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December 17, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

The Buckingham Outlaws: PART VIII

Post_8_Arvon PresbyterianArvon Presbyterian Church, Courtesy Historic Buckingham

Threats of Lynching

Anonymous letters, as well as some signed by the Buckingham outlaws, threatened to lynch the citizens of Arvonia and burn the town to the ground, resulting in panic. The Daily Press called one letter “vengeful” and “cheaply melodramatic.”

Governor Swanson was unable to respond immediately to the appeal for protection from the citizens of Arvonia, who lacked confidence in the local officials to act quickly and decisively. Women and children were removed to a safe place and, on September 29, 1908, a cordon of citizens surrounded the town. Only newspaper correspondents dared to enter Arvonia.

Town leaders took matters into their own hands, held a meeting, and planned a raid on the outlaws. Rev. Plummer F. Jones, the minister at Arvon Presbyterian Church, was an instigator and willing member of the self-designated posse. “I could kill any one of them without a pang of conscience,” he told the press. Following the jail break, Jones received direct threats of lynching. He remained in Arvonia, canceling an engagement in New Kent County, which would have required traveling through the area peppered with outlaw sympathizers. The country roads were practically deserted.

According to Richmond’s The Times-Dispatch, fifty citizens secretly joined Rev. Jones, including D. L. Peirce, magistrate and chairman of the vigilante committee, W. G. Edwards, L. A. Bersche, A. L. Pitts, owner of the Pitts slate quarry, William Anderson, O. A. Jeffries, W. L. Evans, and Jeff Johnson (colored) who came forward with the “movements and whereabouts of the outlaws.”

Some in the group, mostly the young and the fearless, wanted to divide into small bands of four or five and impulsively begin the man hunt; however, the “shanties” of the outlaws were scattered in a densely wooded area, covered with fallen pines, dead chestnut trees, and undergrowth. The ivy cliffs provided many hiding places. Some thought, it might take a militia force to oust them. Cooler heads decided to wait and reconvene when Sheriff Williams returned to Arvonia from his home at Diana Mills. The Times-Dispatch painted him as a gallant figure, “ready to take up the gauntlet and lead a posse against the outlaws.”

Coming Next: Jeff Johnson (colored)

Need to catch up? Click here: The Buckingham Outlaws: Part I

 

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