Although Rachel Steer, John Lambag and Arthur White lived in three different centuries, they have at least one thing in common: At some point in their lives, each ran afoul of the law in Loudoun County.
Records of their offenses have been kept and catalogued by the historic records division of the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, which recently completed an index documenting more than 10,000 criminal cases from 1757 to 1955 — a project that took about eight years. Office staff members showcased some of the most interesting criminal records Oct. 7 at an open house in the historic courthouse in Leesburg.
Steer’s record is the oldest on file in the clerk’s office. In 1757, she was charged with being drunk on the Sabbath. In 1825, Lambag was sentenced to 10 days in jail for disrupting a baptism by throwing a dog into Tuscarora Creek. White became the first person in Loudoun to get a speeding ticket when he was fined $10 in 1913 for driving faster than 20 mph on the road between Aldie and Middleburg.
The crimes detailed in the court records run the gamut from the mundane to the macabre. Among the most commonplace were being drunk in public and selling drugs or alcohol without a license. Offenses such as running a tippling house, cursing in public or being an incorrigible child seem quaint and quirky by today’s standards.
In 1890, John Rice was found guilty of seducing Alice Rector under the promise of marriage. The charges were dropped when he followed through on his promise and married her. The next year, Joe Morgan was found guilty of leading an uncaged bear around Snickersville. He paid a $5 fine, plus $1 for court costs.
The clerk’s staff also showed documents from three of Loudoun’s most sensational murder trials — the cases of George Crawford, William Clatterbuck and Emily Lloyd.
Crawford was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for killing two Middleburg women in 1932.
“Charles Houston, who was [then] one of the civil rights leaders, represented him in Loudoun County,” historic records manager Eric Larson said. “And what’s also interesting about the case is that one of his law clerks was Thurgood Marshall.”
Clatterbuck, convicted of murdering the Love family and a field hand near Purcellville in 1943, was the last person to be executed for murder in Loudoun. He died in the electric chair the next year.
Historic records clerk Sarah Markel became fascinated by Lloyd’s case after reading about it in a book about crimes in Northern Virginia.
In the early 1870s, Lloyd was living in Leesburg with her husband and four children. The family was wealthy, and Lloyd was a respected member of the community — until members of her family began to die mysteriously, Markel said.
Lloyd’s husband died first, then an aunt who had raised her, followed by Lloyd’s two sons and, finally, her two daughters. After each death, townspeople became increasingly suspicious of Lloyd, Markel said. Eventually, the body of her youngest daughter, Maud, was exhumed, and a grain and a half of arsenic was found in her stomach. Emily was charged with Maud’s murder.
In her research, Markel found several documents about Lloyd’s case in the court records. An inventory of the estate of Charles Lloyd, Emily’s husband, showed he had died a fairly wealthy man. However, most of the inheritance went to his children rather than to Emily, giving her a motive for the murders, Markel said.
A mysterious figure in the case was Armistead Randolph Mott, a physician who also ran a drugstore. In a collection at the Thomas Balch Library, Markel found Mott’s daybook showing that he had sold arsenic to Lloyd and later visited her in jail.
“The thing that’s so crazy to me is that all of this is happening in Leesburg, [and] it’s happening within a block,” Markel said. Mott’s drugstore is now occupied by Payne’s Downtown Saloon, across King Street from the courthouse. Lloyd’s family lived in the shadow of the old jail on what is now Edwards Ferry Road, she said.
Markel speculates that Emily Lloyd may have killed her family members so she could collect her husband’s inheritance. However, the jury found otherwise. Emily was acquitted, and what happened to her after that remains a mystery, Markel said. The paper trail documenting her life in Leesburg ends there.
The criminal records index is available at loudoun.gov.