Tag Archives: Inmate photographs

- Mug Shot Monday: Ben Parker, No. 8432


Photograph of Ben Parker, #8432, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 110, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday–Archives Month Edition!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  This month’s entries will spotlight early parole records.  An 1898 Act of the Virginia General Assembly (amended several times) granted the Virginia Penitentiary Board of Directors power to parole prisoners if they met certain conditions. To be eligible the inmate must have served half his term, have not broken any prison rules for the two years preceding the date of one-half his term and the prisoner must have assurance of employment upon his discharge. In 1915, the Virginia Attorney General issued an opinion stating that any legislation limiting the power of the governor to grant clemency was unconstitutional.

On 30 January 1909, Ben F. Parker, a 30-year-old African American from Nansemond County, arrived at the Virginia Penitentiary to begin serving a three-year sentence for forgery.  Parker was sent to work on the Bedford County road force operated by W.H. McMillan.  He was a model prisoner.  After serving half his sentence, Parker applied for a conditional pardon (parole) in August 1910.  C.T. Allen, a farmer in Good View, Virginia, agreed to employ Parker on his farm for $6 a month for seventeen months.  Allen also promised to “take a friendly interest” in Parker, “to counsel and advise him in which … read more »

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- Mug Shot Monday Special Edition: Floyd and Claude Allen


Photograph of Floyd Allen, #47, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 184, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday Special Edition.  This is the final post focusing on records at the Library of Virginia related to the “Hillsville Massacre.”

In March 1913, Floyd Allen and his son Claude were executed for the 14 March 1912  murder of Commonwealth’s Attorney William Foster.  The Allens’ case had gone through many twists and turns since the shootout in the Carroll County courthouse the previous March.  The trials of Floyd Allen, Claude Allen, Friel Allen, Sidna Allen, Wesley Edwards, and Sidna Edwards took place in Wytheville from April to December 1912.  The prosecution’s strategy was to prove the courthouse shooting was a premeditated conspiracy in order to make each defendant equally liable for the murders.  On 18 May 1912, Floyd Allen was found guilty of the first degree murder of Commonwealth’s Attorney Foster.  The prosecution’s strategy failed in the trial of Claude Allen.  He was convicted of the second degree murder of Judge Thornton Massie because the prosecution failed to prove a conspiracy.  Claude Allen then was tried twice for the murder of Foster.  The first trial resulted in a hung jury.  In the second trial, Allen was convicted of first degree murder.  Floyd and Claude Allen were sentenced to die in the electric chair at the Virginia Penitentiary on 22 November 1912.

The execution did not happen in November.  In order to … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday Special Edition: Wesley Edwards, No. 11218


Photograph of Wesley Edwards, #11218, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 165, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

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

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- Mug Shot Monday Special Edition: Sidna Allen, No. 11217


Photograph of Sidna Allen, #11217, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 165, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday Special Edition.  This is the fourth post focusing on records at the Library of Virginia related to the “Hillsville Massacre.”

In December 1912 in the Wythe County Circuit Court, Sidna Allen, brother of Floyd Allen, was sentenced to 35 years in the Virginia Penitentiary for the crimes of first, second and third degree murder.  Allen 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 Sidna Allen:

“I at last had an opportunity to go through the carpenter shop where I saw Sidna Allen…I stopped and watched him for a while at his work, before I went over and talked with him.  He was working with as much zeal as any man who owned and operated a manufacturing plant.  His hair was a silvery gray, though tinted with the yellow saw-dust, and his face pale, though it had the illuminated appearance of a pure Christian man….After talking with him a little while I found that the expression on his face was only revealing the man as he was; a true Christian man.  Sunday morning and any time he had a spare, you could see him sitting around reading the Bible and enjoying the words he was daily

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- Mug Shot Monday Special Edition: Sidna Edwards, No. 10995


Photograph of Sidna Edwards, #10995, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 161, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday Special Edition.  This is the third post focusing on records at the Library of Virginia related to the “Hillsville Massacre.”

In August 1912 in the Wythe County Circuit Court, Sidna Edwards, nephew of Floyd Allen, plead guilty to second-degree murder for his involvement in the Carroll County shootout.  He was sentenced to 15 years in the Virginia Penitentiary and admitted on 18 September 1912.  By all accounts Edwards was a model prisoner.  The 27 April 1922 issue of The Beacon, the inmate-run penitentiary newspaper, contained this observation of Sidna Edwards by a fellow prisoner:

“[I] noticed a stalwart looking man standing on the prison hospital steps.  He had a young, though sad looking face, his hair was beginning to silver and his general expression showed much pain and worry for a young man of his seeming age.  I remarked to another prisoner that the big, young fellow seemed rather under the weather.  ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘that is Sidna Edwards.  He has rheumatism and has been in the hospital a long time, although not confined to bed.  He has the duty of nursing the other patients.’  To describe him takes only a few words, he has one of the most gentle, accommodating, kind and truthful dispositions that I have ever met in any man.  He is generally liked and

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- Mug Shot Monday Special Edition: Friel Allen, No. 10994


Photograph of Friel Allen, #10994, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 161, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday Special Edition.  This is the second post focusing on records at the Library of Virginia related to the “Hillsville Massacre.”

In August 1912 in the Wythe County Circuit Court, Friel Allen, son of Jasper “Jack” Allen and nephew of Floyd Allen, was convicted of second degree murder in the death of William McDonald Foster, Carroll County Commonwealth’s Attorney.  Allen was sentenced to 18 years in the Virginia Penitentiary and admitted to the penitentiary on 18 September 1912.  By all accounts Allen was a model prisoner.  An anonymous fellow prisoner, writing in the 27 April 1922 issue of the inmate-run penitentiary newspaper, The Beacon, shared his observations of Friel Allen:

“I had noticed a well-dressed young man passing through the yard of the prison, and on asking who he was I got this reply: ‘that is the Superintendent’s Chauffeur, Friel Allen.’  I immediately remarked that he was only a boy, that if he had been here ten years and looked that now, he must have been only a kid when he was sent here.  I ventured up for a talk with him, expecting a sad answer, but not so, he sprang a friendly joke on me right away and began to kid me, showing his youth and good spirits.  Our association from then on became more intimate, especially evenings. 

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- Mug Shot Monday: Mary L. Morst, No. 11033


Photograph of Mary L. Morst, #11033, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 162, 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.  Mary L. Morst, the subject of this week’s post, was pregnant when she arrived at the Penitentiary.

In October 1912, Mary Morst was sentenced by the Pittsylvania County Circuit Court to 18 years in the Penitentiary for murdering her husband.  Morst’s mug shot, taken upon her arrival at the Penitentiary on 14 October 1912, clearly shows she is pregnant.  On 13 January 1913, Morst gave birth to twins:  Joseph and Martha.  What would happen to her children?

The Code of Virginia provided the answer.  Section 4124 of the Code stated that “an infant accompanying a convict mother to the penitentiary, or born after her imprisonment therein, shall be returned, on attaining the age of four years, to the county or city from which the mother came, to be disposed of as the County Court of said county…may order.”  The Penitentiary’s annual reports from 1875 to 1918 include a list of children in the Penitentiary.  The list includes the name of the child, date and place of birth, race, sex and name of mother.  An additional list of children in the Penitentiary from 1926 to 1932 can be found in the back of a Death Register (volume 124).  It is … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Will Liddle, No. 6484 and No. 7341


Photograph of Will Liddle, #6484, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 73, 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.  Will Liddle, the subject of this week’s post, served two nearly back-to-back terms, escaped for 20 minutes and was paroled in 1913.

On 4 April 1906, 24-year-old Will Liddle entered the Virginia Penitentiary to serve his one-year sentence for writing a bad check in Tazewell County.  He was discharged on 15 February 1907.  His freedom was short lived.  Liddle returned to the Penitentiary on 21 September 1907 to begin serving a three-year term for stealing a mule.  He also was given an extra five years for his second conviction.   Liddle’s good behavior quickly earned him “trusty” status which provided him with extra privileges.  In the spring of 1908, Liddle’s trusted status allowed him to assist some carpenters working on the outside of the Penitentiary and the opportunity to escape.  On 12 June 1908,  Liddle, under the guise of going to the tool box, used a crowbar to break into the carpenter’s storage room.  He put on a carpenter’s suit over his prison clothes and walked away from the prison.  The guards quickly noticed his absence and sounded the alarm.  After a 20 minute search Liddle was recaptured four blocks away.  Those 20 minutes of “freedom” added an extra year … 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: Preston Waters, No. 18879 and Alfred Williams, No. 19912


Photograph of Alfred Williams, #19912, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 43, 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.  This week’s entry will spotlight the photographs of escaped inmates.  When an inmate escaped from the Penitentiary, State Farm, or a convict road camp, the superintendent issued to law enforcement 3″x5″ index cards.  The front side contained the prisoner mug shot, while the back of the card provided basic information (name, inmate number, date and location of escape, crime, sentence), physical description, and the name and address of immediate family.

On 26 April 1925, Preston Waters, No. 18879, and Alfred Williams, No. 19912, two convicts at the Virginia Penitentiary in Richmond, sawed their way out of their cell with a hacksaw.  Avoiding the guards, the prisoners made their way to the ground floor, climbed on top of a row of new cells, and cut their way through the metal ceiling in order to gain access to the roof at the southwest corner of the building.  They lowered themselves down by rope to a window and then dropped the fifteen feet to the ground and escaped into the night.

In April 1923, 21-year-old Preston Waters of Culpeper County was sentenced to 15 years in the Virginia Penitentiary for attempted rape.  Alfred Williams had a lengthy criminal record.  In December 1920, … read more »