Papaw Scott tried to warn me. He said, “if you keep poking around up the family tree, you might find something you don’t want to know.” Which, can I be honest? It just made me poke around all the more.
And a few years ago I became acquainted with a story I had never heard. One that was filled with intrigue, sibling rivalry, and even a murder. Want to hear it?
The year was 1883. The place was the greater Fairview area in Scott County, Virginia. It was a time when people made a living farming the land. A relative by the name of William A. Scott (who is a first cousin, about four times removed), was growing corn on some land he had rented from some neighbors. The land was not easy to get to without crossing his sister’s place, so he had determined that as he harvested his corn he would haul it across the field belonging to his sister Amanda C. Scott Robinette, wife of Connolly Fields Robinett. Mr Robinett was about 19 years of age at the time, and Mr. Scott was about 35. The two families had been arguing. The Robinett family did not want Scott crossing their land and had threatened him within an inch of his life if he did. But being the older brother, and feeling somehow entitled to cross this field, Scott set out to do it in defiance of his sister’s family’s expressed wishes.
In the morning as Scott set out to gather his corn, with Robinett’s brother working for him that day, he noticed Connolly Robinett going up the road to the store, so he took that as a sign he could go on across, lowered the fence rails and headed towards the corn field. This raised the ire of his sister Amanda, who spotting him doing this deed, sent her little boy after his pa. By the time Robinett got back, Scott had changed plans and gone to another part of the Robinett land to cross to his field. This incensed his sister and her husband. Mr Robinett immediately meets Scott and begins a fight. Mrs Scott soon joins the melee and hits her brother on the head with a sharp edged rock. The two men continue fighting. All of a sudden, Scott claims he’s been stabbed. The fight ends and Scott sits on a nearby log where he soon afterwards dies of a wound to his heart.
Ira Robinett, a neighbor, comes to the scene and finds a pair of scissors on the ground, picks them up and places them on the fence, not thinking that this could be the murder weapon. After the excitement dies down, Connolly Robinett owns up to stabbing Scott. He is indicted by the grand jury for the murder in the January term of the court in 1884. He gets bailed out of jail and leaves the state. Later he is declared a fugitive from justice. Under this allegation, another decree is issued dissolving the marriage of Amanda Robinett from her husband, in 1888. She married Harry Daugherty one month after the divorce decree is ordered.
This would be a simple story except for one fact. Connolly Robinett isn’t the murderer. Amanda C. Scott later shoots the wife of one of her lovers and gets sent to prison. Depositions are taken by several of the neighbors at the time of the murder. They explain the known violent threats that were being made toward Scott by his sister before the day of his death. It is concluded that Connolly Robinett did not carry a knife, as he was known to lose them, so he didn’t carry one. The scissors would have come from the hands of Mrs Robinett who had been doing her housework inside the house. She killed her brother in anger.
Connolly Robinett was known to use aliases. He was also known as Connolly Fields. And when he moved to Missouri, it is thought he lived under the name Henry Roller for a while. He became prosperous out west. His ex wife served time in prison for shooting the wife of her lover, and upon her release died a short time later of consumption and was never arraigned for the murder of her brother. But in 1909 Connolly Robinett, aka Connolly Fields was restored by order of the governor of the commonwealth of Virginia, the Honorable J. Hoge Taylor.
In his memoirs, my Great Grandfather, James P. Scott made reference to his ancestor, Margaret Ingram Speer. He said of her Ingram lineage “where there’s a drop of Ingram blood, there’s a streak of hell-fire.” I never knew what that meant until I read of the restless behavior of Uncle John Scott’s children, Amanda and William. And it explains behavior in some of the rest of us as well. At least partly.
Source: Scott County, Virginia Chancery Court Records; compilations of materials from Ancestry.com