Tag Archives: clemency

- 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 … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Walter Turpin, No. 3159 and No. 4361


Photograph of Walter Turpin, #4361, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 52, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Walter Turpin, the subject of this week’s post, had a long criminal history of housebreaking and counterfeiting.  His prison record was spotty at best. He escaped once and masterminded a daring escape plan with two other prisoners that failed,  yet, he was pardoned – twice.

Walter Turpin had a difficult childhood.  He was born in December 1877 in Bedford County.  Orphaned at a young age, Turpin made a living as a newsboy on the streets of Lynchburg.  In 1890 he was arrested for stealing cigarettes and sent to a reformatory for seven years.  Turpin quickly graduated from the reformatory to the penitentiary when  he was sentenced in January 1900 by the Richmond City Hustings Court to two years in the Virginia Penitentiary for breaking into the storehouse of the Southern Railway.  Turpin was discharged on 21 October 1901; however, his freedom was short-lived.  Turpin was sent back to the Penitentiary in June 1902 for five years for breaking into a hardware store in Lynchburg.  Since this was Turpin’s second conviction, five additional years were added to his sentence.

On 25 October 1902, Turpin escaped from the Penitentiary in broad daylight.  He exchanged his prison stripes for … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday (Halloween Edition): Benjamin Gilbert


Photograph of Benjamin Gilbert, 5th person executed at the Virginia Penitentiary, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 23, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday (Halloween Edition)!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.

At 7:15 A.M. on 19 March 1909 , Benjamin Gilbert, age 19, was electrocuted for the 23 July 1908 murder of Amanda Morse in Norfolk.  Gilbert and Morse dated briefly.  After Morse ended the relationship in the spring of 1908, Gilbert made frequent threats of bodily harm to her.  On the evening of 23 July 1908, Gilbert approached Morse and several of her male companions on the Campostella Bridge.  When Morse refused to speak with him, Gilbert pulled a revolver and fired three shots, hitting Morse twice in the back.  She died the next day.  Gilbert was convicted of first degree murder in October 1908 and sentenced to death.  Virginia Governor Claude Swanson granted Gilbert two respites to allow his attorney to appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.  The Court refused to grant a writ of error and the death sentence was carried out at the Virginia Penitentiary.

After Gilbert’s execution, the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch reported on an effort to revive him.  Dr. J.P. Jackson of South Norfolk wanted to revive Gilbert with a respirator, an invention that he claimed could restore life if used immediately after death in cases of electrocution and asphyxiation. The 19 March 1909 … read more »