HILLSVILLE, Va. — On March 14, 1912, a crowded courtroom in Carroll County exploded with gunfire.
“When the shooting started, people started scattering,” author Ron Hall said. “What’s amazing to me is that so few people were shot.”
Before the gunfire ended multiple people were shot. Five would end up dead and the Allens were on the run.
“Floyd took this pistol and went down to the street and was shooting at some jurors as they were running down the road,” Hall said. “Dexter Goad, the clerk of court, had been shot in the face and the bullet had gone in his right cheek and out of his neck, missing all the important parts.”
Despite his wounds, Goad traded shots with the Allens and stopped Floyd in his tracks.
“First time [Goad] missed [Floyd] the second time he hit [Floyd] in the right knee,” Hall said. “That ended the gunfight except Floyd fired two shots back at Dexter Goad and you still see the bullet holes in the eighth and 13th step of the courthouse.”
Most of the Allens, except Floyd, got on their horses and left town. Floyd, who was too injured to leave, was arrested the next day and a posse was formed to go after the rest. Virginia didn’t have state police in those days so the governor hired the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to take charge of things.
“In two weeks they had caught most of them except for two,” Hall said. “Sidna Allen and his nephew Wesley Edwards wound up in Iowa and they weren’t captured until September.”
Floyd and his son Claude were quickly brought to trial for capital murder. Both were convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair.
“I think by today’s rules of evidence they would’ve had a hard time finding them guilty of first-degree murder,” Hall said. “No autopsies were done on any of the victims, they don’t know what caliber bullet killed anybody.”
After the shooting, people in the community came in and started digging bullets out of the walls for souvenirs.
Floyd Allen was executed on March 28, 1913, with his son Claude executed just minutes later.
The controversy surrounding the shooting continues to this day, dividing families and the community.
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