Public Memory, Historical Silence, and Appalachia's Most Notorious Shoot-Out
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 04/11/2023
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 that killed five people and wounded seven others. The state of Virginia put Floyd and Claude Allen to death by electrocution the following spring. More than a century later, the event 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.
In this first book-length scholarly review of the Hillsville shoot-out, author Travis A. Rountree examines various media written about and inspired by the event and explains how the incident reinforced the nation's conception of Appalachia through depictions of this sensational moment in history. In all, this book provides an extensive analysis of this historic conflict and reveals a new understanding of the shaping of memories and stories from the event.
1. 'The Many Untruths': Newspaper Accounts of the Hillsville Shoot-Out
2. Performing Hillsville: Rhetorical Discourse on the Allen Ballads
3. Performing Hillsville: A Rhetorical Update of Frank Levering's Shoot-Out Plays
4. 'Feelings Are Still Very Strong': Sites of Public Memory in Hillsville, Virginia
5. 'I Wish You Had Not Thought to Come Here': Feminine Silences, Pleas, and Community Rhetorics from the 1912 Hillsville, Virginia Courthouse Shoot-Out
6. Conclusion: Hillsville Remembered
Rountree has written a timely, nuanced consideration of how we remember and pass on our histories. This book may focus on the Hillsville courthouse shoot-out, but its examination is relevant to any event that makes its way into the cultural imagination. Rountree makes the case that history shapes us, not just because of what happens but because of how those stories get told—and why we tell them the ways that we do.~Amanda Hayes, Associate Professor of English, Kent State University at Tuscarawas
Until now, serious academic research on the notorious Hillsville shoot-out of 1912 has been sparse. Rountree's work makes an important, worthwhile contribution to the field of Appalachian studies by separating and compartmentalizing the competing, and often contradictory, rhetoric(s) of remembering. Fiercely argued and brilliantly crafted, this book is a must for those interested in rhetoric's connection to Appalachian history.~Todd D. Snyder, author of The Rhetoric of Appalachian Identity and 12 Rounds in Lo's Gym: Boxing and Manhood in Appalachia
In Hillsville Remembered, Travis A. Rountree examines the public memory of the 'Hillsville Massacre,' a gun battle that left five dead in a courtroom in Carroll County, Virginia, in 1912. Sparked by local politics and personal rivalries, the shoot-out briefly became a national sensation, with newspapers treating the killings as evidence of the supposed backwardness of rural white communities in southern Appalachia. Rountree analyzes multiple representations of the event, from folk ballads to contemporary museum exhibits and a remarkable community play performed in the courtroom where the shootings took place. In vivid detail, he shows how both locals and outsiders have engaged with images of Appalachian violence. These acts of memory have often amplified debilitating stereotypes of the region from the era when Americans first defined Appalachia as Other. Yet, as Rountree demonstrates, when remembering is rooted in community experience, these performances also hold the promise of transcendence and healing.~Andrew Denson, author of Monuments to Absence: Cherokee Removal and the Contest over Southern Memory