On the Death of Charles Lynch III

By Herman E. Melton

The Packet is reprinting, in its entirety, an article that appeared in the April 12, 1874 issue of the Lynchburg News which was quoting an account of the death of Charles Henry Lynch, the grandson of Col. Charles Lynch whose home was just across the Staunton River near present day Altavista in Campbell County. It is interesting to note the prevailing public view of the sometime controversial Col. Lynch upon his death of his grandson in 1874….


Mr. Charles Henry Lynch, whose death was announced yesterday, was the grandson of Charles Lynch, the originator of “Lynch Law,” and owned and resided at the house of the latter which he inherited. The venerable tree is still standing in the yard on which the “victims of Judge Lynch” were accustomed to receive their punishment. The following on the subject we find copied with the death of the last bearer of the name of this family, so conspicuous in the foundation and early history of Lynchburg:

The family of John Lynch, Col. Charles Lynch and the other Lynches of that family, took on a tract of land on James River within view of the Peaks of Otter, and the mountainous scenery. After his decease, the tract of land, now the site of Lynchburg, became the property of his son, John Lynch, who established the ferry over James River. It was his brother, Charles Lynch, who originated and enacted practically, the celebrated case “Lynch Law.” Col. Charles Lynch was an officer in the army of the American Revolution. His residence was on Staunton River, a branch of the old Roanoke that “ran through my plantation” as John Randolph was in the habit of speechifying. It is now owned by his grandson. During the Revolutionary War, the country on James River and on the Roanoke about the Blue Ridge and mountain passes was harassed by a lawless band of Tories and desperadoes, and their depredations at one time extended into the region round about Lynchburg. The case required a species of operation adapted to cure the evil. Col. Lynch was a resolute determined man of elevated patriotic principles and a staunch Whig, as were all the Lynch family. He organized and took the lead of a strong body of determined patriots — men of moral character and commanding infection and scoured the country night and day. They took many of the desparadoes, gave them a summary trial, at which Col. Lynch sat as judge; impaneled a jury, and, on conviction, executed the punishment in a proper manner. The villainous were permitted to defend themselves, and to show mitigating circumstances, and when punished to clean out. Many well meaning persons are frightened at the name of Lynch Law, without knowing its history, code or appliance. It is a better torch and has a more orderly and civilized impact than Squatter Sovereignty. It required proof positive and circumstantial, such as would produce conviction of guilt in a candid and honest mind. Col. Lynch raised a regiment of riflemen after he had officiated as judge, in relieving the country from Tories, thieves and murderers. He was present at the Battle of Guilford Courthouses, where he behaved with great gallantry. He died soon after the war. Charles Lynch Esq., afterwards Governor of Mississippi, was his son.


Editor's Note: The reader will observe that in this news article, no mention was made of any Tory or brigand having been hanged on the tree in the yard which was mentioned as still standing. Incidentally, a portion of the trunk of this famous tree remains today in the yard at “Avoca,” a latter day splendid Victorian house, built on the site of the original Charles Lynch home. It is open for tours at specified hours. In any case, the tradition is reinforced that Lynch was no “hanging Judge.” Moreover, it is argued that he was of the Quaker persuasion and therefore opposed to the death penalty on religious grounds. For additional clarifications, The Packet recommends a tour of “Avoca.” The marvelous restoration job that has been performed by members of the Avoca Museums and Historical Society makes a visit there worthwhile to any member who happens to be in the region.


Notes


Books by Herman Melton

(Available from the sponsor.)

Pittsylvania's Eighteenth-Century Grist Mills

Pittsylvania's Eighteenth-Century Grist Mills

Pittsylvania's Nineteenth-Century Grist Mills

Pittsylvania's Nineteenth-Century Grist Mills

Thirty-Nine Lashes, Well Laid On

Thirty-Nine Lashes, Well Laid On


Pittsylvania County's Historic Courthouse

Pittsylvania County's Historic Courthouse



Other Books Concerning Pittsylvania County History

(Available from the sponsor.)

History of Pittsylvania County, VA

Clement: History of Pittsylvania County

Pittsylvania: Homes and People of the Past

Fitzgerald: Pittsylvania: Homes and People of the Past

Eighteenth Century Landmarks of Pittsylvania County, VA

Hurt: Eighteenth Century Landmarks of Pittsylvania County


An Intimate History of the American Revolution in Pittsylvania County, Virginia

Hurt: An Intimate History of the American Revolution in Pittsylvania County

Footprints from the Old Survey Books

Dodson: Footprints from the Old Survey Books

Histories of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina (Dover)

Byrd: Histories of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina


Tales About People in a Small Town

Jones: Tales About People in a Small Town



Herman Melton's online articles are posted by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House as part of an effort to document Pittsylvania County, Chatham, and Danville, Virginia.