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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

John Day Andrews

John Day Andrews (Ancestry.com)

     During the waning years of the eighteenth century, four sons were born in Spotsylvania County to John Andrews and Elizabeth Lipscomb. Lewis, the oldest (1793-1858), became  a successful farmer in Orange County, where he and his wife raised their family. Samuel (1794-1871) never married, but achieved noteworthy success as a man of business. In 1826, he built a fine brick house in southern Spotsylvania County, at the spot that would become known as Andrews Tavern. In 1836, he added the wood-framed wing that housed the tavern. This addition was also utilized as a store, post office, polling location and a place where the local militia would muster. Living in the brick house with Samuel was his brother William (1800-1861), with his wife and six children. William ran the farming operations at Andrews Tavern, and was one of the largest owner of slaves in Spotsylvania.

Andrews Tavern (Virginia Department of Historic Resources)

     The fourth son, John Day Andrews (1795-1882), achieved a well-earned place in history by the force of his will, his ambition, personal energy and his intelligence. Little is known of John's very early years, but it is clear from his letters and legal depositions that he had benefited from a first-class education. As a young man, John had an association with a young woman named Mary Goodwin. Arising from that association was a closely-kept secret that John never shared with his family. The details of that secret were revealed in two letters John wrote in 1871 and 1872. These two letters are part of a large cache of documents that once belonged to the Andrews and Johnson families, which  are now in my possession. The significance of these letters will be more fully developed later in this biography.

Hanover Tavern (Google)

     William Winston Thilman (1798-1829) was a member of one of Hanover County's leading families. He owned Hanover Tavern, which still stands on modern Route 301 opposite the venerable Hanover Courthouse. The tavern had been previously owned by William's grandfather during the American Revolution, and then by his father. On February 17, 1822, he married a cousin, Eugenia Price (1805-1873). Eugenia was a daughter of wealthy Thomas Randolph Price, Jr., and Elizabeth Thilman Doswell. William and Eugenia had two daughters together: Barbara Overton (1823-1857) and Elizabeth (1825-1876).

Eugenia Price Thilman Andrews (Ancestry.com)

     John Andrews worked as the overseer for Eugenia Price Thilman. It is also quite possible that he had been employed as overseer before William Thilman's death. In any event, he was employed by Eugenia when they announced their plans to marry in 1830.

Marriage license of John Andrews and Eugenia Thilman (Library of Virginia)

Fork Church, Hanover County (photo by R.W. Dawson)

     John and Eugenia were married by Reverend John Cooke at historic Fork Church in Hanover County on December 1, 1830. At least one source says that John and Eugenia's marriage "scandalized plantation society" in Hanover County. And that is quite possible. It has also been suggested that Eugenia's family was strongly opposed to the marriage. However, that may not be entirely true. In a letter written by Eugenia's father to John, which was entered as evidence in a lawsuit brought against him by the executors of Price's estate, Thomas Price, Jr., wrote: "...your saying you did not wish to marry in my family, unless you were considered a member. I told you as far as I was concerned I was satisfied."
     However, there is no question that the relationship between Thomas Price, Jr., and John Andrews became toxic soon after the wedding, and remained so for the rest of Price's life. According to testimony given at the lawsuit mentioned above, including John's own deposition, the falling out between John and Price occurred after John's refusal to participate in a financing scheme accepted by Price's other children. Price wished to place in the possession of his children (including John and Eugenia) a certain number of slaves, each of whom was given a valuation. These slaves would be utilized for their labor while in the possession of Price's children, although ownership would be retained by Price. John refused, stating in his deposition that this would place him in the position of caring for slaves, which were not his property, at great expense "liable to be taken from him when most valuable, and in the meantime subject to the divided authority of two masters. This he refused, considering such an advancement as a Burden and not a benefit. The said Price took umbrage at his refusal."
     This refusal would cost John Andrews dearly. The year before this controversy arose, in 1831, John bought Hanover Tavern at auction. This he did at the urging of his father-in-law, who--according to John--had promised to assist him in making the payments on the purchase. After this spat regarding the slaves, Price apparently reneged on this commitment, and John was left in the uncomfortable position of making good on his bond for the tavern purchase from his own resources.

Thomas Price, Jr., bond to Eugenia (Library of Virginia)

     In March 1832, Price signed the document above, pledging to to Eugenia a substantial sum of money for the support of herself and her two daughters, Barbara and Elizabeth. This was likely the last financial help he ever extended to Eugenia.
     By 1834, relations between John and Price had permanently soured. John indicated as much in a letter he wrote to his father-in-law on December 5 in that year: "It is I must confess truly distressing to me to find that there exists with you a want of confidence in my prudence and discretion in the application and use of any matter of property that you might find yourself enabled towards aiding in comfort to myself & those members of your family with whom I find myself honorably associated." For the rest of his life, Price refused to assist John with any financial help, or if he did so, it was done grudgingly and with strings attached. In response, John nurtured a smoldering resentment against his father-in-law.
     In 1835, the first of John and Eugenia's two daughters, Samuella, was born. Her half-sisters, Barbara and Elizabeth, had been adopted (in spirit, if not by court decree) by John, who cherished William Thilman's daughters as if they were his own.

Richmond Enquirer 2 October 1835 (Chronicling America)

     Despite the ongoing strife between John and Price, newspaper accounts showed that this was not the entirety of John's experience in Hanover County. In the autumn of 1835, John hosted a multi-day horse racing event. As the proprietor of Hanover Tavern, he advertised that he would "do what he can for the comfort and accommodation of his guests. Sportsmen and others are invited to attend."
     John was also active in Democratic politics. In the November 1, 1836 edition of the Richmond Enquirer, John's name appears on a list of members of the committee of correspondence from Hanover County who supported the candidacy of Martin Van Buren.
     It was evidently during this time that John had made up his mind to move to Texas. He made his first trip to the Houston area in 1836. By the time he made his second trip there in 1837, he had joined forces with Baltimore merchants Thomas Massey League and Peter Wilson. Their business venture  was named League, Andrews and Company. The plan was for John and League to settle in Houston, where they would establish a mercantile business. Peter Wilson would remain in Baltimore, where he ran the "front office" of the company. It was his responsibility to purchase goods for the proposed store in Houston and arrange for that merchandise to be shipped there.
     These two trips to Texas required long separations from his family. As might be expected, Thomas Price, Jr., was very much opposed to the idea of his daughter and grandchildren moving so far away. There was even grumbling among some about John's "abandoning" his family during these long absences, and Price expressed doubts about John's "conjugal fidelity."
   
Petition of Thomas League regarding the Correo (Ancestry.com)

     About the time that John returned to Hanover County in January 1838, League Andrews and Company encountered its first setback (which, though costly, was not fatal to the company's fortunes). During the summer of 1837, the Mexican schooner Correo was captured by two schooners of the Texas Republic, Invincible and Brutus. The Correo was brought to Galveston where it was offered for sale by Thomas F. McKinney, prize agent. League, Andrews and Company bought the schooner, presumably to transport goods to their store. In December 1837 or January 1838, William M. Shepherd, Secretary of the Navy of the Texas Republic, seized the Correo and impressed her into the service of the Texas Navy. In 1843, Thomas League petitioned the Congress of Texas to recover financial damages due to the loss of the ship. Ultimately, Texas decided that it did owe League, Andrew and Company (which by then had dissolved its business) for its loss. However, it was determined that League, Andrews was indebted to Texas for a substantial amount of money, and the two competing claims offset each other.

Resolution of Texas Congress concerning the Correo

     The year 1838 would prove to be pivotal for John Andrews in other respects as well. Having completed his business in Houston for now, John sailed back to Baltimore in January, then returned home. Soon after his arrival, he met with Price at his home. They agreed to meet at Bell Tavern in Richmond on January 28 with the purpose of settling some matters of business and, as Price was later quoted as saying, "to bury the tomahawk" and hopefully come to a new understanding. Shortly after this meeting, John traveled to Baltimore to meet with Thomas League and Peter Wilson, where the final touches were put on their partnership agreement. Soon after his return to Hanover County, John wrote a letter to Price on March 3:

     "Dear Sir, I hasten to advise you of my return from Baltimore, and the result of my expedition. Mr. Wilson the Gentleman residing in Baltimore to whom I was proposed a partner has agreed by the advice of several friends to take me in as a partner in the Houston Concern. And I have succeeded in making a new arrangement with him much more favourable to my interest than heretofore proposed [here John goes into some detail about the financing of this venture]...I have taken much pains to investigate his circumstances and found them good, & that he is a man of good business habits. Now sir, I submit to you to say whether you do not think this is an excellent prospect for doing something to benefit my dear little family?...Now, my dear sir, if there is friendship or confidence in your bosom towards me, or if you wish to see me, or mine advanced in the scale of Human comfort or Human association, then let me beg that you now come out with a father's kindness, and a father's affection which I hope by frugality industry and prudence, will result in giving comfort to me and mine...I therefore again supplicate your speedy aid--and trust that it may be offered and extended upon principles of confidence and liberality..."

     But a liberal donation by Thomas Price, Jr., would not be forthcoming, and his relationship with John Andrews resumed its longstanding rancorous and bitter character.
John's letter to Price, 12 August 1838 (Library of Virginia)

     The last known letter written by John Andrews to his father-in-law was dated August 12, 1838. Remarks such as these doubtless did little to restore feelings of comity between the two men:

     "...I can only say that if our intercourse has degenerated into acts of offensive insult, the sooner it receives its final termination the better...I had hoped that the expressions that fell from your lips with regard to myself, since my return from abroad, & from the many declarations of favouritism expressed by you in my hearing, in behalf of your daughter, and her little family, that a better state of feeling, and a more noble and endearing intercourse between families, was desired and sought after than had hitherto existed. But alas a silent and patient observance of passing events have convinced me that my hopes have been utterly fallacious..."

     Of course, Thomas Price, Jr., had his own opinions, which he angrily expressed in an undated letter to John presented as evidence in a lawsuit instituted against John by the executors of his estate in 1839:

     "What benefit do you think could or has resulted to you, for slandering me in the way you have, to various persons; if I were ever guilty of such charges, do you think those to whom you have made your communications would think as well of you. You have mistaken your man, if you think of playing off your artifice on me by your slanderous tongue & am sorry to perceive that Eugenia has imbibed many of your principles...Your saying in my house, before my wife, that my not giving you what I gave, absolutely [to my other children], would be the means of separation between you & Eugenia, and threats repeated at the Ct. House that you would send her and children to me. Your dandling and kissing that black child..."

     All of this internecine squabbling would soon be overtaken by events, as the day was fast approaching when John Andrews and his family would soon leave Hanover County for Baltimore, and from there to Houston. One vital detail for which John sought reassurance was the legality of his importation of slaves from Virginia to the Republic of Texas. To that end, he wrote a letter dated October 20, 1838, to Dr. Anson Jones, who was then serving as Texas's ambassador to the United States (six years later, Jones was elected as the fourth, and final, President of Texas):

     "I feel satisfied of the fact...that very many slaves are constantly being carried into Texas, but whether in a rather smuggled character or openly I am yet unadvised. I rather suspect under the former character. This by all means I wish to avoid, as I hope to be extensively engaged in commerce between the two countries and would be utterly unwilling to do anything that should be in any way subversive of what the Governments of the U.S. & that of other Governments abroad might regard as conducive to the general good among nations..."

From the letter of John Andrews to Dr. Anson Jones (Texas Legation Papers)

     Another bit of business which had to be taken care of was the sale of Hanover Tavern. John began advertising his property in the Richmond Enquirer as early as February 1838. A buyer would ultimately be found, but only just in time.

Richmond Enquirer, 22 February 1838 (Chronicling America)

     About the time that John wrote his letter to Dr. Anson Jones, a totally unexpected accident occurred which put increased pressure on John to get his affairs in order so that he could leave for Texas by the end of 1838. Thomas Price, Jr., suffered "a violent injury of the spine, which produced compression of the spinal marrow." For the last two weeks of his life he lay paralyzed in his bed. He was visited by many persons during his final illness, including John Day Andrews. Charles Dabney testified at a hearing during the lawsuit against John that Price asked John not to move to Texas, & that if he stayed in Virginia he would give him "Rocketts" and other property in Hanover County. Price died on October 31, 1838.

From the will of Thomas Price, Jr. (Library of Virginia)

     Price had written his last will and testament on October 31, 1837. Not surprisingly, his will did not mention John or his daughter Samuella. The will did not even mention mention Eugenia by name. He did refer to her, however, in his bequest to the daughters of William Thilman:

     "One other portion I give and bequeath to my Grand daughters Barbara O. and Elizabeth Thilman. But on the express condition nevertheless that if any time that their mother should be in a state of poverty and destitution, they shall pay to her in equal portions the annual sum of one hundred and fifty Dollars, during the said necessity. And if they or either of them shall fail to do so then their or her said portion to be entirely forfeited..."

     John sold Hanover Tavern and about 600 acres to Francis Nelson of King William County on December 8, 1838. The purchase price was $8,000. Six thousand dollars of that amount was to be loaned to Nelson by Price's son, Dr. Lucien B. Price. Most of the remaining $2,000 was to come from the estate of Thomas Price, Jr., by way of a somewhat convoluted arrangement. John held his bond for $1,591 due to Price, who had signed a release indicating that the debt was satisfied. That credit was to be applied to the tavern purchase. Soon after John and his family moved to Texas, Dr. Lucien B. Price and Benjamin Pollard, Jr., the executors of Price's estate, sued John in Hanover County Circuit Court, alleging that John had forged Price's signature on the release. The case file for this lawsuit, amounting to almost 300 pages of depositions, interrogatories and other evidence, dragged on in various courts from 1839 to 1871. The case was ultimately dismissed.
     John, Eugenia, Samuella, Barbara and Elizabeth left Hanover County about December 20, 1838. They traveled to Baltimore, where they boarded a ship loaded with building materials for their new house in Houston, as well as goods for the store owned by League, Andrews and Company. Their new life in Texas would begin in early 1839.

Telegraph and Texas Register 28 November 1838

     John Andrews built a two-story house at 410 Austin Street in Houston. This has been credited as being the first multi-family house in Houston, as Thomas League and his family occupied the top floor for a few years. John and League ran a store in the Houston House at the corner of Main and Franklin streets until their partnership dissolved in the early 1840's.

Invoice of League, Andrews and Company

Morning Star [Houston] 9 January 1840

     Almost from the day he arrived in Houston, John Day Andrews began to make significant contributions to the civic and economic life of the city. His impressive list of accomplishments was neatly summarized in an article written by Priscilla Myers Benham for the Texas State Historical Association:

- In 1841, he was named superintendent for the newly-chartered Houston Turnpike Company, whose purpose was to build a road between Houston and Austin.

- John and Eugenia were charter members of Christ Church, established in 1839, which remains the oldest existing congregation in Houston.

- He helped organize and became the president of the Buffalo Bayou Company, which was charged with the responsibility of removing obstructions in the bayou in order to facilitate shipping traffic between Houston and Harrisburg.

- In 1839, League, Andrews and Company was among the $100 contributors for the purchase of an engine house for the volunteer fire company.

- He served as president of the board of health, established in 1840.

- He served two terms as Houston's fifth mayor, 1841-1842.

- He helped to establish the Port of Houston Authority.

- He was largely responsible for building Houston's city hall, completed in 1842.

- He was asked by Sam Houston to become secretary of the treasury for the Republic of Texas, an honor he declined.

- He was the first president of the first school board of Houston City Schools.

- Andrews Street in Houston is named in his honor.

     John and Eugenia's second daughter, Eugenia, was born in Houston on November 15, 1840. At some point in time, Eugenia's oldest daughter by William Thilman, Barbara, returned to Virginia. She married Robert Taylor of Culpeper County, where she died on May 1, 1857. Her sister Elizabeth married Daniel D. Culp in 1844. After his death in 1852, she married Scottish immigrant John Dickinson. Elizabeth died on on February 29, 1876 and is buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.
     Samuella Andrews married James Kemp Holland on March 22, 1854. Holland was a successful planter who served several terms in the Texas House of Representatives. During the Civil War, he served as aide-de-camp to Governor Pendleton Murrah. On October 2, 1865, two of the Hollands' children, John Day Andrews and Nannie Hicks, died within hours of each other of "congestion." Three days later, Samuella died after having suffered from gastroenteritis for 41 days.
     Samuella's sister, Eugenia, married Dr. Robert Turner Flewellen on April 25, 1860. In addition to his medical practice, Dr. Flewellen served several terms in the Texas House of Representatives. In 1872, he was elected President of the Texas state medical association. In 1878, he introduced a bill in the legislature that chartered a medical college in Texas. Eugenia Andrews Flewellen lived until May 17, 1923. She is buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.
     Soon after his arrival in Texas, John began to buy farm land, and over the years became a successful planter and substantial landowner. By 1870, his real estate holdings were worth $100,000. His younger brother William, who owned dozens of slaves in Spotsylvania at Andrews Tavern, also invested in Texas real estate and was an owner of slaves in that state as well.
     John's older brother, Samuel, represented his legal and financial interests during his absence from Virginia. In August 1861, with the Civil War already well under way, Samuel wrote an advertisement for his brother, in which he made known John's desire to have additional slaves brought to Texas from Virginia:



     The issue of secession was put to the voters in 1861.  John described his point of view at that time in his application for a presidential pardon in October 1865:

     "When the question of secession of Texas from the American Union was presented to the citizens of this state, he quietly voted for secession, honestly entertaining the political opinion that a state, in her sovereign capacity, might withdraw from the Union, without an infraction of the Constitution of the U.S. States." John went on to state that much of his accumulated wealth "has been swept away by operation of the Emancipation Proclamation." John then reassured President Johnson that he "has not engaged in outrages or wrongs upon any citizen because of his Union sentiments. That he has belonged to no Vigilance Committee or secret organization for the prosecution of Union men, that he has in his hands no property belonging to the United States or the late so-called Confederate States."

Amnesty Oath of John Day Andrews (Fold3.com)

     In the second paragraph of today's post I referred to a little known chapter in the life of John Day Andrews. John himself revealed this secret in two letters written to Joseph Henry Johnson of Orange County, Virginia. Johnson was the son-in-law of John's brother William, and he was also the executor of William's estate (William died in 1861) and he had been William's attorney-in-fact in matters relating to his Texas investments.
    
From John Andrew's letter to Joseph H. Johnson, 1871

From John Andrew's letter to Joseph H. Johnson, 1872

     In his first letter to Johnson (which is undated, but by context is known to have been written in 1871), John wrote:

     "We rarely hear from you or our other friends in Va. Let me know how my Tinder connections are getting on try & find out if the boy William Tinder is at all promising also Mr. Pendleton and his son. Samuella Tinder I know is smart--how I would if alone like them all near me but Mr. Johnson my wife and daughters do not know of these dependents of mine, & I don't wish to distress them by placing them here. If they could & would act smart & say nothing of me & their connection with me I could materially aid them if out here--if you ever see Samuella Tinder & her brother Wm Tinder I authorize you to name these things to them & to know if they can keep this as one of their own secrets.
     "I shall expect you if you can to place or hand this money [illegible] to Samuella & her brother Wm &c & write to me. I am 76 years old now, Can't hope to live long. Yours most truly
J.D. Andrews"

     So who were Samuella and William Tinder, and what was their connection to John Andrews?
     They were his grandchildren.
     Samuella (1841-1887) and William (born 1849) were the surviving children of Spotsylvania residents John A. Tinder and Sarah F. Goodwin (1814-1849). Sarah Goodwin was the illegitimate daughter of Mary Goodwin and John Andrews. In the abstracts of the Spotsylvania Circuit Court, Sarah F. Goodwin is identified as the "bastard daughter of Mary Goodwin." John Andrews is listed as one of the defendants in a lawsuit brought by James L. Goodwin.

From the abstracts of the Spotsylvania Circuit Court

     The "Mr. Pendleton" mentioned in John's 1871 letter was Robert Lewis Pendleton, who had been the husband of Samuella's sister Laura, who died in 1869. Robert married Samuella in 1873.
     Like his father-in-law William Andrews, Joseph Henry Johnson owned real estate in Texas, specifically, a city block in Houston. During the chaos of the Civil War years, the taxes went unpaid on the property of both the late William Andrews and Johnson. In the years following the war, John Andrews paid these taxes. In his second letter to Johnson, dated March 12, 1872, John asked Johnson to apply that credit to a payment to be made to Samuella Tinder:

     "I hope you will turn the amount over to my relative Samuella Tinder & for the little boy of Laura Pendleton Dec'd. Miss Samuella Tinder's receipt may be taken for the whole amount with instructions to help the others as when may seems best--and her receipt send to me."

Receipt of Samuella Tinder

     John also mentions in each of these letters the state of his health and that of his wife, Eugenia. From the 1871 letter: "My health in the main is good my dear wife has been very ill in last 90 days but is now much mended is walking about again was confined to her room for 60 or 70 days--is very much reduced in flesh is almost a skeleton." And in March 1872: "Myself and wife are rapidly growing quite old. My dear wife has had a severe attack this winter & spring for full 4 or 5 months has been confined to her room. We are both up and she is traipsing our lots and yard. But she is very thin in flesh...I am nearly quite Blind, & am becoming very deaf."
     Eugenia Price Thilman Andrews died July 11, 1873. She is buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.

John Day Andrews (Ancestry.com)

     The eyesight of John Andrews continued to fail. His daughter Eugenia Flewellen and her family moved into John's house at 410 Austin Street and cared for him during his last years. He died August 30, 1882 and is buried next to his wife in Glenwood Cemetery.

Galveston Daily News 30 August 1882



Selected Sources:

Texas State Historical Association (Click here for link)

Hanover County Chancery Causes, Index No. 1872-016. Library of Virginia (Click here for link)

Texas Legation Papers (Click here for link)

Laws Passed by the Eighth Congress of the Republic of Texas. Houston: Cruger & Moore, Public Printers, 1844 (Click here for link)

Exhibits--Hanover Tavern (Click here for link)

"Mr. Holland of Grimes" (Click here for link)

Daughters of the Republic of Texas, "Patriot Ancestor Album," Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company (Click here for link)

Texas Memorials and Petitions 1834-1929, Ancestry.com (Click here for link)

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Sad Tale of Mollie Lumsden

Map detail of southwestern Spotsylvania County, 1863

     Richard Matthews Lumsden and Martha Ann Hillsman were both born in Spotsylvania County in 1816. They were married in 1836, and over the next 22 years they had ten children--five daughters and five sons. The Lumsdens lived on a farm in southwestern Spotsylvania near the Orange County line. In the map detail shown above, "Lumsden" can be seen at the center left of the image, just west of Brightwell Road.
     Richard and Martha Ann's four oldest sons fought for the Confederacy William enlisted in Company D of the 30th Virginia Infantry on May 21, 1861. During the summer of 1862, he was a patient at General Hospital No. 21 in Richmond due to illness. Otherwise, the records show that he did not suffer any real difficulties, such as wounds or capture.
     James Fife Lumsden signed up with Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry on March 10, 1862. Like William, he survived the war relatively unscathed except for a bout of illness in the spring of 1863. After the war, Fife prospered as a merchant and postmaster in Orange County. He died at the age of 104 in 1945.

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Obituary of James Fife Lumsden (Keith Walters)
     Charles and Henry Lumsden, who served in Crenshaw's Artillery, did not fare as well as their older brothers. Charles was shot twice during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. One bullet crushed his lower jaw, the second lodged in his left shoulder, permanently disabling him. He carried that bullet within him for the rest of his life. Henry was struck by a shell fragment in his back just above the hip bone during the Battle of the Crater. The wound never completely healed, and decades after the war it would still abscess several times a year.
     The Lumsden's oldest daughter was named Mary Francis, but was known as "Mollie." Described as a pretty young woman, Mollie was born on January 12, 1838 and lived in her parents' household all her life, In the 1860 census, her occupation is given as "seamstress."
   
Map detail of southeastern Orange County, 1863

     By the mid-1860's, the Lumsdens moved to a farm in southeastern Orange County near the Tatum community, close to the Spotsylvania line. Late in life, Richard Lumsden served as postmaster at Tatum. The map detail above shows the section of Orange County where they lived, and where in 1868 a series of tragic and shocking events took place. The Herndon house can be seen at far right. Mrs. Simpson's house is at the bottom of the image. Antioch Baptist Church is in the center of the map detail, and the various Jacobs residences are south of the church.

     Reuben David Herndon was born in Orange County in 1834, a member of the large family reared by John and Mahala Landrum Herndon. By the start of the Civil War, Reuben was working as a carpenter. On April 25, 1861, he enlisted in Company A of the 13th Virginia Infantry at Harper's Ferry. He almost immediately fell ill and was admitted to a hospital 5 miles west of Winchester. Reuben remained on the sick rolls during his short term in the Confederate army. He was discharged due to disability on August 26, 1861. His certificate of disability is shown below (note that [Dr.] John Woolfolk represented him in obtaining this certificate):

Herndon certificate of disability (Fold3.com)

     He then returned to Orange County and resumed his occupation as a carpenter. He appears to have had a religious inclination as well, as he was also licensed as a Baptist preacher. On January 14, 1862, he married Susan S. Mason, a daughter of Reverend Saunders Mason, a respected Baptist minister. Between 1863 and 1868 Reuben and Susan had three children--two daughters and a son. By 1867, Mollie Lumsden was employed as a domestic in their household, and frequently stayed overnight with them.
     One day late in May 1867, Mollie gave a note to Reuben, asking him to meet her. They met and had a brief conversation and agreed to see each other again later that day. The second time they met, they walked off the road into a pine thicket, where Mollie told him there were bad rumors about his conduct with some of the ladies in the neighborhood, and warned him to be on his guard. Reuben had been drinking whiskey that day and impulsively kissed her and gave her a ring. The next Sunday morning, Reuben met Mollie again as he was returning home from a job in Spotsylvania. They stepped into the woods to resume the kissing and hugging of their previous tryst and, in Reuben's words, "the devil told me to go further, and then and there I took the first step in the matter." They parted and did not see each other alone for a few months, during which time Mollie sent him presents of socks and neck ties.
     Reuben and Mollie then began seeing each other again, continuing their lovemaking episodes out of doors. Mollie began having misgivings about their relationship, fearing that Reuben's wife, Susan, would find them out. As it happened, this proved to be the least of her problems. In March 1868, Mollie wrote a note to Reuben and said that she "was in a bad fix" and wanted to know what to do. She was becoming obviously pregnant, and had taken to tightly binding her midsection with one of Reuben's ties in an attempt to hide her condition from her family. Reuben offered to go to her father and confess his responsibility. Mollie begged him not to, fearing her father would kill her. Reuben then suggested that they run away together to a place where no one would know them. Mollie did not like this idea either. They tried, unsuccessfully, to abort the baby.
     Finally, Mollie said that she knew a woman in Richmond who could take care of her, and if Reuben could arrange her transportation there, "he should have no more trouble about her and she would never betray him, come what might." By now Mollie feared to return home, and on the night of April 23, 1868 she hid herself in a stable. When Reuben met her on the morning of April 24, he realized how desperate their situation was, and determined to take immediate steps to raise some money to get Mollie to Richmond and have her cared for. First, he hid Mollie in a secluded section of woods and covered her with brush and branches both to hide her and protect her from the rain. He then went to see a number of people in the neighborhood. He sold a yoke of oxen for $28 and made arrangements to borrow a horse from Benjamin Quisenberry to take Mollie to Trevilian Station in Louisa County, some fifteen miles away. He bought a gingerbread cake for Mollie and then returned to her hiding place.
     As he approached the rude shelter he had made for her, he saw that it was all torn down. His first thought was that she had decided to take her chances with her family and had gone there to make her confession. Then he spotted her lying on the ground, as if asleep. But at once he realized that she was dead. Near her body was a bottle of morphine. It was the same one he had bought for her the previous month when she had been suffering with toothache. Reuben hid her body in the same spot in which she had waited for him that day. He picked up the vial, which he hid in the woods on his way home, taking care to mark the spot with a rock so that he could find it again.
     When Reuben returned home, he said nothing to Susan. She told him that Mollie was missing, and that her father had sent one of her younger sisters to ask Susan if she had seen Mollie, as she had not come home.

     This was the version of events that Reuben Herndon provided in his written confession. During the investigation and trial that followed, the newspapers reported a different version of what had happened: That Reuben had accidentally poisoned Mollie in a failed attempt to induce abortion. She died, and in a frenzied attempt to cover up his complicity, Reuben had cut her up with an ax, with the intention of burying child and mother in separate places. He gave up on this idea and simply covered her body with brush and limbs and then left her. One hundred fifty years later, it is not possible to tell which version was the truth. After reading the newspaper articles I could find regarding this case, my opinion is that Mollie's death was either an accident or suicide. It is unlikely that Reuben did what the press said he did.

     In any event, Mollie Lumsden was missing. Over the next several days, search parties were organized to scour the neighborhood for any sign of her. Reuben participated in some of these efforts, and he was apparently as concerned as the other searchers, but of course for different reasons. It would be remembered that he was careful to subtly lead his fellow searchers away from where Mollie would ultimately be found. He even organized one of these searches himself at Antioch Baptist Church.
     Despite his efforts to deflect attention from himself, suspicion began to turn to him. After all, Mollie had spent considerable time at the Herndon house, and she had spent many nights there. Tormented by these rumors circulating about him, and by his own sense of guilt, he published this warning on May 15 in the Orange Native Virginian:

The Native Virginian 15 May 1868
     On May 21, Mrs. James Jacobs was in her yard when she noticed that her dog had blood on his paws as he approached the house. Thinking he had perhaps killed a lamb or calf, she urged her dog on and got him to lead her to the source of the blood, which turned out to be the spot where Mollie's body had been hidden. Richard Lumsden was summoned to come view the remains. He was able to identify his daughter only by her clothing; the dogs and buzzards had made any further identification of Mollie impossible. On his way home, Richard passed by Mrs. Simpson's house, where Reuben and a Mr. Catlett were shingling an outbuilding. Richard asked Reuben to come with him to where the discovery had been made. Reuben declined to do so. Then Richard asked Reuben if he would make a box in which to put Mollie's body. Reuben volunteered to do so, but was "so excited and unnerved that he could scarcely take the necessary measurements."
     The following day, Dr. John Woolfolk (who six years before signed Reuben's certificate of disability) testified at the inquest held by justice of the peace Francis J. Saunders. It was revealed that a letter written by Reuben was found in Mollie's dress pocket:

The Native Virginian 29 May 1868

     Reuben was then placed under arrest and taken to the place where Mollie had been found. Richard Lumsden approached him and said, "You murdered by daughter." Herndon replied, "I did not." Lumsden continued: "You cannot deny that you wrote that letter." Herndon said, "No sir, I did it." Whereupon Richard raised a hickory stick and attempted to knock Reuben down, but was prevented from doing so by the magistrate, Richard Richards.
     Feelings against Reuben ran very high and--fearing for his life--he made at least one attempt to escape from his jail cell by June 10. He was put in irons. Plans were afoot to storm the Orange County jail and seize Reuben and hang him at the spot where Mollie had died. On the day this was to be attempted, only a dozen of the 100 men who were expected to participate actually showed up. The plan to lynch Reuben was abandoned.
     During these weeks in jail, Reuben was visited by clergy and appeared to be contrite. He was allowed paper, pen and ink and he spent his days writing his life story and his confession. It was reported that his license to preach had been revoked.
     Reuben was the only inmate in his cell, a windowless room ventilated by a barred opening over the door. On the night of Sunday July 26, Reuben sawed through the bars of the ventilator and managed to get out of his cell. He then made his way down the passage to the other cells, which were occupied by black prisoners. He opened their cell doors. Together they managed to remove an iron bar from one windows and fled from the jail. Although there was much speculation as to how Reuben had obtained a saw to cut through bars and a key to open the doors of the other cells, no evidence implicating anyone was ever mentioned in the newspapers.
     The escape of all the jail's prisoners was not discovered until Monday morning. The Governor was immediately informed by telegraph. Four days later, notice of a $500 reward  for the arrest of Reuben was published in the papers:

The Native Virginian 31 July 1868

     After his escape, Reuben remained in the vicinity of Orange County. With no money and every man's hand against him, he had few good options. Two groups of men set out to track him down for the reward. One group visited the house of his sister-in-law, and later learned that he had escaped by the back door as the approached the house. The other group found his shoes in the woods.
     A week after the jail break, a disheveled man approached Peter Bibb, a black man who lived near Trevilian Station, and asked for directions to the house of a Mr. Grady. Bibb gave him the directions, but his suspicion was aroused by the man's appearance and manner, and he reported his encounter to the local magistrate, James Woolfolk. Enlisting the aid of two other men, Woolfolk went to Grady's house. They found Reuben asleep in bed. "He presented a forlorn appearance--haggard, thin, shoeless, foot-sore and hungry." He was arrested and taken back to the Orange County jail, where he was chained to the floor of his jail. As for the reward, The Governor of Virginia allowed $100 of it to be paid to Peter Bibb, much to the displeasure of Woolfolk and his helpers.
     Reuben hired a Judge Robertson and Shelton F. Locke of Albemarle County to represent him in court. His attorneys managed to have a number of continuances granted, and the trial did not get underway until late May 1869. Because of the level of hostility toward him in Orange County, 43 prospective jurors from Alexandria were brought to the courthouse. From that group, 12 were empanelled to hear the case. Testimony was taken from Mrs. Jacobs, Richard Lumsden, Mrs. Simpson, Francis J. Saunders, Dr. John Woolfolk, Dr. Elhanon Row and others. The case was given to the jury, which deliberated for 45 minutes.
     The jury returned a verdict of murder in the second degree, and Reuben was sentenced to 18 years in prison.  He was taken to the state penitentiary in Richmond, where he died on July 30, 1884, three years before his scheduled release.

     Richard and Martha Ann Lumsden lived another 40 years after the death of their daughter. Ninety-three-year-old Richard died in 1909. Martha Ann died two years later.

     Life also went on for Susan Mason Herndon and her children. In 1875, she married Edward Hughes (a carpenter, like Reuben) and raised a second family with him. She died of heart failure at age 85 in Orange County on March 24, 1927.
    
    

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Death Comes to Hickory Point



     When John and Jennie Coleman were murdered at their home in Spotsylvania on the evening of April 2, 1935, their deaths shocked and outraged citizens throughout the region. Because of their deep roots in the area's history and their many familial ties to local persons of prominence, the news of their violent deaths and the events that occurred in the aftermath of that sad event made front-page news in The Free Lance-Star over the next ten months.
     To tell their story, I will begin with Thomas C. Chandler and his wife Clementina Alsop, the grandparents of Jennie Chandler Coleman. Thomas, a well-to-farmer from Caroline County, married Clementina, a native of Spotsylvania, on September 20, 1825. Clementina's father, Samuel Alsop, Jr., gave the Oakley farm and the fine house he built there as a wedding gift to the couple. Located on Catharpin Road near Corbin's Bridge, this property included several hundred acres and would be home to the Chandlers for fourteen years.

Oakley in 1935 (Francis Benjamin Johnston)
     During their time at Oakley, Thomas and Clementina Chandler became the parents of six children--four sons and two daughters, all of whom survived to adulthood. In 1839, Thomas sold Oakley to Enoch Gridley and moved his family to Fairfield, a large farm in Caroline County near Guiney's Station. In the 1863 map detail below, the location of the Chandler plantation can be seen just north of the railroad at "Guinea Sta." The home of Thomas and Clementine's oldest son, William Samuel Chandler (1826-1902) can be seen at far left in the image, just over the county line in Spotsylvania.

Map detail of western Caroline County, 1863

     The three oldest Chandler sons--William Samuel, Joseph Alsop and Thomas K.--attended Bethany College in what is now West Virginia. William, Thomas and their youngest brother Henry fought for the Confederacy. Dr. Joseph Chandler did not fight in the war, but supported the Confederate cause by selling fodder and provisions to a variety of quartermaster officers. (As a side note, Dr. Joseph Chandler's son, Julian Alvin Carroll Chandler, was president of the College of William and Mary 1919-1934).
     Just prior to the beginning of the Civil War, William and Joseph married two daughters of James and Margaret White. William married Ann Elizabeth in 1859; Dr. Joseph Chandler married Emuella the following year.

Fairfield (Ancestry)

Fairfield tobacco field. Stonewall Jackson died in the building at left

Fairfield in a state of decay. Stonewall Jackson died in the building in the foreground

     Clementina Chandler died in 1844. A few years later, Thomas Chandler married Mary Elizabeth Frazer, and together they raised four children. In the years leading up to the Civil War, the Chandlers prospered at Fairfield. At some point, Thomas razed the original house and replaced it with a fine brick dwelling. According to the 1860 census, Fairfield consisted of 740 acres. By the standards of his day, Thomas Chandler was a wealthy man. He had 62 slaves at Fairfield, and hired out another one to his son Thomas. The senior Chandler also owned six slaves employed in Spotsylvania County. His real estate was valued at $14,000 and his personal property was worth $39,000.
     Westwood, William Chandler's farm in eastern Spotsylvania, was a large one consisting of 500 acres, and he owned 22 slaves in 1860. On March 13, 1862, William enlisted in Company C of the 55th Virginia Infantry. He served as a guide for General Joseph R. Johnson. He mustered out of the infantry on December 30, 1862. Six months later, on June 15, 1863, he enlisted in Company B of the 9th Virginia Cavalry.
     While fighting south of Petersburg near the Weldon Railroad in October 1864, William was shot in the right thigh. Several days later, he was given a 60-day furlough, to begin November 4, 1864. By March 1, 1865 he was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 5 in Richmond, diagnosed with "debilitas" (that is, weakness and feebleness) and still suffering from his leg wound. On March 13, he was reported as a deserter. Three weeks later, on April 3, he was captured by U. S. forces at Amelia's Cross Roads and imprisoned at Hart's Island in New York harbor. He took the oath of allegiance on June 14, 1865 and was provided with transportation to Fredericksburg. He remained at least partially disabled from his wound and suffered from occasional abscesses for the rest of his life.
     Meanwhile, William's father continued to live at Fairfield. During the winter of 1862-1863, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and his family stayed with the Chandlers, with whom they became good friends. Several months later, Jackson returned to Fairfield, but this time under very unhappy circumstances. After the amputation of his left arm following his accidental shooting at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, Jackson was brought to the small building used by Thomas Chandler as an office, and made as comfortable as possible. He died there on May 10. A few weeks after being a part of that historic episode, Thomas Chandler had a violent encounter with Confederate soldiers at Fairfield.
     By the end of the Civil War, William and Ann already had three children. In the years that followed they would have three more. Their youngest daughter, Mildred Jane "Jennie" Chandler was born at Westwood on March 16, 1870.

Map detail of eastern Spotsylvania, 1863

     In the map detail shown above, Spotsylvania Courthouse can be seen in the lower left of the image. The homes of Joseph (which was in Caroline County) and William Chandler can be seen at upper right. In the left center of the map can be seen the 412-acre farm of John Thomas Coleman, Sr., (shown as "J. Coleman"). This place was called Hickory Point. John Thomas Coleman, Jr. was born here on March 9, 1858.
     Like William and Ann Chandler, John Coleman, Sr., and his wife, the former Emily Lewis Andrews, raised six children. In addition to John, Jr., I will mention Honeyman Coleman, who became a well-known pharmacist in Richmond, and Dr. William Coleman, who practiced medicine in Louisa County. A daughter, Bettie Kay, married Horace Frazer Crismond, a brother of Spotsylvania minister and clerk of court, Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond. Horace was a partner in the Fredericksburg store known as Willis & Crismond, and he served in the House of Delegates. John Coleman, Sr., had inherited Hickory Point from his father. After his death in 1892, the property passed down to John, Jr.
     John Thomas Coleman, Jr., married his first wife, Carrie Overton Harris, on December 7, 1890. They had one daughter, Mary Lin, born in 1895. Carrie was the daughter of Clement Marshall Harris, who owned "Bloomsbury" from 1854 until his death in 1867. Built in the late 1700's, Bloomsbury stood on what is now Route 208 for more than 200 years, until it was razed a few years ago. During the Civil War, the Battle of Harris Farm, fought here, was the last major engagement of the prolonged fighting near Spotsylvania Courthouse.

Bloomsbury (Ancestry)

     During this time, Jennie Chandler, who still lived with her parents, taught school near the courthouse from at least 1894-1900. Her sister Margaret also taught school.
     Jennie married railroad contractor Earnest M. Carpenter at Westwood on November 27, 1904. They moved to South Carolina, where Earnest's work took him. From there they moved to Georgia, where Earnest died. By September 1905, Jennie had come back home to Spotsylvania.
    John and Carrie Coleman lived at Hickory Point for 19 years. Carrie's health continued to fail, and she died of tuberculosis on March 20, 1909.
     And so it was that the widowed John and Jennie were able to come together in their middle age. They were married in Caroline County at the home of her brother, William Campbell Chandler, on January 27, 1910. The wedding was officiated by Reverend Decatur Williams. John and Jennie made their home at Hickory Point and John's daughter lived with them for many years.
     John was active in local politics and was a member of the Spotsylvania County Democratic Committee. For years he served as a member of the fair committee of the Rapphannock Mechanical and Agricultural Society, which planned the fair held annually in Fredericksburg. He was also appointed game warden for the Courtland District and remained at that job from at least 1904-1910.
     Mary Lin Coleman first attended the State Normal School in Farmville (the forerunner of modern Longwood University) and then studied two years at the State Normal School in Fredericksburg (today's University of Mary Washington). She married Oscar Clifford Scott in 1918. They lived with her parents at Hickory Point until at least 1930, but moved to their own house before 1935. Mary Lin was appointed as enumerator of the 1920 census for the Courtland District. Oscar owned a filling station.
     On the morning of April 2, 1935, Oscar Scott drove his father-in-law to Fredericksburg in John's 1929 Ford Model A (77-year-old John Coleman did not drive). John took care of a few errands in town, including cashing a small check from Farmers Creamery, and then they went back to the Coleman place. John asked Oscar if he and Mary Lin would come by that evening and Oscar said they would, then he left. As it turned out, something came up and the Scotts did not go back to the  Coleman place that night. (Mary Lin later said that had they done so, they likely would have perished with her parents.) Tom Braxton, John's black farm hand who had worked at Hickory Point for 39 years, milked the cows. When he left at about 6:30, the Colemans had begun their evening routine. Jennie had placed their dinner in the warming oven and had started washing the milk cans.
     A few hours later, John's Model A pulled into the Esso station near Thornburg owned by Thomas B. Payne. Elwood Haislip, Ezra Heflin and Mercer Waller were working there that evening. They recognized the Ford as that of John Coleman, Jr., because he had bought it there and had done all the repair work done there. Two black men were in the car, one of whom came inside to buy cigarettes. They filled the car with gas and then headed south toward Richmond. The station attendants were not concerned at the time, as it was not unusual for Mr. Coleman to give the keys to men who worked on his farm so that they could run errands for him.
      The following morning, Tom Braxton returned to Hickory Point to start his usual chores. He noticed right away that neither of the Colemans were up and about, which was unusual for them. The door to the house had been left open, as well as the garage door. The car was gone.
     By now Braxton was thoroughly alarmed, and he went to get Charlesworth Clarke, a white neighbor of the Colemans, and they returned to their house. They entered the house, but there was no sign of John or Jennie. Nor did they see signs of a struggle, although some papers had been taken out of a box on the bureau and strew about the bedroom floor.
     Braxton and Clarke then went to see Oscar Scott, and told them what they had observed that morning. The three of them then drove to Spotsylvania Courthouse and informed commonwealth's attorney, Emmett R. Carner (Sheriff Maxie Blaydes had traveled to Richmond that morning to testify in a trial at the federal courthouse).
     Carner, Scott, Braxton and Clarke then drove to Hickory Point. Carner noted that the cover to the well was askew, and that the bucket and chains had been torn away. The well cover was then removed, and once their eyes adjusted to the dark interior, a human form could be seen in the water below.
     Carner returned to the courthouse and called county coroner Dr. William A. Harris, who was in Fredericksburg at the time, and told him to be ready to examine two bodies once they had been retrieved from the well. Carner then returned to the Coleman farm. Help in bringing up the bodies was provided by neighbors Winfrey Mason, Ernest C. Lunsford and James Dennis.
     Both John and Jennie had been bludgeoned with with a blunt instrument, and each of them had been shot with John's shotgun, which was missing. Robbery was immediately thought to be the motive for the murders. Although the Colemans did not keep large sums of money in the house, they were presumed to be well-off financially. Mr. Coleman had no known enemies.
     Recently, a gang of road workers, primarily black men in the employ of the Clay Construction Company, had been grading and laying gravel on the road at Bloody Angle in the Battlefield Park. Because of the wet weather lately, these workers had been idle, so John had hired some of them to dig ditches, put up fences and do other work at Hickory Point. Suspicion at once fell on these men as possible suspects in the murder. The county offered a $500 for information leading to the arrest of the criminals.

The Free Lance-Star, 5 April 1935

     The Coleman's car was found in Richmond on the night of April 3. The attention of the investigators was briefly diverted from the road workers as possible suspects to two escaped black felons, James Williams and Connie Reeves. Mercer Waller, one of the attendants at Payne's filling station, had identified a mugshot of Connie Reeves as the man who had bought cigarettes on the night of the murders. This identification soon proved to be in error, however, and the search continued.

The Free Lance-Star 5 April 1935

     A double funeral was held for John and Jennie Coleman on April 6, 1935. The details of the funeral were published on the front page of The Free Lance-Star on April 5. Reverend Edgar Green Stephens, pastor at Massaponax Baptist Church, officiated with the assistance of Reverend Preston Cave. Clerk of court Arthur Hancock Crismond, a nephew of John Coleman's sister, Bettie Kay Coleman Crismond, was one of the active pallbearers. Among the honorary pallbearers were prominent farmer, Charles R. Andrews; county coroner and member of the House of Delegates, Dr. William Aquilla Harris; Judge Frederick W. Coleman (he appears not to have been related to John), who would preside at the murder trial; former commonwealth's attorney and member of the House of Delgates, Samuel Peter Powell; publisher of The Free Lance-Star, Josiah P. Rowe, Jr.; commonwealth's attorney Emmett Roy Carner; Spotsylvania County treasurer Irvin Chandler Clore; and Spotsylvania sheriff Maxie Blaydes.

Arthur Hancock Crismond

Charles R. Andrews

Samuel Peter Powell

Dr. William Aquilla Harris

Reverend Edgar Green Stephens

     Jennie was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg. John was buried in his family's cemetery at Hickory Point.
     On April 8, The Free Lance-Star reported that Joe Jackson, a black man from Goochland County who had lived in the Spotsylvania area for several months, had come to the police and turned himself in the day after the funeral. He had heard that the authorities had been looking for him. Officers declined to state why they had suspected Jackson in connection with the crime, and Jackson denied any involvement in the murders. But this proved to be the turning point in the investigation. On April 10, it was reported that the state of Virginia was offering a reward of $200 for the arrest of the Colemans' killers. This was in addition to the $500 already offered by Spotsylvania.

The Free Lance-Star 13 April 1935

     On April 13, it was reported that Joe Jackson and John Shell had been charged with the murders of John and Jennie Coleman. Sheriff Blaydes and constable S. Walker Burgess had skillfully tracked John Shell to Haverstraw, New York. With the help of local law enforcement, Blaydes and Burgess arrested Shell, who refused to waive extradition back to Spotsylvania, citing his fear of being lynched. At the time of his arrest, Shell had on his person a gold watch case that had belonged to John T. Coleman, Jr.
     On Tuesday, April 16, 1935, a special grand jury met and indicted Shell and Jackson for the murder of the Colemans. The grand jury consisted of: Arthur Lynn Blanton, owner of Blanton Ford in Fredericksburg; John Moncure Chilton, father of future Spotsylvania school teacher, Merle Strickler; J. T. Owens and G. B. Gardner. Also included in the grand jury were two black men: Virgil Williams and Alexander Crump.
     Immediately after the indictment was handed down, Joe Jackson was taken to the Henrico County jail, where his physical safety was more likely to be assured. Commonwealth's attorney Carner requested that Virginia Governor Peery begin extradition proceedings to have Shell brought back to Virginia for trial.
     Sheriff Blaydes and S. Burgess Walker (who had just been named a special officer by Judge Frederick W. Coleman) arrived in Haverstraw, New York and took custody of John Shell on May 1. He was brought to the Henrico County jail where he and Jackson would await their trial. As they continued to be questioned by authorities, these two men frequently changed their stories and blamed each other for the actual murder, a pattern that would continue for the rest of their lives.
     Judge Coleman appointed Fredericksburg attorney Harry H. Sager to represent Shell and Jackson at their trial on May 14. Feelings against the prisoners ran high in Spotsylvania for the crime described by the The Free Lance-Star as "the most fiendish and atrocious crime in the county's history." Ten state troopers would help protect the prisoners during their travel from Henrico to Spotsylvania, and during the trial itself. These state police would be armed with riot guns, night sticks, tear gas grenades and automatic pistols A section of the courtroom would be set aside for black spectators.

The Free Lance-Star 15 May 1935

     Under heavy guard, Shell and Jackson were taken from their cells in Henrico and driven to Spotsylvania. The trial began at 10 a. m. and the prosecution presented its case in the morning. The court adjourned at 12:30 and was scheduled to reconvene at 2 p. m. As the prisoners were led through the crowd at the courthouse, estimated to be at least 700 people, two men suddenly broke through the cordon of police and attacked Shell and Jackson. These young men were identified as Reginald Foster, 30, and his brother Warrick, 27, sons of Spotsylvania farmer William Beauregard Foster. The Fosters then proceeded to rain blows on the heads and faces of the prisoners. While doing so, they called out to the other members of the crowd to join them. Fortunately, none did so, although many were heard to say later that they sympathized with the Fosters' actions. The state police were able to beat back the Fosters with their night sticks, and Shell and Foster were hustled into the court room.
     Their defense attorney, Henry Sager presented no evidence on behalf of his clients, whom he had just met that morning. His defense consisted largely of asking the jury to acquit these men if they thought there was reasonable doubt as to their guilt. No stenographic record was made of the proceedings.
     The jury consisted of Robert Warner Hilldrup (foreman), Jeter Talley, H. F. Craig, James William Thorburn, E. C. Leitch, Lindsey Mason, John A. Gordon, H. J. Durrett, Rhodes Pritchett, J. L. Sullivan, N. A. Tristano and Willie Jennings. The jury retired to deliberate after receiving instructions from Judge Coleman. Four minutes later, they arrived at guilty verdicts for both men. Judge Coleman pronounced a sentence of death in the electric chair for Shell and Jackson and scheduled their execution for June 21, 1935. They were then taken back to Henrico County jail, where they would remain until transferred to death row in the state penitentiary.
     Three days before they were to be executed, Shell and Jackson were granted a reprieve by Governor Peery, who had received a petition seeking a writ of error from their new attorney, E. A. Norrell of Richmond. As The Free Lance-Star would constantly remind its readers in the months to come, Norrell was a "negro attorney."
     This would be the first of five stays of execution granted to the Coleman's killers. Norrell's last ditch attempt to get a new trial for his clients, by appealing to the United States Supreme Court, ended in failure when the high court ruled that it could not consider the appeal since there was no stenographic record of the trial.
     Joe Jackson and John Shell were executed for their crime just before 8 a. m. on February 21, 1936. These were the witnesses present for their electrocution:









Special thanks to Park Historian Eric Mink for sharing with me the two photographs of Fairfield.