HILLSVILLE, Va. — Sidna Allen was a farmer, businessman and built arguably one of the grandest homes in Carroll County between 1910 and 1911. But he became a notorious outlaw when he and his family were involved in a shootout at the Carroll County Courthouse in 1912.
“I think it’s a great piece of architectural history,” said local historian Mark Harmon. “It’s a gem. It’s an architectural achievement.”
The beauty and history of this stately home is marred by tragedy. Floyd Allen, Sidna’s brother, was on trial for an altercation he had with local law enforcement. The jury found Floyd guilty, and he was sentenced to a year in prison.
“The clerk of court reached behind him and pulled out a pistol and was holding it behind him, and he winked at the sheriff, and Floyd saw it,” said Ron Hall, a local author. “That’s what made Floyd mad and he said, “Gentleman, I ain’t goin’.”
In an instant, the courtroom erupted in gunfire between members of the allen family and court officials.
“Several people claimed that Sidna Allen fired the first shot,” Hall said. “Sidna was wounded with a shot to the left arm, went into the back of his arm and just below his left rib and the bullet was never removed.”
Five people were killed that day, and amazingly Sidna and the rest of the Allens escaped with their lives.
“In two weeks they had caught most of them, except for two,” Hall said. “Sidna and his nephew Wesley Edwards wound up in Iowa, and they weren’t captured until September that year.”
By the time Sidna was brought to trial for his part in the shootout, things had calmed down which many believe saved him from a death sentence. He got 35 years, and by all accounts was a model prisoner.
“He found they had a woodworking shop, and he asked the warden if he could stay over and work in the woodwork shop, and so the warden let him do that,” said Shelby Inscore Puckett with the Carroll County Historical Society which has several pieces of Sidna’s woodwork on display. “The table around the corner he said was his masterpiece. It has 75,000 different pieces of wood in that particular one.”
Using every scrap of wood he could find, he stayed busy in prison. After serving 12 years of his 35 year sentence, he took his furniture on the road and charged people to see what he called the 8th wonder of the world.
“Instead of sitting around the prison and saying ‘woe is me, all these bad things have happened to me,’ he moved on and said ‘what can I do to help my family,'” Harmon siad. “He said ‘I’m going to make this furniture, I’m going to sell it, and I’m going to travel around places, and this is what I’m going to do. I got knocked down, but I’m going to get back up.”
Sidna was never able to enjoy the grand home he built. His family lost it after his conviction and the home fell into disrepair, but the Carroll County Historical society is working diligently to save it.
“The goal is to restore the house to make it look like it did in 1912,” Harmon said. “He wanted it to be special, and it was. That’s why it’s a one of a kind house.”
Sidna eventually settled in Rockingham County with his family where he spent the rest of his life. He died in 1941 and is buried in Reidsville.
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