Local author and historian Tom Perry recently released his most recent book, “The Strange Case of Not Adams: Arson, Power, and Politics in Civil War Era Patrick County Virginia.”
Published in July as part of his Patrick County Virginia History Series, Perry tells the story history of Notley Price Adams, who was accused of arson in Meadows of Dan in April 1859.
Perry said Adams was accused of burning down the house of Jefferson T. Lawson, who lived near the Patrick and Floyd county line.
“He went through four trials. He was convicted, he was hung juried, it was just all kinds of crazy stuff,” Perry said.
Adams, who was litigious, was not well-liked by many in the county, Perry said. Because of this and the desire to have a fair trial, two of his cases were tried in Patrick County and the other two were in Henry County.
“He made everybody mad because he would sue and be in court. I was sure the judges were getting sick of seeing him. They moved it (trial) because they didn’t know if he could get a fair trial. I still don’t know if he got a fair trial,” he said, laughing.
During the trials, Perry said several county residents were asked to give depositions.
“Just about everybody who was in Patrick County who was anybody got deposed in this court case. Half the county was for him, and the other half was kind of against him,” he said.
Perry said Adams was eventually convicted and sent to a penitentiary in Richmond in Sept. 1863.
He was pardoned three months later on Dec. 23, 1863, by Gov. John Letcher, who was a cousin of Civil War Gen. James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart.
“There were a bunch of petitions. I think Adams’ son-in-law was a lawyer and he petitioned because Adams’ health started to go down pretty quick,” he said.
After he returned home to Patrick County, Perry said Adams lived another 8-10 years, until he died of what was called ‘a deranged mind.’
“He comes home and starts showing up again in court cases in Patrick County,” he said.
Since Adams’ court woes were going on during the Civil War, Perry also discusses the war and other events going on in Patrick County during that time, using the diary of Rufus Woolwine, a Confederate soldier who was also deposed for the Adams trial.
“Half of the book is about Rufus and the war, and the other half is about the court case,” Perry said, adding that he got inspiration for the book while doing research on Stuart in the Special Collections Department of the Library of Virginia on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I noticed they had all this stuff about a guy named Notley Adams, and I went and said, ‘bring me all the stuff you got on Notley P. Adams.’ They came out with a stack of hundreds of papers,” he said.
Perry’s novel is available on Amazon as a paperback and an e-book for Kindle. His book is also available on his website, www.squareuip.com/store/laurel-hill-publishing-llc.
Copies of the book can be found at the Hatteras Pearl on Stuart’s Main Street, W&W Produce and Ice Cream on U.S. 58, and throughout Meadows of Dan area stores.