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August 10, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

The 1909 Buckingham Murders: Part XXI

21_Buckingham_Stewart Murder_Staunton_Mystery

  Front Page Story, 24 November 1911, Staunton Spectator and Vindicator

Justice and the Stewart Brothers

The story of the murders of Thomas and William Stewart as it unfolded during 1909 – 1911, leaves many unanswered questions.

Based on census data, the Stewart brothers had no other siblings and likely had no close kinfolk living in Buckingham County. Their cabin was burned with its contents, however, they owned their farm. What happened to their property?

The coroner’s conclusion that the brothers were indeed murdered and not accidently burned in their cabin seems sound. If justice was served and Dallas Wright, Edward Jones, and Richard Perkins were innocent, then who killed the Stewart brothers?

Were Wright, Jones, and Perkins framed? Were Buckingham County officials and some of the county’s prominent citizens responsible for bribes and intimidation? Was there an organized cover up protecting the actual criminals?

Was Deputy Sheriff J. E. Carter’s death really an accident? Or was he silenced so he could never divulge the men involved in the intimidation of Richard Perkins? Did he know who actually killed the Stewarts and why?

What was the real motive for killing the apparently harmless Stewarts? Were the Stewarts killed for another reason, completely unrelated to the rumor of their hidden riches or “difficulty” with Dallas Wright?

Where there is money there are often also fights and grudges. Could there have been a multi-generational grievance between the Stewarts, the Wrights, and possibly others?

In 1871, an ultimately undetermined Buckingham County chancery case, Booker vs. Whitehead, involved many familiar and affluent Buckingham families including James A. Wright, Administrator bonis non of George Booker; Powhatan Jones, Executor for Mary Whitehead; James Stewart, Administrator of Thomas Jones, Jr.; James Stewart in his own right along with his wife Lucinda Stewart; Thomas Bondurant, Executor for Thomas M. Bondurant.

How did James Stewart, father of Thomas and William Stewart, come to be the administrator of Thomas Jones, Jr.’s estate and what claim did he and his wife, Lucinda, have against the Whitehead estate in this chancery case?

An association between James Stewart and Powhatan Jones (1792-1880) might explain the rumor of riches and slave trading. Jones was a wealthy and influential man in Buckingham County, as well as a politically prominent Whig. In 1850, Jones’ plantation was valued at $14,000. His son, Thomas Jones, acted as his overseer. By 1860, Jones’ real estate — 1,300 improved acres, plus 400 unimproved acres — was valued at $20,000. His personal property, including twenty-seven slaves, was valued at $35,000. His fortunes survived the Civil War remarkably intact. In 1870, Jones’ real estate was still valued at an impressive $12,000 and his personal property at $1,000.

~

Following the freeing of Dallas Wright, Edward Jones, and Richard Perkins the story of the murder of the Stewart brothers disappears from the headlines. Was anyone else ever charged with the murders? After such a lengthy, convoluted, and, perhaps, incriminating process, were Buckingham County officials content to let the crime vanish into obscurity?

If a Slate River Ramblings reader knows more about the case or the lives of the Stewart brothers, please comment or send an email using the contact box.

Many thanks to Mary Carolyn Mitton for finding much of the newspaper coverage and encouraging me to flesh out the story of the Stewart brothers. Also, a special nod to the Virginia Newspaper Project and the Library of Virginia for digitizing Virginia’s historic newspapers. Visit Virginia Chronicle and do some searching of your own!

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

 

4 Comments

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  1. onestitchatatime / Aug 13 2015 3:17 pm

    What a great but frustrating story. I want you to do your historical novel more than ever and give us something to chew on. I still don’t know what to think except that, whether the men committed the crime or not, there was insufficient evidence to prove a case against them.

    • Joanne Yeck / Aug 13 2015 6:38 pm

      Agreed. Many cases go unsolved, Why did it take so long to throw this one out of court?

  2. Joanne Yeck / Aug 10 2015 8:33 am

    Thank you, Virginia!

  3. Virginia Bower / Aug 10 2015 8:06 am

    Dear Joanne,Hope your correspondents get you more info. This is more fascinating than ever….Virginia

    Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2015 11:25:47 +0000 To: virginiabower@hotmail.com

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