On an August night in 1882, Adam Wilkerson returned to his Bedford County home to an unpleasant surprise. When he pushed the door open, he found his wife, Sally, in bed with Ben Quarles.
The following morning, neighbors Charlotte and William Hicks recounted what happened. Charlotte said that Sally “called me this morning three times about day.” William heard someone holler and Charlotte said it was Sally. William then saw Adam who “told me he had killed Sally…he had found Ben Quarles in bed with his wife; Sally told Ben to kill him.” William described Adam as “not wearing any clothes but a striped shirt, and [he] had a bloody knife in his hand.” Wilkerson brought his children to the Hicks’s house and asked William to write a letter to his mother and father telling them to retrieve the children. William said, “He told me he was going on to Liberty to give himself up and to come on and go with him out there, but I did not go.”
According to the 3 September 1882 edition of the Daily Dispatch, Wilkerson, incorrectly identified as Abram, was “charged with the murder of his wife …tried in the County of Bedford…and sentenced for eighteen years, the extreme penalty of the law for murder in the second degree.”
The Coroner’s Inquisition, dated 3 August 1882, stated that “Sally Wilkerson was cut with a knife in the throat, side, back and breast by Adam Wilkerson, from the effects of which said cuts [she] did instantly die.”
The testimony and investigation into the death of Sally Wilkerson can be found in the Bedford Coroners’ Inquisitions. The collection is available at the Library of Virginia and is open for research.
–Mary Dean Carter, Local Records Archival Assistant