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July 14, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

Extra: Buckingham Excited!

Arson_20_Extra_Buckingham Excited


The arrest of E. C. Wooldridge certainly had some unexpected consequences. A terrifying story appeared in The Times-Dispatch and in The Farmville Herald on July 8, 1904, when it printed a report from New Store dated July 4th:

Buckingham excited.

During the early part of last week all this section underwent a scare such as few ever desire to experience again. The fright was brought about by a young negro, James Saunders, who, proclaiming loudly in a wild and reckless course, that Cliff Wooldridge and others were after him, took his breach-loading shotgun and a belt of shells, and proceeded to hurry through highways and hedges, threatening everybody and everything in sight. Hastening to the houses of respectable colored people, he told a pitiful story of a fantasized pursuit, ending with wild gesticulations and unbounded threats, swearing that he would kill every white man in the county and everybody else who came in his path.

The reports of Saunders’s insanity and reckless journeyings spread like wildfire, and the entire colored population was well-nigh frenzied with terror. It is said that whenever families saw any one approaching their homes they stood not upon the order of their going, but went at once, oftentimes scattering down through the pines without order or care for result, so the fury of Jim Saunders was escaped.

And the scare was not confined to the negro element. When the report of Saunders’s wild raids came to the ears of Mr. Louis D. Jones, a justice of the peace here, he literally kept the phone wires hot between New Store and Buckingham Courthouse until the deputy sheriff was in sight prepared to make the arrest. The reports had come to Mr. Jones in the most exaggerated form, and as he told the graphic story with full force over the telephone wires, he stirred up the people from Farmville to Slate River, and from Cut Banks to Cumberland Courthouse. From the many wild conversations that went on over the wires that day and night one might have thought that the jungles of India had turned to loose their hordes upon old Buckingham to devour her people.

Deputy Sheriff Charles McCraw finally took possession of Saunders and took him to the courthouse, where he was examined by a commission of lunacy. By this time Saunders had come to his senses and exhibited no marks of insanity. He was, on account of the lucid interval, allowed to return to his home near here. This action kindled anew the anxiety among all classes, the expectation being that Jim Sanders will appear at any hour, armed with his gun, prepared to shoot a multitude of his imaginary pursuers, and the fear is that in his delusion he will murder a number of innocent people.



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