Ashburn, VA (October 5, 2016) – Loudoun Clerk of the Circuit Court Gary M. Clemens invites the public to attend the clerk’s Historic Records Division Open House on Friday, October 7, 2016 in the county’s 1894 courthouse at 18. E. Market Street in Leesburg. The event is part of the First Friday celebration and will take place from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The fall exhibition, “Presentments, Sentencings and Punishments: Crime in Loudoun County 1757-1955,” will showcase an eight-year conservation and indexing project of the court’s criminal records from 1757-1955. This exhibition will include a variety of cases, ranging from murder to the county’s first speeding ticket.
Information about some of Loudoun’s most famous murder cases will be on display:
- In 1872, Leesburg resident Emily Lloyd was charged with murder in the poisoning and death of her children and husband over a four-year period. The story of Emily Lloyd made the newspapers throughout the United States.
- George Crawford, an African American, was charged with the murder of two Middleburg women in 1932. This was a land mark case in the American criminal justice system, because it challenged the fairness of African Americans receiving a fair trial from all white juries.
- In 1943 William Clatterbuck was found guilty for the murder of the Love family and a hired field hand at their farm in Purcellville, Virginia. In June 1944, Clatterbuck became the last Loudoun resident executed for murder.
The exhibition will also include documents, photographs and history of the county jail and a special appearance of McGruff the Crime Dog. The Thomas Balch Library will have a display of documents from its collection on the Emily Lloyd murder case.
Documents Found in the Preservation Project
The paperwork found in most of the historic criminal files is similar to the paperwork filed in criminal cases today, for example, indictments, warrants for arrest and summons for witnesses. Some of the more severe charges had depositions, criminal exhibits, medical reports and sentencing orders. Although this paperwork is common in today’s files, it was extremely rare to find such documents in 18th and 19th century criminal cases.
The charges that appear in the criminal indictments are familiar ones: murder, assault and battery and stealing. But other cases have criminal charges that are long forgotten: not keeping the roads, cohabitation, common drunkard, remaining in the commonwealth, and non-conformist. There are also some unique cases, for example, a sentencing order to burn a gaming table on the court house grounds and the charge of playing dice outside the court house.
The criminal files included hundreds of “Remaining in the Commonwealth” cases against Free Blacks. Once a slave gained his or her freedom, by law they had to exit the state within a year. Failing to comply with the law could cost a Free Black their freedom. However, most of these cases were dismissed in Loudoun. In an 1860 case, The Commonwealth vs. Oscar (slave), Oscar was found guilty of arson and was sentenced to be sold outside the boundaries of the United States.
A few criminal cases contained documents signed by individuals who greatly impacted the future of the criminal justice system in the United States. The signature of Charles Houston, a famous African American attorney with the NAACP and early leader of the civil rights movement, appears in a number of cases he represented in Loudoun County on the behalf of African American defendants. The FBI’s most famous director, J. Edgar Hoover, signed a few FBI forensics reports sent to the county’s sheriff department.
Today the criminal index includes 10,208 cases along with thousands of names of victims dating from 1757-1955. The historic criminal files are popular with historians conducting research on Free Blacks and slaves, and genealogists searching for forgotten and not so famous family members. The criminal index is available online.
More information about the Clerk’s Historic Records Division is online at www.loudoun.gov/clerk/archives