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December 23, 2021 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham Crimes: Whiskey Leads to Murder, Part II

Appomattox and Buckingham Times. Courtesy Virginia Chronicle.

Need to catch up? Look here: Buckingham Crimes: Whiskey Leads to Murder, Part I

In June of 1904, John Henry Banks shot and killed John Brown in Buckingham County, leading to his immediate arrest. He blamed whiskey for stimulating his act of violence.

On June 29, 1904 the Appomattox and Buckingham Times ran an article written by correspondent Quoit who visited Banks in the Buckingham County jail.

The writer interviewed Banks in his cell this morning, and he seems to be frightened to utter dejection, imbecility and apparent helplessness. He asked in a hopeless tone of voice if I thought he would be hung for his crime. I, of course, could offer him no reasonable hope from human hands, pointed him to Him [Illegible] … to call upon Him early and earnestly.

Banks claims that the awful deed was the result of too much whiskey which was purchased of a respectable (?) white lady from him by his uncle, Joe Banks.

Readers what do you suppose the state of your feelings would be if you were made conscious of the fact that your illegal act was the cause of the death of one of your fellow creatures in this world? This seems to be the fact in this case. Banks says that he can give no reason for his crime except that he was crazed by liquor. It is strange, however, to relate that this same Banks is the nephew of Jim Banks, who, it will be remembered, about a year ago killed Mary Etta Brown, his niece, and half-sister of John Henry’s, and at the same time burned the body together with the house in which it laid, made his escape and is now at large somewhere, it is supposed in West Virginia. Although heavy rewards were offered for his capture, he has never been apprehended.

The connection between John Henry Banks and Jim Banks sheds light on the relationship between the Banks and Brown families. John Henry’s mother had children with at least two men, one named Banks and the other named Brown. Robert E. Brown, enumerated with John Henry in 1900, may have been his half-sibling. Does the “E” in Robert’s name stand for Eldridge?

John Henry was married to the daughter of Preston Eldridge. In 1900, Preston and his wife, Bettie, had been married 28 years. Numerous children and grandchildren were living with them, including the wounded Elmore who was born in May of 1881, making him 23 years old at the time of the shooting. The Eldridges lived in Marshall District where Preston owned his own farm and his son Ned was a slate quarryman.

Coming Next: Buckingham Crimes: Whiskey Leads to Murder, Part III

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