Daisy Gray, “Material Witness”, 14 May 1951

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When Daisy Gray was a young girl—Daisy Watkins, then—she lived with her family on Preston avenue, close to the tin mills. One night in 1934, Daniel Laws, who lived a few doors away, entered her home and beat her with an iron poker because she wouldn’t have sex with him. She was able to stop him only by stabbing him with a butcher knife. Both were so badly hurt that they ended up in hospital. The story in the New Castle News bore the headline, “He Wields Poker; She Uses Knife—This Is Why Daniel Laws And Daisy Watkins Have Wounds Today”. There is little to explain the light comic tone of the piece, apart from the word “colored” in its first line.

After the war, Daisy lived on Mahoning avenue and ran what the authorities called a disorderly house, which meant she sold beer and allowed gambling in her parlour. On a Sunday afternoon in 1951, her brother Richard Watkins dropped by to pick up some bottles. He and Jessie Ashe, sitting at the same table, started arguing after he accused her of taking $2 of his change. Jessie left and went to her rooming house on the next block. Richard followed her home and beat her unconscious. She died the next day.

The police arrested Daisy as a material witness and confiscated five cases of beer, some whiskey, a few indecent pictures, playing cards and dice. Richard was found guilty of murder and Daisy was fined $200 for selling liquor without a license. There is no further record of her life. All the houses on Preston street and Mahoning avenue where Daisy and her family lived were demolished in the sixties. No one has lived on the block since.

Sources: 3 May 1934, “He Wields Poker; She Uses Knife”; 15 May 1951, “Murder Charge Will Be Placed”; 26 May 1951, “Sentence Woman”.




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