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June 30, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part XVIII

Arson_18_Change of Venue

Change of Venue

By 2:00 PM on June 14, 1904, the cases against Wooldridge and Forbes were underway. In a courtroom crowded with citizens and visiting lawyers, the attorneys for the defense, Flood and Howard, argued that the case should be moved to Farmville in Prince Edward County where they could select an impartial jury.

The men insisted that “tremendous excitement and bitterness” existed against the prisoners in Buckingham County. They pointed out that Buckingham County’s Clerk of Court, Peter A. Forbes, was the younger brother of the late John S. Forbes whose property was destroyed and that he had contributed money to prosecute the suspects. The attorneys also noted that there was already a secret and malicious league “ready to do violence to the prisoners in case of their release.” This “coterie of men” lurking near Buckingham Courthouse and were, in Wooldridge’s case, “thirsting of this man’s blood by misrepresentation, misstatements and falsehoods.” Flood stressed that “this is a mysterious case, and it becomes more mysterious every day.”

Congressman Flood dramatically stated that his affidavit for a change of venue was not an indictment of “the character or integrity of the Buckingham people” but, rather, “was intended to avoid a tremendous conspiracy.”

A. H. Browning, a horse trader of Appomattox County, was sworn in and gave a shocking statement that supported Flood’s point. Browning reported that Charles Henry Coleman, also of Appomattox, said there were fifty rifles with fifty bullets ready to shoot Cliff Wooldridge upon release. According to the newspaper, Browning himself would like to “see the guilty party tied to a stake and burned on the site of the fire.” Apparently, there were numerous men who were not presuming Wooldridge was innocent until proven guilty.

Conversely, the prosecution produced many witnesses who felt that Wooldridge and Forbes could receive a fair trial, including E. V. “Van” Anderson, one of the magistrates who sat for the preliminary trial and half-uncle of Charlie Forbes; Sheriff William Williams; Peter A. Forbes, Clerk of Court and brother of the late John S. Forbes; William C. Chattell of New Store, the chairman of the Democratic County Committee; Henry E. Chattell, deputy treasurer; Rev. John Spencer and Rev. Mr. Ballard both of Maysville; and William D. [G.?] Edwards of Arvonia.

Ultimately, Judge Hundley denied the motion for a change of venue and scheduled the trial to begin the third Monday in July.

Coming Next: Freedom for Cliff Wooldridge

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

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