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August 18, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part XXX

Arson_30_Flood

Congressman H.D. Flood

In Defense of E. C. Wooldridge

According to Richmond’s The Times-Dispatch, Congressman H. D. Flood, counsel for the defense, did not disappoint the large crowd of spectators gathered at Buckingham Courthouse. Beginning on Saturday, July 23, 1904, he launched his case for the defense. Flood’s focus was to show that Wooldridge was constantly misunderstood in his statements and that he had made no confessions or partial confessions that he participated in the burning of the property of John S. Forbes. The correspondent for The Times-Dispatch admitted that the sentiment seemed strong against Cliff Wooldridge, indicating that Congressman Flood had his work cut out for him.

The day started calmly enough. Edloe Spencer, Mr. Sutherland, R. D. Morgan (sic), and J. H. Forbes, Jr. were recalled and questioned about details of their previous testimony. A map of the Forbes farm, rendered by mining engineer and surveyor, William Pelle, was entered as evidence and became “Exhibit D.”

The first witness for the defense was Richmond detective G. W. Scott, who testified that Cliff Wooldridge was “extremely zealous” in aiding him to find the perpetrators of the crime. Scott noted that Wooldridge was “naturally a nervous man.”

Importantly, Officer Leslie Fogus, who was with the party who arrested Wooldridge, contradicted some of Edloe Spencer’s testimony. Officer Fogus stated that he was within hearing distance of Wooldridge during the arrest and he did not hear “a number of things” that Spencer related. Fogus added that Wooldridge objected to Spencer’s close questioning of him the day of the arrest and said, “Mr. Spencer, you are cruel.” Fogus also denied hearing anything that could be construed as a confession on Wooldridge’s part.

Baltimore’s The American noted that Congressman Flood also called no less than five witnesses who attested to Mr. Fogus’ reputation for “truth at all times.”

At this point in the day’s proceedings, the correspondent for The Times-Dispatch felt the tide was beginning to turn in Cliff Wooldridge’s favor.

Then, at 4:30 PM, Miss Maud Wooldridge, the sixteen-year-old daughter who was at home the night of the fires, was sworn in to testify in favor of her father. The Times-Dispatch captured the atmosphere in the courtroom: “There was a great crowd present and among them a large number of ladies. There was a profound stillness when Miss Wooldridge told her story.”

She told of how “the colored boy” brought the news and how, following her father’s arrest, Edloe Spencer came to her home and intimidated her and her mother. According to Maud, Spencer pressed them over and over again to confess to their part in the crime.

Court then adjourned until 9:00 AM the following Monday. The Times-Dispatch article closed, saying:

There is a tremendous amount of speculation as to the outcome of the trial. Crowds stood around the court yard after adjournment eagerly discussing the probable verdict in the case. . . . An increasingly large number of ladies are present from day to day. Many of them are young ladies and are remarkably pretty.

What drew all these pretty young ladies to Buckingham Courthouse? The drama? The eloquent orations of the counselors at law? Or were there also handsome young gentleman attending the trial who didn’t draw the interest of our correspondent?

Coming Next: A Three-ring Circus

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

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