Man & Dog Shot By Jilted Admirer

This story is of personal significance to me because George Shackelford was my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side of the family.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started working on my family tree that I even knew his name, let alone the fact that he’d been killed in front of his wife and daughter.

The biggest frustration in writing this entry is that no one knows for sure where George was buried. It’s possible that he rests somewhere in Henry County on his former property, which has no doubt changed hands by now.

In many cases spouses are buried within close proximity, but sometime after George’s death Mary moved to the Richmond area. A death certificate indicates that she died there in 1923 and was interred in Spray, North Carolina.

However, if you’re interested in Shackelford family genealogy I’ve compiled a few basic details.

George was born in Henry County to John and Mary (“Molly”) Hutcherson Shackelford in 1861. He was the second and last child in the family, as John died in 1863 at age 25.

In January 1889 George married Mary Ann Barker in King William County, Virginia. The couple lived in Henry County near Ridgeway and had a total of five children: Charlie (b. 1890), Janie (b. 1892), John (b. 1894), Elizabeth (b. 1897), and David (1900-1902). George was a merchant and farmer.

Everything else I know about my great-great grandfather comes from articles related to his death. The daughter that the killer, Elijah Sams, was interested in was Betty. (Janie was already married at the time and a personal account from another Shackelford descendant indicated the same.)

shackelford The Union Republican (Winston-Salem) 2 Sept 1915
The Union Republican (Winston-Salem) 2 Sept 1915


Similar information was printed in The Henry Bulletin on August 27, 1915:

Elijah Samms in Jealous rage kills George Shackelford near Ridgeway, Sunday.  Mrs. Shackelford and her daughter were the only witnesses to the tragedy.  Shackelford, who was a man of advanced age, lived with his wife and daughter at a small farm house on the Morgan Ford Road, and Samms, a young man of twenty one, lived nearby.  The young man had for a year or more been paying attention to the daughter of the murdered man, but recently had been denied admission to the home.  In a drunken rage, and after having an argument with Mr. Shackelford, Samms went home and got his shotgun and returned, and killed Mr. Shackelford as well as his dog.

From The Danbury Reporter, September 10, 1915:

Elijah Sams, the young white man who has been in hiding for the past ten days, since shooting (of) George Shackleford near Stoneville last Saturday a week, surrendered to the officers here this morning. He was given a hearing before  Squire Brimm here this afternoon and bound over to the next term of the Henry county court at Martinsville, under a $5,000 bond. The shooting occurred at Shackleford’s home not far from the North Carolina line Saturday, August 21. Sams, a young man about 21 years old, who lived near the Shacklelford home, had [text missing] behind an out-building and sh0t him in his leg, from the effects of which he bled to death in a few minutes. Further testimony was to the effect that he stood over the body of Shackleford and forbade his wife and daughter to touch him. Sams claims that he only threatened to go home and get his gun to kill the dog. [illegible]

Sams had the reputation of being a steady young man of good habits until he began to drink liquor some time ago and since hat time he has been causing trouble. He is said to have been drinking on the day that the shooting took place. [More illegible text.]

So did Elijah serve any jail time for shooting George AND his dog?

I couldn’t find the results of the trial so I dug around for information on the shooter beyond 1915. In the 1920 Census there is an Elijah Sams fitting the demographics living with his parents on Trent Schoolhouse Road in Henry County.

If this is the same Elijah that shot George Shackelford either he was acquitted or served fewer than five years for the killing, which brings up even more questions about what happened on the day of the fatal confrontation.

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