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May 5, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part II



Further Particulars

Three days following the initial story in The Times-Dispatch, the newspaper ran a follow-up sent from Wert in Appomattox County. According to this report, the Forbes burned dwellings included a granary, stable, three tobacco barns, two corn houses, and the dwelling house. The horses were spared because one of Forbes’ son had driven to Farmville with a load of tobacco. The loss was now estimated at $8,000 and it was reported that $200 was taken from Forbes’ trunk. John Forbes only carried $500 of insurance on the dwelling house; the outbuildings were not covered. It was safe to say he was ruined.

Miss Janie Forbes, along with “an old colored woman” (as yet unnamed), were heroically drawn for carrying John Forbes out of the burning building and for saving the smoke house. Miss Forbes’ “wonderful presence of mind” and “strong nerve” was admired.

The site was examined and tracks suggested that three, possibly four, individuals were responsible for the fires. The motive remained mysterious. The article claimed: “Mr. Forbes did not have an enemy in the world, so far as known.” Though there was a robbery, it could have been accomplished without setting fire to “every building on the premises.” The conclusion: “There must have been other motives than robbery.”

The article, printed on March 9, 1904, in The Times-Dispatch, continued:

This is one of the most dastardly crimes ever committed in the county, and so far there have been no arrests, but there is strong suspicion, and some tracks have been identified. There is strong excitement, and every means possible will be used to catch the guilty party, and if caught it is feared that the people will not allow a trial, but that justice will be administered in short order.

This is just the beginning of reports filled with melodrama, sensationalism, and hyperbole. Buckingham County had never known such an outrage! A possible lynching was implied. The villains must be apprehended – and without delay!  Clearly, John S. Forbes and his family were well-liked and respected in the community.  Still, sensationalism did and does sell newspapers!
Coming Next: Big Reward!

Need to catch up? Click here for The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part I

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