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June 11, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

The 1909 Buckingham Murders: Part IV



“Governor Offers Reward”

On April 21, 1909, The Times-Dispatch printed a lengthy report about the murder of the Stewart brothers. Buckingham County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Edmund W. Hubard, announced that he would approach the Governor, asking him to offer a reward for the capture of the criminals. The newspaper published the attorney’s statement as follows:

“In addition to the efforts that I will make personally with the aid of the county officers,” said Mr. Hubard last night, “I will see the Governor before leaving [Richmond] and get him to offer a reward for the apprehension of the criminals. As soon as I reach Buckingham county I will call a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors for the same purpose. I feel certain that all of the other county officers will do all in their power by way of cooperating with me to bring the perpetrators of the deed to justice.”

Buckingham’s coroner was convinced that the men were murdered. Yet, at the inquest, according to The Times-Dispatch, some persons present “were inclined to push the theory that their death was accidental.” Dr. Lightfoot Morris, however, satisfied the jury that the Stewart brothers were murdered. The presence of “shot” in the skull of each man determined the cause of their death. While the fire had charred the bodies beyond recognition, a discharged shotgun and a pistol were found in the remains of the cabin.

The Times-Dispatch also printed a firsthand account of the event which, interestingly, is never reported again:

The nearest thing to an authentic account of the affair comes from Mrs. Thomas Wright and her daughter, Mrs. Lithgoe of Henrico county, who was spending some time with her. Mrs. Lithgoe stated that at 2 o’clock Sunday night she got up for the purpose of giving medicine to her mother and looked out of the window. Again, between the hours of 3 and 4 o’clock, she got up. This time she saw a bright light in the direction of the Stewart cabin. She immediately aroused her brothers, who ran to the cabin. When they reached the place the house had fallen in, though the figures of the men were seen crouched up in the flames.

“No arrests have been made,” the article continued, “though there is strong suspicion that the perpetrator of the crime is a white man. Contrary to reports, there is little excitement in any part of the county except in the neighborhood in which the murder occurred.”

Apparently, the citizens of Buckingham County did not feel this was the beginning of a crime spree. From today’s perspective it’s hard to imagine precisely what about the nature of the crime led citizens and/or officials to suspect a white man was the murderer.

Governor Swanson responded immediately to Attorney Hubbard’s request, authorizing a reward of $500 for information leading to the arrest of the murderers. The equivalent of over $13,000 in today’s dollars, this was an impressive sum.

Coming Next: Arrests Made

Need to catch up on The 1909 Buckingham Murders? Part I: June 1, 2015


Leave a Comment
  1. onestitchatatime / Jun 13 2015 11:24 am

    The plot thickens. Fodder for your historical novel???

    • Joanne Yeck / Jun 13 2015 11:29 am

      The plot will thicken and thicken. There will be SO many shades of grey and unanswered questions. There is a novel here but I don’t know that I’m the one to write it. Time will tell….

  2. Joanne Yeck / Jun 12 2015 7:50 am

    Linda, I’m delighted that you are enjoying the series. The questions will continue to mount and we will see how much journalism has changed, and not changed! So far, I’ve found no trace of the boys who were living the Stewart brothers in 1900. I wish their names were clearer on the census. Keep reading and keep commenting! Joanne

  3. Linda Doerger / Jun 11 2015 10:10 pm

    What an interesting series, Joanne! So many thoughts and questions already – Were the two black boys who were living with the brothers in 1900 still living with them at the time of the murders/fire, and what happened to them? I don’t think a paper could get away with calling anyone “not a desirable citizen” these days. I wonder why the nearby citizens were not more concerned about a murderer on the loose. And, obviously, there were not news wire services like AP and Reuters to link the same story throughout the various newspapers in Virginia if they were reporting opposite opinions of what happened. I can’t wait for the next post!!

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