The rural mountain community of Fancy Gap will forever be known for two larger-than-life figures – the J. Sidna Allen House and Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer. Now those two local icons will be linked together even closer as Beamer recently made a $5,000 donation to the Carroll County Historical Society toward the renovation of the historic home.
“Coach Beamer called the Carroll County Historical Society recently and gave a $5,000 donation for the Sidna Allen House restoration. He said he would like to see the house restored,” said Carroll County Historical Society member Mark Harmon. “The Carroll County Historical Society was ecstatic, and we hope this will help increase awareness so maybe more donations will follow suit. We have received numerous donations from private citizens, but this is by far the largest donation and most public.”
Coach Beamer has a close connection to the Allen clan, notorious for the Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy of March 14, 1912 that left five people dead, including the judge, prosecutor, sheriff and a juror and witness. Beamer’s grandfather, Barnett Allen, was charged and acquitted in the incident, but the Commonwealth executed Beamer’s great uncle and a cousin because of the shootings, while other family members were sentenced to decades in prison. The fact such an incident occurred in a hall of justice made national headlines for the next month, being bumped off front pages only by the sinking of the Titanic.
Beamer’s mother, Herma Allen Beamer, was Barnett Allen’s daughter. She and Frank’s father, Raymond, both now deceased, were honored as special friends to the Carroll County Historical Society when the organization was chartered in the early 1980s.
“His grandfather was in the shootout. That is the connection,” said Harmon, noting that Beamer also grew up in Fancy Gap in close proximity to the Sidna Allen House. “He wrote a paper when he was an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech about the Allen tragedy.”
In an article by Roland Lazenby for The Roanoker magazine in 2010, Beamer opened up about the Allen tragedy. It was a source of contention in the Beamer household and a subject the family did not like to talk about. Coach Beamer, who is retiring as Virginia Tech’s head coach after 29 years after the Dec. 26 Independence Bowl, didn’t go into a lot of detail in the article. He did say, however, that the Allen’s side of the story was different than the stories that have been accepted widely by history. When asked about his position taken in the speech he wrote for his public speaking class at Virginia Tech as a student, Beamer told the following to Lazenby.
“The main thing I always knew is that there were two sides to the story,” Beamer said, before later acknowledging people from each side undoubtedly were accountable in the tragedy. “Certainly a bunch of people getting shot in the courthouse, that doesn’t need to happen, regardless of your side of the story.”
The Carroll County Historical Society took over ownership of the property from Mrs. Bonnie Widener Wood in December of 2014. Since that time, Harmon said the organization has had the property surveyed, set up connection to water in the home, patched the roof and patched holes outside of the house. The iconic house has also been treated for termites. The next step will be trying to restore the foundation of the house.
The foundation is settling significantly, which can casually be observed by just looking at the bow in the ridgeline of the roof. It is more dramatically observed inside the house with buckled floors, out-of-square door frames, cracking wall plaster, etc.
“That has to be done before we can progress with anything else,” Harmon said. “The estimate the architect had just for the foundation is $200,000. Right now we are awaiting work on our French drain to keep the water away from the house. The architectural firm is telling us our biggest problem is water is compromising the foundation, and termites. So we are still raising money to work on the foundation of the house.”
Harmon said the outside of the home has been cleaned up. Trees and bushes have been cut to help keep moisture away from the house. Additionally, he said the group has two years to destroy the concrete steps and bushes outside the house.
Starting the week of December 14, Harmon said the tree on the porch and the greenery outside the J. Sidna Allen House will be decorated for the holidays.
Anyone interested in donating toward the renovation of the historic home can call the Carroll County Historical Society at (276) 728-4113 or mail a check to the Carroll County Historical Society at P.O. Box 937, Hillsville, Va. Checks should be made to the Carroll County Historical Society and earmarked in the memo section for the J. Sidna Allen House.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN