“Traverse B. Pinn’s Deposition” (March 6, 1871)


In this March 6, 1871, testimony in the U.S. House of Representatives, Traverse Pinn describes how he was harassed by members of the Conservative Party while canvassing for votes in rural African American communities for the upcoming U.S. House of Representatives and Senate elections on November 8, 1870. Henry Horatio Wells, the then ex-governor, and other Republican delegates to the Virginia State Convention tasked Pinn with canvassing in Haymarket in Prince William County and in Wolftown in Madison County. Elliot M. Braxton was a member of the Conservative Party, who was running to represent these areas at the time.


Traverse B. Pinn, having been duly sworn according to law, deposeth as follows:

Question. State you age and residence.—Answer. I am thirty-one years old, and reside in Alexandria.

Q. Did you canvass the seventh congressional district previous to the election held on the 8th of November; and if so, please state what part thereof, and if any violence or intimidation was offered to you.—A. I undertook to canvass a portion of the seventh district, embracing the counties of Madison, Prince William, and Alexandria; there was no direct violence, but I was intimidated by threats.

Q. Please state what those threats were.—A. On the twenty-second of October I was at Madison Court-House. We had a meeting in the school-house in the afternoon. After speeches by myself and Mr. Robinson, of that county, we gave notice that there would be meeting there the following Saturday. It was about sunset when we got through. As I passed the village to my lodging-place, I was met by three men, who said, “There goes that damned radical now, and if he does not look out for himself how he goes around here, he will be killed.” After hearing those threats I did not go back to the meeting that I had called at the same place on the Saturday following. I was notified through a gentleman, by the citizens of Wolftown, not to come there; that if I did I would not get away from there alive. I had proposed going there, but after hearing of the threats I concluded not to go.

(To this question and answer Mr. Elliot M. Braxton objects, as no notice of intimidation is given him in the notice of contest in Madison County.

To which objection Mr. Isaiah Fisher, attorney for Lewis McKenzie, replies that the notice of contest charges that in the counties of Fairfax, Fauquier, Orange, Culpeper, and other counties in said congressional district, force, fraud, intimidation, and threats of violence and death were resorted to.)

Q. You speak of threats being offered; by whom were they offered—were they by gentlemen representing the democratic, or conservative party?—A. They represented the conservative party. There was no democratic party in representation. The contest was between the republicans and conservatives.

Q. Where did these gentlemen reside who sent you these threats?—A. In Wolftown. I do not know where the three men lived who used intimidating language at Madison Court House; they were in the streets.

Q. Were there a good many republicans at Wolftown Precinct?—A. I did not go there, but was told that there was a good many there who desired to hear me; but after hearing of the threats I concluded not to go, as I wished to come home alive.

(Elliot M. Braxton objects to the foregoing answer so far as same brings out her-say testimony.)

Q. Were you present at any other republican meeting in the county of Madison?—A. I was.

Q. Please state if any violence or threats of violence was offered by any party at such meeting.—A. After finding that I could not hold a meeting in any of the villages, I called a meeting at a man’s house named Fry, near Barnett’s Ford, on the Rapidan River; and when I got there and after the people had met, he said that he was afraid to let us hold the meeting in his house, but that we could not go into the woods. We went there, and after building a fire, a party representing the Braxton party tried to “bullrag” us away by hisses, and throwing sticks, and doing the talking themselves. This was the last meeting I attended in the county.

— Page 33 —

Q. Did you canvass the county of Prince William at that election, or any part of it; and if so, state what part thereof.—A. I undertook to canvass the county of Prince William. I held onto meeting at Manassas and called a meeting at Haymarket.

Q. Were any threats of violence offered to you in Prince William, while trying to canvass said county?

(Objected to by Elliott M. Braxton, on the ground that no notice was served on him in the notice of contest regarding intimidation in Prince William County.)

A. There was at Haymarket.

Q. What were the nature of those threats?—A. I was standing on the porch of the house which formerly belonged to Tom Smith. A couple of gentlemen passed by, when one of them said that he supposed there as to be a radical meeting in town that night. The other remarked that he had heard so, but if there was they would meet with the same reception which greeted them in 1869, when I was there and held a meeting, and our lights were blown out and pistols fired.

Q. Do you know any other threats of violence, acts of violence, or intimidation offered by the political friends of Elliott M. Braxton against the political friends of Lewis McKenzie in said election? If so, please state what they were.—A. I do not know of any more, except one person in Madison County who was threatened with expulsion from church if he voted the republican ticket. They called him Jack.

Cross-examination by Elliot M. Braxton:

Q. How many days did you spend in the county of Madison in your canvass, before referred to?—A. I do not know exactly—six or eight, probably ten days backward and forward.

Q. Please state the names of the party or parties who communicated to you the threats sent to you from Wolftown. –A. I do not know; I did not ask his name.

Q. You will please state the names of the party or parties that you say threatened you at Madison Court-House.—A. I do not know the parties—it was in the night; I did not know where they lived, but know that there were three.

Q. Where did you reside when making your canvass in Madison?—A. Alexandria.

Q. Who were the candidates for Congress for this district at the election held in November last?—A. Lewis McKenzie and Elliot M. Braxton.

Q. Were you paid for making your canvass into Madison; and if so, by whom?—A. The state central committee paid my expenses,

And further this deponent saith not.

L. B. Pinn.

Sworn to and subscribed before me this the 6th day of March. A. D. 1871.

Paul R. Hambrick.

United States Commissioner.

APA Citation:
United States Congress. “Traverse B. Pinn’s Deposition” (March 6, 1871). (2023, August 14). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
United States Congress. "“Traverse B. Pinn’s Deposition” (March 6, 1871)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (14 Aug. 2023). Web. 21 May. 2024
Last updated: 2023, September 11
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