Skip to content
July 28, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part XXIV


Arson_15_Times-Dispatch_Can You Trust


The Testimony of James H. Forbes

Day two of the Wooldridge trial continued with the testimony of James H. Forbes, a distant relative of John S. Forbes, who lived less than a mile from the Forbes home and about a mile and a half from Wooldridge. A merchant, he admitted that Wooldridge was his customer and that they had a friendly relationship. In February of 1904, he sold Wooldridge a pair of heavy brogan shoes. Presumably, the ones that matched the tracks at the site of the crime.

Jim Forbes heard about the fire the morning after it happened and went to the site. There he saw tracks about the place and noted that R. M. Forbes took measurements of them. Jim was able to point out the tracts on the diagram in the courtroom. He recalled that one track was large and the other was small. Then came a shocking turn in his otherwise straight-forward testimony:

I heard Wooldridge talking a great deal about the fire. He said the fire was planned, December 27th last. He said this on the night or the day after the burial of John S. Forbes, said he was afraid this fire was going to get him into trouble.

“I believe I will make a clean breast of it,” he said, “and let the people know all about it.”

He was talking in my house. He walked out to the gate as he was leaving, where he made this statement:

“Jim, I am in a bad fix.”

“Why, what is the matter, Cliff?”

“About this burning affair.”

I thought he was sick.

“I am about to make a clean breast of the whole d–n thing.”

These were his words exactly.

I intimated to him at the time not to tell me anything he did not want to go to the public. I told him I did not want to go to the public. I told him I did not feel badly about it. He replied: “You are not in it.” After I told him not to say anything to me he did not want the public to know, he branched off then and talked about a clue he had worked up.

Wooldridge was at my store the Thursday before he was arrested in a perfect frenzy. He seemed to have animosity against the whole human race and to the Forbeses in particular. Some strong expressions were:

“I prayed to God, I could control a stroke of lightning and I would kill the last one of the Forbeses.”

He was talking about [Annis] and Janie Forbes.

He said, “They have been a thorn in my flesh all my life.”

He always spoke of R. D. and John S. Forbes as the family referred [to them]. He said Dick was laying too much stress on the tracks around the burned dwelling, that he was calculated to mislead the detectives. He said since the fire that the Forbeses farm laid in good shape.

“You Jim, take half and I (Wooldridge) the other; you will get the best of it, but I will stand by the bargain. Let the road be the line leading from Dick’s to the creek.”

Undoubtedly, the crowd hung on every word of Jim Forbes’ shocking revelation. When Congressmen Flood cross-examined Forbes, he stuck to his story.

Coming Next: Floyd Jones and “Aunt” Nancy Morgan

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: