Bloody Battle at the Big Springs Union Church

Image from the Chaparral Arms website

Another Kentucky Affray.

Middleboro, Ky., Dec. 27. — Frank Davis, Buck Chadwell, Estepp Morgan and Richard Davis fell out at a dance at Walnut Hill, 15 miles from here, and a pitched battle ensued. Fifty shots were fired. Frank Davis was killed, Morgan and Dick Davis mortally wounded, and Chadwell slightly wounded.

Davenport Daily Leader (Davenport, Iowa) Dec 27, 1900

MIDDLEBORO, Ky., Oct. 7 — One of the bloodiest battles that ever occurred among the feudists of the mountains was fought at the Big Springs Union meeting house, twenty miles from here, at noon Sunday. The Morgans, of Vogie, and the Chadwells of Tennessee, were the participants. Two were killed and two wounded on each side. Those killed are: Tip and James Chadwell and Rush and Henry Morgan. Mortally wounded: Henry Overstreet and James Jones. Tom Morgan had a leg broken and Joe Moberly received a flesh wound. The feud between the Morgans and the Chadwells has existed since the civil war, and more than thirty of each family have been killed during that time.

Fort Wayne News (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Oct 7, 1901

Image from the Cumberland Gap Baptist Association website

Kentucky Feudists Again At War.




Four Men Killed, Two Fatally Wounded and Three Others Injured — Chadwell-Morgan Clans.


Knoxville, Tenn., Oct. 8. — In a bloody fight at the Union Baptist church at Big Springs, ten miles from Tazewell, Tenn., on Sunday, four men were killed, two mortally wounded and three wounded less seriously.

The killed are:

Tip Chadwell.
John F. Chadwell.
Rush Morgan.
Henry Morgan.

Mortally wounded: John Morgan and Asa Chadwell.

Wounded: —  Jones, leg broken; — Neabley, flesh wound; Sheriff Brook, slight.

There was preaching at the church and about 600 people gathered. Just before 11 o’clock service, Tip Chadwell went to the spring, 50 years from the church. Rush Morgan was at the spring and began firing at Chadwell. Both factions immediately gathered and the fight lasted half an hour.

Sheriff James Brook attempted to arrest Asa Chadwell, who resisted. Both Brook and Asa Chadwell were wounded.

The feud between the Morgans and the Chadwells has existed a long time. They met at Walnut Hills, Va., last Christmas, when a pitched battle ensued, in which several were killed.

Eighteen months ago they met near the Hancock county line. Fighting followed and one was killed. Both the Chadwells and Morgans are prosperous and influential and have large families. All their members are fearless.

Middlesboro, Ky., Oct. 8. — The situation at Big Springs, Tenn., where four members of the Chadwell and the Morgan factions were killed and five wounded, is gloomy and it is the general opinion that more bloodshed is certain to follow.

A report reached here last night by way of Tazewell, Tenn., that a second clash between the factions had occurred late Monday afternoon, but the story is as yet unconfirmed. At noon, when a horseman arrived here from Ewing, Va., five miles from Big Springs, no more trouble had occurred, although the feeling was at high tension. Both factions were barricaded in their homes and were armed to the teeth. Two members of each faction came to Cumberland Gap yesterday and secured large supplies of ammunition.

The Daily Chronicle (Elyria, Ohio) Oct 8, 1901

Knoxville, Tenn., October 7. — (Special.) — A fatal shooting occurred near Tazewell Sunday night, in which four men were killed and five wounded. It was at Big Spring Union Church.

The dead are:


The wounded are: Ross Chadwell, shot twice and not expected to live; Constable Brooks, wounded in the hands; Henry Overstreet, mortally hurt; Toe Moberly, a flesh wound; Tom Jones, dangerously injured, and Frank Morgan, leg broken.

The shooting was the sequence of an old feud — a quarrel between the Virginia Morgans and the Tennessee Chadwells, which began in 1864 — during the civil war. Since the war between the families began thirty Morgans and forty Chadwells have been killed. Between the two factions many encounters, a number of them being equal to pitched battles between organized armies, have taken place. No arrests so far have been made.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Oct 8, 1901

Settling the Morgan-Chadwell Feud.

Knoxville, Tenn., Oct. 9. — A delegation of prominent citizens of Lee county, Va., and Claiborne county, Tenn., have gone to the scene of the Morgan-Chadwell encounter, Sunday, in the hope of securing peace. It is stated that members of both families has expressed a willingness to leave the settlement of their troubles in the hands of the law.

Tyrone Daily Herald (Tyrone, Pennsylvania) Oct 9, 1901


Morgans and Chadwells Preparing for Another Season of Shooting.

Middlesboro, Ky., Oct. 9. — Two of the feud fighters wounded in the battle Sunday at Union Church, Big Springs, Tenn., have died, making a total of six dead as a result of the fight. These two are Ross Chadwell, who died yesterday morning, and William Morgan, who died late last night.

Reports from the feud districts say that both sides are gathering and further trouble is expected. Sunday’s battle revived a feud which has existed since the Civil war, but of late peace had reigned among both factions. Each side seems now to be thinking only of vengeance, and blood will be the price.

Relatives of the feudists are hastening to their aid and all are heavily armed. Len Chadwell, Bud Chadwell, Joe Dooley, Henry Lynch and seven others have left Middlesboro, armed with rifles, to join the Chadwell forces.

Naugatuck Daily News (Naugatuck, Connecticut) Oct 9, 1901

Feudists Released.

Tazewell, Tenn., Oct. 16. — John Morgan, James Estep and Robert Brooks were arrested and arraigned for trial on the charge of killing Alwaine and Tipton Chadwell in the Chadwell-Morgan feud Sunday of last week. The trial, however, failed to materialize, as Isaac Chadwell, brother of the dead men, who was prosecutor in the case, appeared and withdrew the warrants. This ended the proceeding.

Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio) Oct 16, 1901

Tags: , , , ,

14 Responses to “Bloody Battle at the Big Springs Union Church”

  1. Bee Hayden Says:

    I had Morgans in my background from this area, and I need to church further to se which Morgans this might be, One of my friends, who went to school at Big Spring Union, was so frightened, as a child, because the families, would say there is blood on the ground there, and there no doubt was.

  2. Dennis L. Carpenter Says:

    My wife’s Great Grandfather was Lorenzo Dow Morgan who was wounded at the Big Springs Union Church shoot out in October of 1901.
    Her sister and aunt visited the area in the mid 1990’s doing genealogy research. When they asked about the feud they were politely told don’t ask and please leave. We are still trying to put together what we can find but the answer is out there if only those who know would help the rest of us understand. History is history and if it isn’t documented it will be lost.

    • oldnews Says:

      I sure hope you find someone to give you the details before its too late. It would be a real shame if silence wins out.

  3. josephine sprouse Says:

    I know why the fued started, but I can not say what out of loyalty for my great grandfather Alwayne Chadwell. My name is Josephine Sprouse

  4. Dennis L. Carpenter Says:

    Josephine, I understand and respect your loyalty to your Great Grandfather. I also know that those who fail to acknowledge their history are doomed to repeat it.

    My wife and I just traveled from Jacksonville, FL to Cumberland Gap, TN for the Genealogy Jamboree. We were able to get a copy of a marriage license from the Tazewell courthouse for John Hunt Morgan and Perlia Campbell. He is my wife’s Great Grandfather who survived being wounded at the 1901 shootout.

    Lots of people have put out information on both the Morgan’s and the Chadwell’s but not all of it is correct. As it turns out my wife is not only a Morgan, she is also descended from Nancy Chadwell, wife of William Morgan. He was born in 1794 and she in 1820.

    I am in no way interested in opening old wounds. Each family’s history is an important part of who they are. If that history is not recorded and passed to the following generations another important member of the family is lost, relegated to nothing more that a birth date, death date and if we are lucky maybe a marriage date. This tells us nothing about who they were and how they lived and in some cases died. Our ancestors were so much more and we owe it to their descendants to fill in all we can and paint as complete a picture as possible.

    If you don’t want to present the information in a public forum I would understand and hope that you might contact me privately to discuss this further.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Dennis L. Carpenter

    • oldnews Says:

      I hope she will contact you. I am not related, so it’s not important for me to know (although I would be interested) but I agree it is important to pass on to family and others affected somehow.

  5. Kelvin Brooks Says:

    My parents farm is right across the road from the church I’ve heard dad talk bout hearing this when he was young said before the siding was put on the church you could see the bullet holes

  6. Jeanie (Stanifer) Revelle) Vaughn Says:

    Big Spring Union Church is where my mama (Bonnie Hatfield) grew up in. That’s where she met my daddy yrs later (his family lived in the area for awhile.

  7. Jerry Wayne Dean Says:

    I live right next door to the old Church house, have my entire life. I’ve heard about the shoot out since I was a little boy. I attended the school across the road from the Church in grade school. I had Chadwell friends who lived about a mile from my house. Nothing I can add to the accounts on this site, except I always got a spooky feeling around there at night.

    • Jeanie (Stanifer) Revelle) Vaughn Says:

      Hey Jerry, my mama was Bonnie (Hatfield) Stanifer she grew up in that community in the holler. Your grandma was Margaret (Hatfeild) Dean, Skidmore?

      • Jerry Wayne Dean Says:

        Yes Jeanie that’s right. Her old home was right behind where my house sits in Big Spring Union. Her first husband, Marion Dean, ran a store in the Red Hill area about 3 miles from my home. He was killed in his store on Christmas Day in 1930 when my father was 2, by a robber.

  8. Jeanie (Stanifer) Revelle) Vaughn Says:

    Jerry Dean. I remember Aunt Margaret I used to love going to her house. She was married to 2nd husband when I used to go there. I thought her house was a mansion. I have heard stories of Marion Dean’s Murder. & I know someone that has a lot of info on Deans. I also have some old pictures If you would like to contact me & am willing to share.
    WE have had a reunion in Cumberland Gap for the last 22 yrs. I think your sister’s have come to some of them.
    email –
    Hope to hear from you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: