Posts Tagged ‘Baker-Howard Feud’

Notable Kentucky Feuds

July 21, 2009

notable feuds 1899

In the mountains of Kentucky, where many years ago sturdy Scotch immigrants made themselves homes, the only law is the law of the clans, as strong today there as it was in the Highlands five hundred years ago. Let a man be killed in a dispute over a stolen shoat, a $20 buckboard or a paltry raft of logs — and they kill men there for just such things as these — his kinsmen kill his slayer, and thenceforth every ready rifles keep merrily popping until one or the other of the families is practically exterminated.

Such a feud is that now being waged  between the Bakers and the Howards, which, in fourteen months, has cost six lives and has caused the authorities to decide on sending into Clay county a special judge and prosecuting attorney, under a strong state guard, to bring the murderer of “Tom” Baker to a far different justice than that vowed by his widow, who, over his body, pledged her young sons to avenge their father’s death.


Bloody as has been the Baker-Howard feud, there are others still more bloody in Kentucky history, feuds that have numbered their victims by the dozens, says The New York Herald. A feud begun, in troops of two and threes, with rifles ready, the participants have scoured the mountains in search of their enemies, ready with murderous weapons as soon as some turn of the road brought their foes into view.

The first feud of importance in Kentucky was the Hill and Evans vendetta, which began in 1829 and continued for more than twenty years. The leaders were practicing physicians and they became enemies over a dispute over slaves. It was probably the most terrible feud ever known in the United States, for the members of the two families would fight wherever they met. Dr. Oliver P. Hill was the leader of one faction and Dr. Samuel Evans led the other. Their bloody battles terrorized the citizens of Garrand county. Altogether twenty-seven men were killed.

One of the first feuds to start after the war was the Strong-Amy feud, in Breathitt county, Capt. “Bill” Strong and John Amy being the respective leaders. This feud lasted thirty-five years, and one man a year was killed. The two forces met in a field one moonlight night, and when the firing was over there were five dead men and several badly wounded one.

The Howard-Turner feud in Harlan county was the next important feud. In this thirty men were killed and much valuable property was destroyed by fire. The feud ran for ten or twelve years, and no man was punished until Wilson Howard, one of the leaders, killed a man who did not belong to either faction, and was hanged for the crime. This broke up the feud.

More on the Harlan County, KY feuds can be found HERE.


Another feud that cost the state a great deal of money was the Martin-Tolliver feud, of Rowan county. Craig Tolliver was the most desperate man that ever led a feud, and he terrorized the people of Morehead and Rowan counties until they were afraid to call their souls their own. After the state had spent more than $1000,000 in efforts to put down lawlessness, Gov. J. Proctor Knott gave it up, and told Boone Logan, then a young lawyer of Morehead, that the people of the county would have to be all shot before he would do anything more. Logan mortgaged his home and bought $500? [hard to read] worth of rifles and ammunition and armed one hundred of the most determined men in Rowan county.

He then swore out warrants for the arrest of Tolliver and his men. They began shooting at the posse which had gone to serve the warrants. Logan had secreted his men around the hotel in which the Tollivers had taken refuge and had posted many of them along the road that Tolliver would be likely to take when he left the house. The firing became so heavy and bullets entered the plank hotel so rapidly that Tolliver and his men ran out and tried to escape only to be caught in a crossfire. Three Tollivers, including Craig, were killed and several others wounded. The rest left the country and the feud was ended., after twenty-three men had been killed.

Then came the French-Everitt feud of Perry county, with Fulton French at the head of one faction, and George Everitt, a brother of Judge H.C. Everitt of the Clay county circuit court, at the head of the other. This feud raged for ten years, and thirty-eight men died with their boots on.


The last, and in many respects, the worst feud Kentucky has experienced, is the Baker-Howard feud, which is now being waged so furiously. It has been stated that a feud between the Bakers and Whites existed over half a century ago, but this is untrue. The present vendetta began only a little more than a year ago. Three months ago only the county of Clay was affected. Now the counties of Perry, Jackson, Owsley, Laurel and Breathitt are involved, and there is no telling how far the war will spread unless vigorous measures are quickly taken.

The attempt to assassinate Jason W. Bowling, at Bogtown, last week, when the assassins mistook “Chris” Jackson, brother-in-law of “Tom” Baker, for him because he was riding Bowling’s horse, has aroused the largest and most powerful element of mountain fighters of any one incident of this feud. Jason Bowling is a leader among his people, and has always been opposed to the manner in which the White family has conducted the affairs of Clay county. He owns a farm near Bogtown, and last week received reliable information that he would be the next man killed by the Whites and Howards, and that one of their spies would call upon him in a few hours to find out just where he could be found. Sure enough that evening one of the White faction came to his house, ostensibly on other business, and then rode away. He had not gone more than 300 years before Bowling saddled his horse and rode away to London, some ten or twelve miles distant, where he stopped at the home of Christopher Jackson, whose young wife was Iby Baker, “Tom” Baker’s oldest sister. Here he was joined by his half-brother, “Andy” Baker of Jackson county, who was in the thirty-five-year war in Breathitt county between Capt. “Bill” Strong and “Wash” Amy. “Andy,” during that long war, was shot at twenty or thirty times, and carries a bullet in his leg, while a forty-five caliber ball went through his left lung.

From “Andy” Baker he received pledges of the support of all the Deatons, Burtons, Sandlings and Bakers in the upper counties. All the families named are closely related by blood and marriage to Bowling and have been for years known as expert fighters.

To give still greater strength to the brothers of “Tom” Baker, the powerful Philpot family is beginning to take sides against the Whites and Howards. The Philpots and Whites, while Republicans, belong to separate factions, and the Philpots have been the “outs” so far as county offices are concerned, for so long a time that there is much feeling between the followers of the two families. In one voting precinct in this county, every voter is either a Philpot or kin to one.

They are rich, and at the same time desperate men, having been engaged in numerous pistol and rifle battles. It is said of the Philpots that no man ever shot at one of them and lived to die a natural death if he remained in Clay county. The Philpots are friendly to Gen. T.T. Garrard and his sons, and this fact is not pleasing to the White and Howards. While General Howard has taken no part in the war, his sympathies are with the Bakers, and he may yet be dragged into the feud in a more active way.


On the other hand the Whites and Howards have not been idle. They have go more and better guns than they had last year, and have added to their stock of ammunition smokeless powder cartridges, which will render bushwhacking much safer than it was with the old-fashioned black powder. It was smokeless powder that was used in killing “Tom”Baker, and the same kind was used when the attempt to kill him on his own porch was made a month ago.

Not satisfied with the smokeless powder, the Whites and Bakers have secured a supply of explosive bullet cartridges, which, when fired into an enemy, produce such an ugly wound that it resists all surgery. Never before in the history of mountain feuds in Kentucky has a war been carried on with such terrible and scientific weapons, and to this fact is due the great loss of life already chronicled.

The men doing the principal fighting on the White and Howard side are those who have been sworn in as deputies of Sheriff “Bev” White. Among them are George, “Chad” and “Doc” Hall, who were the most reliable fighters on the French side in the noted French-Eversole feud of Perry county, which most the lives of seventeen Eversoles and nearly as many of the French faction. It is the presence of these three men, clothed with the authority of the law and armed to the teeth, which causes Judge H.C. Eversole to be afraid to hold court without a strong body of state troops present.


On of the saddest features of the feud is the desperate condition in which it left Mrs. “Tom” Baker and her eleven children. The oldest, “Jim,” is in jail at Barbourville, charged with the murder of Wilson Howard and Burch Stores, while the other ten boys, who range in age from fifteen years to one year, are at “Tom” Baker’s old home. Their mother received warning that the Whites and Howards have threatened to blow her house up with dynamite and to kill the children, and one of the opposing faction is said to have declared that “we won’t rest until we exterminate the whole Baker brood.”

It was the mother’s wish to have her children admitted to the Masonic Widows’ and Orphans’ Home in Louisville, but thus far no arrangements have been made.

Mrs. Iby Jackson, sister of “Tom” Baker, had to leave Clay county two months ago. She had carried a pistol to kill “Jim” Howard for killing her father in what she considered cold blood, and she was warned that she would be shot from ambush if she did not leave the county.

— Louisville Letter.

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin)Jul 8, 1899


In THE BOY WITH THE U.S. CENSUS BY FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER, which can be read online at the Project Gutenberg website, is a chapter entitled,  A BLOOD FEUD IN OLD KENTUCKY, which mentions the Baker-Howard feud.

Love and Shotguns: A Tale From the Baker-Howard Feud

July 20, 2009
Christopher Jackson 1899

Christopher Jackson

Iby Baker

Iby Baker



Christopher Jackson and Iby Baker Joined in Wedlock After Many Weary Months of Trials and Tribulations — From Prison to Altar.

One of the romances of the Baker-Howard feud culminated in the marriage of Tom Baker’s oldest sister, Iby, to Christopher H. Jackson, son of W.S. Jackson, of London, Ky., and a brother-in-law to Cooper Eversole, son of Judge Eversole.

Young Jackson is descended from Gen. Jarvis Jackson, who came to Laurel county when it was settled., ninety years ago, and who gave to the county the site of the town of London. The county hadn’t the money to put up public buildings so the general told the magistrates that he would build a courthouse and a schoolhouse if they would deed the town lots back to him., which was done. He built a substantial brick house, which stood until torn down a few years ago to make room for a modern building, and the old Laurel academy, as the school was called, is still standing, a fine old-fashioned brick structure. When Iby Baker was of school age her late father, George W. Baker, who was murdered by Jim Howard, was a prosperous lawyer at Manchester, and he also made much money in other ways. As Iby was his first girl and exceptionally bright and pretty, he determined to give her a good education. He therefore sent her to Laurel academy, and while a pupil here she met and loved the rather good-looking scion of the house of Jackson, and whose wife she eventually became, after trials enough to test any woman’s love. When he first began flirting with Iby Baker, Chris Jackson was a young married man, but the pretty bright face and the vivacious manner of the belle of Clay county made him forget the woman he had sworn to love, and his heart whent out to the mountain lassie. Iby soon became infatuated with him, but, learning that he was already married, she determined to become an old maid school-mistress. She procured a school in Leslie county, and it was not long until she was regarded as the best woman teacher ever seen in Hyden. It had required strong men to handle the wild mountain boys, and this delicate girl was worried lest she could never manage them.

She soon showed them., however, that she was mistress of the situation. Simmie Webb, a big boy known as “master of the school masters,” came to school the third morning after she took charge with a wicked-looking 45-calibre pistol buckled around him. She told him to unbuckle the pistol and put it away in her desk. Instead, he attempted to draw the weapon, but before he could loosen it in the holster he was gazing into the muzzle of an innocent-looking 38-calibre held in the steady right hand of the school mistress. He then unbuckled the pistol and handed it to her, belt and all. This cowed the bully of the school, and from that moment until she closed the session she was supreme ruler, and the worst boys were as docile as lambs.

While in school work events were taking place at London which ultimately had a marked effect on the pathway of her life. The man who loved her and the man she worshiped was arrested for forgery and indicted on several counts. His father was claim agent of the Louisville & Nashville, and Chris was charged with making out bogus claims against the company and forging the names of section bosses and foremen to them. His father appeared to have been a tool in the hands of the son, but the jury on the two counts tried against Chris found him guilty on both and fixed his punishment at four years in the penitentiary. When her husband left prison the first Mrs. Jackson filed suit for divorce, and it was granted, for under the laws of Kentucky a husband who becomes a felon forfeits all marital rights, provided the wife want to take advantage of the law.

As soon as he was free to marry again he wrote from the penitentiary at Frankfort to Iby Baker, telling her all the facts, protesting his innocence, and asking her if she would marry him when he had served out his time. The sight of a letter from him, convict though he was, rekindled all the fierce love she had for him when she was a schoolgirl, and she cried tears of joy to know that while he might be in the clutches of the law, he was yet free to make her his wife. She answered his letter, telling him that her heart had always belonged to him, and that she would bestow her hand also as soon as he was released from prison. He made a model convict, got many months off his sentence for good behavior, and was released two months ago.

In the meantime he and his mountain sweetheart had kept up a loving correspondence, and when he came back from the penitentiary one of the first things he did was to make Iby Baker his wife. They are living happily in a pretty cottage on the side of a hill just south of the London courthouse. She is an accomplished musician, and she plays on the piano that graces the “front” room the old pieces he used to love so well, and she sings for him sometimes the old songs she sang when it seemed he would forever be lost to her. She never mentions the dark chapters of his life to him, and it seems that her one desire in life is to make her husband happy. It was into this cozy, happy home that Chris Jackson was brought one night recently suffering from gunshot wounds he had just received at the hands of bushwhackers, and it was here that his pretty little wife bandaged his wounds and nursed him. But the loving wife sheds many bitter tears these days, since her brother, Tom Baker, was killed, for she believes her husband, for whom she waited so long, is “marked” by the Whites and Howards, and that his days are numbered.

“Yes,” she said a few nights ago, “I am in constant dread, for I am certain that Chris will be brought to me some night, the victim of the cowardly assassin’s bullet.”

Daily Iowa State Press (Iowa City, Iowa) Aug 4, 1899