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May 12, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part I

19th century news from Buckingham County can be scarce in regional papers. Not unlike today, what often breaks through, interesting reporters and readers alike, are sensational stories of crime and violence. While the comparatively short lived Appomattox and Buckingham Times published correspondence featuring everyday comings and goings in the county, the Richmond newspapers (and beyond) typically reported events like this one concerning arson and the murder of two young men, Dean and Chenault, a sensational story even reported in New York City papers.

On April 10, Petersburg’s Daily Express printed the following in their column TELEGRAPHIC NEWS (Telegraphed Special for the Express), reminding readers that the report was “Telegraphed for the Associated Press,” emphasizing its importance beyond Central Virginia. The article read as follows:

Shocking Calamity – Two Young Men Burned to Death!!!

Richmond, April 10, P. M.

Intelligence of a most heart rending occurrence reached here this evening. At a late hour on Sunday night last, the spacious store-house of Messrs. Moss & White, at Buckingham Court House, was entirely consumed; and shocking to relate, two very worthy and deserving young men, named Dean and Chenault, who were stopping there, met with a horrid death by burning.

It is strongly suspected, that they were murdered by burglars, who then applied the torch to the storehouse. The sad occurrence has cast a gloom over the entire community at Buckingham Courthouse (sic).

Everyone in the village knew the merchants Moss and White, as well as Dean and Chenault. Over a century later, however, we wish the newspaper had printed their first names.

Coming next: Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part II

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