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February 9, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Courthouse: Arson!


The person or persons behind the burning of Buckingham Courthouse on the night of February 24, 1869 were never found. Over the years, diverse scenarios have been speculated: Carpetbaggers set the blaze; they would be contracted to build a new courthouse. Lawyers were responsible; they would profit from redrafting documents. A slightly more plausible tale is that deed histories were the target; their destruction would obscure land ownership and confound the dreaded tax man. Years later, William Shepard, who knew witnesses of the burning, wrote, “A rather weird tale is told to account for the burning of the court house. The oil-saturate hand-railings which escaped complete consumption showed a carefully planned procedure.”

If anyone knows of other theories behind the burning of Buckingham Courthouse, please comment!


Leave a Comment
  1. Joanne Yeck / Feb 25 2013 9:39 am

    Thank you, Margaret. The fire absolutely could have been accidental. When loss is so great, it is human nature to find somebody to blame. Even if that “somebody” is nowhere to be found! Joanne

  2. Margaret Thomas / Feb 25 2013 9:20 am

    Hi Joanne, My opinion is that the courthouse fire was accidental. I base that opinion on a lifetime of living with wood stoves (including a fire that consumed my grandparents’ house.) Not as exciting as other theories, but just as likely, as many early Virginia courthouses burned.


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