Chapter of tragedy

From the Richmond Dispatch, Volume 1902, Number 15888, 16 March 1902 via Virginia Chronicle and transcribed from their scans.

A remarkable series of catastrophes to one family.

Lonas family’s misfortunes.

Pathetic plea for the pardon of the two Craigs recalls a remarkable succession of disasters and tragedies in connection with the mill of S. H. Lonas, in Shenandoah County — a strange story.

There was a pathetic scene in the anteroom of the Governor’s office yesterday, when the wife and five children of W. W. Craig, of Shenandoah county, now serving a term in the penitentiary, called to plead for his pardon and that of his son, W. T. Craig, who was sentenced along with him for the same crime.

The two Craigs — father and son — were sentenced a few months ago by the County Court of Shenandoah for the murder of Bruce Lonas, near Woodstock, Shenandoah county.

The wife and mother, with face showing clearly the marks of suffering and sorrow and with an eager, anxious look, accompanied by her five little children, had journeyed all the way from the Middle Valley for the purpose of pleading with the Governor for clemency for the husband and father, the son and brother, the natural protectors of this unhappy family.

Bitter disappointment.

After all that journey they did not see the Governor, but were informed by his secretary that they would have to secure the endorsement of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, jury, and Judge of the trial before their petition could be considered by the Governor. This information was a bitter blow to the mother and her little ones, but when they turned away it was not with utter despair, but with a determination to leave no effort unused that might secure the pardon of those dear to them.

“Unmerciful disaster.”

The case of the two Craigs is a memorable one in the annals of Shenandoah county. Nearly two years ago the mill of S. H. Lonas was burned, and his young son, Bruce Lonas, who was asleep in the mill, was burned to death. The tragedy and catastrophe came as the climax to a remarkable succession of tragedies and misfortunes. Some years ago the boiler in the mill exploded, killing two of Lonas’s children and partially wrecking the mill. In the year of the Johnstown flood, Lonas’s mill was washed away, entailing a serious loss on the owner. Then came the burning of the mill and the murder of young Lonas, who was asleep therein.

“Murder most foul.”

The mill was burned nearly two years ago, and for more than a year there was no serious thought of foul play. Finally, in some way, the suspicion became current that the fire was not accidental, but that it was incendiary, and that robbery was the motive. An investigation ensued, the result of which was that the two Craigs and several others were arrested on suspicion of having burned the mill, and with ti the sleeping man, presumably in execution of a plan to burglarize the mill. The men were convicted and sentenced to fourteen years each in the State penitentiary. The trial was concluded only a few months ago, and the men have recently been brought to the prison.

Hardship and shame.

The two Craigs are two of the men sentenced for that shocking crime. However guilty they may be, the spectacle of the woman with her family of small, dependent children thus left to battle for bread with the handicap of of the shame of the husband and son to add to their burden of sorrow, is one that must appeal to all. It is a most pitiable and deplorable affair.