In December of 1929 in Germanton, North Carolina, Charles Lawson gathered his family and took them into town. He purchased expensive new clothes for his wife Fannie and seven children before having a family portrait taken. It was unusual for Charles, a tobacco farmer, to spend money unnecessarily when finances were already tight in the Lawson household.
Christmas morning was particularly busy for the Lawson’s. Charles and Fannie’s eldest child, seventeen-year-old Marie, woke up early to bake a Christmas cake. The cake had two separate layers, covered with raisins and icing. Sixteen-year-old Arthur was sent on an errand by his father to gather more ammunition for hunting, twelve-year-old Carrie and seven-year-old Maybell were going to visit their aunt and uncle who lived in a farmhouse nearby.
As Carrie and Maybell left their house, their father was waiting behind the barn with a loaded shotgun.