"Claude Allen" and "Sydney Allen"

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newspaper clippings

The 1912 Carroll County gun battle between law officers and the Allen family has probably inspired more imaginations than any single event in that county’s history. Known regionally as the "Hillsville Shootout," the fight received immediate national attention, and it has been memorialized in books, folksongs, and even a rock opera.

On March 13, 1912, Floyd Allen was convicted of interfering with police officers as they brought his nephews back from North Carolina for a minor fight-related incident. During Floyd's sentencing, he refused to go to jail while his case was on appeal, and a gunfight ensued. Five people were killed including the judge and the sheriff. Floyd and Sidna Allen were among the wounded. The shooting continued in the street as the Allens escaped.


Eventually all the Allens were captured, two in Iowa. Floyd Allen and his son Claude were electrocuted for the killings. Friel Allen received 18 years. Floyd's brother Sidna (referred to in newspapers and lyrics as "Sidney") was given 35 years but was pardoned in 1926.

The two songs "Claude Allen" and "Sydney Allen" offer different slants on the incident. The composer of "Claude Allen" is sympathetic to so young a man meeting his tragic end, and there is little story line to the song. On the other hand, "Sydney Allen" adds high drama with the fictitious scene of Sidna backing the sheriff against the wall. Both songs went into oral tradition.

Allen main page | songs & audio | newspaper clippings

Deathly Lyrics:
Songs of Virginia Tragedies


Audio Credits


Breeding Mill

Caty Sage


Dewey Lee


Freeda Bolt

Great Kanawha

Kent Steffie

Mollie Tynes

Old 97

Poor Goins

Roanoke Riot

Rye Cove

Talt Hall

Vance Song

Wreck of the 1256