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November 23, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

The Buckingham Outlaws: Part I

Post _1_Temperance_Crime

Only months prior to the murder of the Stewart brothers in Buckingham County, in the late summer and autumn of 1908, a gang of outlaws, in the style of Western desperados, terrorized the town of Arvonia and its environs, burning and looting. For at least three years, they had operated a “blind tiger,” in a secluded spot, across Bumpass’s Bridge, about three miles west of Arvonia. There, they sold illegal liquor mostly to Blacks in the neighborhood, though often to Whites, as well. Their business was undoubtedly booming. In 1903, Buckingham County’s “Whiskey Wars” had left the county nearly dry. By 1904, a lone saloon survived at Warren Ferry far from the thirsty men near Arvonia’s slate quarries.

 

Post_1_Bold Outlaws

The Zimmerman-Thomas Gang

On July 31, 1908, a posse captured four men responsible for a reign of terror in northeastern Buckingham County. They stood before Justice of the Peace D. Livingston Pierce and were tried in front of a large crowd of citizens – Black and White. Found guilty, they prepared to face a grand jury.*

The next day, five constables, all heavily armed, guarded their prisoners — the Zimmerman brothers, Ben and Arthur, and the Thomas brothers, Willie and Charley. According to Richmond’s The Times-Dispatch, they were “four desperate men, with hands tied with ropes and legs chained together and locked with padlock.” At dusk, a wagon containing the criminals pulled out of Arvonia and a large crowd watched the men head for the Buckingham County jail in Maysville.

They were arrested for housebreaking, though the list of charges against them, individually and collectively, went back many months. The Times-Dispatch concluded that “it was generally understood everybody was afraid to attempt to arrest them.”

Everybody? It is understandable that a single, local constable might hesitate to serve a warrant, but what about Sheriff Lewis W. Williams? Why should he and his deputies be intimidated by this gang of outlaws? Is it possible he was looking the other way for his own purposes?

Coming Next: Attack on Seven Islands

Need to catch up on the story of the murder of the Stewart brothers?

Click here: The 1909 Buckingham Murders: Part I

*The newspaper may have been in error and this J.P. was D. Livingston Jones.  See comment below.

23 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Jan Fermoyle / Nov 23 2015 8:13 am

    I am wondering if the source correctly recorded the name of the Justice of the Peace. My grandfather, D. Livingston Jones was a JP in Arvonia. It must have been a very exciting time in Arvon. Great story. Thank you.

    • Joanne Yeck / Nov 23 2015 8:32 am

      Jan, Thanks for your comment. Newspapers often get names wrong. I’ll do a little digging. Indeed, these were exciting days for Arvonia! Much more to come! Joanne

Trackbacks

  1. The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part LXV | slate river ramblings . . . .
  2. The Buckingham Outlaws: Part XXI | slate river ramblings . . . .
  3. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART XX | slate river ramblings . . . .
  4. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART XIX | slate river ramblings . . . .
  5. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART XVIII | slate river ramblings . . . .
  6. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART XVII | slate river ramblings . . . .
  7. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART XVI | slate river ramblings . . . .
  8. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART XV | slate river ramblings . . . .
  9. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART XIV | slate river ramblings . . . .
  10. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART XIII | slate river ramblings . . . .
  11. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART XII | slate river ramblings . . . .
  12. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART XI | slate river ramblings . . . .
  13. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART X | slate river ramblings . . . .
  14. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART IX | slate river ramblings . . . .
  15. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART VIII | slate river ramblings . . . .
  16. The Buckingham Outlaws: PART VII | slate river ramblings . . . .
  17. The Buckingham Outlaws: Part VI | slate river ramblings . . . .
  18. The Buckingham Outlaws: Part V | slate river ramblings . . . .
  19. The Buckingham Outlaws: Part IV | slate river ramblings . . . .
  20. The Buckingham Outlaws: Part III | slate river ramblings . . . .
  21. The Buckingham Outlaws: Part II | slate river ramblings . . . .

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