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November 10, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part LI

Arson_35a_Extra_Janie Forbes

Trials Begin in Farmville

Most of December passed as Wooldridge and Forbes waited in the Buckingham County jail. On December 29th, The Times-Dispatch printed an article designed to reinterest their readers in the arson case. It noted that Sheriff Williams had summoned witnesses for the cases which were to be held in the Prince Edward Circuit Court beginning on January 2nd. According to The Times-Dispatch Wooldridge’s witnesses from the initial trial were ready to testify again in Farmville.

The prisoners expected to be moved to the Prince Edward County jail two days prior to the opening of the trial.

In 1904, transcriptions of trials were not routine and Wooldridge hired a stenographer, who took down the evidence in his case when it was heard in July. These transcripts might prove useful as a basis of comparison when the same witnesses came to the stand. Would their testimonies be consistent with the ones given the previous summer?


Indeed, public interest had not waned over the many months. Now correspondents wrote to Richmond from Farmville, covering the day-to-day excitement of the new trial. The Times-Dispatch reported that the Prince Edward jail, where Wooldridge and Forbes were being held, was now thoroughly cleaned and the two prisoners were comfortable.

Wooldridge’s new trial, in Prince Edward County, opened on January 2, 1905. The selected jurors were: T. A. Calhoun, H. L. Womack, J. D. Watson, G. T. Butcher, G. W. Redd, N. T. Dillon, W. H. Wood, Caleb Baldwin, Ponsford Butcher, G. E. Barksdale, E. W. Venable, and C. H. Dixon.

The morning was consumed with court business and, by afternoon, the prosecution was ready to proceed. The first witness was Janie Forbes, daughter of John S. Forbes. Janie, who had been teaching public school at Malone, chose not to resume her job while the new trials were in progress.

According to The Times-Dispatch, she made a strong impression:

Her appearance in the court-room this afternoon brought with it the death-like stillness which pervaded the hall of justice from the time she took the witness stand until the lawyers were through questioning her.

Essentially, she reiterated the testimony she gave in August. The reporter dramatically described the “bitter cold” of the night she and her father were driven from their home and the impressive “blaze,” which consumed their dwelling house and the other buildings. Janie offered a new detail, stating that Wooldridge sent an invitation by Floyd Jones to her and her father, saying “his doors were open to them.” They declined to go to the Wooldridge home, choosing to stay with nearby relatives. Earlier, Floyd Jones had taken the note from the Forbes home to Wooldridge, telling him of the fire.

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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