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June 9, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part V

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part I

On April 23, Richmond’s Whig printed a startling new detail in the on-going investigation of the murders of Dean and Chenault, as well as the burning of Moss & White’s spacious storehouse.

THE BUCKINGHAM MURDER. — Garrett and Taylor, the two white men who were arrested on suspicion of having been engaged in the late murder and arson case in Buckingham, have been acquitted, but were retained in custody on a charge of stealing tobacco. The Farmville Journal learns that four more slaves have been arrested as participants in the murder, making eight now in confinement.

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Following this report, rather surprisingly, after the flurry of communications from Buckingham Court House and Farmville, the story goes cold.

The only follow-up notice I located was this brief statement which appeared in Richmond’s Daily Dispatch on May 28th and was reprinted in the New York Evangelist on June 7, 1855:

One of the slaves tried at Buckingham Courthouse, Va. on the 15th inst. for the murder of Chenault and Dean, by burning the store in which they were sleeping, was condemned to be hung on 29th of June.

After exhaustive searching, I could find no more about the murder of Chenault and Dean. Perhaps once the White men were acquitted, the story was dropped from the news. Likely, the trial of the slaves was swift. The owners of the seven African Americans who were acquitted must have provided convincing alibis. The burning of Buckingham County’s courthouse in 1869 destroyed any court records that might illuminate this case.

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Even in 1855, individuals following this crime story were left with many questions. 

Were there multiple trials? Were the White men acquitted in a public hearing?  Who accused the additional four slaves of participating in the arson and/or murders? Who was the enslaved African-American finally convicted of the crimes and hung at Buckingham Court House? If two confessed, why was only one slave ultimately convicted? Was the original report inaccurate?

What was the primary motive behind what became arson and murder? 

What were the first names of Dean and Chenault? Why were they withheld from reports?

Which Garrett and Taylor were ultimately charged with petty theft?  Was their crime of stolen tobacco simply opportunistic during the chaos of the fire?

Did Moss and White recover anything for their considerable loss of property?

Were the community and the families involved satisfied with the ultimate verdict?

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It’s often difficult to find the end of a story in daily newspapers and the murder of Dean and Chenault proved particularly frustrating. If a Slate River Ramblings reader recognizes the men involved in this tragedy, please comment.

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There are several crime series in the archives at Slate River Ramblings. Type crime in the search box and enjoy the results!

If you like reading old newspapers as much as I do, visit and explore the Library of Virginia’s “Virginia Chronicle.”

June 2, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part IV

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part I

With steady coverage of the Buckingham County murders, newspaper readers must have eagerly awaited the next “installment.”

On April 19, the following update was sent from Farmville by Correspondent “C” to Richmond’s Daily Dispatch. The report was brief but included new details to keep readers interested. Even today, we can imagine the train pulling out in Farmville, with “C” rushing to dash off his report. Printed in LATEST MAIL NEWS, the following headed the column:

Farmville, April 19, 1855. — I have just time enough, before the leaving of the train, to tell you that Garnett and Taylor, the two white men arrested at Buckingham C. H., for the murder of Chenault and Dean, in the store of Moss & White, which was afterwards burned, have been discharged upon that accusation: but are yet in custody, for petty theft committed by them. The two slaves who have confessed to the commission of the murder, and the two who deny it, are still in jail.

Regional interest continued to spread. On April 23, this brief report was reprinted in Virginia’s Alexandria Gazette.

Coming Next: Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part V

May 26, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part III

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part I

On April 16, Richmond’s Daily Dispatch printed more details of the tragic deaths of two young Buckingham County men, Dean and Chenault. The plot thicken, involving four slaves and two white men. This article appeared in the column LATEST MAIL NEWS.

Farmville, Va., April 14th. – I sent you a day or two since, by telegraph, a brief account of the burning of the storehouse of Messrs. Moss & White, at Buckingham C. H., and the supposed murder of Dean and Chenault, two young men who were sleeping there. Since that account, particulars of the affair have been received here which confirm the suspicion entertained from the first, that the store was entered by burglars, and the young men murdered.

The fire occurred on Sunday night last, and on Monday morning an investigation of the circumstances attending it was held. The charred corpse of young Chenault was found lying in the spot where the bed stood, and it is believed that he was murdered without having time to offer any resistance or give the alarm. He was sick at the time of the occurrence. The body of young Dean was found behind the counter, or rather his bones, completely burned up.

Four slaves, and two white men, named Taylor and Garnett, have been arrested and lodged in jail. Two of the slaves have confessed to having participated in the murder and arson—the other two stoutly deny it.

There is strong circumstantial evidence against the white men, who will be brought up for examination.

Yours, C.

The story steadily gained wider interest. Petersburg’s Daily Express quoted the Daily Dispatch under this headline:  HORRID MURDER AT BUCKINGHAM C. H. – ARREST OF THE MURDERERS and it was reprinted in Georgia’s Augusta Chronicle.

Coming Next: Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part IV

May 19, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part II

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part I

Across April of 1855, this story of arson and the alleged murders of two young Buckingham County men, Dean and Chenault, peppered Richmond and regional newspapers.

On April 11, Richmond’s Daily Dispatch printed a report sent from a correspondent in Farmville, adding some thoughtful details about the young men.

STORE HOUSE BURNED – TWO LIVES LOST. SUPPOSED MURDER!

FARMVILLE, April 10.

Dear Dispatch: ⸻ Information has just been received here, that the store house of Messrs. Moss & White, near Buckingham Court House, was burned on Sunday last, and two young men named Dean and Chenault, were burned in it.

The young men were in the habit of sleeping in the store, and the general impression is, that the store was entered by burglars, the young men murdered, and the building then fired.

The unfortunate victims were much beloved in the neighborhood of the residence, and the greatest excitement prevails on account of their inhumane murder.

Yours,

C.

Importantly, “C” stressed that the young men frequently slept in the store. If this was generally known, didn’t burglars risk getting caught? Were they taken by surprise, killing the two young men?

On April 13, the widely-read Richmond Enquirer caught up, re-printing this report as a front-page story. 

Coming Next: Buckingham County Murders of 1855, Part III

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

May 5, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Fire at Well Water

F.N. Maxey, founder of Well Water.

Occasionally, a clipping crops up in my files that is unsourced. The brief article below, “Fire and Narrow Escape at Wellwater, Buckingham, Va.,” was probably originally published in Richmond’s Dispatch, contributed by a Buckingham County correspondent. The date is currently unknown. It reads as follows:


Fire and Narrow Escape at Wellwater, Buckingham, Va.


On the night of 27th March at 11 o’clock a large double-kitchen was totally destroyed by fire. Said kitchen was seventeen yards in rear of residence of F. N. Maxey, connecting with the storehouse of T. H. Ford & Co., over which is the spacious Masonic hall known as Taylor Lodge, No. 212, also that of Wellwater Grange, No. 74. There being a very strong wind at the time, driving the flames in one solid volume almost on rear of said dwelling, at one time it seemed a total destruction of all was inevitable, and was only saved by the great presence of mind of Mr. T. H. Ford, who happened to be awake at the time and gave the alarm. The family being asleep at the time, did not have time to dress, and worked manfully in their night-clothes. A Smith’s patent elevator being attached to the well, gave plenty of water to keep the house well saturated. The fire was so rapid, and the work done so quietly and systematically, that a number of persons in the place were not even awakened from their slumbers, and knew nothing of the fire until the next morning. Cause unknown.


Taylor Lodge, eventually located in Centenary, Buckingham County, was chartered as “Taylor Lodge No. 117.” The article’s identification of it as No. 212, is likely a typo. According to a brief history of the Lodge, “The first communication of Taylor Lodge was held on May 14, 1874.” My ancestors, John T. L. Woodson and Charles S. Saunders were present. The history goes on to note that at a September, 1894 meeting, a committee was appointed to find a suitable location for the building of a new Lodge Hall. The suggested locations were Well Water, Sharon Church, and Centenary. Did the fire take place in 1894?

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To learn more about Freemasons in Buckingham County, click on the following posts at Slate River Ramblings:

Buckingham County: Freemasons

Buckingham County: Taylor Lodge #117

Buckingham Notables: F. N. Maxey, Freemason

Freemasons: Andersonville to Buckingham Court House

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To learn more about the life of F. N. Maxey and the unusual details of his death, please consult:
“F. N. Maxey and His Community at Well Water,” in “At a Place Called Buckingham,” now available at Amazon.

April 28, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part V

Henrietta “Dolly” Moseley (Hooper) Culbreth (1881–1976).

Courtesy Harry S. Holman and The Holmans of Virginia

Need to catch up? Click here: Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part I

For decades, Miss Lulie Patteson served as Buckingham County’s unofficial historian and, in later years, often contributed to Charlottesville’s Daily Progress. Her histories of the county included “Dillwyn Grew Up as Lumber Town,” published in 1960. The article ended by discussing the early days of commerce in what would become Buckingham County’s most important commercial center. As usual, Miss Patteson doesn’t hesitate to throw little facts she knew, even if she could not elaborate on them. She concludes her short history:

The first taste of the highway came in 1912 when a sand clay road was built from Dillwyn to Buckingham [Court House].

The lumber business expanded from railroad ties to grinding tan bark, lath-making and shingle manufacturing. Wood industries employed about 100 men a day at individual wages ranging from $.50 to $1.25 a day. The surrounding forests were torn to shreds as the wood-buying business reached further into the county’s woodland. But wood kept flowing into the yards at Dillwyn.

A Dr. Mitchell came to practice medicine in the area in 1900. Prior to this, a Dr. Pratt of Buckingham served the community.

This was likely Dr. W. E. Pratt whose obituary was published on May 16, 1901 in the Richmond Dispatch. Click here to read it and learn about is final illness: Buckingham Notables: Dr. W.E. Pratt

Lulie Patteson ended her article with these tidbits:

Tobacco buying boosted business for a while. White built a tobacco warehouse in the “Bottom,” and Dunlop and Venerable bought tobacco for a while.

A Negro by the name Ford was the first baby born in Dillwyn. The first death was young Charles Marshall, a nephew of White’s. The first burial in the town was Mrs. Culbreth, mother of H. M. Culbreth.

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For more about Henrietta Moseley Culbreth, click here: Buckingham Correspondents: Mrs. H. M. Culbreth

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For much more about early churches and schools in Buckingham County, search the archives at Slate River Ramblings.

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For much, much more about Miss Lulie, search the archives at Slate River Ramblings and consult my essay, “Miss Lulie Patteson: Early Buckingham Historian” in “At a Place Called Buckingham,” now available at Amazon.

April 21, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part IV

Courtesy Gordon G. Ragland, Jr., Maxey/Patteson Family Collection

Need to catch up? Click here: Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part I

In 1960, a short history of Dillwyn, the little lumber town that would become Buckingham County’s primary commercial center, was published in Charlottesville’s Daily Progress. Entitled “Dillwyn Grew Up as Lumber Town,” the article was written by the county’s favorite historian, Miss Lulie Patteson. The establishment of churches and schools followed the growing population. In her warm and personal style, Miss Patteson shares some details:

To prevent the town from growing only along material lines while decaying spiritually, a little Methodist Church was established in 1894.

The little church was used for union services for all denominations. In 1895 a camp, or tabernacle, meeting was held with the Rev. Lewis Bransford as the preacher. The tabernacle building adjoined the Methodist church grounds.

The first school was in White’s old office on the hill west of the “Bottom.” . . . [In 1908, a] school was built and a Professor Kenney was its principal.

Commerce grew quickly at White Hall and Miss Patteson reports that Phil Moss opened the first store, quickly joined by H. M. White, the Gregorys and Allens.

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For more about the intriguing Gregory family, click on the following:

Buckingham Notables: Emmet D. Gregory

Buckingham County Romantic Correspondence

Buckingham County Surprise Inheritance

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Coming Next: Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part V

April 14, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part III

Buckingham County Postal Map, 1896

Need to catch up? Click here: Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part I

In 1960, Buckingham County historian Lulie Patteson wrote a short history of Dillwyn for Charlottesville’s Daily Progress, entitled “Dillwyn Grew Up as Lumber Town.” At that time, citizens of the county remembered anecdotes of the founding of a new commercial center and the earliest days of the Buckingham Branch of the Ohio and Chesapeake Railroad. These personal anecdotes are characteristic of Miss Lulie’s charming style. Her article continues:

Another forceful character of the time was the station agent, a Mr. Harden. His family was the first to move into the new town.

Laborers moved in very quickly to be near their work. Businessmen came in eager to establish their particular line of goods. Then came the post office, named White Hall in honor of two of the most active men who fostered the town. James Anderson was appointed postmaster and Willie Smith was his assistant. Zach Griffin was the first mail carrier out of Dillwyn and the first two rural mail carriers were Garnet Smith and W. E. Hardiman.

Business grew as years passed and there were calls for food and lodging. So William Pryor and his wife moved to the town and set up a boarding house.

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If a Slate River Ramblings reader knows more about the station agent, Mr. Harden, please comment!

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Interested in the history of post offices in Buckingham County? There’s lots to explore at Slate River Ramblings. Begin by clicking this link: Buckingham County Post Offices, Part I

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Want to learn more about lodging in early Dillwyn, click here: The Culbreth Hotel

Coming next: Dillwyn, Buckingham County: A Short History, Part IV

April 13, 2022 / Joanne Yeck

Book News: “Mr. Jefferson’s Fluvanna Nephews”

On the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743), I’m delighted to announce that the current issue of Fluvanna History includes my article, “Mr. Jefferson’s Fluvanna Nephews.”


In it, I follow the lives of four of Randolph Jefferson’s sons who lived, married, and, in one case died, in Fluvanna County, Virginia.


Want to learn more about Thomas Jefferson, Jr.; Isham Randolph Jefferson (aka Randolph, Jr.), Peter Field Jefferson; and James Lilburne Jefferson? You can purchase a copy online at the Fluvanna Historical Society store.

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The mission of the Fluvanna Historical Society is to protect, preserve, and promote the rich history of Fluvanna County, Virginia. To learn more, visit their website: Fluvanna Historical Society.