It Started With A Kiss
(Sound On Please)

Shootout At the Carroll County Courthouse

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Sunday, March 11, 1984
By Otis Whittaker
This composition by
Dexter Goad, May 1, 2004

"Ever since Eve, mankind has recognized that one thing can lead to another."

That it can, that it can.

For example, to see what one little kiss can lead to, consider the story of Wesley Edwards, a teen-ager who lived on Fancy Gap Mountain in Carroll County, Va, back in 1910.

That was the year Wesley attended an October corn-shucking and by luck shucked a red ear of corn. That, according to corn-shucking tradition, gave him the privilege of kissing any girl present, take his choice.

His choice was Luther Thomas's girl, and that put Luther's nose out of joint. for the next six months there was bad blood between the two boys. It came to a head one Sunday when they and eight or 10 of their friends and kinfolk got into a fight outside the Flint Ridge schoolhouse. The local Primitive Baptist church was holding a service in the schoolhouse at the time.

Warrants charging disturbance of a church service were issued and all but two of the offenders were promptly fined and or blessed out. The two were Wesley and his brother, Sidna, who heard about the warrants in time to take it on the lam across the Virginia-North Carolina state line that runs along the Blue ridge near the crest of Fancy Gap Mountain.

As soon as they thought it was safe, the two brothers crossed back into Virginia. that was a mistake. Two deputy Sherrifs, Pink Samuels and Pete Easter, grabbed them, chained them in the bed of a wagon, and headed down the mountain for the county jail at Hillsville. that also was a mistake because on the way down they met Floyd Allen coming up.

Floyd was the nominal head of five or six related Carroll county families. He was a man widely known for his deep pride and short fuse. He also was Wesley and Sidna Edwards' uncle and had, in fact, practically raised the boys. The sight of them chained in that wagon-bed was more than he could abide. Accordingly, he took Pink's and Pete's guns away from them, knocked them around a bit, and set his nephews free.

That afternoon or the next day he went to the courthouse at Hillsville, gave himself up, and was released on bail pending trial on charges of assault and battery and interfering with an officer in pursuit of duty.

For assorted reasons, a year passed before he came to trial. By that time various threats, promises, and predictions, made with respect to what would happen if they found Floyd guilty, had circulated and recirculated through all of Carroll County. The trial was held 92 yrs ago. Everybody came to town that day. The courtroom was jam-packed. Commonwealth's Attorney William N. Foster asked Judge Thornton L. Massie to have all spectators searched for weapons, but the judge said no, that wouldn't show proper respect for the dignity of the law.

The jury found Floyd guilty. It also passed sentence on him, that being the practice at that time and place. Jury Foreman Gus Fowler had barely gotten the sentence out of his mouth - one year in the state penitentiary - when somebody started shooting.

In just seconds everybody in the courtoom was either shooting, scrambling for cover, wounded, or dead.

Five were killed - Judge Massie, Commonwealth's Attorney Foster, Sheriff Lew Webb, Jury Freman Fowler, and Betty Ayres, a 17-yr-old state's witness who had seen the fight on the mountain road while on her way to the store to buy a spool of thread.

Seven others got shot up but didn't die. One of these was Dexter Goad, clerk of the court and a longtime political enemy of Floyd Allen. Dexter was doing some shooting himself that day. At one point he opened his mouth to yell something and a bullet went in. It went on through his neck and blew away the gold button on the back of his collar, But Dexter wasn't about to let a little thing like that stop him. When things had calmed down he went to the railroad depot and sent a telegram to governor William Hodges Mann in Richmond. It detailed the day's events and wound up with the classically efficient recommendation, "Look into this matter." The next day he was posing for newspaper photographers, wearing a smile, and a derby hat, and a black silk scarf to cover his bandages. That same day they counted a reputed 200 bullets in the courtroom walls.

All of the Allens, except Floyd had gotten away on horseback. A bullet had nicked Floyd's leg as he left the courthouse, shooting as he went, and when he put all his weight on that leg to mount his horse, the leg snapped. The next day they put him in a private railway car and took him to the state pen in Richmond. On the way he tried to cut his throat with a pocket knife, but botched it.

In time all the fugitives were caught. Wesley Edwards and his uncle, Sidna Allen, were arrested in Des Moines, Iowa, where they were working as carpenters. Wesley got a 27-years sentence, and his Uncle Sidna got 35. Sidna Edwards got 15 years, and another kinsman, 18. but Floyd Allen and his son, Claude, weren't so lucky. They were sentenced to the electric chair.

A lot of people thought Claude had gotten a raw deal. they gave him 15 years for the second-degree murder of Judge Massie, then tried him for the first-degree murder of Commonwealth's Attorney Foster. That trial, held at Hillsville, wound up with a hung jury. The second trial was held at nearby Wytheville. There he was found guilty and sentenced to the chair. It wasn't a popular sentence. The jurors, when they left the courthouse, were stoned all the way to the railroad station one mile away. Two months later one juror, William Neff of Rural retreat, committed suicide with a straight razor.

The old dominion ripped wide open in a massive clash of public opinion. Clemency petitions criss- crossed the state. Pleas to Governor Mann were made by preachers, teachers, women' clubs, and groups organized for the purpose of protest. Newspapers argued the pros and cons of Claude's case, pressure was put on state legislators, and threatening letters were received by the governor and his son, Hodges. Stays of execution were granted three times while appeals were made to the Virginia Court of Appeals and to the U.S. Supreme Court. All to no avail - justice, blind or not, had spoken, and the law was the law.

On March 27, 1913, Governor Mann left for Princeton University where he was to make a speech the following day. He spent the night of the 27th in Philadelphia. At 3:00 the next morning his son, Hodges, telephoned him. To report that Lieutenant Governor J. Taylor Ellyson had asked the Virginia attorney general's office for an opinion on the authority of the lieutenant governor, in the absence of the governor, to commute the death sentence. The governor raced to the Philadelphia railroad station, caught a train to Washington, took a taxi to Alexandria, and there at 8 a.m. sent a telegram reading I AM THE GOVERNOR AND I AM IN VIRGINIA. WILLIAM HODGES MANN. One hour later they pulled the switches in the death house.

Floyd and Claude were buried near Cana, on the southern side of Fancy Gap Mountain, under a tombstone carved to proclaim that they had been "judicially murdered by the State of Virginia over the protests of more than 100,000 of its citizens." It took the state 10 years to get their survivors to take that tombsone down.

Now, does anybody want to say a kiss is just a kiss? Dex

EPILOGUE: My Parents, Rob GOAD and Elsie EDWARDS fell in love about 1930. Since there was still bad blood between the ALLEN/EDWARDS and the GOADs, Mom and Dad decided it would be prudent to move from Fancy Gap, VA to Mayodan, NC where my brother and I were born. It was my Mother's idea to name me Dexter.

Dex II hopes to make a movie about the shootout. Below is more info.

Dex II took this pix of me.

Pix from Carroll County Archives - About 1910