The Silencing of Joyce Cove

On the morning of April 8, 1885, four members of the Joyce family were found among the charred remains of their farmhouse in Morgan Cove, North Carolina. The community’s shock turned to outrage when a quickly formed coroner’s jury found all four Joyces had been killed by either ax or knife. It became clear that the arson was an attempt to cover the crime of murder. Were the murders an attempt to cover the crime of robbery? Or something more sinister? The short list of suspects included William Jones and his 22-year-old son, rumored to be the father of Margaret Joyce’s illegitimate baby daughter. An arrest was finally made in August by an undercover detective who had been posing as an itinerant worker on the Jones farm. The Jones men were held in an Asheville jail for seven months until a circus-like trial in March 1886, starring a confident, well-dressed detective, Bill “Soda Pop Bill” Deaver, of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. After a 15-day trial that gripped the nation, the Jones men were acquitted for lack of evidence. The family promptly fled Morgan Cove for north Georgia, where records showed they lived and died. All except Frank.