1912 Original Courthouse Tragedy
Floyd Allen waited in the courtroom to hear his sentencing for interfering with an officer. It was the morning of March 14, 1912, and in just a few moments of time rural Carroll County would remember the transpiring events for years. The morning of the sentencing, the courtroom was full. There were many relatives of Floyd Allen were in attendance at the courthouse. The judge read the sentence for Floyd Allen. Allen was to receive a year in prison and a thousand dollar fine. There are reports that Floyd Allen essentially said, “I ain’t going”, after the judge read his sentence. The sheriff went to get Floyd Allen and there are contradictions about what happened next. Shots were fired and the end result was devastating. The community still has people that disagree over who fired the first shot. There were five people killed and another seven people were injured. International news and a national manhunt was the result of the actions that took place that fateful morning. Chaos ruled the courthouse that ominous morning. Allens were firing at the law enforcement and the law was shooting back at the Allens. The shooting spilled outside the courthouse. Situated less than one hundred feet from the courthouse, is a Confederate soldier memorial, a large statue that stands probably ten-foot-tall. The statue served as a place of cover for the Allens as they reloaded their guns. Among those killed in the shootout included the presiding Judge Thornton Massie, Sheriff Lewis Franklin Webb, Commonwealth Attorney William McDonald Foster, juror C.C. Fowler, and bystander from another case Betty Ayers. An article in the November 1982 issue of The Roanoker, indicates that during this time period, Virginia law specified that if a sheriff died then all of his deputies lost their authority. A telegram was sent to the governor requesting law enforcement. Some men involved in the shooting were captured relatively quickly. However, Sidna Allen and his nephew Wesley Edwards proved more difficult to apprehend. Allen and Edwards eluded the law and managed to make their way to Des Moines, Iowa. It was six months before Allen and Edwards were apprehended. The tip that led to their capture even has a shroud of controversy associated with the tip. There are two competing viewpoints regarding the tip that led to the arrest of Allen and Edwards. The punishments for the shooting were quickly delved out to those convicted. Floyd and his son Claude were sentenced to death and subsequently killed by Virginia’s electric chair. Sidna Allen was sentenced to thirty-five years, and Wesley Edwards was sentenced to twenty-seven years in prison.
"Courthouse Tragedy," The Carroll County Historical Society and Museum, (accessed June 3, 2016) , http://carrollvamuseum.org/museum/courthouse-tragedy/ “Hillsville Massacre,” The Roanoker, November, 1982, (accessed June 3, 2016) , http://theroanoker.com/interests/history/hillsville-massacre Edwards, Christian (1962). The Courthouse Tragedy. Mount Airy, Nc: Rufus L. Gardner. p. 140. Hall, Ron (1998). The Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy Hillsville Va Carroll County Historical Society