Peninsula Enterprise, September 20, 1884


reprinted from Tidewater Index.Moral -- MurderLaborers -- Fisheries

The Hon. J. M. Jeffries, Judge of the Circuit Court for this county, on Saturday awarded a writ of error to operate as a supersedeas in the case of Frank Burkman alias Burke, convicted of the murder of Captain Edward Melson. -- Burkman was convicted at the May term of the County Court of this county, of murder in the first degree and sentenced to be hanged on the 26th of this month. This will be the fifth trial he has had; three in the County Court of King George, in two of which he was convicted and in the other the jury was unable to agree upon a verdict, and two in this county. The history of this case presents in no commendable light the administration of justice in Virginia.


Tourists and sportsmen -- Other recreation - Horse racing

Mr. Fred Waddy in a card in our issue of to-day, says he is ready to match Morrill against Grey Morgan for a purse of $1,000.


Infrastructure -- Public : Churches

The new church at Woodberry will be dedicated on Sunday the 28th of September, 1884, by Rev. W. C. Vaden. An all day service will be held.


Infrastructure -- Commercial - Other stores

A book and stationery store has been opened at Onancock, by Mr. D. J. Titlow. The enterprise of the gentleman enables our people to secure at home many little articles of use and ornament, which they had to seek abroad heretofore. A perusal of his advertisement this week, will convince you that he proposes to make himself worthy of your patronage.


Watermen -- Personal injury

A son of Mr. J. Edward Johnson, aged about 12 years, was drowned near Powelton, last Sunday, from which place he was going in a bateau to his home in Upshur's Neck. The boat and his hat were found next day, and the presumption is, that in attempting to push the boat along shore, he mistook the depth of the water and falling overboard was drowned.


Sea -- Shellfish - Oystering : SeasideSea -- Shellfish - Oystering : Re-immersionTransportation -- Railroad - FreightTransportation -- Railroad - ConstructionInfrastructure -- Public - Government : Life-saving service


Mr. L. C. Lewis having sold his farm will soon occupy the Whealton dwelling on the wharf. He and Mr. Dishrou will establish an oyster fattening establishment in front of the latter's residence.

A representative of the New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk R. R., put in an appearance last week gathering statistics of the traffic to and from Chincoteague. We are informed that the agents report will settle the question of a branch line to connect by steamer with this place. We have no objection to the increased facilities for travel and transportation this new line will give us, but we are decidedly opposed to driving off the "Old Dominion" and placing us at the mercy of that giant corporation the "Pennsylvania R.R. Co." We can never hope for cheaper rates of travel and freight to and from New York than is at present offered us by the "Old Dominion Line" and our people should continue its patronage.

Captain Morgan, of the Treasury Department is assisting Capt. Babbitt in the inspection of repairs at the Life Saving Stations. They will soon be completed.


Transportation -- Railroad - ConstructionTransportation -- Railroad - Stations and sidings


A platform has been built on railroad opposite this place [Bloxom] for the convenience of shippers.


Sea -- Shellfish - Oystering : BaysideSea -- Shellfish - Oystering : PricesFields -- Livestock - Diseases and pestsAfrican-Americans -- Work - OtherInfrastructure -- Public : Churches

Marsh Market.

Owing to the clause in Maryland oyster laws prohibiting Virginia boats from carrying oysters to the Baltimore market, there has been a decline in the price in this community from five to ten cents in a bushel.

A horse of Mr. Wm. S. Smith, died of what is known as blind "staggers" in this community last Tuesday night, and a horse of Capt. Edward Thomas died of same disease on Sunday previous.

Walter Barker, a respectable old colored man and useful to the community as basket maker, and in other species of handicraft, died last Sunday night.

The committee of Sanford church, meet next Monday to adjust the indebtedness of the church and to take steps to raise funds to complete the edifice.

The Tangier Tragedy.

Moral -- Murder

The trial of Dr. James D. Pitts for the murder of Dr. Littleton T. Walter on the 17th of May last, came up for trial before Judge Booker in the County Court at Hampton, Wednesday September 10.

Dr. Pitts elected to be tried by this court and plead not guilty. The jury was easily obtained. The Commonwealth was represented by A. S. Segar, Esq., Commonwealth's Attorney for Hampton county, Hon. John Goode of Norfolk city, and W. P. M. Kellam, Esq., of Accomac; the following legal gentlemen appearing for the defense: Judge G. T. Garrison and Hon. John Neely, Accomac; Henry Page, Esq., Maryland; Thos. Tabb, Esq., and M. T. Hughes, Esq., Hampton.


At 4.30 o'clock, the first witness, Jno. Thomas, was called. He testified in substance as follows: Dr. Pitts boarded at my mother's house on Tangier Island.

Pitts called Walter in my mother's house, and Walter answered: "I will call when I come back; I am going about one hundred yards;" Pitts said, "Come in now," Dr. Walter then went around the house to go in; I then went down the hill to get water; when I came back Walter was lying on the ground nearly dead and Pitts was feeling his pulse; Pitts and myself then took him in Pitts' room; the prisoner then gave me four empty cartridges and one loaded one.

John M. Parks testified: I live about fifty yards from the scene of the murder and heard two pistol shots while I was cutting wood in my yard; I also heard a scream; when I first looked I saw Dr. Walter trying to get out of the window, but did not do so; he then came out of the door and fell; Pitts came to me and said he and Walter had had a scrimmage; Pitts said that Walter struck him and he shot him.

Rev. S. C. Baker testified that he had made a diagram of the place at the request of Mr. Kellam, Commonwealth's Attorney at Accomac. The diagram was accepted and explained to the jury. The diagram showed the location of the rooms in the house where the murder was committed and the location of the blood stains in Pitts' room.

John T. Parks testified that he met Pitts coming from the house (Mrs. Caroline Thomas'); I said, Mr. Pitts what's the matter? he said, I have shot Walter; shot four bullets in him, and he is lying dead; go there and wash the blood off his face before his wife sees him.


Rev. C. S. Baker was recalled and cross-examined: There was a diploma on the wall with a hole near the lower part of it, as if it was made by a bullet, and also in the wall back of the diploma. The Eastern Virginian was handed him for him to examine the article referred to on the day before, he did so, and stated it was in substance an article written by him; witness demanded that an article which appeared in the Baltimore Sun be read to the jury, as well as the one in question; the witness was asked by Mr. Neely to answer a question "as an honest man, and a minister of the gospel;" the witness asked to be treated as a gentleman; Mr. Neely stated that he had treated him so.

Question asked, what prisoner said to him after his arrest; objected to by Mr. Goode; urged by defence. Witness stated to Judge that the prisoner stated he was sorry; would rather be in Walter's place than his own, because Bible said no murderer could get to Heaven; also stated that it was an old trouble between himself and Walter, and they had met the night before, and that he killed him in self-defence; Walter had knocked him down; didn't know whether he struck him again or not, but he (Pitts) fell across the bed, and as he arose he shot Walter three or four time; it was done in self-defence.

He was requested by Walter's brother to write the article in the paper. He had told the witnesses to tell the truth, had never coaxed them or influenced them in regard to what they should say; he was not prejudiced against the prisoner; the prisoner had always treated him politely.

Capt. W. H. Jacobs. -- Had known Dr. Walter since a boy; should suppose Dr. Walter would have weighed 140 or 150 pounds; saw him some few weeks before he was killed; didn't seem to have recovered from his sickness. Walter appeared to be a weak man.

Mrs. Caroline Thomas. -- Dr. Pitts asked me and I took him as a boarder; was in the kitchen on the day of shooting; heard a fuss and ran out of the kitchen, saw through the window Walter coming out of the door with one hand holding door and the other holding his mouth which was bleeding; did not see him afterward; Pitts came to me for a pillow to put under Dr. Walter's head; heard only two pistol shots; the fuss sounded like they were tearing up everything in the room; heard the pistol shots first then the fuss.

Miss Emeline Thomas -- Was home sick on the day of shooting; occupied a room adjoining Pitts' room; she heard the two doctors talking, but not what they said; heard two pistol shots, then Pitts came into my room and told me not to be afraid. I should not be hurt.

Eliza Crockett -- Met Pitts that evening before his arrest; he said he had killed Walter, wanted me to take him to Onancock, he said he wanted to give himself up.


Doctors Finney and Scarburgh gave the medical testimony as to the wounds -- four -- two of them necessarily fatal.

L. V. Parks testified to seeing the prisoner near the home of Walter late on the night before the shooting.

Willie Parks told of Pitts' trying to trade pistols with him and buying cartridges shortly before the murder.

Carey Crockett was in Pitts' office three weeks before when Pitts said Walter would not have all the practice long.

James Striggan was with Pitts when he stated he intended killing Walter at first sight and two others in short time.


John Fox was the first witness for defense. He testified: that he knew the prisoner and deceased; last time I saw them was the evening before the shooting, at 5 o'clock; Dr. Walter said, Dr Pitts, I want to see you; Pitts answered, I want to see you, too, Doctor; Mrs. Thomas says you (Walter) has agreed to visit her for 50 cents per visit, and if you did it was an underhand business; Walter said it is not so; I told her in this way; that she owed me a great deal of money, and hereafter I would attend her for 50 cents per visit and put it $1.50 on my book; and that he thought of drawing up a contract that day as to what should be charged, then thought I had best see you before I did so; we should charge $1.50 cash and $2 credit; Pitts studied over it and said, I don't know how that will work, but come to my office this afternoon and will arrange matters; Walter said, I don't know that I can come this evening, but will come in the morning if I can; witness was with both doctors again that night, which was the night before the shooting, and Walter said, I will try and come over in the morning; they were perfectly friendly; was going to Walter's the next day; met Pitts, who said, Come, go back with me, Walter is dead; I am afraid of consequences; witness went back with him and Pitts stated as follows: Walter came to his room; he (Pitts) was sitting down in chair and Walter on bed; Walter said, Doctor, Mrs. Thomas says she did not send for you to come to see her, and it was a very ungentlemanly thing your going in my absence, Pitts said: I know she did send for me, and it was a very ungentlemanly thing in your going when I had a patient in my charge; Walter called him a d__d liar and knocked him out of the chair, and grabbed him, and as he continued to kick him and strike him, he, Pitts, shot at him some three or four times, stopping when Walter left him alone; this was ten or fifteen minutes after the homicide; Pitts had large lump under one eye, like from a lick; no such mark was on his face the evening before.

John Chambers -- Last time he saw Dr. Pitts was on the evening after the murder, Dr. Pitts said that Dr. Walter was passing and he called him in and they got in a dispute, and that Walter struck him and kicked him; he then shot three or four times; noticed a raised knot on Pitts' face when he met him after the homicide.


Dr. Frank West of a Baltimore hospital knew Pitts when a student in Baltimore; was very popular; Pitts came to the hospital in April last to be treated for morphine habit; stayed there two weeks, was very weak and in bad mental condition when he left, but perfectly sane. Severn Parks heard Rev. C. S. Baker say he believed Pitts guilty of the murder, and would do anything he could to break his neck.

Dr. J. F. Boutelle testified as to the effect of such wounds as the one near the heart of Dr. Walter; did not think a man could strike a heavy blow after receiving such a wound.

Dr. Finney said if a man could walk thirty feet after receiving such a wound, he might have been able to strike a blow.

Dr. Spencer Pitts, brother of the prisoner, testified he noticed a bad bruise on his brother's face, which remained there two weeks.

Mr. Neely read Rev. Mr. Baker's article in July issue of the Eastern Virginian

Mr. Goode read an article from the Baltimore Sun, to which Baker's was a reply.

Commonwealth called Rev. C. S. Baker, who denied the statement made by S. Parks, and told what he did say. -- Whatever he could do truthfully and rightly he would do to break Pitt's neck. Captain Connorton said there was a slight bruise under prisoner's eye when he arrested him. John T. Parks noticed a raised place under prisoner's eye.

Smith Walter was called, and stated that he was present when Fox made a statement in Kellam's office; Fox said at that time that Pitts struck at Walter first; didn't hit him, Walter knocked him down, and fell on his left arm and knee, he shot him from that position.

Henry Page, James and Upshur Dennis testified as to the discoloration of the eye of Pitts.

Mr. Neely stated that he prepared the article which appeared in the Sun.

After argument by the attorney's the case was given to the jury last Monday, who in a few hours found the verdict guilty of murder in the second degree and his punishment was fixed by them at 18 years in the penitentiary. A motion is now pending to have the verdict set aside as contrary to the law and evidence and on the ground also, that the jury separated during the trial. Eight of the jurors it is said at first were for murder in first degree.

Reply to Voter on Court-House.

Architecture -- Courthouses

Leemont, Va., Sept. 10, 1884.

MR. EDITOR: -- In your issue of September 6th, I see a communication from "a voter" concerning a bill passed by the Senate of Virginia, authorizing an election in the county of Accomac, "on the location of a new court-house" and I am forced to the conclusion that "a voter" is not entitled to a vote thro' long absence, or else he has been paying so little attention to the affairs of the county in which he claims to be a voter, that he can't vote intelligently. Now, Mr. Editor, many readers of your valuable paper would like to know why "a voter" should remain quiet until now after the court-house question has been before the people so long, after our county Fathers have decided to build a court-house, after they had appointed a court-house committee, have advertised for plans and specifications for the new buildings, after said committee have made their report on the plans from the different architects, after the Supervisors have advertised for bidders to build the court-house and the day appointed for giving out the contract and was prevented from doing so only by the people's petitions and their wishes to serve the people, and not raise a dissenting voice? "A voter" seems oblivious to the fact, that the people have long clamored for a new court-house, and that their petitions have been, not to decide whether the old one is good enough or not, but to have the privilege of saying where to build a new one. "A voter" would have it appear that the Supervisors have forced this matter upon the people, when it is well known that the wishes of the people have been far in advance of the action of the Supervisors. Does "a voter" have an idea that the people of Accomac thought to build a court-house without contribution towards it, or does he seek to enlighten them on this point when there is a possibility of the county seat being elsewhere than at Drummondtown? "A voter" thinks we should wait a few years to see whether our business men use the railroad to get to the court-house, as if that was the only consideration. In the first place, it is simply justice to all parts of the county that the court-house should be placed as near the centre as possible. In the next place it should be placed as near the central railroad station as possible, so that all classes of our citizens shall have a economical way to get to the county seat, without prohibiting anyone from using any mode of conveyance they may see fit; besides it would never be a fair test, as long as the court-house remains two miles from the railroad, although it is a significant fact that several passengers came down on the train court-day even with the prospect of walking four miles to get to and from the court-house, among the number being a distinguished gentleman from the upper part of the county, who has a number of horses but was thus enabled to leave his horse at home for work and save the wear of his carriage. Now if it be so as "a voter" says that local aggrandizement is the mainspring of the movement, may not this same mainspring guide and direct his movements in this matter, instead of the interest of the people?


Peninsula Enterprise
Accomac Court House
September 20, 1884