One of the first things I had to figure out when working on this book was Shedrick Thompson’s correct name. Thompson is one of the key characters in the story, the man accused of attacking the Baxleys and the man lynched on Rattlesnake Mountain. Yet in news accounts and legal documents, I found nine different versions of his name. He was Shadrack, Shad, Chad, Shedurek, Shadr’k, Shadrick, Shadrock, Shadrach and Shadric.
Thompson was born in Fauquier County to a Fauquier family. He spent most of his life in the county and married a Fauquier County woman. Yet after he attacked the Baxleys, when he became the object of an intense manhunt, no one seemed to know his name.
To me, this invisibility was a measure of what life must have been like for him in Fauquier in 1932. Thompson worked on his neighbors’ farms and in their orchards, yet they never bothered to learn his name. I can picture a reporter asking Sheriff Stanley Woolf, after the attack, for the name of the accused. “Thompson,” Woolf would have replied. “I think it’s Chad Thompson.”
No, Thompson’s 1917 draft registration and his 1921 marriage license are definitive. His first name was Shedrick.