On the night of July 9, 1904 Richard Ellyson was shot and killed near the Hamilton Saloon in Berryville, Virginia.
Benjamin Lippkin arrived in Berryville via the 6:31 pm train the night of July 9, 1904. He was seen on the streets by several witnesses, and allegedly had approached Sergeant Ricamore asking for protection from Richard Ellyson. Lippkin claimed Ellyson was "pursuing him," although no one is able to corroborate this. Shortly after 10pm, Lippkin entered the Hamilton Saloon and shot Ellyson 6 times.
At some point in the night, Lippkin bought or borrowed a revolver and purchased rounds for it. According to witnesses, he entered the saloon just after 10 pm, where Ellyson and Charles Rideout were sitting at the bar. Lippkin was invited to join, although he refused. As Ellyson stood and made a move to leave, and Lippkin fired, once, then five more times. Ellyson ran from the saloon, onto Main Street, where he fell into the door of Dr. H. E. Harris' office. He later died at the home of his sister, where he was taken.
Despite Lippkin's claims, there were no weapons found on Ellyson, meaning Lippkin was not acting out of self-defense. According to several witnesses, Ellyson had been heard to threaten Lippkin over the past few months, including an incident in which Ellyson threatened to "snuff [his] light out" with a revolver. That revolver, however, was apparently never seen again.
The postmortun examinaton of Ellyson's body discredited Lippkin's claims that Ellyson was attacking him - only one bullet entered the front of the body, one entered the side, one the hip, and one through the shoulder, "showing that Ellyson was going away from Lippkin all the time after the first shot." Drs. Harris and Osborne were the attending physicians.
At 10:30 on the morning of November 30, 1904, the jury delivered the verdict: guilty of first degree murder. Attorney Broun's motion for a new trial was immediately overturned. This was the first time in Clarke History, according to the Courier, that a first degree murder sentence has been rendered, and it was the first time Judge Harrison was pressed to deliver the death penalty. The next day, December 1, Benjamin Lippkin was sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of Richard Ellyson.
Sheriff W.W. Smallwood built the scaffold, borrowed from Charles Town, WV, and it was concealed from the public via a large tent. On the morning of January 27, 1905, Benjamin Lippkin became the last man in Clarke County to hang.
Melanie is the current archivist for the Clarke County Historical Association, in Berryville, Virginia. She is a graduate from Shepherd University, where she earned a degree in History.