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May 9, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part III

Arson_3_Reward

Big Reward!

On March 22, 1904, The Times-Dispatch predicted that a combined reward of $600 would soon be offered for information leading to the capture of the person or persons who destroyed John S. Forbes’ property. The Governor had committed $300 for the capture and conviction of the guilty parties. The Buckingham County Board of Supervisors offered $150 and the newspaper suggested that the citizens of Buckingham County would raise another $150.

According to the newspaper, Forbes’ neighbor, E. C. Wooldridge took an active part in securing these rewards. Two detectives were employed and made their headquarters at Wooldridge’s house.

As the case unfolds, it became increasingly clear that the newspapers would often rather speculate and repeat rumors than wait for confirmed facts. Retractions came later (or not at all). The papers would print anything to keep the story alive and thrilling. The amount and length of coverage is impressive, though much of it is redundant and contradictory.

The article printed on March 22nd ensures the readers that they are part of a thrilling, unfolding mystery:

The crime continues to be the one topic of conversation, and the more it is discussed and the enormity of the crime is fully realized, the excitement is more intense. No arrests have been made yet, but there is strong suspicion against some parties, and it is expected that some arrests will occur shortly.

It is now recalled that Mr. Forbes’s dwelling was entered and robbed about three years ago. A fire was started in the woods near the house on a Sunday to attract the family from the house. Part of the family was at church, but those at home went immediately to extinguish the fire in the woods, as soon as it was discovered, leaving no one at the house, and when they returned, they found the house had been entered and a lot of clothing and $370 [?] were gone.

These burglars were caught. One was sent to the penitentiary for ten years, one for three years, one for one year, and one, a youth, was acquitted. By March of 1904, the individual who had served one year was out of the penitentiary and at his home. An investigation proved he had no part in the recent arson and burglary. The newspaper did not disclose the particulars of the investigation.

Was John Forbes’ wealth the only target for this earlier crime?

Coming Next: Charlie S. Forbes

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

 

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