Tag Archives: murder

- 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

read more »

- 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

read more »

- 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

read more »

- 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. 

read more »

- 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 »

- Hey, We Drink Out Of There!


Photograph of Fannie Lillian Madison, circa 1883. (Commonwealth of Virginia versus Thomas J. Cluverius, 1885, Barcode 1170946)

On the morning of 14 March 1885, Lysander Rose, caretaker of the Old Reservoir in Richmond, went about his normal duties, but this morning would not be a typical one for Rose. As he approached the reservoir, Rose found what appeared to be a piece of broken shoe string, a woman’s red glove, and what he described as signs of a “desperate struggle.” When he peered over into the water, Rose saw “floating near the top the flounce or something of a woman’s dress and one leg jutting up.” After the coroner arrived, the muddy body of a young woman was lifted from the water. A cursory examination revealed that she had slight bruising on her face, a swollen mouth, and a rent in her gown at the elbow. Later, it would be discovered that she was also eight months pregnant. Several days and several false identifications passed before the body was finally identified as that of Fannie Lillian Madison.

At the time of her death, Lillian Madison, as she was commonly called by friends and family, was 23 years old, pregnant, and unmarried. Lillian had checked into the Exchange Hotel in Richmond under the name Fannie Merton mere days before her body was discovered. Lillian’s pregnancy (without the prospect of a husband) supported the coroner’s initial ruling of suicide, but as more evidence began … read more »

Posted in Local Records Blog Posts
Also tagged in: , , , , ,
1 Comment
Share |

- CSI: Old Virginia: Coroners Edition


Slave quarters under the oaks at the Hermitage in Savannah, GA., circa 1900-1915. (Image public domain/used courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.)

At one o’clock in the morning on 1 September 1859, Milly T. King arrived at the home of James Clary and found his slave Hannah “lying on the hearth gasping for breath, and I thought dying.” When King saw Hannah an hour later, she was dead. The following day Brunswick County coroner William Lett arrived to examine the body.  With him were twelve men, none of whom had a medical background but rather were chosen as upstanding men and representatives of the county. The office of coroner held inquisitions in cases when persons met a sudden, violent, unnatural, or suspicious death. In this case Hannah had certainly met a sudden and suspicious demise.

Hannah, owned by the late Elizabeth H. Harwell, had been in the possession of James Clary, who adamantly maintained that the marks found on her feet and legs and the wound on her head were not from anything suspicious but came as a result of a fall from a window occurring a few weeks before her death. The coroner and his jury of white men were left to decide if Hannah had suffered an accidental death or if her death had been caused by something more malicious. Clary’s wife, Eliza, backed up her husband’s statements and claimed to know nothing of Hannah’s death, maintaining that her wounds were caused by the fall. … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Theodore Gibson, No. 32872


Photograph of Theodore Gibson, #32872, 25 October 1934, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 23, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

[Editors Note: Yes, we know it is not Monday. The Out of the Box staff had a technical glitch this afternoon and accidentally published Monday's post today. We will have a new, non-mug shot post on Monday.] Welcome to Mug Shot Monday! This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate mug shots in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Theodore Gibson’s mug shots caught my attention because they showed how much he aged in prison.  When I researched his case, I was shocked by what I found.

In the early morning of Thursday, 18 October 1934, William H. Woodfield, a 71-year-old night watchman for the coal yard of W.A. Smoot and Company in Alexandria, was murdered.  Woodfield’s skull was crushed with a hammer.  No money was stolen but Woodfield’s watch was missing.  On Tuesday, October 23, acting on an anonymous tip, the Alexandria police arrested 25-year-old Theodore Gibson.  He  confessed to the killing two days later.  Gibson stated that he was walking through the coal yard when he was accosted by Woodfield who ordered him to leave the yard.  Woodfield struck him, Gibson claimed, so he grabbed a small sledge hammer and hit Woodfield in the head twice.   Gibson dragged the body 50 feet and fled.

The speed of Gibson’s legal proceedings, according to the Washington Post, was “believed … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: Sylvia Elwood Huffman, No. 38770


Photograph of Sylvia Elwood Huffman, #38770, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 32, 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 mug shots in the records of the Virginia  Penitentiary.

In June 1936 in the Augusta County Circuit Court, Sylvia Elwood Huffman was convicted of first degree murder in the death of W.H. Riddle, an Annex merchant.  Huffman shot and killed Riddle in a botched robbery attempt that netted him less than $5.   He was sentenced to die in the electric chair at the Virginia Penitentiary on 7 August 1936.  Governor George C. Peery granted Huffman four respites during his two appeals to the Virginia Supreme Court.  On 27 December 1937 Governor Peery commuted Huffman’s death sentence to life in prison after receiving a report from the Board of Mental Hygiene that stated Huffman was not sane.  Huffman had been a patient at Western State Hospital on two separate occasions (January-June 1924 and December 1931-June 1935) and Huffman’s defense attorneys unsuccessfully presented an insanity defense.

Huffman’s mug shots caught my attention because they showed how much he had aged in prison.  I was curious why there were two negatives, one from 1937 and a second one dated 3 March 1959.  Huffman’s entry in Prison Book No. 2 noted that he had been returned to the Penitentiary in 1959 for violating his 1957 conditional pardon.  Governor J. Lindsay Almond, … read more »

- Mug Shot Monday: James “Jimmie” Strother, No. 33927


Photograph of James Strother, #33927, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 25, 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 mug shots in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.

In April 1935 James “Jimmie” Strother, a blind musician, was convicted of second degree murder in Culpeper County in the death of Blanche Green, his wife. Strother received a twenty-year prison sentence. He was received at the Virginia Penitentiary on 21 May 1935 and transferred to the State Farm in Goochland County six days later. He was pardoned by Governor James Price in 1939.

According to a Virginia Department of Historic Resources Historical Highway Marker, famed folklorist John A. Lomax visited the Virginia State Prison Farm and the Virginia Penitentiary in Richmond in 1936.   The marker states that “working for the Library of Congress’s Archive of Folk Song, Lomax canvassed southern prisons in search of traditional African American music. On 13 and 14 June 1936, Lomax, assisted by Harold Spivacke, recorded quartets, banjo tunes, work songs, spirituals, and blues at the State Farm. Among the notable performers were inmates Jimmie Strother and Joe Lee. The Library of Congress first released songs from the sessions in the 1940s and they have appeared on many recordings since. These sessions are among the earliest aural records of Virginia’s black folk-song tradition.”

In 2002-2003, the Library of Virginia … read more »