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May 4, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

A Prison Story

1860 Federal Census. State Penitentiary. Miletus Scott, carpenter.  Click to enlarge.

In 1869, Richmond’s State Journal printed an unusual story about a Buckingham County resident named Miletus Scott:

A PRISON STORY. – Some time in September, 1852, seventeen years ago, Miletus Scott, a free man of color, was convicted before the county court of Buckingham county of murder in the second degree, and sentenced to 18 years in the Penitentiary. Thirteen of these years he served within the walls of the prison. On the morning of the memorable 3rd of April, 1865, while the fire was at its height, and one army left the city as another entered it, the inmates of the Penitentiary created a blaze of their own, and by its light liberated themselves. Amongst those who went forth was Miletus, who made his way to his old home in Buckingham. There for four years, he worked and supported himself. A few months ago, however, somebody related to Sheriff Davis, of that county, the tale of his conviction and escape. Acting on his sense of duty, the sheriff levied on Scott, and by the aid of a canal boat landed him in the city [Richmond]. The court house and clerk’s office of Buckingham County having been destroyed by fire during the war, the sheriff was unable to bring with the prisoner any documentary evidence of the conviction. Arriving here, he carried Scott to the State’s prison, but a search for the record of his entry into the prison disclose the fact that it had been burned up. The prison officials thereupon refused to receipt for him, and the sheriff informed Scott that he had no further claims upon him, whereupon he proceeded to make himself scarce. The sheriff has now pending before the Auditor of Public Accounts an unliquidated bill for expenses incurred in arresting Scott and bringing him hither. – –

Note: Buckingham County’s courthouse survived the war and was burned in early 1869. If Scott had been back in the county about four years, he must have been apprehended shortly after the courthouse burned.


Leave a Comment
  1. ahuntca / May 4 2017 2:17 pm

    I’m curious did he return once again to Buckingham county or did he remove himself to another part of Virginia or did he go north? DO you have any idea… this story would make for one of Paul Harvey’s “and now you know the rest of the story.” Blessings!

    • Joanne Yeck / May 4 2017 4:34 pm

      Thus far, I have not found any trace of Mr. Scott on the 1870 census. If a Slate River Ramblings reader has any clues, please share them. To have two fires change the course of your life is quite a story! Joanne

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