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On a humid July morning in 1915 the little settlement of Big Lick in Stanly County was set to an
uproar by the ambush slaying of Henry Shoe, a respected farmer of a little past middle age.
Though the assassin was in hiding, the blast of the shotgun and the scream of his victim were heard
by several residents.
By the time Sheriff Gaston Blalock arrived from Albemarle a series of incidents had been reviewed
by residents which put the heavy, dark shadow of suspicion on Arch Helms as the man who had
murdered his neighbor.
Shortly before the shooting, Ab and Theak Hatley, who ran a blacksmith shop nearby, had seen the
45-year-old Helms headed toward the woods where Shoe was slain. Helms, a blond medium sized man
with a sweeping mustache, carried a shotgun. He told the Hatleys he was going to hunt squirrels.
Daniel Hinson, a somewhat illiterate resident of the community, had been plowing that morning in the
field nearby to where the shooting had occurred.
Hinson heard the gun blast and he heard the scream of the man who received the charge of
buckshot. When he ran down into the nearby woods he found Shoe, to whom he had talked to a few
Shoe, whose life blood was flowing from his chest, was being loaded into a surrey by Obe and
Luther Helms, sons of Arch Helms.
The two young men, well thought of until this day, carried the fatally injured, unconscious Shoe to his
Daniel Hinson, excited by all this bloody drama, abandoned his plowing and ran to the home of Arch
Helms. Hinson told them what he repeated at the preliminary hearing, that Arch Helms looked like a
man who had run a foot race.
“He was blowing,” said Daniel.
And Daniel said he asked why Arch Helms was not running forth to give aid to the wounded Shoe.
And Daniel quoted Helms as saying “He’s mad at me- - I wouldn’t go around him.”
According to the Albemarle Enterprise, indignant residents gathered at the home of Arch Helms.
The indication was that Helms was held within the confines of his home until Sheriff Blalock arrived.
Helms was, according to community knowledge, a producer of moonshine whiskey.
Shoe was, according to community knowledge, a man who hunted for stills. After finding them, he
would bring in the revenooers. By some he was considered a paid informer. Older residents today
around Oakboro and Big Lick are still divided on the issue. The majority believe that Henry Shoe
honestly dedicated himself to the eradication of the whiskey- - that he believed it evil.
At any rate, Arch Helms had made threats to shoot anyone who went into the woods where Shoe
was killed. Mitchell Smith said he had heard Helms say a week before the shooting that he would shoot
any man he found in this patch of woods regardless of the intruder’s motive.
Will Shoe, son of the slain man, said that a week earlier he was told by Arch Helms that somebody
was going to get killed in these woods. According to young Shoe, Helms added the unsubtle comment
that the person to be slain might be Will Shoe’s father.
While the sheriff was putting Arch Helms and Arch’s two sons, Obe and Luther, under arrest, some
of the onlookers were attracted by a commotion in the Helms barn. A mule in one of the stables was
snorting and pawing in apparent excitement.
A search of the stable disclosed a shotgun buried in the manure. The smell of gun powder emitting
from the weapon apparently had frightened the mule.
The gun was identified as belonging to Arch Helms. However, the accused man stoutly denied that
it was his gun. The officers also found a still within 75 yards of the Helms home.
Sheriff Blalock carried the three Helmses to Wadesboro and locked them in jail. The officers stated
that feeling was so high that he feared mob if the accused men were kept in Albemarle.
By the time the case came to trial in November, the killing had been so widely discussed that the
court ordered a venire of 75 men from which the jury would be picked.
Sheriff Blalock stated that he had fired the gun found in Helms’ stable and that it left plunger marks
identical with the marks on the shells found at the scene of the killing.
A surprise defense witness from Oakboro was ordered to the stand by Attorney Craige Richardson.
Hub Efird testified that he had sold Helms a gun like the one found in the stable. The witness added
that if the shotgun belonged to Arch Helms that the name of Hub Efird would be found written under the
The butt plate was removed, but there was no name underneath.
The testimony by Efird tilted the scales in favor of the defendant and he was aquitted.
Big Lick Festival Park @ Oakboro, NC
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