With over a hundred years of history and ties to one of the most gruesome mass murders in North Carolina history, Madison Dry Goods and Country Store is not your average local business. Since Richard and Kathy Miller purchased the store in the 1990s, the shop has operated as a country store—selling clothing, antiques, and souvenirs to celebrate its haunted history. But in the early 20th century, long before the Millers bought the store, the upstairs portion of the building housed the T.B. Knight Funeral Parlor, which played a small role in the tragic events of 1929.
On Christmas Day 1929, sharecropper Charles Davis “Charlie” Lawson shot and bludgeoned his wife and six of seven of his children. Just days prior, Lawson had taken his family into town to buy new clothes and pose for a family portrait, causing some to guess the murders may have been premeditated. After the murders, Lawson shot himself in the nearby forest. Only one child survived the attack, 19-year-old Arthur, who Lawson had sent on an errand shortly before committing the murders.
Lawson’s six children, including baby Mary Lou, his wife, Fannie, and Lawson himself were all embalmed in the second-floor T.B. Knight Funeral Parlor. Even though the parlor was some 20 miles away from Germanton where the Lawsons were murdered, it was still chosen to embalm the victims there since it was large enough to accommodate all eight bodies and had an elevator.
Today, the second floor of Madison Dry Goods and Country Store has been converted into a museum that traces the history of the building and town. The museum also delves into the Lawson murders and the building’s history as a funeral parlor. The museum features an account of the murders, funeral parlor equipment from the 1920s, newspaper clippings, and other artifacts related to the case. Prior to the building becoming a country store, it spent many years as a hotel, which the museum also delves into.
The building’s affiliation with the Lawson family murders has led to claims of paranormal activity at the store. In 2022, the building was featured on Netflix’s 28 Days Haunted.