SUBMITTED BY: Stokely Caldwell
There is an interesting Civil War story regarding a young man from New Hampshire named Timothy McKean who, after many adventures, ended up in North Carolina and changed his name to Charles Hawkins.
Timothy R. McKean was born in 1839 in Nashua, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, the son of Hugh & Rebecca McKean. On July 26, 1862 [he] enrolled and reported on muster rolls in Co. E of the 33rd Regiment of the Massachusetts Infantry for Union forces. During his service, the 33rd Massachusetts marched to Fredericksburg (Dec. 10-5) and camped at Falmouth until January 20, 1863. They fought in Chancellorsville from April 27 through May 5, 1863. Then they fought in Gettysburg in June and July of 1863.
Timothy was reported as a deserter on July 7/8, 1863 on the march from Emmettsburg to Middletown. Prisoner of War records show him as a Yankee deserter captured in October 1863. He was first sent to Upperville prison camp and then to Gordonville and finally committed to Castle Thunder in Richmond Virginia by Major Griswold. In a October 25, 1863 article in the Richmond Dispatch, it was reported that “A Yankee calling himself Timothy McKean was arested here (Gordonsville) to-day as a spy.” He escaped in February 1863 but was quickly recaptured. He was released in a prisoner exchange in April 1864.
He ended up in Madison County, NC where he met Polly E. Carter, daughter of Edward Samuel Carter and Rebecca Burlison Carter. They were married on September 13, 1868, but not under the name of Timothy McKean, but instead under the name of Charles H. Hawkins. Charles (Timothy) was a poor shoemaker and harness maker. Charles was ultimately shot twice in the back on May 6, 1887 in Clear Branch, Unicoi County, Tennessee, by John D. Wolfe, his former employer, and died on May 7, 1887.
He was attended to by Dr. L. S. Tilson. Wolfe, a resident of Erwin, TN and mill owner, had known Charles Hawkins (“Charley”) since the late 1860s. According to Wolfe’s trial testimony when Wolfe was tried for the shooting murder of Charley, Wolfe first became acquainted with Charley in Salisbury, North Carolina. There is nothing in the record to report why they were both in Salisbury. In the trial testimony, Wolfe reports that at one point, he felt that he and Charley were best friends. At some point after arriving in Unicoi, Wolfe and Charley apparently entered in to some type of contract where Wolfe hired Charley to clear and cultivate some land for one year. Charley also apparently ran “Wolfe Mill” during that period. Charley built a house on the land where he lived with his wife, Polly and his children, including his son, Edward Everett Hawkins (“Eddie”). Wolfe, in his testimony, described Charley as a man of more than ordinary skill in his projects.
As I understand it, the relationship began to sour and Wolfe and Charley got into a dispute about the contract and the land. On or about May 6, 1887, Wolfe was preparing to go to “Holcomb’s Store”. Wolfe’s son, Henry (a 21 year old weighing from 140-160 pounds), asked Wolfe to go with him to the Mill to get some corn that Henry wanted to plant. Wolfe and Henry said when they got to the Mill they saw Charley, in his shirt sleeves, on the path. Wolfe and Henry grabbed some corn for Henry to plant. Henry went to a lower level of the Mill and was shelling corn and then talking to Charley who had come in to have corn ground. Wolfe testified that, from upstairs, he heard the conversation get loud and he went down stairs to check. Wolfe testified that Charley turned toward him. Wolfe claimed that Charley then rushed Wolfe and shoved him back with his left arm against Wolfe’s neck and right hand in his pocket (which could have a weapon). Wolfe was holding his pistol (38 caliber six shot double action Bull dog pistol) in his pocket, drew it, placed it at Charley’s left breast and fired. Wolfe said Charley whirled and went back 4 or 5 feet and the re-approached Wolfe whereupon Wolfe fired again striking Charley in the back at the waistband. Wolfe then fired a third shot right against him. Henry said all the shots happened in 2 to 5 seconds. In his defense about a possible weapon, Wolfe testified that after the shooting that he saw a comparatively new Barlow knife on the Mill floor.
In the 1888 murder trial where John D. Wolfe was convicted of 2nd degree murder for shooting Charles Hawkins, Wolfe testified that Hawkins had told him he changed his name from Timothy McKean. He presumably changed his name because folks had heard of the Yankee Spy Timothy McKean.