The Courthouse Massacre
By Freddie Spradling
One Saturday night, in the Spring of 1911, in Fancy Gap,
Wesley Edwards, the 20 year old son of Alvirtia (Allen) Edwards,
quarreled with another young man named Thomas. The following Sunday
morning, Wesley was called out of church services being conducted by
his uncle Garland Allen. Outside was the Thomas youth with three others.
The Allen story is that the four assaulted Wesley. His brother Sidna,
age 22, heard the fight, rushed out, and aided his brother in vanquishing
the four. At the next session of the county court, friends of the Thomas
boy got an indictment of the Edwards boys for disturbing religious worship
and fighting. Their uncle Floyd Allen, told them to go over into North
Carolina, until he could arrange bond. Before he could do so,
Pink Samuels and Peter Easter crossed over into North Carolina,
arrested them, and brought them back tied up with rope and in manacles.
As Floyd was returning from posting bond in Hillsville, he met the
officers in front of his brother Sidna Allen's store, returning with the
boys. Floyd insisted that they remove the restraints on the two boys,
Pink Samuels then attempted to level his pistol at Floyd, who snatched
it from his hand and broke the weapon on a rock. Samuels and Easter then
left the two prisoners at the store. The Allens claim that Floyd never
intended to remove the boys from custody, only to have the restraints
removed.This act caused the indictment of Floyd, Sidna (who witnessed the
encounter), and their nephew Barnard (son of their brother Jasper,who
was working for Sidna in the store), for interfering with the officers.
Sidna was never tried for the offense, Barnard was tried and acquitted.
The two Edwards boys were also tried and convicted, Wesley sentenced to
sixty days and Sidna to thirty days in jail. It was Floyd's trial and
conviction that triggered the "Courthouse Massacre". The Allens' story is
that Foster and clerk of the court, Dexter Goad, were bitter political
enemies of the Allens, and it was this animosity that motivated the
extreme reaction of the Republican court officials to the actions of the
Floyd Allen was tried 13 Mar 1912 in the
court of Judge Thornton L. Massey, prosecuted by Commonwealth Attorney
W. M. Foster, and defended by Walter S. Tipton and Judge D. W. Bolen.
The court adjourned until the next day, when the jury returned and gave
its verdict of guilty. The judge fixed the sentence at one year in jail
and told the sheriff to take charge of the prisoner. Floyd related that he
expected to go to jail in Hillsville, and would have gone with the Sheriff,
but when he saw Dexter Goad drawing his gun, he told him he wouldn't go
with him, but with Sheriff Lew Webb. Floyd said Dexter Goad fired the
first shot, wounding him in the hip. General shooting began, the result
being the death of the judge, the sheriff, the prosecutor, a juror, and a
Floyd Allen and his son Claude were electrocuted 18 Mar 1913.
Sidna Allen and his nephew Friel Allen, son of Jasper, along with nephews
Sidna and Wesley Edwards, were imprisoned. Sidna Edwards and Friel Allen
were pardoned in 1922. Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards were pardoned in
1926. Victor Allen, son of Floyd, and Byrd Marion were indicted but not
convicted. Byrd died before he could be tried, and Victor was found not
guilty. Another interesting story is that of the search for the fugitives
by a posse headed by the Baldwin-Felts Detective agency, and the capture of
Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards in Des Moines, Iowa, through the treachery of
a girl friend.
Sources used in preparing this story
To Return To Allen Index
- "Memoirs of J. Sidna Allen"1929, J. Sidna Allen, reprinted and
published by Rufus L. Gardner, Mt. Airy, N. C.
- "The Courthouse Tragedy Hillsville, VA.", 1962, edited and sold by
Rufus L. Gardner, Mt. Airy, N.C.
- "The Fatal Doom of the Allens of Carroll County", by Louise Jones
Du Bose, originally published by Virginia Record, serially in 1948-1949,
and reprinted by them Dec 1964.