One of the most mysterious events concerning the history of Elizabeth City involves the disappearance
and murder of Nell Cropsey.
From The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey by Bland Simpson, 1993.
(Parts of the chronology which relate to the core of the mystery are listed below)
The Cropsey House on Riverside Ave. was the site of the nationally infamous unsolved murder in the early 1900's. In later years, several equally perplexing suicides by persons directly involved in the investigation have forever shrouded the guilty.
- 1876 Jim Wilcox Born in Pasquotank County, eastern North Carolina
- 1881 Ella Maud (Nell) Cropsey born in Brooklyn.
- 1898 William Cropsey moves his family to Pasquotank County from Brooklyn. Jim Wilcox, son of the
Republican county sheriff, takes up with Nell Cropsey.
- 1901 Nell Cropsey vanishes on November 20; she is found thirty-seven days later, dead, in the Pasquotank River. Jim Wilcox is jailed and guarded by reserves called out by the governor. Nell's father disperses the
- 1902 Jim Wilcox is convicted in Elizabeth City of first-degree murder and sentenced to hang for Nell's
death. A mistrial is declared by the state supreme court because of public disturbances during the trial.
- 1903 Wilcox is retried in Perquimans County, convicted of second-degree murder, and sentenced to thirty
years in prison. The Cropseys leave Seven Pines. Ollie (Nell's older sister) begins reclusion.
- 1908 Roy Crawford, Ollie's caller on the night Nell disappeared, shoots himself to death.
- 1913 Will Cropsey, Jr., one of Nell's younger brothers, poisons himself to death in Norfolk, Virginia.
- 1918 Governor Bickett visits Jim Wilcox at mountain prison farm, pardons him several weeks later. Jim returns to
Elizabeth City on Christmas Eve.
- 1932 Jim Wilcox and W.O. Saunders (editor of Elizabeth City newspaper The Independent) plan to
collaborate on a book about the Cropsey case, but Jim backs out.
- 1934 Jim Wilcox summons W.O. Saunders to his room to talk. Two weeks later, Wilcox commits suicide.
Outbuilding behind Cropsey home where autopsy was performed.