1779 indictment accuses Rockingham County man of plotting to kill George Washington
The historic document was found in the archives of the Rockingham County Courthouse
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The year is 1779, and a Rockingham County man is indicted in a plot to assassinate George Washington. The story was forgotten until the original indictment was discovered in the archives of the Rockingham County Courthouse, and the search is on for more records from this case as work is done to preserve and digitize historical records.
Deputy Clerk of the Rockingham County Circuit Court, Megan Schoeman, is one of the people working with the archives, and has examined the document and case itself. She explained that at one time Rockingham County was home to both people loyal to England, and people loyal to the new United States. People loyal to England were known as ‘Tories’, and people loyal to the United States were known as ‘Patriots’ and communities all over were torn apart by allegiances and disputes over loyalty.
“There was a lot of pressure to lean one way or another.” Schoeman said. “Not everyone was happy with the result and outcome of General George Washington becoming president.”
Schoeman said the document was found folded up inside of another folder, and is only one page.
The man indicted in the document is named Nicholas Weatherholtz, and not much is known about his life, and why he was involved in a plot to kill Washington. The words “George Washington”, “Tories”, and “King Tyrant George” all appear in the document and paint a very interesting picture of what was happening in Rockingham County over 200 years ago.
“Not only from the passion of Nicholas Weatherholtz, but from the person writing the document with the accusatory language and extreme bias, we knew it was a story we had to tell.” Schoeman said.
With the Unites States still in its infancy, something like this would’ve been the talk of the town, regardless of where it happened.
“It would’ve been a very big deal to be accused of being an enemy of the United States.” Schoeman said. “A lot of Patriots worked very hard, this wasn’t that far after the Revolutionary War.
Unfortunately, not much is known about the case outside of what’s stated in the indictment. Schoeman and others are still searching for other documents relating to the case, and as they look they’re finding other stories that had been lost to history but are now being revealed and preserved.
Copyright 2023 WHSV. All rights reserved.