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Local History: The Killing of Andrew Collier

By Ron Hall

Isabelle Sutphin, known as “Ibba,” was born about 1819 in Grayson County and was most likely a daughter of William Sutphin and Lucy Blackard, although some researchers say she was daughter of William’s daughter, Kettura.

She lived in the portion of Grayson County that would become Carroll in 1842. Although she never married, she bore and raised five children as a single mother and, given the hard times in that part of the country, her lot could not have been an easy one. In 1865, at about the close of the Civil War, she was living in a cabin with her two daughters, Eliza and Sarah and her young son, sixteen year-old Archie and her nine year-old grandson, John Preston Sutphin.

Her second child, Eliza, was an early victim of a stalker, Andrew LeGrande Collier. Andrew was a son of Shadrick Collier and Lucy Bobbitt and was born December 9th, 1825. He apparently lived somewhere other than Carroll for a good portion of his adult life because testimony given before the grand jury refers to his “coming to” and “leaving the area.” However, in 1865, he was living on the farm of the Sarah Collier, widow of his brother, Lorenzo Dow Collier, who had died in 1863.

Collier apparently developed a fixation on Eliza Sutphin, who would have been 29 years old in 1865. According to the grand jury testimony, he kidnapped and kept her for four months. Although the records are not specific in the dates, it was most likely during the war while her brother was away in the army. Some of the local men liberated and defended her which infuriated Collier and he threatened to kill several of them.

By any standards, Collier would appear to have been a volatile individual and more than a little unbalanced.

Eliza’s oldest brother, David, had joined the army and was killed in West Virginia in 1861. This left her protection to her younger brother, Floyd, who would have been 23 in 1865. His pension record states he served in Co. C. 24th VA Regiment and was wounded May 16th, 1864 in the battle at Drury's Bluff. He was hit by three Minie balls above the left elbow and was wounded in six other places. The damage to his arm was so extensive that his left arm was amputated at the shoulder joint.

When Floyd was in the hospital, Ibba received word that he was dying and she made her way from Carroll County to the hospital in Richmond to nurse him. His wounds had putrefied and maggots had hatched in them. Isabelle boiled Elderberry bark from a bush in the courthouse yard at Richmond as a disinfectant and treated him. Floyd was skin and bones when she carried him to a train to go home to Carroll to recover from his wounds.

Floyd recovered from his wounds and adjusted to life with one arm. The trouble with Collier came to a head in May of 1865 when Floyd was coming home from an errand and happened upon the half-crazed Collier at his mother’s house. The following testimony tells the story best;

Virginia: Carroll County, May 24th 1865

 

The following testimony taken before a jury of inquest held over the body of Andrew C. Collier;

Abigail Worrell, wife of Wm. Worrell, being first sworn sayeth that she was at the house of Ibba Sutphin, more than 12 months ago, said Andrew Collier was there, and appeared in an ill humor, was abusing Eliza Sutphin. Witness said to him that if Floyd Sutphin was at home he would not suffer him to behave so. He then said that he asked no man no odds, that if Floyd Sutphin was then coming to the house that he would meet him with his gun and revolver and would make him to kneel to him or he would put a bullet through him before she could snap her fingers. The witness heard Andrew Collier say, once Floyd Sutphin came home from the army, that he would shoot Floyd Sutphin if he did not let him alone and let him come there as he had done before.

Sarah Collier, having been sworn, sayeth that Andrew Collier was at her house last Monday two weeks ago and said that he intended to kill Eliza Sutphin before he left the county if he could, and he would kill Floyd Sutphin also if he did not suit him. And if he did not kill them before he left here, that he would go and get ten or twenty men and would take his revenge out of them and out of the neighborhood.

Rebecca Nester, having been sworn, sayeth that she heard Andrew Collier say that he intended to kill Eliza Sutphin and Floyd Sutphin at the risk of his life and if he did not kill them then that he would kill them when he came back again, unless they suffered him to come there and do as he pleased. And that he intended to kill Franklin Branscome and Zion Nester for protecting Eliza Sutphin. She further heard Andrew Collier say that he intended to stop them all up in the house and burn them all up. That he did not think anymore of Ibba Sutphin than he did of Floyd Sutphin. That he had as soon burn up one damned fool as another.

John Largen, having been sworn, sayeth that he passed Sally Collier’s last Saturday was two weeks ago, and Andrew Collier called to him to stop and come down to the road and talked to him some half an hour. And said that someone had stolen his mule and he believed that Franklin Branscome had stolen it and that Eliza Sutphin was the cause of it; that he intended to kill Eliza Sutphin and Floyd Sutphin and Franklin Branscome also. He said that Eliza Sutphin had sworn a lie against him and that he intended to kill her for it. The witness further says that he heard Andrew Collier say at different times; that he intended to kill Eliza Sutphin and Floyd Sutphin; that he would have killed Floyd Sutphin long ago, if it was not that he had been a good soldier and for the condition he was in. Witness further says that Henry Waugh told him that Andrew Collier had killed seven women where they came from, said Henry Waugh came here with Collier as a comrade of his and that he believes that Andrew Collier told him the same thing. And said he intended to kill Eliza Sutphin if she did not let him do as he pleased. Waugh and Andrew Collier both told him that Collier and Joshua Amos came across Eliza Sutphin out from the house and threatened her with violence and that she screamed and hollered until said Henry Waugh went to her assistance and made them let her alone.

Mrs. Louisa Cock, having been sworn says that Andrew Collier was at her house last Saturday two weeks ago and stayed more than half the day; that his whole conversation was about Eliza Sutphin and the family. And said that her mother, Ibba Sutphin and Floyd Sutphin were persuading her against him and said if it was not for them he could have his way more than he did and said he’d be damned if he’d not kill her protectors.

Hetty Nester, having been sworn, says that Andrew Collier came to her house last fall with his pistol in his hand hunting for Eliza Sutphin and said that he intended to kill her the first sight he got of her, that she saw him at different times, hunting for Eliza Sutphin and threatening to kill her; that Eliza Sutphin had left home to keep away from him.

James Nester, son of Abraham, having been sworn says that Andrew Collier was at his house last Saturday evening hunting for Eliza Sutphin and said that he had talked to Floyd Sutphin, and that he intended to talk to him again. That Floyd should let his business alone and not interfere with it. He left his house about sunset and seemed to be angry and was somewhat intoxicated and was going to Ibba Sutphin’s.

Lucy Sutphin a witness having been sworn says that Andrew Collier came to her house on last Saturday evening, before he went to Ibba Sutphin’s house, that he had his gun cocked and said that he intended to kill Eliza Sutphin and Floyd Sutphin, said that he had come to have revenge, and he intended to have it before he went back. He went back from her house to Ibba Sutphin’s, a distance of about 300 yards. This was near an hour before sunset.

She says she was at Ibba Sutphin’s after sunset and Andrew Collier came there again from James Nester’s. Came to the house in a run and gathered all Eliza Sutphin’s clothing and piled them in a pile in the floor and swore that he would burn them right there. Sarah Sutphin cried and begged him not to burn them there and he took them up and said he would burn them out on the hill.

He stopped in the yard with the clothes and had his gun in his hand and said he had either thirteen or fifteen balls in his gun and that he intended to empty them all into Eliza Sutphin before sunrise next morning. That he would kill her protector, Floyd Sutphin, the next day. And he would kill Martin Worrell and Worrell’s father-in-law also.

He started from the yard about dark and met Floyd Sutphin about fifty yards from the house and halted him three times. The witness went to them and Collier had his gun cocked. Witness and Sarah Sutphin went to them to try to get Eliza Sutphin’s clothes. Floyd asked them if Collier had Eliza Sutphin’s clothes and pulled out his pistol to shoot him. Collier knocked Floyd Sutphin’s arm so the ball did not hit him. Witness and Sarah Sutphin helped to take the gun from Collier and laid it away. Collier and Floyd were engaged in a fight and witness and Sarah Sutphin took Floyd Sutphin’s pistol away also.

Collier had Floyd Sutphin down and he called to his sister Sarah Sutphin to help him. She pulled Collier away so that Floyd Sutphin got out from under him and called for the hoe or ax. A small boy, John Preston Sutphin, brought the hoe from the house. The witness met the boy and took the hoe and gave it to Floyd Sutphin and he struck Andrew Collier a great number of licks with the hoe and killed him just about dark. No other person struck him a blow but Floyd Sutphin.

Witness states that Andrew Collier’s general behavior at Ibba Sutphin’s house was very bad. That he threatened to take their lives on different occasions. That she saw him take fire out and threaten to burn the house and that Sarah Sutphin cried and begged him so that he did not burn it.

Sarah Sutphin, having been sworn, says that she was present and that the evidence given by Lucy R. Sutphin is true. That she knows the same facts. That Andrew Collier came to her mother’s house before Floyd came home from the army and took out fire and threatened to burn the house and drew out his Bowie knife and swore if we did not tell him where Eliza Sutphin was that he would kill her and the last damned one us. And after that, when Floyd was at home wounded, not able to help himself, Collier came there and drew his pistol and cocked it and threatened to kill him. He also threatened to kill Eliza Sutphin because she refused to go off with him. And took her away from home by force and kept her away about four months. He had a man with him by the name of Joseph Gibson. That he shot at Eliza Sutphin in the yard at one time and then called her to the woods where he was and threatened to kill her. That about three weeks ago he hemmed her in the house and told her he intended to kill her. They all heard her scream and run to the house from the field and rescued her.

Eliza Sutphin, having been sworn, says that on Saturday evening last, she heard that Andrew Collier was at Lucy Sutphin’s house about 300 yards from her mother’s. She was afraid of him and left home and that she saw nothing of the fight or of the killing of him, Andrew Collier. Said Collier was in the habit of coming to her mother’s house and behaving very badly and that on one occasion he shot at her at Eliza Webb’s house and just nipped her head and powder burned her face. That she believes he would have killed her if she had not have dodged. She got Lina Hall to pick the powder out of her face. That he took her away by force from her mother’s house and whipped and mistreated her threatened to kill her while she was away.

 

Summary

I don’t find that Floyd Sutphin was ever prosecuted for the killing of Collier. It is also worth noting that in all probability, Floyd did not act alone in killing Collier… if he killed him at all. Remember that Floyd only had one arm. A hoe is a clumsy weapon for a one-armed man.

Also, consider for a moment, Floyd was down, presumably with Collier on him and he called for his sister to pull him off. At that point, according to the testimony, he or she called for the ax or the hoe and Eliza’s young son went to get it. One would ask, what was Collier doing in the time it took young John Preston Sutphin to bring it? Also, how probable is it that 19-year-old Sarah Sutphin could pull Collier off her brother?

More likely, she, Lucy or someone else hit him in the head and incapacitated him long enough for Floyd to kill him with the hoe… if he wielded the weapon at all. I would guess that the guns had been lost in the dark or else Sutphin would most likely have used one.

I strongly suspect that the killer of Andrew Collier was actually Isabelle’s sixteen-year-old son, Archie who was not named in any of the testimony.

I think it’s pretty clear that someone was being protected by the testimony and that the county officials knew it and didn’t press the issue. Also, by any standards, it was a case of justifiable homicide, regardless of who did it.

Floyd Sutphin later moved to Pulaski and married Martha White. In the 1870’s he was arrested for moonshining, but since Virginia revered her Confederate Veterans, his case never went to trial. He was granted a CSA pension in 1886 and died in the Soldier’s Home in Pulaski in 1905.

Isabelle Sutphin moved to Beckley, WV with her family about 1875 and she died there on April 24th 1899. Her daughter, the beleaguered Eliza, died there August 4th, 1905.

Andrew Collier was buried on the farm of his widowed sister-in-law, Sarah (Cock) Collier and was likely mourned by few in the county.