Welcome to Mug Shot Monday Special Edition. This is the fifth post focusing on records at the Library of Virginia related to the “Hillsville Massacre.”
In December 1912 in the Wythe County Circuit Court, Wesley Edwards, nephew of Floyd Allen, was sentenced to 27 years in the Virginia Penitentiary for two counts of first degree murder and one count of second degree murder for his involvement in the Carroll County shootout. Edwards was admitted to the penitentiary on 14 December 1912. An anonymous fellow prisoner, writing in the 27 April 1922 issue of the inmate-run penitentiary newspaper, The Beacon, shared his observations of Wesley Edwards:
“The first day I was in prison I ran into Wesley Edwards on the steps of the Industrial Department and started a conversation with him. As soon as I told him where I was from, he at once extended his hand, with a smile, and said he was glad to see someone from near his old home, though he was sorry to see me in trouble. I in turn extended my sympathy to him. My thoughts of him were many, the chief one being how strange it seemed that this tall, blue-eyed, young fellow could be so jovial and so interested in his work. He was even then in a hurry, had saw-dust in his hair and on his clothing and carried a rule in his hand. I had pictured him, before I met him, as being a rather rough looking man with a sad countenance, with hope crushed by the unduly long enforcement of prison life. Our first conversation was short, but impressive.”
Edwards’ petition for a conditional pardon was denied on 6 October 1922 by Governor E. Lee Trinkle on grounds that he had only served a small portion of his 27-year sentence. In 1926, Edwards applied again for a pardon. Governor Harry F. Byrd granted the pardon on 29 April 1926. “Upon the petition of thousands of citizens,” Byrd wrote, “this man [Wesley Edwards] having served about half his time and made an excellent prisoner, and feeling that the ends of justice have been met sufficiently to warrant giving him a chance at this time, granted conditional pardon.”
In May 1934, Wesley Edwards applied for the removal of political disabilities (restoration of his voting rights) and an absolute pardon. “[S]ince the granting of the conditional pardon,” Edwards attorneys wrote Governor George C. Peery, “Mr. Edwards has been actively engaged in business, and at the present time operates a filling station on the Richmond-Washington Highway in Henrico County.” Edwards “is in no way a charge on the community, and so far as we have been able to learn he has lived as a law abiding citizen and has not in any way breached the conditions of the pardon granted him.” Governor Peery granted both requests on 11 June 1934.
Wesley Edwards died from influenza on 16 November 1939.
Tomorrow: Floyd and Claude Allen
-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.