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December 20, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Notables: Thomas S. Bocock

Harper's_Richmond_Capitol_Disaster

In late April of 1870, newspapers across Virginia announced the collapse of the second floor of the Virginia State Capitol building.  In The Native Virginian (Gordonsville, VA), on April 29th, the headline read:

TERRIBLE CALAMITY IN RICHMOND!

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Floor of the Court Room of the Supreme Court Gives Away!

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A LARGE NUMBER KILLED AND WOUNDED.

A frightful calamity happened in the Capitol this morning.  It is the most shocking and appalling one in all its features that has occurred in the present generation.  This 27th day of April will long be remembered in Richmond as a day of horror and death.

Long before the hour of opening of the session of the Court of Appeals this morning, in the court-room in the upper story of the Capitol, over the eastern hall of the Hall of the House of Delegates, a large crowd of people had assembled, expecting the decision of the judges in the Chahoon and Ellyson case.  Every one seemed to be in good humor, and there were no evidences of excited feeling.

The gallery of the court-room was densely packed. So was the clerk’s room under it, and the space in the court-room in front of the bench and bar, was filled with an expectant crowd waiting for the decision.  The number present is variously estimated to have been from three to five hundred.

Bocock_Thomas S_2

Thomas S. Bocock

There were indeed many dead, including several policemen, attorneys, a reporter from the Enquirer, many politicians, and two men identified as “old citizens.”  Among the wounded were Governor Henry Horatio Wells, his breast bone broken, and Thomas S. Bocock, ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives.  According to The Native Virginian, Bocock’s foot was “mashed.”  It was later amputated, leaving him permanently crippled.

For more about George Chahoon: “George Chahoon: Reconstruction Era ‘Carpetbagger’”

Special thanks to Coz. Mary Carolyn Mitton and to the Library of Virginia’s database: Virginia Chronicle.

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