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HILLSVILLE — Dueling pistols in the 1912 courthouse shootout gave way to dueling medals of bravery for Jezebel Goad and Claude Allen.
One of those medals has made its way into the Carroll County Historical Society Museum’s exhibit in time for the centennial of the 90-second gun battle between members of the Allen family and court and county officials that left five people dead and led to the execution of Claude and Floyd Allen.
Family patriarch Floyd Allen, in court on that day in March 1912, was sentenced for obstructing justice. He famously refused to serve his time in jail, setting into motion the 57 shots fired in the crowded courtroom that day.
An account that quickly emerged in the newspapers from all the confusion and mayhem involved Jezebel, daughter of the Clerk of Court Dexter Goad, running into the danger to be with her father.
Etta Donnan Mann, wife of then-Gov. W.H. Mann, knew about Jezebel’s deeds the day after the shootout, according to her book, “Four Years in the Governor’s Mansion of Virginia.”
News about Judge Thornton Massie, Commonwealth’s Attorney William Foster and Sheriff Lew Webb being killed had made it to Richmond within the day of the event.
In her writing, Mann called the incident the “atrocious murder” by a “band of desperadoes.”
Under her March 15, 1912, entry in the book, based on her diary, Mann recounted Jezebel’s bravery in the courtroom.
“His daughter, the deputy-clerk, evinced the greatest bravery, assisting her father and handing him more ammunition when all of his was gone,” Virginia’s former first lady wrote.
A July 8, 1912, entry notes that the governor’s wife had been asked to design a gold medal for Jezebel, at the urging of the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Mann quoted from the newspaper, another account about Jezebel’s acts during the shootout, differing from the earlier entry on the detail of the daughter handing the clerk of courts bullets.
“Instead of fainting, or leaving the scene when the firing began, Miss Goad sought to enter the courthouse to go to her father,” this account says. “To gain entrance, she was obliged to pull from the doorway a man who barred the way.”
Seeing her father wasn’t badly hurt, Jezebel cared for other wounded, this account said.
The front of the medal is engraved as a “tribute of honor” to Jezebel Goad “for heroic courage in defense of justice.” The back shows the seal of Virginia with an additional inscription that calls her “a brave and devoted daughter.”
Praise from the establishment for Jezebel also included a letter to her dated March 18, 1912, from Gov. Mann.
A woman who stands by her father’s side “with bullets flying on every side while he followed the [murderers] out of the courthouse... is a young lady of whom the state of Virginia is, and ought to be, proud,” the governor wrote. “We have the right to expect bravery from our men, but it is rare for a young lady, under such trying circumstance, to exhibit such devotion and heroism.”
This outpouring of praise for Jezebel prompted a response of those who believed Claude Allen, on his way to the electric chair for his roll in the shootout, had been railroaded by the system.
Allen’s supporters saw little difference between his actions and Jezebel’s.
“That summer, when the newspapers were proclaiming the bravery of Jezebel Goad and the fact that Governor Mann’s wife was having a medal made for her, some people in Carroll County started talking about presenting a medal to Claude for defending his father,” as author Ron Hall put it in his book, “The Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy.”
Etta Mann noted in her book the activity of the Allen supporters, who were petitioning the governor on the behalf of Claude and tried to present the medal to him.
The prison warden took possession of the medal meant for Claude, historians note. Claude apparently got to wear the medal — but only after he was executed.
Margaret Martin, great-granddaughter of Dexter Goad, presented the medal to the historical society museum on behalf of her mother, Marie Goad Jackson, along with a portrait of Jezebel alone and one with her family on loan from Robert Jackson Jr. of South Carolina.
No word has come down through the family about how Jezebel felt about the medal, according to Martin.
Jezebel lived with her sister, Martha, who got the medal after Jezebel died.
Martha gave the medal to Marie Jackson in 1987.
“This was a natural link because mother and myself cared for Martha after Jezebel was gone,” Martin said.
The medal remained in a safety deposit box from 1987 until just recently, when the family decided to bring it out in time for the shootout centennial at the request of historical society members.
“I had never seen it until mother got it out of the safety deposit box,” Martin said.
The shootout, for older generations, was off limits as a topic of conversation.
“Jezebel didn’t want to discuss it because everybody got it wrong,” according to family knowledge, Martin said.
Given that preference, it seems doubtful that Jezebel would have displayed the medal, Martin believes. “I imagine it would have stayed right in that box.”
Historical society members are working to obtain the Claude Allen medal to display next to Jezebel’s.
“Those two medals have never been side by side,” historian Gary Marshall notes.