This house at 861 Pine Street was likely built as an investment – one of at least three homes built on “the Worsham property.” The house to the west at 871 Pine Street was occupied by William W. Worsham himself. The house to the east at 855 Pine Street was sold to J. T. Stovall upon its completion in 1872. However, 861 Pine, turned out to be, at least for a certain member of the Worsham family, very convenient.
Anna Giles, sister of Mary Worsham, married John W. Cole in July of 1873.
In the years just prior to their marriage, Mr. Cole served as a military appointed constable in Henrico County. Here he played a key part in bringing about the arrest and conviction of a murderer. His intelligence and to-the-point manner earned him the respect of the defense’s council, who hailed him as “a jewel of society.”
The Richmond Dispatch of 23 July 1870 relates in detail the events surrounding the Drinker’s Farm Murder. In February of 1867, George Drinker discovered the remains of a woman lying in the woods on his farm. A bullet wound and marks about her throat suggested murder. After several false leads and two cases of mistaken identity of the deceased, the papers ceased to report it and the case threatened to go cold. It was John Cole and his partner, detective Knox, who determined that James Jeter Phillips, unconfessed husband to the murdered woman, was the guilty man. In July of 1870, James Jeter Phillips was hanged.
The ordeal, perhaps combined with memories of the war, left Cole a changed man. He soon fell into some disrepute and was relieved from his duties as constable. Having served the Confederacy, his country, and Henrico county so dutifully, he was offered an appointment as Postmaster. He accepted and was sent to Danville, where he met and married Anna Giles.
In February of 1874, a year after the wedding, John W. Cole was arrested for embezzlement of government and public funds. The jury in his trial was hung. Eight of the jurors were for conviction. Four were for acquittal. The jurors were dismissed, and Cole admitted his guilt. He was sentenced to six months in jail.
What happened to him for the next fifteen years it is difficult to say, though records suggest he and Anna moved to North Carolina, his reputation, and Anna’s in turn, destroyed. The Richmond Times of May 22, 1891 announced simply, “John W. Cole, Danville, is dead.”
A widow, Anna Cole took occupancy of 861 Pine Street. Mary bequeathed it to her in her will, along with $1,000 “to do with as she wishes,” but, in 1903, five years before her death, Mary had the title transferred to her sister. Anna lived in the house into the nineteen-teens. She died in Roxboro, North Carolina, on August 6, 1940.
Incidentally, the Union Republican of June 20, 1889, announced the finding of a lost umbrella bearing two inscriptions.
“Please take me to John W. Cole, Esq., Rockingham, NC. I am lost.”
“Never too late to do good.”