the first tragedy of wise county virginia
Addedby Barb Heflin
departed for the "Gig Glades," to join in the celebration of the birth of the county, and to witness the organization of its first county court, he never one time thought his name would be nscribed on the records of that court as the first man to be murdered in the county.
Neither did Beverly Dickenson, on the
early morning of July 28, 1856, think his name would go down on the county's records beside that of his neighbor, as being the first man in the county carged with the crime of murder. Both,
no doubt, expected to return to their families as they had left them, and
tell them of the Big Day at eh "Big Glades."
Alexander Carico and Beverly Dickenson were neighbors, and lived in the neighborhood of Bull Run settlement. It is said they both owned land, and had settled there in the early pioneer days among the hills and wild woods of what is now the eastern part of Wise County, to dig out their living by the sweat of their brows.They both had livestock, Once a week each man would go to his salting place on some hiltop or down in some low valley by a water course, and leave fresh salt for his cattle and sheep, and a sprinkle of corn for his hogs, to keep them from straying too far away. The stock were kept belled, and each man knew the sound of his belled cattle and belled hogs and sheep, and could stand on the top of some peak and hear the jingle of his bells in the far istance, and distinguish the sound. Time passed, and one day, it is said, Alexander Carico found some of his hogs had been shot and killed, and others crippled, and the bells cut off of some, and shop off of others. And some of his horses were found with their tails cut off. Carico accused his neighbor, Dickenson, of doing this and a grudge commenced between them which continued to grow in
feeling. A foot-path led through the low underbrush from the Primitive
Baptist Church that had been adopted as the courthouse of the county, to the spring some two hundred yards in a southeast direction from the church, in the woods near the foot of a high ridge, on a lot now owned by W. C. Renfro, and formerly owned by the late Judge T. G. Wells. This spring was near the east side of the lot on which the dwelling house of Mrs. G. W. Kilgore now stands, and back a few feet in the rear of the house. When the crowd which had spread out in the Big Glades below, at the noon recess of the county court on July 28, 1856, heard loud talking and loud cursing, and a dull hollow sound near the spring, and surged toware the spot, they found Alexander Carico stretched out upon the ground,
unconscious, caused from a lick on the back of the head with a large stick in the hands of Beverly Dickenson, his neighbor. The grudge had been rekindled, and as they were leaving the spring, Dickenson in front, and Carico close behind him, Carico remarked to Dickenson, it is said, "I have never cut off no cow bells or horses'tails,' and Dickenson turned on him and struck Carico with a large stock. Carico was at once carried to the home of Daniel Ramey, the Monarch of the Big Glades, and first laid on a pile of rails in the yard of the Monarch's home. Dr. John Burns, who lived in the settlement where Tacoma is now located, on Guests River, was called to Carico's side, and at first pronounced him not seriously
hurt, but later Carico was carried and placed under the shen of the Monarch's home and commenced to grow worse, and died sometime after midnight, on July 29th, following. Beverly Dickenson was arrested on the gound by the Crier (Sheriff) charged with the Murder of Alexander Carico, a warrant was sworn out against him for the offense, and he was afterwards carried to the Russell
County jail which had been adopted as the jail for Wise County. His case
was continued in the county court until November 28, 1856, on which day
William Richmond, Jessee Davis, David Short, Nicholas Horne and James Estep, justies composing the court, heard the evidence and being advised, were of the opinion, as the records show, that Dickenson should be sent on to the circuit court for trial. Motion was made for bond for Dickenson, but the court refesed him bail, and he was remanded back to the Russell County jail. At the time this crime was committed the law provided where the
judgment upon conviction involved a loss of life or imprisonment in the
penitentiary, the county court had no jurisdiction to convict. When a
person, not being a slave or free negro, was charged with an offense, if
in the opinion of the justice the charge ought to be further inquired
into, it was made his duty to remand the prisoner for examination before
the county court, called a 'Court of Examination.'The case of Beverly Dickenson for the murder of Alexander Carico was brought up in the circuit court of Wise County on October 5th, 1857. The court was opened with Hon. Samuel V. Fulkerson, judge, presiding, and a grand jury was impanelled. As the record reads: 'Harvey C. Bruce, oreman, Andrew J. Long, Elijah Beverly, John
Creech, Jonathan Hunsucker, Sebastian H. Bickley, Isaac Willis, Isaiah Jones, Edward Ison, Silas Creech, William Taylor, Linhorn Blevins, John W. Wampler, James Baker, Daniel S. Hoge, John W. Burns and Anderson Wells were sworn a grand jury of inquest for the body of Wise County, and having received their charge, were sent out of court to consult of presentments, and after some time returned into court, and presented an indictment against Beverly Dickenson for murder.' The grand jury mentioned was the first grand jury to return an indictment for murder in Wise County, and the indictment returned by the grand jury was the first indictment ever found in the county for murder.
Dickenson was brought into court on the indictment and arraigned, and entered a plea of not guilty. The court allowed him bond in the sum of $1000 with Andrew J. Long, John Snodgrass, John C. Poindexter, Robert J. Beverly and Andrew J. Dotson as his sureties, which bond was afterwards forfeited. Dickenson skipped his bond and fled to the state of Kentucky. He was afterwards apprehended and brought back to Wise County, and on April 20, 1861, placed on trial in the circuit court of
Wise County before Hon. Samuel V. Fulkerson, judge, presiding, and the
following jury: Waman Riggle, Campbell W. Carter, David Stidham, Andrew
Blythe, George Gilly, Cleming Joseph, Absalom Russell, John A. Hall,
William Soward, William Elkins, G. Hale and Matthew S. Dotson. The defendant was represented in the trial by the law firm of Hagan & Richmond, comosed of Patrick Hagan and Jonathan Richmond. The case was presecuted by William B. Aston, commonwealth attorney. The witnesses used in the trial of the case for the prosecution of Dickenson were John Davis, Harvey Robinett, Abner Carty, Jacob Ramey, James Hunsucker, S. D. Huff, Gabriel Richie, T. W. Newberry, Thomas A. Moore, Wilson Evans, Flem Ingle, John Gilliam, William Holyfield, Pentecost Gardner, Jeremiah Powers, John H. Hoge and Meredith Evans. Those used on behalf of the defendant, Beverly Dickenson, were Charles Taylor, James R. Porter, Morgan McLaughlin, Patton McLaughlin, Joseph
Buchanan, M. T. Lipps, Robert A. Holdbrooks, Nathan McLaughlin, Randolph
Robinette and Dr. John Burns. On the third day of the trial the jury returned the following verdict:
"We, the jury, find the prisoner, Beverly Dickenson, guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and ascertain the period of his confinement in the public jail and penitentiary to be one year."
(Signed) "Campbell W. Carter, "Foreman"
The prisoner was thereupon sentenced by the court to serve one year in the penitentiary. Dickenson was thereupon forthwith carried to the penitentiary by the "Crier," under the provisions of the laws as then existed.