The body of 19 year old Nell Cropsey was found floating in North Carolina’s Pasquotank River over a month after she disappeared in 1901. Her boyfriend was accused of killing her. But three people in the Cropsey home the night Nell disappeared later took their own lives. Were they hiding the truth behind her disappearance and death?
Elizabeth City, North Carolina is situated in the northeastern corner of the state, on the Pasquotank River and Intracoastal Waterway. The city’s just west of the Outer Banks.
Known as the Harbor of Hospitality, Elizabeth City was once a major seaport where ships carried goods to and from the new world.
In early 1898, William Cropsey, a merchant and lawyer from Brooklyn, purchased a sixty five acre plantation and Victorian mansion known as Seven Pines. The home at 1109 Riverside Drive, was situated on the banks of the Pasquotank River.
By April, Cropsey had moved his famiy, wife Mary Louise and their nine children, to Elizabeth City.
William was named Pasquotank County justice and the Cropsey’s set about settling into their new life in the south.
Seven Pines was always abuzz with activity and visitors. Of the Cropsey’s nine children, Nell and her older sister Ollie were very close.
The 16 year old dark haired, dark eyed Nell and her 19 year old sister Ollie were beautiful young women who captivated the attention of men in Elizabeth City.
That June, they met 23 year old Jim Wilcox, the son of the local sheriff. He visited Seven Pines to introduce himself and paid particular attention to Nell. Jim was known around Elizabeth City as a different sort of guy. He wasn’t disliked…he was just considered by some folks to be…a little odd.
Jim was a good looking man and Nell felt drawn to him. The two hit it off and began dating with Jim visiting Seven Pines every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday to spend time with Nell and the family.
Jim Wilcox wooed Nell with flowers, gifts of silver dishes and a gold ring on her birthday the following July.
By fall 1901, Nell and Jim had been dating for over two years and the now 19 year old Nell wanted a commitment of some kind. Jim was struggling to make his way in the world. He was working in a local mill and trying to study law by correspondence school. Jim was honest with Nell and told her he didn’t plan to propose anytime soon.
Nell wanted marriage and a future and cared for Jim but one night as the two argued over the state of their relationship, Jim became enraged and grabbed his hat and stormed out of Seven Pines. Nell confided to her mother and her sister Ollie that she had become concerned about Jim’s quick temper when they would fight.
In September, Nell told Jim if nothing was going to change, it was best to take a break or just move on. As the weeks passed, Nell stopped talking to Jim. She moved on with her life, joined a local church and spent a lot of time there with other young people including her cousin Carrie who was visiting from New York.
Nell was excited about the weeks to come including a planned trip to New York in late November.
In early November, Jim tried to reconnect. He knew and was liked by all of the Cropseys so he started visiting Seven Pines again. The visits were often awkward and uncomfortable because Nell barely spoke to him.
On the night of November 20th, 1901, Jim Wilcox visited Seven Pines. He spent hours there along with Ollie’s boyfriend Roy Crawford. There was a lot of music in Seven Pines that night because Nell loved music. Jim sat in a rocker and barely spoke a word as Roy and Ollie danced. There was a moment in the night that made Jim, Ollie and Nell rather uncomfortable. At one point, Roy reached for Nell’s cheek and said to her, “you’re looking mighty sweet tonight Nell.” An odd thing for her sister’s boyfriend to do, especially when there’s already a lot of tension in the air.
Around 11pm, Jim pulled out his watch and said his mom would want him home soon. He moved towards Nell and asked if she would join him on the porch. Nell didn’t say a word, she just moved towards the door and walked outside with Jim.
Ollie would later say she assumed Nell and Jim went to the porch to make up or at the very least make peace before Nell headed to New York later that week. She never imagined when Nell walked out on the porch with Jim, it would be the last time she saw her alive.
Hear the story of Nell’s disappearance, theories surrounding her murder and the strange deaths of people connected to the case in the new episode!
The Ghost of Nell Cropsey. Island Life NC.
A little history. City of Elizabeth City North Carolina.
What Was Justice. The New York Daily News. June 2, 1946.
Ollie Cropsey Tells Her Sorrowful Story. The Raleigh Morning Post. March 18, 1902.
The Murder of Nell Cropsey. Murder, Mystery and Mayhem. June 19, 2019.
A Strong Case Against Wilcox. The Raleigh Morning Post. December 31,1901.
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