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- The Man Who Killed Richard Whichello: A Henrico County Legend


Dorthea Ann Farrington, Whichello Tavern (Henrico County, Va.), WPA Historic Houses Drawings Collection, Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

At the end of the 1962 John Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a reporter remarks, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” The legend of Richard Whichello’s murder in April 1850 persists today, but it is precisely that, a legend. The persistent tale raises questions about collective memory and how stories color our recollection of the past. Like Ford’s archetypal Western, this tale also includes a horse, but let us begin at the beginning.

Whichello Tavern, also known as “Tall House,” sits on property in Henrico County once owned by the Randolph family of Tuckahoe. The land passed from a Frenchman named Druin down through his daughter and granddaughter (Catherine Woodward and Eliza Ann Woodward Winston, respectively) until  Richard Whichello bought it in 1838.

Whichello, who opted to open a rest stop for travelers heading to and from Richmond, has been characterized in lore as a miserly, abusive card-cheat, which makes him a much less sympathetic murder victim. The oft-repeated legend tells of a cattle drover, flush with cash after selling his herd in the city, who stopped at Whichello’s for rest and refreshment. The ne’er-do-well owner talked the boastful cattleman into a card game and swiftly relieved him of his riches. The cheated drover opted to stay the night to sleep off his bender and lick his wounds. … read more »

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