Monday, August 20, 2018

The Death of Floyd Allen -- Part One


Here's a story about something that took place in Virginia just before World War One. You may find this interesting. After all, it's not every day we read about this sort of thing.

Floyd Allen was born on July 5, 1856 to a financially and politically prosperous farming family in the town of Cana which is located in Carroll County, Virginia.

The Allens were a large family of seven brothers and three sisters. In this story, we're only concerns Floyd, his sons Victor and Claud, Floyd's bothers Jasper, Garland, and Sidna which some say was pronounced as "Sidney," their nephews Wesley and Sidna Edwards from Alvirtia Allen who was married to a man named Jasper Edwards.

Floyd was a wealthy farmer, storekeeper, and supposedly had a legal county license to produce whiskey. Besides managing his family's land holdings, farming, and running a store, he was the head of the Allen family.As for Garland, he was also a wealthy and respected farmer. But he was also a schoolteacher and a Baptist preacher who held church services. Sidna was also a very successful farmer, a storekeeper, and is known to have later built one of the finest homes in Carroll County. As for their brother Jasper, not to be confused with their brother-in-law Jasper Edwards, he was also known as Jack and was also a wealthy farmer, ran a sawmill, and was even the Cana town Constable at one point.

While some have tried depicting them as a band of ignorant hillbillies, or dumb outlaws, that's not who they were from what I can tell. They had wealth and a great deal of political influence. They had friends in very high places when it came to politics. The Allen family were staunch Southern Democrats who were very involved in local and state politics. Some even say they had influence in national politics.

As for the Allen family getting into trouble with the law, it sounds like those folks believed they were above the law for a few reasons. One reason is that they were wealthy, the second is that they were politically connected, and lastly because they didn't see the law as applying to them,

In May of 1889, brothers Garland and Sidna were arrested for carrying concealed weapons and for shooting at a group of men they had a angst against. Luckily for them, no one was hurt too seriously. Both brothers paid those who were hit, the brothers were fined $5 each for the assault charges, and the charges of carrying concealed weapons were dropped. Some say the light sentences were out of fear of retaliation from the Allens.

In July of 1889, Floyd was arrested for assault and battery. As with the case of his brothers Garland and Sidna, some say it was the Allen's political ties  that made the prosecutor drop his charges. Others say it was threats by the Allens. There is no doubt that they were feared in the county at the time.

In 1910, Sidna appeared in Federal court for making counterfeit twenty-dollar  coins. He was caught doing this at his place of business yet told the court that he had no idea about what was taking place at his facility by a man who supposedly worked for him. Sidna was found not guilty, but the man who who worked for him, the man some saw as Sidna's accomplice, was found guilty and sentenced to five years in federal prison.

In that case, while he couldn't be retried for counterfeiting, Sidna was retried on perjury charges pertaining to his trial testimony. After it was found out that he lied about some of the facts pertaining to his involvement in the crime, he was retried and found guilty. But though that was the case, he never served a day in jail for his crime. Fact is, during a new trial on the perjury charges, the Allen clan came together to complain that they couldn't get justice from a Republican judge. Instead of such a claim simply being laughed at, and thrown out of court, it wasn't. Believe it or not, with politics being the way it was at the time with a great deal of hate still lingering for Republicans at the time, his case was dismissed.

As for Floyd Allen's temperament? Well, it's said he was easily offended, had a very quick temper, and was known to have a long history of violence. To give you an idea of how bad his temper was? Imagine this, while he and his brother Jasper were arguing over barrels of brandy in their father's estate, Floyd actually pulled a pistol and shot his brother. No kidding!

Floyd's round glanced off Jasper's scalp. And as for Jasper, he actually returned fire and hit Floyd in the chest. Though shot, Floyd kept shooing at his brother until his pistol was empty. After that, Floyd's rage took over and he attacked his brother using his empty pistol to beat his brother Jasper in the head.

Floyd was arrested for shooting his brother. After threatening the judge and the jury, he was given a $100 fine and sentenced to spend a symbolic "one hour" in jail. Floyd paid the fine but told them that he "would never spend a minute in jail as long as the blood flowed through his veins."

Frankly, he had reasons to think that way. Floyd Allen was one bad hombre. I read where Floyd Allen had the scars of thirteen bullet wounds. Five of those scars were the result of being shot while in fights with his own family. Imagine that!

Former Carroll County Judge Robert C. Jackson once stated, "Floyd Allen was perhaps the worst man of the clan -- overbearing, vindictive, high tempered, brutal, with no respect for law and little or no regard for human life. During my term of office Floyd Allen was several times charged with violations of law. In several instances he escaped indictment, I am satisfied, because the witnesses were afraid to testify to the facts before the grand jury."

Judge Jackson presided over a 1904 trial where Floyd was actually convicted of assault. The person he assaulted was his neighbor Noah Combs. Combs made the mistake of buying a piece of property from Jasper Allen. Floyd wanted that land for himself. Floyd warned Combs not to "butt in" on the sale of that property. When Noah Combs brought the land from Jasper, Floyd shot Combs.

Fortunately for Floyd that he didn't kill Combs. But that didn't stop the county from arresting Floyd on attempted murder charges. His charged were reduced to assault with a deadly weapon and he received a light sentenced. Yes, a jury of his friends and those afraid of him sentenced Floyd to pay a $100 fine and spend "an hour" in jail. Again, he paid the fine but refused to spend a minute behind bars.

As I said before, he and his family were very wealthy farmers, huge landowners, with all sorts of political connections. So with that Floyd appealed the verdict to his friends in high office. How high? Well, at the start of his next hearing, he produced a pardon from his friend the Governor of Virginia who was also a Southern Democrat. That's friends in high places!

In 1908, a local judge appointed Floyd and another Allen relative to serve as County Deputies. Soon afterwards they were both charged with beating prisoners in their custody. Though they said all of their prisoners had resisted arrest, a jury didn't buy that story and the two were convicted on February 1st, 1908. Both were sentenced to 10 days in jail and $10 dollar fines.

A month later, Southern Democrat Governor Claude A. Swanson answered Floyd's petition for executive clemency by granting both of them pardons and restoring them to their county positions as deputies.

The problems started 

In the spring of 1911, brothers Wesley Edwards, age 20, and Sidna Edwards, age 22, got into trouble when Wesley was flirting with a young woman who was already promised to a young man by the name of Will Thomas. The two Edwards boys were the nephews of Floyd Allen.

The next day, when Wesley and Sidna (who was named after his uncle Sidna) attended church services at their uncle Garland Allen’s church, Wesley is said to have called out Will Thomas right then and there during the church service. One story says that Thomas had his clock cleaned after Sidna jumped in to help his brother. As a result, Wesley and Sidna were indicted for assault and battery, and disturbing a church service.

The Edwards brothers left the county and the state of Virginia immediately after hearing that they were being sought by the sheriff. Instead of letting themselves be arrested, they crossed the state line into North Carolina. The brothers went to the town of Mt. Airy which is in Surry County, North Carolina.

A few weeks went by when Carroll County Sheriff Lewis Franklin Webb contacted the Surry County Sheriff about picking up the Edwards brothers. The Surry County Sheriff is said to have been very cooperative and asked how he could assist? Surry County Sheriff Haynes and his deputy Oscar Monday arrested the Edwards brothers without incident.

Sheriff Webb send deputies Thomas F. Samuel and Peter Easter, armed with extradition papers, to pickup the brothers. Since it was Easter's wagon, he was driving. Once at their county seat in Dobson, Surry County Sheriff Haynes turned over the Edwards brothers to Samuel and Easter. As with any prisoners who are known as flight risks, both Edwards brothers were said to be restrained because of fear that they'd try to escape.

Once in Carroll County, at a point which is said to have been near Sidna Allen's store, deputies Samuel and Easter were met by Floyd Allen. Floyd is said to have used his horse to block the road.

Floyd dismounted and approached the buggy demanding the boys be released. Samuel knew full well who Floyd Allen was, and what his temper was capable of. It's said Samuel was in the motion of pulling his pistol when Floyd grabbed it and beat Samuel with it. As for Easter, he's said to have tried to stop the Edwards brothers from escaping but soon found himself outnumbered by the young men and their uncle. The end result was Floyd beating Samuel, his taking Samuel's pistol and leaving Samuel unconscious in a ditch along the side of the road.

One story says that as Easter ran off, that he took a shot at Floyd. But really, what we do know is that while Floyd freed the brothers, Peter Easter ran to the nearest home and telephoned Sheriff Webb to let him know what took place.

For the record, Carroll County Sheriff Lewis Franklin Webb was born on January 16th, 1848, right there in Carroll County, Virginia. He would die on duty on March 14th, 1912, at the age of 64 in Carroll County. He's buried in the Lewis F. Webb Cemetery in Hillsville. The point is that he wasn't a young man, especially by the standards of the day.

To his credit, Floyd later turned his nephews over to the court. But, he did not turn himself in for beating deputy Samuels and threatening deputy Easter who fled the scene for help. While his nephews were tried and sentenced to a 30 and a 60 day sentence in jail, the law wasn't finished with Floyd Allen. Soon, he would find out that his political connections in the Democratic Party in Virginia would be of no help to him.

Virginia's state attorney William Foster called up the Grand Jury to look into the escape of the Edwards brothers, and Floyd Allen's attack on Carroll County Sheriffs Deputy Samuel. Floyd was called before the Grand Jury to testify and admitted to "roughing up" deputy Samuel. According to Floyd, he was not there to facilitate the escape of prisoners but only to see if the boys were being abused and mistreated. He even came up with the lie that the brothers were being "tied with ropes and drug behind the buggy." No, there isn't any evidence of that taking place.

As for his lies, the Grand Jury didn't buy any of them and actually indicted Floyd Allen, Sidna Allen, and Barnett Allen, as all having played a part in the escape of the Edwards brothers. All three were also charged with interfering with deputy Samuel while in the commission of his duties. Floyd had additional charges leveled against him for assault and battery upon deputy Samuel.

It's said that Sidna Allen was never tried, but I can't find out why that was the case. Barnett Allen who played a small part in helping the boys escape was acquitted at his trial. As for Floyd, things were different.

When Floyd Allen was set to be tried, immediately death threats were made against deputy Samuel and his wife and children. If he testified against Floyd, he knew that he would be killed. But worse, if he testified, he knew his wife and children would be killed. With that, knowing that Floyd Allen saw himself above the law and would kill him and his family, Deputy Samuel took his family and left the state to seek safety.

As for the trial of Floyd Allen? 

A few weeks before Floyd Allen’s trial started, prosecutor William Foster received a letter promising that he and his family would be killed if Floyd Allen was found guilty. Foster took the threat serious and immediately took the letter to Judge Thornton Massie. Foster wanted protection. He requested extra deputies be assigned to the courtroom, and he also asked the judge to make sure everybody who entered the courtroom was searched for weapons during the trial.

As foolish as it sounds, Judge Massie denied Foster's request saying, "I think that would show cowardice on our part."

As for others who had received death threats from the Allens, Judge Massie and Sheriff Webb both told friends that they expected big trouble if the verdict did not come back favorable to Floyd Allen. They openly told many of the officials in the court house to arm themselves in case of trouble.

It was close to a year before Floyd was finally brought to trial on March 13, 1912. Judge Thornton L. Massie, the same local judge who had deputized Floyd six months earlier, presided over the trial. Floyd Allen had the best legal team that money could by at the time. Both of his attorneys, Walter Scott Tipton and W. D. Bolen were retired Carroll County judges.

Because deputy Samuel took his family and left the state to seek safety, the prosecution headed by Virginia Commonwealth's Attorney William M. Foster depended on Deputy Easter. After hearing the case, the jury is said to have been fearful of retribution from the Allens. Because of that, they couldn't agree on a verdict at first. To help reduce their fears, Judge Massie had them sequestered in Thorn-ton’s Hotel

Believe it or not, on the day before hearing his verdict, Floyd Allen was still running around free. He was not in custody and actually spent the night before hearing his verdict at his home.

Coming up in Part Two, the end of Floyd Allen.

Tom Correa

1 comment:

  1. Elizabeth L. Johnson said, Looking forward to part 2. What a scoundrel!! A little kid in man's pants, throwing awful, big fits with fire arms! Thanks for all your research and hard work to bring this to us.

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