Sunday, October 5, 2014

Julius Walker - a story of betrayal

A brother of Charles Walker, Jr., the father of 1 Sarah Walker;2 Eliza Frances Walker, 3 Emarine Bartram, 
 4 Queen Rebecca Dickerson; 5Edna Bethel Franklin ; 6Judith Ann Hayward

1791 – 1814

While researching the Walker and Peters men who had served together in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, I ran into a puzzling notation asserting that Charles and Chrispiano Walker's brother, Julius, had been hung at age 22 in 1814.  I couldn't help but wonder what that young man had done that would have led to such a terrible end.  Luckily, I didn't have to dig very far down through the layers of family tales to discover that the story was wrong - Julius was the “murderee” and the person hung was  his murderer!

The story began sometime in the early 1800's when Julius married  Elizabeth, whose last name and family background are unknown  (perhaps because no one wanted to claim her?).  In any case, they couldn't have been married very long before the War of 1812 heated up and the young men of Giles County, Virginia were called upon in 1813 to continue the fight against England that their fathers, uncles and cousins had begun a few years before.

Julius, Chrispianos (his brother who was featured in a previous post) and a cousin, Captain John Peters, Jr., were listed among the Giles County men who traveled 400 miles to Norfolk, Virginia to join the battle.  However, shortly before their arrival in Norfolk, a treaty was signed.  Since their services were no longer needed now, they could return home without firing a shot. This 800 mile round trip by foot or horse took several months, but they didn't have to be away as long as originally anticipated, and the exhausted, foot-weary men probably didn't all rush home at the same time. 

We don't know how long it took for Julius to return, but we do know that he didn't receive a hero's welcome in the loving arms of his wife (unless she was a good actress). That was because while he was gone, Elizabeth had become romantically involved with Jeremiah Lucas, a powerfully built man from a family notorious for their criminal behavior. Upon receiving the "good" news about Julius' anticipated return, Jeremiah realized that he couldn't allow Julius to resume his marriage with Elizabeth, and made plans to kill him before he learned of their treachery.

Since Elizabeth and Jeremiah had been able to hide their affair from all but their closest friends, Julius had no reason to question Jeremiah's warm greeting and accepted his invitation to see the house he was building. As they strolled along the New River Cliffs, Jeremiah grabbed a club, knocked Julius down, and continued beating him until he was sure he was dead. After covering up the body with snow, he actually returned to the Walker home and stayed the night with Elizabeth!

The next morning he returned to the scene of the crime to bury Julius in a deeper grave and found his victim sitting upright against a tree and very weak.  Later Lucas was to admit that Julius had entreated him to spare his life.  He had also promised that he would never tell anyone of the assault and would leave the area forever.  But Lucas had gone too far in his scheme and made sure that Julius was truly dead this time.

We aren't sure when it was discovered that Julius was missing.  But once the searchers discovered Julius' broken body, it didn't take long to name Jeremiah as the main suspect, especially after he fled into the Salt Pond Mountains.  A posse was hurriedly organized and found it fairly easy to capture him because of the trail he had  left in the snow.

Justice was swift in this mountain community. 16 days after the murder, Lucas was indicted in the Superior Circuit Court of Giles Co. and on April 27, he was found guilty by the jury and sentenced to be hanged on May 28, 1814. 

The gallows was erected near the courthouse in order to accommodate the occasion and Lucas was confined in what was known as “the dungeon”. 

But Lucas was not about to go down easily. One day, as the jailer was bringing him a meal, Lucas struck him on the head with his handcuffs, knocked him out and took off down the street.  Unfortunately for him the jailer recovered quickly, grabbed a loaded musket, and seeing him in the distance, fired a shot which struck him on the leg and knocked him to the ground. He was taken back into custody and the execution was carried out on May 28.  

This story is even more amazing when you realize that Julius returned home triumphantly on April 4, 1814, was murdered April 9, and his murderer was hung just a little less than two months later - on May 28 of the same year. 

Elizabeth Walker escaped legal punishment for lack of evidence, and there is no record of her life after her husband was killed and lover hung.  It is highly doubtful that she stayed in an area where everyone knew her story