warrant had been issued against (Wesley White) for beating his wife, an offence (sic) of which he had been guilty many times before.

"Yesterday morning, Mr. Lancaster went to the saw mill where White was at work and placed him under arrest. Later in the day White succeeded in getting away from the constable and went back to the mill and went to work ....

"Yesterday afternoon Constable Lancaster went to the mill in company with E.D. Best and Stephen Pate, whom he carried with him to assist in arresting and keeping White. When White saw the men coming he hid behind the boiler with his pistol in his hand.

"Mr. Lancaster started toward the place where White was hidden. As soon as he was near enough White stepped from behind the boiler and began firing at Lancaster, who also drew his revolver and began firing.

"Neither one was hurt by the shooting at the time, but White ran off a few steps and turned and fired at Lancaster, who fell on the ball striking him in the abdomen.

"White then fired at Stephen Pate, but missed him and then ran off into the woods and made good his escape."

Unfortunately for the historians, that's where the story ends.

No mention of what happened to the shooter could be found. Edwins said Ms. Stevens, the librarian, searched through newspapers for an entire year after the shooting but could find no record of what happened with the accused.

Edwins first noticed Lancaster by recognizing the Pikeville police patch, he said.

"I knew from being on the Sheriff's Office Honor Guard that we had never recognized anybody from Pikeville," Edwins said.

The Sheriff's Office sergeant said most of the credit for the research belonged to Ms. Stevens, who put "hours and hours" of research into finding out more about Lancaster's shooting.

Edwins will get one more chance to pay homage to Constable Lancaster -- he was to be part of the rifle squad giving the 21-gun salute this morning.