Mug Shot Monday Special Edition: “Hillsville Massacre”

Wanted Poster for Sidna, Claude and Friel Allen and Wesley Edwards, dated 23 March 1912, Papers Relevant to the Floyd and Claude Allen case, Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth, Box 1, Accession 39265, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia. Welcome to Mug Shot Monday Special Edition.   Next Wednesday, 14 March marks the 100th anniversary of the infamous “Hillsville Massacre,” where five people were killed in a gunfight in the Carroll County courthouse.  For the next week, Out of the Box will spotlight records at the Library of Virginia related to the individuals convicted for their role in the shooting.

On 13 March 1912, in the Carroll County Circuit Court, Floyd Allen was tried for attacking two deputies who had arrested two of his nephews for fighting and disturbing a religious meeting. The jury found Allen guilty of assault on 14 March and sentenced him to one year in the penitentiary.  Allen stood up and stated, “Gentlemen, I ain’t going” and shots erupted in the courthouse leaving several county officials and a spectator dead.  The Allen family claimed that several court officials opened fire on Floyd Allen, while other witnesses contended that Claude Swanson Allen, the defendant’s son, began the shooting. Nevertheless, Floyd Allen, Claude Swanson Allen, and other members of the Allen family were tried for murder in the Wythe County Circuit Court from April-December 1912.  Floyd Allen was convicted of first degree murder on 16 May 1912.  Claude S. Allen was also found guilty of first degree murder.  Father and son were executed on 28 March 1913.

Sidna Allen, Floyd’s brother, was sentenced to 35 years in the penitentiary for second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.  Sidna Edwards, nephew of Floyd and Sidna Allen, plead guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years in the penitentiary.  Friel Allen, Floyd’s nephew, confessed to shooting the commonwealth’s attorney and was sentenced to 18 years in the penitentiary for second degree murder.  Wesley Edwards, brother of Sidna Edwards, received a 27-year prison sentence, 18 years for two counts of first degree murder and 9 years for second degree murder.

Over the next week, Out of the Box will post a daily entry on each member of the Allen family.  The schedule is:

Each entry, where applicable, will include a photograph and prisoner register entry from the records of the Virginia Penitentiary, clemency documents from the Secretary of the Commonwealth and excerpts from an anonymous article published in The Beacon, the prisoner-run Virginia Penitentiary newspaper, that describes one inmate’s observations on the Allen family.

-Roger Christman, Senior State Records Archivist

*Update – 21 March 2012*

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce a new blog, Fit to Print:  Dispatches from the Virginia Newspaper Project @ The Library of Virginia.  The first post, 100 Years Ago – Law and Disorder, is about the Allen’s and the Carroll County Courthouse shooting.

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