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Hillsville Remembered (Hardback)

Public Memory, Historical Silence, and Appalachia's Most Notorious Shootout

Imprint: University Press of Kentucky
Pages: 182
Illustrations: 5 b&w illustrations
ISBN: 9780813197227
Published: 11th April 2023
Casemate UK Academic

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"What did happen here there have been so many tales and outright lies told. It has been hard to see through the smoke to see the truth. Now memory, memory is like a loaded pistol it can turn again who's a-holdin' it." - J. Sidna Allen in Thunder in the Hills by Frank Levering


On March 14, 1912, Hillsville, Virginia, native Floyd Allen (1856–1913) was convicted of three criminal charges: assault, maiming, and the rescue of prisoners in custody. What had begun as a scuffle between Allen's nephews over a young woman ended with him being charged as the guilty party after he allegedly hit a deputy in the head with a pistol. When the jury returned with the verdict, Allen stood up and announced, "Gentleman, I ain't a-goin." A gunfight ensued in the crowded courtroom which claimed the lives of the judge, prosecuting attorney, sheriff, a juror, and a witness, and wounded seven other people. The men of the Allen family fled the scene, but detectives from the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency apprehended the men two months later. The state of Virginia put Floyd and Claude Allen to death by electrocution the following spring.


Within days of the shootout, local and national media sensationalized the event, maligning the Allen men as rough, uncouth residents of impoverished Appalachia. More than a century later, the "Hillsville Massacre" - as it was dubbed - continues to impact the citizens and communities of the area as local newspapers recirculate the sordid story and give credence to annual public reenactments that continue to negatively impact the national perception of the region.


Hillsville Remembered: Public Memory, Historical Silence, and Appalachia's Most Notorious Shootout is the first book-length scholarly review of the Hillsville Massacre. This comprehensive study examines a variety of sources written about and inspired by the event and casts light on how the incident helped reinforce the nation's conception of the region through depictions of this sensational moment in history. Author Travis A. Rountree uses rhetorical analyses to trace and reflect on the texts and contexts surrounding the events that have been reported, preserved, interpreted, and reinterpreted with different voices in various formats. In all, this book provides an extensive analysis of the Hillsville Massacre and reveals new understandings of the production of memories and stories that evolved from the event.

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