The Killing of Professor Davis

A list of recent articles about the killing of Professor John A. G. Davis at U.Va. in 1841.

“A masked shooter. A campus killing. And a manhunt 159 years before Columbine,” by Michael S. Rosenwald. Washington Post, April 20, 2018.

Librarian Solves Mystery of First School Shooting in the U.S. (A radio interview with Sandy Hausman, of Radio IQ – WVTF radio (an NPR station) on May 3, 2018.)

“As America Grapples With Gun Violence in Schools, a UVA Librarian Recounts How — and Where — It All Began,” by Taylor Swaak, T74, June 4, 2018.


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William Allan (12 Nov. 1837-17 Sep. 1889)

William Allan was born in Winchester, VA. He was the son of Thomas Allan (1802-1873) of Winchester, and his wife, Jane Dowdell (or Dowdall) George Allan (1803-1862). (Gunter; After attending a local school for his early education, William Allan enrolled in the University of Virginia and attended sessions 34-36 (1857-1860). There he studied a broad curriculum, including Greek and Latin, Modern Languages, Mathematics, Chemistry, Natural Philosophy, History and Literature, Medicine, and Anatomy and Surgery.

After graduating, William Allan taught school in Albemarle County, VA, until he enlisted in the Confederate Army at the beginning of the Civil War. (Krick) He served for the entire length of the War, under Generals Stonewall Jackson, Richard S. Ewell, and Jubal Early, and participated in many battles, including Harpers Ferry, Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. Allan rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and to the position of Ordnance Officer of the Army of Northern Virginia. (Gunter; War of the Rebellion)

After the War, Col. Allan worked as a bank cashier for a time. In 1866, Robert E. Lee recruited Col. Allan to join the faculty of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in the chair of applied mathematics. Allan left Washington College in 1873 to become the first principal of the McDonogh School, a school for poor boys, located in Owings Mills, MD.

About 1877, Col. Allan married Elizabeth Randolph Preston (1848-1933), and they had several children: Margaret R., Jannet G., John Preston, William, Joe B. (a daughter), Lucy Alexander (died young), and Thomas (died young) Allan. (1880 & 1900 U.S. Censuses)

Col. Allan was a prolific writer, and published books and articles on applied mathematics, including Notes on Rankine’s Textbook of Engineering, The Theory of Arches (1874), and The Strength of Materials, as well as books and articles on Confederate history, including History of the Campaign of Gen. T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from November 4, 1861 to June 17, 1862 (1880), and The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862 (1892).

He died in 1889 of Bright’s Disease [chronic nephritis], after an illness of about 6 months. He was buried in the cemetery of the McDonogh Institute, with his two youngest children, who had predeceased him. His wife, Elizabeth, survived him by 44 years. She lived with her son Dr. William Allan in Charlotte, North Carolina. When she died, she was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, in Charlotte. (Gunter)


  • Allan, Elizabeth tombstone, in Elmwood Cemetery, Charlotte, NC.
  • Allan, Jane D. tombstone, in Mount Hebron Cemetery, Winchester, VA
  • Allan, Thomas tombstone, in Mount Hebron Cemetery, Winchester, VA
  • Allan, William. History of the Campaign of Gen. T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from November 4, 1861 to June 17, 1862. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1880.
  • Allan, William & John Johnson. Life and work of John McDonogh & Sketch of the McDonogh School. Press of I. Friedenwald. Baltimore, Maryland, 1886.
  • Allan, William. Army of Northern Virginia in 1862. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1892.
  • “Allan, William (1837-1889).” in Alphabetical list of collectors included in the Putnam Museum herbarium biography compilation.
  • Allan, William tombstone, in McDonogh Institute Cemetery, Owings Mills, MD.
  • Gunter, D. W., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. William Allan (1837–1889). (2017, February 23). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from
  • Krick, Robert E. L. Staff Officers in Gray; a biographical register of the staff officers in the Army of Northern Virginia. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
  • Macdonald, R.W. (ed.). “Death of Col. William Allan.” The Week. 7(12) (21 Sep 1889):45-48.
  • “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 8 September 2017), William Allan, District 2, Baltimore, Maryland, United States; citing enumeration district ED 225, sheet 460A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,495.
  • “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 3 January 2020), Jennett G Allen in household of Elizabeth Allen, Lexington Township Lexington town, Rockbridge, Virginia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 97, sheet 1B, family 10, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,725.
  • United States. War Department, Report of Lieut. Col. William Allan, C. S. Army, Chief of Ordnance, of ordnance and ordnance stores collected on the Wilderness battle-field May 5-7, [1864]. Dated December 28, 1864, in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1891, Ser. I, Vol. 36, Part 1, reports, document no. 286, p.1076.
  • William Allan Papers, #2764, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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William Jones Allen (20 Sep. 1838-5 Jul. 1890)

William J. Allen was the son of Robert Henderson Allen and his wife, Ann Elizabeth (Bagley) Allen, of Lunenburg County, Virginia. Robert H. Allen was a grandson of Jones Allen, a farmer in Lunenburg County, and “likewise followed agricultural pursuits.” Robert and Ann had 10 children. (Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, v.4, p. 420)

William Allen attended “Old Oaks,” a private boys’ school, and then attended the University of Virginia in session 35 (1858-1859), studying Chemistry, Medicine, Surgery and Physiology, Anatomy, and Botany. He began his medical education in Philadelphia, but soon after John Brown’s raid upon Harper’s Ferry, Allen was one of the hundred students who withdrew from the Philadelphia medical school, and completed his degree in the Medical College of Virginia in 1860. Dr. Allen began his practice in Lunenburg, Virginia.

In 1861, Dr. Allen enlisted as a private in Company C, 20th Virginia Infantry, which was recruited at Lunenburg. In 1862, he transferred to Company F, Virginia Heavy Artillery, and was stationed at the Post Hospital in Chaffin’s Bluff, Virginia. Before the end of the Civil War, he served as a surgeon in the Richmond Hospital. For 3 months immediately after the surrender, Dr. Allen was incarcerated as a prisoner of war at Point Lookout, VA.

When the War ended, Dr. Allen resumed his practice in Lunenburg, Virginia, and in 1890, moved to Petersburg, Virginia. In 1868, He married Martha Louisa Bragg (ca.1844-1922). Their children were: Emily Taylor, Anna, and William Cornelius Allen. Dr. Allen was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and was a Mason. He died in 1890 in Petersburg, Virginia, and is buried in Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg. (


  • Allen, Martha Louisa death certificate #1464-136. Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
  • Allen, William Jones, Tombstone, Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg City, Virginia.
  • Bell, Landon C. The Old Free State: A contribution to the history of Lunenburg County and Southside Virginia. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1974.
  • Hambrecht, F.T. & Koste, J.L., Biographical register of physicians who served the
    Confederacy in a medical capacity
    . 03/06/2019. Updated 05/07/2019. Unpublished database.
  • Tyler, Lyon Gardner, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography. New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1915.
  • University of Virginia Matriculation Books, 1825-1904, Accession #RG-14/4/2.041, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
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Charles Edward Alexander (10 Sep. 1826-8 Jul. 1855)

Charles Edward Alexander has a tombstone in the “Alexander Graveyard” in Rustburg, Campbell County, Virginia. ( The inscription reads:

Charles E. Alexander,
Sept. 10, 1826
Died July 8, 1855
in the Town of Jacksonville,
Oregon Territory

There is also a record of him being buried in the Jacksonville Cemetery, Jackson County, Oregon. I do not know which “burial place” is the actual location of his remains. ( 

His parents were John B. Alexander (1782-1838), who was Clerk of the County Court and the Circuit Courts of Campbell County, and his wife, Sarah Lewis Cobb (1791-1859). Charles Alexander attended the University of Virginia in session 22 (1845-1846) where he studied chemistry, medicine, and anatomy & surgery. Charles then attended the Medical Department at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with an M.D. in 1847. (Richmond Enquirer, 13 Apr. 1847; Catalogue of the Alumni of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania, 1765-1877)

Dr. Alexander was in the Oregon Territory by 7 March 1853, when he was appointed clerk of the commissioners who were to organize the government of the newly formed (1852) Jackson County, OR. On 4 April 1853, the first meeting of the commissioners, the first order of business was to accept the resignation of Dr. Alexander as clerk, and to appoint a new clerk.

When I first started researching Charles Alexander’s history, I discovered that the early 1850s was a period of great unrest among the native people of the Jackson County, Oregon area, who were called the Rogue River Indians. Gold had been discovered in the Rogue River Valley in 1851, and the area was filling with Easterners with their eyes on riches. Was that why Dr. Alexander died at a young age? But then I found that the major skirmishes between Easterners and Native Americans in this area occurred between October 1855 and May 1856, too late for it to be likely that he was a casualty of that war. (Watson, 1924)

Finally, I located the story. There was a race meeting in Jacksonville, in Jackson County, in early July, 1855, and Dr. Alexander raced his horses in this meet. Another owner who had horses running in the races was a man named Simeon “Sim” Oldham. Oldham was from Yreka, in northern California, and was a deadly shot.

Oldham “was as handsome and as polite and tidy as you can fancy.… He had already nine notches on his gun when he went over to the Jacksonville races with his string of horses. Here the tall, handsome gunfighter took umbrage at Dr. Alexander, a leading citizen, and the doctor, seeing unusual ferocity in the eyes of Oldham, stepped behind his best horse, hoping to escape. Oldham quietly shot the horse down and then, leering and laughing at Alexander as he stood there helpless, sent a six-shooter bullet through the heart of his tenth victim.” (Miller, p.2) Other accounts suggest that Oldham was intoxicated at the time he shot Alexander. (“Thou Shalt Not Kill”)

Oldham was acquitted at his trial. While he lived for almost 10 years after this encounter, Sim Oldham was shot dead in his turn on 12 March 1864, by a young man named Joseph Rolls (or Rawls), at Ruby City, Idaho, near Boise. (Boise News)


Alexander, Charles E. tombstone, Virginia.

Alexander, Charles, cemetery records, Jacksonville, OR.

Jacksonville Cemetery, Jacksonville, Jackson County, Oregon.”

Miller, Joaquin. “Tales of bad men and Frontiersmen. I. some famous gun-fighters.” Pacific Monthly, Jan. 1908, v.19, no.1, p.1-10.

“More Doctors.” Richmond Enquirer 13 Apr 1847, p.1.

“Sim Oldham killed by Jos. Rolls at Ruby City, Owyhee Mines [Idaho], on the 12th of March, 1864.” Boise News, March 26, 1864, p.2.

Society of the Alumni of the Medical Department. Catalogue of the Alumni of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania, 1765-1877. Philadelphia, Collins, Printer, 1877, p.2.

“Thou Shalt Not Kill,” Evening Capital News, Boise, Idaho, December 7, 1907, p. 10.

Watson, C. B. South Oregon History, up to 1853. (Revised), 1924, chapters 5 & 8.

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Averett Family of Halifax County, VA

Dr. Thomas Hamlett Averett (1800-1855) and his wife, Martha Coleman Wootton (1803-1880) settled in Halifax County, Virginia.  Dr. Averett was a practicing physician who also served in the Virginia State Senate and as a Representative in the 31st and 32nd U.S. Congresses (1820-1823). Among their ten children, Dr. Averett and his wife had three sons who went to the University of Virginia: Edmund Berkeley Averett, Joseph James Averett, and William Wootton Averett.

Edmund Berkeley Averett (18 Jan. 1823-1858) attended the University in session 20 (1843-1844) and studied Chemistry, Medicine, and Anatomy & Surgery. He is listed as a physician in the 1850 U. S. Census for Halifax County.

Dr. Edmund B. Averett was mentioned in his father’s will: “Clause 2nd. I [Thomas H. Averett] appoint [James Young] trustee for my son Dr. Edmund Berkeley Averett, it being my will that his share in my estate be held in trust to be used and enjoyed at the direction of the said trustee so that the principal shall not be disposed of during the lifetime of my said son, while he shall enjoy income or profit therefore at the discretion of his trusteee as aforesaid.” This leads one to surmise that Dr. Edmund B. Averett was a spendthrift, and that his father wanted to protect his son’s inheritance from being frittered away.

Edmund Averett died between 2 Sep. 1857 when his will was written, and 26 Apr. 1858, when it was presented at court for probate. The exact date was most likely within the first four months of 1858, since wills were normally presented at the next county court that occurred after a death. (Cook; Halifax County Court)

Joseph James Averett (24 Dec. 1827-23 Feb. 1898) attended the University in sessions 28-29 (1851-1853), during which he studied Ancient Languages, Mathematics, and Chemistry. He became head of Halifax Academy in Halifax, VA, after his father’s death in 1855.

The Danville Female Institute (1854-1858) was founded by William Isaac Berryman. After the Female Institute closed, Nathan Penick moved to Danville and opened the Baptist Female Academy in the same location. Penick’s wife, Jane Averett Penick, taught in the new school. In 1859, the name of the school was changed to Union Female College. Jane’s brother, Joseph James Averett, taught briefly at Union Female College. In 1864, the school again changed its name, this time to Roanoke Female College. Jane’s and Joseph’s brothers, John Taylor Averett and Samuel Wootton Averett, served as co-principals from 1873 to 1887; John served as president from 1887-1892. The institution is known today as Averett University. (Averett website)

Joseph married Rose Celestia [surname unknown] (b. ca. 1834); their children were Emma W. Averett (1856-1909), and Edmund Berkeley Averett (d. young). The family lived at Sedge Hill in Halifax County, VA. In 1862, Joseph Averett enlisted as a private in Company A (Holland’s Company) of the 18th Virginia Infantry Regiment, C.S.A. He was wounded 27 Jul. 1862 at the battle of Gaines Mill, a shoulder wound that caused “atrophy of the muscles and entire inability to raise or otherwise use the arm.” (Certificate of Disability for Discharge, 10 Oct. 1862) The Certificate of Disability also gives a description of J. J. Averett: 5 feet, 11 inches tall, fair complexion, blue eyes, and light hair.

William Wootton Averett (11 May 1830-2 Oct. 1867) attended the University in session 28 (1851-1852), and studied Chemistry and Law. In 1859, he was appointed to manage the postal route between Richmond and Danville. In the Civil War, he enlisted as a private, and served as a clerk in the Post Office Department. He appears on a list of prisoners of war who surrendered in Lynchburg, VA, on 15 Apr. 1865. There is no evidence that he ever married or had children. W. W. Averett died on 2 Oct. 1867 in Memphis, TN, a victim of one of the annual epidemics of yellow fever suffered by the people of that city. He is probably buried in Memphis, but I have found no proof of that. (Daily Dispatch 1867; Memphis Daily Appeal 1867; Papers of and relating to Military and Civilian Personnel; “Post Office Affairs”; “W. W. Averett, Death Record 10775.”)


William Smith Averett (7 Feb. 1841-22 Apr. 1864), attended the University of Virginia in the 37th session (1860-1861), studying Latin, Greek, and Mathematics. There is no indication in the Matriculation Books who his parents were, and he does not appear in the genealogies of Thomas H. and Martha Averett. His guardian in 1860 was John O. Holt of Lynchburg, VA. On 5 Jul. 1861, W. S. Averett enlisted as a private in Company G of the 11th Virginia Infantry Regiment. By the end of 1863, he was promoted to corporal. Corporal Averett died 22 Apr. 1864, of “Vulnus sclopeticum” (damage from a gun wound) after being shot in the shoulder during the Battle of Plymouth (April 17-20, 1864) which was fought near Weldon, NC. Averett was buried in the Weldon Confederate Cemetery; however, he also has a tombstone in the Spring Hill Cemetery in Lynchburg, VA, so his body may have been moved. There is no evidence that he ever married or had children. (“11th Regiment VA Infantry”;; Service Jacket; Siniard; UVA Matriculation Books; Williams)

[Note: My thanks to Patrick Wasley, Digital Resources Librarian and Archivist, Mary B. Blount Library, Averett University, for his help in locating sources on the Averett family. The birth dates above are from the U.Va. Matriculation Books, and the death dates from newspapers, military records, and tombstones.—JLC]


  • “11th Regiment VA Infantry.” Richmond (VA) Enquirer, Volume 61, Number 80, 6 May 1864, p. 1.
  • Averett, Joseph J. Certificate of Disability for Discharge, 10 Oct. 1862, in Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Virginia. Record Group 109, NARA M324, roll 597. (accessed through
  • Averett, William S. Service Jacket in Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Virginia. Record Group 109, NARA M324, roll 498. (accessed through
  • Averett, William W. Papers of and Relating to Military and Civilian Personnel, compiled 1874-1899, documenting the period 1861-1865. Record Group 109, NARA M347, roll 011. (accessed through
  •  “Averett History,” in Averett University. [website] c2011.
  • Averett University.  “Averett Family Tree” (Accessed 6/22/2011)
  • Cook, Kenneth H. “Physician, Mason, legislator.” News and Record (South Boston, VA). 6 Oct. 1977.
  • Halifax County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1753-1913.  “Martha C. Averett etc. vs James Young, Exr. of Thomas H. Averett etc. 1857-005” Local Government Records Collection, Halifax County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
  • J. C. Holst & Co., Undertakers, “Report of the Health Officer (dated 5 Oct. 1867).” Memphis Daily Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.) 6 Oct. 1867, p. 3.
  • “Post Office Affairs.” Daily Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 30 March 1859, p. 1.
  • Siniard, Diane. “Civil War Medical Terminology.” [webpage] 2005-2011.
  • University of Virginia Matriculation Books, 1825-1904, Accession #RG-14/4/2.041, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
  • [Untitled.] Daily Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 5 Oct. 1867, p. 3.
  • “Virginia, Deaths and Burials, 1853-1912,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 07 Nov 2013), J.J. Averett in entry for Emma Averett, 1856.
  • “W. W. Averett, Death Record 10775,” Shelby County (TN) Records [website]
  • Wayland, R. L., Jr., “Exploring Danville’s Past” [website]. c2010-2011.  (Accessed 6/22/2011)
  • Williams, Delores, Confederate Soldiers Burying Ground, Weldon, NC. (updated 2015)
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