Floyd Allen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Floyd Allen
Floyd Allen.jpg
Portrait of Floyd Allen
Born (1856-07-05)July 5, 1856
Carroll County, Virginia
Died March 28, 1913(1913-03-28) (aged 56)
Criminal penalty Death
Criminal status Executed by electrocution
Conviction(s) Murder

Floyd Allen (July 5, 1856 – March 28, 1913) was an American landowner and patriarch of the Allen clan of Carroll County, Virginia. He was convicted and executed for murder in 1913 after a sensational courthouse shootout that left a judge, prosecutor, sheriff, and two others dead, although the validity of the conviction has been source of debate within Carroll County for decades.[1] He was accused of triggering the shooting at the Carroll County Courthouse in Hillsville, Virginia on March 14, 1912, in which five people were killed and seven wounded. The affair represents one of the rare incidents in American history when a criminal defendant attempted to avoid justice by assassinating the trial judge.

Early life and activities[edit]

Allen was born in 1856 and spent much of his life living in Cana, below Fancy Gap Mountain in Carroll County, Virginia. Floyd Allen was the chief patriarch of Carroll County's leading family, which in addition to owning large tracts of farmland and a prosperous general store, were also active in local politics. Both Floyd Allen and Sidna Allen held legal licenses for the production of alcohol. A fixture of the community, Allen was noted for his generosity, quick temper, and easily injured pride.[2]

The Allens were proud Democrats and were active in local politics in Carroll County. As a result, many of the Allens held local offices such as constable, tax collector, or deputy sheriff and supported various political friends for office.[3]

Floyd had a history of violent altercations, including shooting a man in North Carolina, beating a police officer in Mount Airy, and later shooting his own cousin.[3] In May 1889, Floyd's brothers, Garland and Sidna Allen, were tried for carrying concealed pistols and assaulting a group of thirteen men.[4] In July 1889 the Carroll County court indicted Floyd for assault as well, but in December of that year the Commonwealth's Attorney dropped the case.[5] In September 1889, after pleading no contest to the assault, Garland and Sidna were fined $5 each plus court costs, and the prosecutor dropped the weapons charges.[6]

Judge Robert C. Jackson, an attorney in Roanoke and Judge Thornton Massie's predecessor in the Carroll County courtroom, stated that "Floyd Allen was perhaps the worst man of the clan--overbearing, vindictive, high tempered, brutal, with no respect for law and little or no regard for human life. During my term of office Floyd Allen was several times charged with violations of law. In several instances he escaped indictment, I am satisfied, because the witnesses were afraid to testify to the facts before the grand jury."[6]

Judge Jackson recalled a trial in 1904 in which Floyd was convicted of assaulting a neighbor, Noah Combs.[1][6] That year, Floyd wanted to buy a farm owned by one of his brothers, but could not agree on a price.[1] Combs wanted the land badly enough to pay the asking price and bought it despite Floyd’s warnings not to “butt in.”[1] Not long afterward Floyd shot Combs (who recovered), and was indicted and tried on charges of assault.[1] Sentenced by the jury to an hour in jail and a $100 fine, plus costs, Floyd immediately posted bail pending an appeal.[6] His defense team included former Commonwealth's Attorney Walter Tipton and recent County Court Judge Oglesby.[6] At the next term of court, Floyd produced a pardon from Governor Andrew J. Montague suspending the jail sentence.[6]

In another instance, arguing over the administration of their father's estate, Floyd Allen got into a gunfight with his own brother, Jasper (Jack), a local constable. In a fusillade of shots, Floyd hit Jack in the head, which struck a glancing blow on Jack's scalp, while one of Jack's bullets hit Floyd in the chest.[3] His pistol empty, Floyd proceeded to beat Jack with the butt of his empty revolver.[3] Sentenced to a $100 fine and one hour in jail for wounding his brother, Floyd refused to go, saying that he "would never spend a minute in jail as long as the blood flowed through his veins".[7] Floyd's body bore the scars of thirteen bullet wounds, five of them inflicted in quarrels with his own family.[8]

Despite their history of violence, the Allens held considerable political power, and Floyd had a reputation for courage.[9] In 1908, while serving as special deputies, Floyd and H.C. (Henry) Allen, a relative of Floyd, were charged with unlawful assault upon prisoners held in their custody who had reportedly resisted arrest.[10] On February 1, 1908 the Allens were convicted of the charge and sentenced to ten days in jail and a fine of $10.[11] Only a month later, their petition for executive clemency was granted by Governor Claude A. Swanson, restoring their political rights to hold office.[12]

In 1910 Sidna Allen, Floyd's brother, was tried in the United States court at Greensboro, North Carolina, for making twenty-dollar counterfeit coins.[3] The federal court in Greensboro found him not guilty, while Sidna's alleged accomplice, Preston Dickens, was found guilty and sentenced to serve five years in federal prison.[5] Sidna was retried and found guilty of perjury in his trial testimony, and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.[5][13] Sidna promptly appealed and gained a new trial on the perjury charge.[5][13] The next year, after the Allens complained that they could not expect justice from William Foster, the Republican Commonwealth Attorney of the county (who had recently switched parties), Judge Thornton L. Massie had appointed both Floyd and H. C. (Henry) Allen to the post of police officer for the New River section of the county.[14][15]

However, times were changing: Virginia's judicial structure was altered in a series of legal reforms, particularly the county court system, which was replaced by circuit courts. The new system appointed a full-time judge to hold court at scheduled intervals in a circuit of several counties. While the state legislature still appointed circuit judges, the new system reduced the ability of individual delegates to ensure that their preferred judge was selected for their particular county; furthermore, judges could no longer practice law for private clients while on the bench, and as regional judges their susceptibility to local influence and public opinion was reduced.[6]

Arrest of the Edwards brothers[edit]

One night in December 1910 (some sources[1] say 1911), two of Allen's nephews, Wesley Edwards and Sidna Edwards, attended a corn shucking bee in Hillsville. While there, Wesley kissed a girl who was romantically linked to a local youth, Will Thomas. This soon led to an altercation between Thomas and Edwards. At a church service the next morning conducted by Wesley Edwards' uncle, Garland Allen, Will Thomas reportedly called out Wesley Edwards into a fight. According to Wesley Edwards, Thomas and three friends assaulted him and he defended himself with the help of his brother Sidna, who rushed to join the fight. Following a complaint lodged by Wesley Edwards' father, George, Wesley and his brother Sidna Edwards were charged with disorderly conduct, assault with a deadly weapon, disturbing a public worship service, and other violations.[16] Rather than face arrest, the two men fled over the state line to Mt. Airy in Surry County, North Carolina, where they found jobs in a granite quarry. The Deputy Clerk of Carroll County, Dexter Goad, obtained a new warrant for the brothers' arrest, notifying the sheriff in Surry County, who soon arrested both men. Deputy Clerk Goad then sent a deputy (Thomas F. Samuel) with a driver (Peter Easter) to the North Carolina border to receive the Edwards brothers.

Deputy Thomas F. Samuel and Peter Easter traveled in Easter's four-seater buggy to the state line and received the Edwards boys from Sheriff Haynes and Deputy Oscar Monday, who had arrested the brothers at work.[17] There was only one set of handcuffs, and because Sidna Edwards had tried to escape a couple of times, Wesley was handcuffed in the front seat of the buggy beside Easter and Sidna was tied in the back seat beside Samuel.[17] On the way to the courthouse, the buggy passed by several properties owned by the Allens.[3] Floyd Allen met the buggy south of Sidna Allen's home as he was on the way to his own home.[13] Deputy Samuel pulled a gun (later determined to be inoperative) and ordered Floyd to move away, and Floyd rode back past the buggy to Sidna's store where he then blocked the narrow road with his mare.[13] Samuel again pulled his gun on Floyd. A fight ensued and Floyd beat Samuel with his own pistol.[13] Wesley Edwards tried to grapple with Easter, but Easter got away and fired a shot at Floyd as he did so, wounding Floyd in the finger.[13] Floyd then released the Edwards brothers. Easter escaped on foot to the home of an acquaintance, where he telephoned the sheriff at Hillsville.[13] Deputy Samuel was left lying unconscious in a ditch, and his horses were run off.[18] Floyd Allen later stated that he never intended to have the boys set completely free, he just wanted them to be released from their manacles and treated as humans instead of animals. Some[who?] say that the boys were not only manacled but being dragged behind the buggy.

On the following Monday, Wesley and Sidna Edwards were turned over to the court by Floyd Allen, and the two Edwards brothers were soon tried and convicted of their crimes. Wesley was sentenced to sixty days and his brother thirty, which were served outside jail on work-release. Floyd Allen, Sidna Allen, and Barnett Allen were all indicted for interfering with the deputies, and Floyd Allen was indicted for assault and battery. Sidna Allen was never tried for his part in the altercation, while Barnett was tried and acquitted. Floyd Allen's case was set for trial.

Shortly before trial, a rumor that the Allens were intimidating witnesses was called to the attention of the court. Judge Massie called Constable Jack Allen and Floyd Allen to the bar and proceeded to question them about the alleged intimidation. Jack Allen denied all responsibility for the allegations of intimidation, which he stated were not true and both he and Floyd were not guilty of any wrongdoing. In response, the judge told the two men that if the law could not be enforced in Carroll County by the county officers (meaning Jack and Floyd) that he would get rid of the officers and bring in state troops if necessary to maintain order. A witness later testified that Floyd Allen had remarked that he "would not let any man talk to me that way."[19]

Trial and shooting[edit]

After close to a year of delays, Floyd was finally brought to trial on March 13, 1912.[20] The trial was presided over by Judge Thornton L. Massie, the same judge who had appointed Floyd to the post of county police officer six months before. Floyd Allen was well represented by a team of two attorneys, Walter Scott Tipton and David Winton Bolen, both of whom were retired Carroll County judges.

Rumors arose in the community that Floyd Allen had reportedly sent word to Deputy Samuel that he would kill Samuel if the deputy testified against him. Allen later denied this, but the threat, whoever sent it, was sufficient to cause Deputy Samuel to leave the state the same night the threat was delivered.[21]

Samuel's departure forced the state's Commonwealth's Attorney (prosecutor) William M. Foster to rely on testimony from Deputy Easter. Foster had been Commonwealth’s Attorney of Carroll County for eight years, having been first elected on the Democratic ticket. Later, he changed to the Republican party, and by 1912 was a prominent leader in the GOP in Carroll County, being elected the last time on the Republican ticket. Foster was a political enemy of the Allens, as they had supported Constable Jack Allen's son Walter as Democratic candidate for Commonwealth's Attorney against Foster in the last election last (Walter had lost in a bitterly fought race).[22] In the grand jury testimony, Floyd Allen admitted 'roughing up' Samuel, but not with the intent of releasing the prisoners: "That there Samuel[s] was abusing the boys. He had them handcuffed and tied up with a rope. I just can't bear to see anyone drug around."[21]

Fearful of the Allens' reaction, and having received death threats, many officials of the court armed themselves. At least two of the participants, Judge Massie and Sheriff Webb, had told friends that they expected trouble. There were many of the Allen clan among the spectators in the courtroom, most of them armed with pistols. Sidna Allen and Claud Allen were in the northeast corner of the courtroom, standing on benches to see over the crowd. Friel Allen sat in the back of the room, and the Edwards boys stood on benches next to the north wall. When the jury returned a guilty verdict against Floyd, sentencing him to one year in the penitentiary, Floyd Allen is reported to have said to Judge Massie: "If you sentence me on that verdict, I will kill you."[23] Judge Massie at once proceeded to sentence Floyd to one year's imprisonment.[23]

According to Floyd Allen's defense attorney, David Winton Bolen, "[Floyd] hesitated a moment, and then he arose...He looked to me like a man who was about to say something, and had hardly made up his mind what he was going to say, but as he got straight, he moved off to my left, I would say five or six feet, and he seemed to gain his speech, and he said something like this, 'I just tell you, I ain't a'going.'"[17][24] At this point, shots broke out in the courtroom.

Accounts differ as to who actually fired the first shot. Many accounts claim that Allen initiated the confrontation by pulling a gun in court. In his defense testimony, Floyd Allen stated that Sheriff Lew F. Webb fired first, but that the shot missed Allen, at which point Deputy Clerk Goad, the Clerk of Court, fired and hit Allen, causing him to fall. (When Floyd fell, wounded, he landed on top of his lawyer David Bolen, who is reported to have said, “Floyd, they are going to kill me shooting at you!”)[1] Floyd Allen stated that only then did he draw his own revolver and begin shooting. After a fusillade of shots, the Allen clan left the courthouse, armed with both pistols and 12-gauge pump shotguns, and shooting as they ran.

Judge Massie, Sheriff Webb, Commonwealth's Attorney Foster, the jury foreman (Augustus C. Fowler), and a nineteen-year-old girl (Elizabeth Ayers) were all hit and died of their wounds sustained in the crossfire. More than fifty bullets were later recovered from the shooting scene. Elizabeth Ayers, a subpoenaed witness who had testified against Floyd Allen, was shot in the back while trying to leave the courtroom, and died the next day.[25] Seven others were wounded, including Deputy Clerk Goad and Floyd Allen. Floyd, wounded too badly in the hip, thigh and knee to leave town, instead spent the night in the Elliott Hotel accompanied by his eldest son, Victor, who was later found not to have been involved in the shootout. Upon his arrest by deputies at the hotel, Floyd attempted to slash his own throat with a pocketknife, but was overpowered before he could complete the job.[26]

Virginia law held that when a sheriff died his deputies lost all legal powers, so Carroll County was left without law enforcement by the shooting. Recognizing the need for immediate action, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney S. Floyd Landreth sent a telegram to Democratic Governor William Hodges Mann which read:

Send troops to the County of Carroll at once. Mob violence, the court. Commonwealth's Attorney, Sheriff, some jurors and others shot on the conviction of Floyd Allen for a felony. Sheriff and Commonwealth's Attorney dead, court serious. Look after this now.[1]

Governor Mann immediately called on the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to find those responsible for the shootings and arrest them. Rewards ($1000 for Sidna Allen, $1000 for Sidna Edwards, $800 for Claude Allen, $500 for Friel Allen, and $500 for Wesley Edwards) - dead or alive - were posted by the State of Virginia.[27] Within a month, all parties were in custody, save for Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards. A manhunt then commenced for the remaining Allen fugitives, and several posses of detectives and local deputies searched the surrounding countryside. The U.S. Revenue Service sent an agent, Deputy Agent Faddis, to investigate reports of illegal liquor trafficking by the Allens.[28] Agent Faddis and four men raided Floyd Allen's property, seizing illegal stills and fifty gallons of moonshine.[28] Two more illegal stills were found at Sidna Edwards' house.[28]

Claud Allen and Sidna Edwards were placed into custody after a brief search. Friel Allen gave himself to detectives in the company of his father Jack Allen, who was apparently concerned his son might be killed while being apprehended. However, Sidna Allen and his nephew Wesley Edwards fled the state. After several months' chase, the two were located by Baldwin-Felts detectives in Iowa after a tip from an informant. Sidna Allen maintained until the end of his life that this informant was Maude Iroller, Wesley's fiancee, who provided information on the fugitives' location in exchange for $500 from the detective agency. Others state that Miss Iroller’s father, who had never approved of his daughter’s romance with Wesley Edwards, tipped off the detectives that Maude was going to Des Moines to marry him. Knowing the two men were now in Des Moines, Baldwin-Felts detectives soon located the men, arrested them, and returned them to Carroll County to stand trial.

Investigation and subsequent trials[edit]

Floyd Allen was the first to be brought to trial on a charge of murdering Judge Massie, Sheriff Webb, and Commonwealth's Attorney Foster. Judge W.R. Staples presided over the courthouse shooting trials, which were prosecuted by State's Attorney General Samuel W. Williams. The prosecutor's case was based on the formation of a conspiracy by the Allens to kill the trial judge, local law enforcement, and others who had wronged them in the event of a guilty verdict. J. E. Kearn, a travelling salesman from Roanoke, testified to having sold Sidna Allen a lot of ammunition at the March term of the Hillsville court. He sold the defendant 500 each of .32 and .38 caliber pistol cartridges and 500 12-gauge shotgun shells.[29]

There remains considerable dispute even today over who fired the first shot.[1] The prosecution attempted to show that Floyd and Claud Allen prompted the gun battle by standing and pulling their pistols and opening fire. One of the prosecution's witnesses was none other than attorney Walter S. Tipton, who was in the court at the time of the shooting, and was representing Floyd Allen at the time. Tipton testified to seeing Claude Allen in the court house and saw him with a pistol raised in both hands as if he had just fired it. Looking at him the second time he again saw Floyd with his pistol raised, and holding it in both hands, saw Floyd Allen fire his pistol.[30]

For their part, Floyd Allen and his relatives claimed that it was Deputy Clerk Dexter Goad who fired first, prompted by a long-standing vendetta he and Foster held against the family. The defense next attempted to show that Deputy Clerk Goad shot Elizabeth Ayers in his exchange of fire with the Allens, a charge Goad denied.[31] Years later, an allegation surfaced that Deputy Clerk H.C. Quesinberry confessed on his deathbed to starting the shooting; two men swore an affidavit to that effect in 1967 (for which each man was reportedly paid $25).[1] Others hold that the hearsay affidavit, made years after the event transpired, is worthless, and that Floyd Allen probably began the shooting.[1] Still others claim that Sheriff Webb accidentally discharged his own revolver, instigating the fusillade.

Former judge David Winton Bolen, who had been present during the shooting as one of Floyd Allen's defense attorneys, was the first witness examined by the prosecution at Floyd Allen's murder trial. Bolen had been standing next to Floyd Allen, and was facing Judge Massie when the first shots struck the judge's robes. Bolen testified that the first shot fired was by Claud Allen, and that Claud Allen's pistol shot, together with a second shot fired by Sidna Allen killed Judge Massie.[32]

Yet another lawyer who witnessed the shooting, W.A. Daugherty of Pikeville, stated that several young men were standing on court benches at the back of the room firing their pistols "like Custer's cavalrymen at the Little Big Horn".[33]

In his testimony at his murder trial, Floyd Allen admitted that he had fired at Deputy Clerk H.C. Quesinberry and again twice more at other unknown persons once he had left the courthouse.[34]

Deputy Sheriff George W. Edwards, who became the sheriff of Carroll County after Sheriff Webb's death, was a deputy sheriff at the time of the shooting. He testified that, in a conversation with Floyd Allen just after he had been indicted, Floyd said that Commonwealth's Attorney Foster would not give him a show; but that if he did not there would be a "big hole put in the court house." The next witness was Sidney Towe, who largely corroborated the testimony of Sheriff Edwards, his statements being along the same line. On a different occasion, he heard Floyd Allen make the same threat of putting the biggest hole in the court house that any man ever had seen.[35]

By his own admission in court, Deputy Clerk Dexter Goad fired the second shot at Floyd, striking him in the pelvis. His stated reason was that he thought Floyd's fumbling with his sweater buttons was a prelude to drawing his pistol. However, he denied firing the first shot in the fusillade.[35] Though wounded by four bullets himself, Goad recovered.

S. E. Gardner, a Hillsville undertaker who prepared the body of Sheriff Webb for burial, testified that the Sheriff was shot no less than five times. One bullet entered the back and ranged upward, lodging directly under the collarbone. A second shot entered the back about four inches lower, while a third shot cut the sheriff across the chin. Another entered the body at the cap of the left hip and passed through the abdomen. The last and fifth shot went into the calf of the leg and when his trousers were removed, a .32 caliber bullet was discovered.

Attorney Howard C. Gilmer, of Pulaski Virginia, was at Hillsville Courthouse at the time of the sentencing. He was in a room adjoining Judge Massie's courtroom when the shooting broke out.[35] Gilmer testified he heard two shots in quick succession, after which there was a slight interval and then a great volley of firing.[35] He also testified that he saw the crowd come out of the court house, and recognized Floyd and Sidna as the last to leave the court room, both of them following and firing as they backed out, apparently in response to fire coming from within the courthouse.[35] Gilmer stated he heard Floyd Allen say two or three times, "I am shot, but I got the damn scoundrel."[35]

County Treasurer J. B. Marshall testified that when the shooting started he turned to escape the courthouse. After getting down the steps he leaned against the window of his office when two girls, Dora and Elizabeth Ayers, passed him.[36] He testified that one of the girls pointed out some of the Allens leaving the court house, when Sidna Allen came toward him, pointed his pistol toward him, and fired.[36] Marshall then related that Sidna Allen's bullet buried itself in the window about six inches above his head.[36] Marshall also testified before leaving the court room he was standing near Sheriff Webb, but did not see any pistol in the Sheriff's hand.[36]

A witness to the courtroom shooting, Walter Petty, also testified that the first shots were fired from the northeast corner of the courtroom, where Claud Allen was standing, and that he witnessed a pistol duel between Sidna Allen and Deputy Clerk Dexter Goad.[37]

At Claude Allen's trial for the murder of Commonwealth's Attorney Foster, Judge David W. Bolen was again the star witness for the prosecution. Judge Bolen confirmed his prior testimony that he saw Claud Allen fire the first shot at Judge Massie from the northeast corner of the court room, whereupon Claud advanced in the direction of the court officers to where Commonwealth's Attorney Foster was standing.[38]

For his part, Claud Allen admitted to firing his pistol while in the courtroom.[39] Claud testified that he saw Sidna Allen firing just about the time he saw Deputy Clerk Goad fire.[39]

According to Victor Allen, whose pistol was used in the courthouse shooting, he saw Wesley Edwards from outside the courtroom firing a revolver through the courthouse window and over the heads of spectators just after the shooting began, and later saw him run from the courthouse together with Sidna Allen. Victor Allen also asserted that Claud's shooting must have done with his gun, since Claud had taken possession of Victor's handgun as the two were leaving their hotel in Hillsville on the morning of the tragedy. Claud Allen verified this part of Victor's testimony.[39]

Sidna Edwards testified that he was not armed the day of the shooting and that he did not like to carry guns.[40] Sidna Edwards denied firing a gun during the courthouse shootings, and stated that he did not see who fired the first shot, but thought that it came from the vicinity of Deputy Clerk Goad's desk.[27] Sidna Edwards had scalded his foot some years before and was partially lame, and limped out of the courthouse, riding his mother's horse back to his home.[27]

Sidna Allen denied that he shot Judge Massie, or that he fired at Commonwealth's Attorney Foster, Sheriff Webb, or at Juror Fowler.[41] Sidna claimed that when the shooting commenced, he drew his own revolver and fired five times at Deputy Clerk Goad and Deputy Sheriff Gillespie, for the reason that both men were firing at him. After shooting five times he dropped to his knees and reloaded his revolver.[41] Sidna stated that when he left the courthouse, Deputy Clerk Goad followed behind him, shooting him through the left arm, the bullet lodging in his left side.[41] He stated that he fired back at Goad on the court house steps, but denied shooting at Treasurer J. B. Marshall.[41] After the shooting Sidna stated that he went to Blankenship’s Livery Stable, where he met the other members of the family, leaving Hillsville in the company of Claude Allen, Wesley Edwards, and Sidna Edwards.[41] They did not travel the public roads, but returned to their homes by traveling cross-country through the farm fields.[41] Sidna Allen later left the state in the company of Wesley Edwards, eventually reaching Des Moines, Iowa.


Floyd Allen was tried for the first-degree murder of Commonwealth's Attorney Foster. On May 18, 1912, Floyd Allen was found guilty by the jury. His stoic exterior gone, Floyd Allen wept freely as the verdict was read.[42] In July 1912, after three separate trials, Claud Allen was convicted of first-degree murder for the killing of Commonwealth's Attorney Foster, and for second-degree murder for the killing of Judge Massie.[43]

For their roles in the shooting, Floyd and Claude Allen were sentenced to death by electrocution.[44] Sidna Allen received a total of 35 years in prison for the voluntary manslaughter of Commonwealth's Attorney Foster, and for second-degree murder of Judge Massie. Sidna Allen also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the shooting of Sheriff Webb, and was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment. Wesley Edwards drew nine years for each count of murder for the slaying of Foster, Massie, and Webb for a total of 27 years' imprisonment. Sidna Edwards pleaded guilty in August 1912 to second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 15 years in the penitentiary. Friel Allen was tried in August 1912 and after confessing to shooting Foster, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Friel Allen and Sidna Edwards were pardoned by Democratic Governor Elbert Lee Trinkle in 1922, while Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards were pardoned by Governor Harry Flood Byrd in April, 1926.[45] Victor Allen and Barnett Allen were acquitted. Burden "Byrd" Marion, a cousin and neighbor, had all charges against him dropped. Accounts differ as to whether this was for a lack of evidence, or because Marion became a state's witness and admitted his role in aiding the Allens.[46][47] Shortly after the Allen trials, law enforcement officers found a still in an old house on Burden Marion's farm, and he was arrested for making illegal liquor. He was tried in federal court, found guilty, and sentenced to a year in federal prison at Moundsville, West Virginia. He began his sentence in August 1913, and died, officially of pneumonia, in prison on November 25, 1913.[48]

Allen's death sentence was deeply unpopular with Allen supporters in the county, but many other residents were surprised by the deaths of so many people over Floyd Allen's refusal to serve a year in prison, and were not sympathetic. Governor Mann, who had received death threats in the same handwriting as the threats previously delivered to the trial judge, had to cut short a trip to Pennsylvania after learning his Lieutenant Governor, James Taylor Ellyson (1847–1919), had attempted to commute the Allens' sentences in his absence, instigating a brief constitutional power struggle between the two men.[8] Governor Mann refused a request to commute the death sentences to life imprisonment, and Floyd Allen was electrocuted on March 28, 1913 at 1:20PM. Eleven minutes later, his son followed Allen to his death in the electric chair.[8]

After a public display of the bodies at Biyle’s Funeral Parlor, the Allens were buried in the Wisler Cemetery in Cana, Virginia. For years it was alleged that the men were buried under a headstone that read in part, "Judicially Murdered By The State Of Virginia Over The Protests Of More Than 40,000 Of Its Citizens." A photograph of the original headstone can be seen in Allen's Findagrave listing.

The Carroll County prosecutor placed liens on all property owned by Floyd and Sidna Allen for the heirs of the victims.[28] As a result of three wrongful death lawsuits by the victims' estates and survivors, the property of Sidna and Floyd Allen was confiscated and sold at auction, forcing Sidna Allen's wife and two small daughters to live in rented quarters and work at menial jobs until Sidna's pardon. Floyd Allen's son, Victor, bought his father's house so that his mother would not have to move. In 1921, however, he moved his family to Tabernacle Township, New Jersey.

Floyd Allen's brother Jasper (Jack) Allen lost his job as constable as a result of the Hillsville shooting, but that did not end matters. On March 17, 1916, Jack Allen had stopped for the night in a roadhouse near Mt. Airy, North Carolina where he encountered Will McGraw, a moonshine hauler.[17][46][49][50] A dispute between McGraw and Jack Allen arose about the Hillsville tragedy and during the confrontation McGraw drew a gun and shot Allen twice, killing him on the spot.[46][50] Jack Allen was buried near his home in Carroll County, in the presence of a thousand mourners.[50]

American football coach Frank Beamer is a grandson of Barnett Allen.[51]

List of the dead and wounded[edit]

Cultural impact[edit]

Both Claude and Sidna Allen were the subject of ballads for their actions; Sidna was referred to as "Sidney".[52] In addition, Virginia State Senator Joseph T. Fitzpatrick reportedly once wrote the screenplay for a film based on the case.

The Sidna Allen House still stands in Fancy Gap, Virginia; it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Williamson, Seth. "Allen Clan Hillsville Courthouse Shootout". Roanoker Magazine - November 1982 Issue. Leisure Publishing Inc. Retrieved 2006-08-24. 
  2. ^ Caudill, Harry M., Slender Is The Thread: Tales From A Country Law Office, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press (1987), ISBN 978-0-8131-1611-2, 081310811X, pp. 78-79: Attorney W.A. Daugherty remembered Floyd Allen as a man of sterling character in the matter of personal honesty, but who could not abide a personal affront: [Floyd] "would kill you in a second over some little matter most people wouldn't remember two minutes."
  3. ^ a b c d e f Meloney, William B., The Man From Down Yonder, Everybody's Magazine, Vol. 26, January–June 1912, p. 783-784
  4. ^ Hall, Randall, A Courtroom Massacre: Politics And Public Sentiment In Progressive-era Virginia, Journal of Southern History 70, 1 May 2004, pp. 249-252
  5. ^ a b c d Hall, Randall, pp. 249-252
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Hall, Randall, p. 249-252
  7. ^ Hall, Ron. "The Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy". The Carroll County Historical Society. Retrieved 2006-08-24. 
  8. ^ a b c Allens Executed; Respite Plan Failed, The New York Times, 29 March 1913
  9. ^ Caudill, Harry M., Slender Is The Thread: Tales From A Country Law Office, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press (1987), ISBN 978-0-8131-1611-2, 081310811X, p. 74
  10. ^ Communication From The Governor Of Virginia: List Of Pardons, Commutations, Respites, And Remissions Of Fines, And Reasons Therefor, Senate Document No. V, Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Richmond, VA 12 January 1910, p. 66
  11. ^ Communication From The Governor Of Virginia, p. 66
  12. ^ Communication From The Governor Of Virginia, p. 66
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Meloney, William B., The Man From Down Yonder, p. 783-784
  14. ^ Caudill, Harry M., Slender Is The Thread, p. 74
  15. ^ Hines, Emilee, It Happened In Virginia, Globe Pequot Press (2001), ISBN 978-0-7627-1166-6, p. 84
  16. ^ Last Of Allen Clan Is Killed, The New York Times, 19 March 1916
  17. ^ a b c d Hall, Randall, A Courtroom Massacre: Politics and Public Sentiment in Progressive-Era Virginia, Journal of Southern History 70 (May 2004), pp. 249–292
  18. ^ Meloney, William B., The Man From Down Yonder, p. 783-784
  19. ^ Allen Boys Tell Of Shooting, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 11 May 1912
  20. ^ Wiley, Edwin. The Allens of Fancy Gap. Lulu Press, 2011, p. 228.
  21. ^ a b Meloney, William B., The Man From Down Yonder, Everybody's Magazine, Vol. 26, January–June 1912, p. 788
  22. ^ Meloney, William B., The Man From Down Yonder, Everybody's Magazine, Vol. 26, January–June 1912, p. 783-784: In the aftermath of the race, Floyd Allen claimed it had been told to him that Foster had said the whole Allen clan "ought to be killed", an allegation Foster denied. Allen told Foster he couldn't prove Foster made the statement, "but if it could, I'd blow your brains out where you stand."
  23. ^ a b Judge T.L. Massie and Two Court Officers Murdered By Allen Gang at Hillsville, The Roanoke Times, 15 March 1912
  24. ^ One Caught; Allen Gang Will Give Up, The New York Times, 23 March 1912: In contrast to Attorney Bolen's version of Floyd's reaction to the sentence, Sidna Edwards stated that his uncle Floyd "jumped up" after hearing the sentence, and appeared considerably agitated.
  25. ^ Floyd Allen Defense Gets Well Into Case, Bluefield, W. Va.: The Bluefield Telegraph, 9 May 1912: Solomon Ayers, a cousin of Elizabeth Ayers, testified that Elizabeth was shot through the back above the waistline and the bullet ranged upward and exited her right breast.
  26. ^ Two More Dead in Allen Feud, The New York Times, 16 March 1912
  27. ^ a b c One Caught; Allen Gang Will Give Up, The New York Times, 23 March 1912
  28. ^ a b c d Posse On Night Ride To Surround Allens, The New York Times, 20 March 1912
  29. ^ Accuses Dexter Goad Of Shooting Betty Ayers, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, W. Va.: 20 November 1912
  30. ^ Saw Allen In Act Of Firing, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, W. Va., 28 May 1912
  31. ^ Accuses Dexter Goad Of Shooting Betty Ayers, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, W. Va., 20 November 1912
  32. ^ Claude Allen First To Fire At Hillsville, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, W. Va., 3 May 1912
  33. ^ Caudill, Harry M., Slender Is The Thread: Tales From A Country Law Office, Lexington: University of Kentucky Press (1987), ISBN 978-0-8131-1611-2, 081310811X, p. 78
  34. ^ Sheriff Fired First, Says Floyd Allen, The New York Times, 12 May 1912
  35. ^ a b c d e f Prosecution Tries To Show A Conspiracy, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, W. Va., 4 May 1912
  36. ^ a b c d Floyd Allen Defense Gets Well Into Case, Bluefield, W. Va.: The Bluefield Telegraph, 9 May 1912
  37. ^ Defense Continues Efforts To Disprove Conspiracy, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, W. Va., 10 May 1912
  38. ^ Saw Claude Allen Fire First At Judge Massie, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, W. Va., 4 July 1912
  39. ^ a b c Allen Boys Tell Of Shooting, Bluefield, W. Va.: The Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 11 May 1912
  40. ^ One Caught; Allen Gang Will Give Up, The New York Times, 23 March 1912: Edward's uncle, Jasper (Jack) Allen, insisted that Sidna Edwards was afraid of guns.
  41. ^ a b c d e f State Closes Case In Sidna Allen Trial, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, W. Va., 7 December 1912
  42. ^ Floyd Allen Must Die, Beckley, W. Va: The Raleigh Herald, 24 May 1912
  43. ^ Claude Allen Convicted: He Is Found Guilty of Murdering Commonwealth's Attorney Foster, The New York Times, 28 July 1912
  44. ^ Floyd Allen Must Pay Death Penalty, The New York Times, 18 May 1912
  45. ^ Conley, Jerry. "The Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy". Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. Retrieved 2006-08-24. 
  46. ^ a b c Last Of Allen Clan Is Killed, The New York Times, 19 March 1916
  47. ^ Colby, Frank M. (ed.), North Carolina: Politics and Government, The New International Yearbook, New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. (1917), p. 495
  48. ^ Some sources state that Burden Marion was found beaten to death in his cell.
  49. ^ Information Annual 1916, New York: Cumulative Digest Corp. (1917), p. 6
  50. ^ a b c Little Creek: Local News, Clinch Valley News, 24 March 1916
  51. ^ "Tempered Steel: How Frank Beamer Got That Way - TheRoanoker.com". theroanoker.com. Retrieved February 6, 2016. 
  52. ^ "Allen Family Songs". Blue Ridge Institute & Museum. Retrieved 2006-08-24. 
  • Biography in John T. Kneebone et al., eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond: The Library of Virginia, 1998- ), 1:78-82. ISBN 978-0-88490-189-1

External links[edit]