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August 8, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part XXVII



Courtesy The Times-Dispatch

Edloe Spencer Testifies

Those following the Wooldridge case, both in Buckingham County and via the newspapers, had no doubt eagerly awaited Edloe Spencer’s official testimony. The Times-Dispatch described the packed courtroom and the “intense” interest that filled the July heat. By the time Spencer took the stand at 3:00 PM on July 21st, the temperature reached 90 degrees. According to the newspaper, Spencer related every detail of Wooldridge’s arrest. He quoted statements made by Wooldridge which had been given in “an unguarded manner” while on his way to the Farmville jail. Admitting that Wooldridge was greatly excited, Spencer construed these statements as at least “a partial confession,” particularly: “You have one of the men connected with the burning, now get the other two.”

During Congressman Flood’s cross-examination of Edloe Spencer, the attorney strictly compared the witness’ testimony with the one he gave at the preliminary trial. The newspaper noted that Mr. Flood had a stenographer’s report of the previous testimony. The evidence given in the case was being recorded by a firm of Roanoke stenographers, Messrs. Morris and Hart.

Next, quite unexpectedly, Mr. R. F. Burks, a witness for the defense, took the stand. This irregularity was allowed because Burks was compelled to return immediately to his home. Burks was treasurer of Appomattox County and a cashier at the Bank of Appomattox. His testimony impeached what Spencer said concerning a letter that Woodridge was writing at the time of his arrest. Spencer implied that the letter was addressed to Charlie Forbes while, in fact, it was addressed to Peter A. Forbes, clerk of Buckingham County and brother of the late John S. Forbes. No further details appeared in that day’s news report.

Court adjourned at 6:00 PM and The Times-Dispatch article concluded with a description of the crowd:

There was a large crowd at court to-day, larger than on yesterday. Interest in the case seemed to be increased if anything. The entire case is just as much a mystery as ever, even the lawyers are guessing. A number of humorous incidents occurred during the day to make the time pass more pleasantly. A feature in the court-room was the presence of a number of very good-looking young ladies. There were also a number of professional men, preachers, doctors, and visiting lawyers.

Regrettably, it is left to our imagination just what our correspondent (and the crowd) found amusing on that hot day in July of 1904.

Coming Next: Witnesses for the Prosecution

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

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