I stumbled upon the article below about five years ago and it never fails to make me smile. Initially it caught my eye because of my family surname, Gurganus, but it's the florid, descriptive writing that makes me pull it out and re-read it time and again. From the description of Ephraim Sykes and his actions preceding his testimony to the jury's verdict, I feel that I can imagine the entire scene. I am sure you will be just be as shocked as I was when you realize that a member of the jury was also a witness to the crime. (Sadly, I think I tend to overlook the the fact that Nicodemus was accused of committing a horrible crime because the writing is so entertaining.)
The Defendant stood before a Jury of his Country, indicted under the name and style of Nicodemus Gerganus for an assault and battery on the body of Stephen Simpkins. Declining for the present to answer the charge directly, he plead a misnomer, suggesting that his true baptismal name was Nicholas Ganus, and by no means Nicodemus Gerganus, as erroneously charged in the Bill. This preliminary and somewhat collateral issue was submitted to the Jury. Ephraim Sykes, a sallow, lantern-jawed dweller of the coast, of such remarkable length and sinuosity of person, that calomel never could find its way through him, was brought to the stand as a witness to prove by what name the Defendant ought to be called in legal proceedings, and handed down to posterity. In reply to a question proposed by the Defendant’s Counsel, he hitched up his trowsers, spit on the floor; drew his broad foot over it, and answered . I have hearn him called Nicholas Gerganus and Nick Gerganus. some folks calls him Nicodemus Gerganus, and some calls him Nicodemus Ganus. Sometimes his neighbors calls him Mr. Ganus, and I don’t know if I hav’nt sometimes hearn him called Mr. Gerganus but I, in ginerally, calls him Nick Ganus. The Jury retired and brought in a verdict that the defendant was a poor shoat any how, and it was not worth while to be bothering themselves about his name: as to his name, it is one of those small things about which the law careth not. He had done little for posterity, and posterity would care precious little about him. He had undoubtedly gouged Simpkins, for one of the Jury saw it done. So they had agreed to bring him in guilty of the charge in manner and form.
Stokes & Stokes Reporters, From the Fayetteville Observer, North Carolina, March 27, 1844, Issue 1399, Col F.
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013