Posts Tagged ‘Feuds’

Married the Man Who Killed Her Husband and Then…

June 4, 2012

A STALWART, booted mountaineer was kneeling at the feet of the prettiest widow in the West Virginia hills. As he knelt they looked steadily into each other’s eyes. Each seemed to be challenging the other.

The woman was the widow of Sid Hatfield, famous feudist and gun-fighter in the Mingo mine wars. And the man was Sylvester Petry, State trooper and member of the “Law and Order” clan that had slain Hatfield.

It was the man who broke the silence with a startling question.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Oh, how can you dare to think of such a thing?” the young widow gasped.

“I dare because you did it once before,” replied her suitor — and she lowered her eyes, for it was true.

Less than two years earlier, according to court testimony, which is of official record, she had “married the man who killed her husband.”

On this former occasion she had been the eighteen-year-old girl-bride of C.C. Testaman, Mayor of the little town of Matewan. Testaman was shot dead in the famous “Matewan massacrre” — a battle between strike sympathizers and detectives. And a State witness swore that the shot was fired by Hatfield, who was then acting as Mayor Testaman’s own chief of police.

Two weeks later, Hatfield married Mrs. Testaman.

And now that Sid Hatfield, in his turn, had been laid in the grave, making his wife a “gun widow” for the second time, Sylvester Petry was asking her hand in a third marriage.

He must have read surrender in her lowered eyes, for they were wedded within a week, and the lovely girl of the feud country found herself a bride  for the third time within the brief period of less than eighteen months.

Three times the matrimonial wheel has spun for her. Three times she has been lifted for a brief time into the sunlight of love on the apex of its upward swing, and twice she has been dropped suddenly into the shadows of widowhood when flashing guns set the wheel revolving again.

Though scarcely twenty years of age, she has already lived long, if life can bee measured by tragedy, romance and the mysterious play of fate. She was born in the mountains of West Virginia, and the grim setting of her life has never changed. She was herself of the “mountain people” — a daughter of the mysterious ragged hills whose richness in coal has brought about feuds, and massacres and strife and civil warfare.

Here, particularly during the past three years, intermittent guerrilla warfare has raged. Her first marriage occurred in the midst of one of these clashes. Her first husband, C.C. Testaman, was Mayor of the little mining town of Matewan, friend and sympathizer of the miners in their industrial struggles. Sid Hatfield, Testaman’s boy chief of police, was on the same side. Throughout that entire section, he was regarded as one of the most dangerous “killers” allied with the striking miners against the private detectives, the “Cossacks,” State troopers and strike breakers who were fighting the battles of the “coal barons.”

There was no known feud between Testaman and Hatfield, but prior to the street battle in which Testaman was slain, according to whispers which were repeated openly in court and became part of the official record, Hatfield, the chief of police, had noted the beauty of Testaman’s girl bride, by far the most attractive woman in the little mountain town.

Then came the fatal morning of the “Matewan massacre,” on May 19, 1920. A band of coal mine detectives, clothed with State authority, had entered Matewan and evicted a number of families of striking miners, whose houses were wanted for imported strike breakers.

Though the Mayor, the chief of police and practically the whole population of the town were their bitter enemies, the detectives were allowed to complete their work, while the residents watched in sullen silence.

The detectives, nearly a score of them, were assembled on the platform of the railroad station, in the sunshine, waiting for a train that was due within an hour. Mayor Testaman and a few citizens were standing near. Hatfield was nowhere in sight.

Suddenly a single shot rang out. Almost immediately a fusillade followed. The quiet scene was instantaneously changed to bloody confusion. Testaman lay writhing on the platform, mortally wounded. Several of the detectives were down, clutching at their breasts. And from doorways, from behind trees, from behind corners of houses, rifles and pistols were spitting fire.

The detectives who had not been hit darted for shelter, returning the fire as they ran. More than a hundred shots were discharged.

Ten men lay dead or dying in the streets of Matewan. Seven were detectives, two were miners and the tenth was Mayor Testaman.

It occurred to no one at the time that Sid Hatfield could have had anything to do with the slaying of Testaman, for they were friends and were both on the same side in the mining feud. Or if it did occur to any one, he kept silent.

When the news of the battle was flashed to Charleston, a force of State police rushed to the scene. Nineteen persons were arrested and put on trial at Williamson, the county seat of “Bloody Mingo.”

The principal defendant was the rugged, youthful smiling Sid Hatfield — now a bride-groom. But he wasn’t on trial for killing Testaman. He and the others were on trial for the battle with the detectives, and “Smiling Sid” surrounded by his friends in the heart of Mingo County, was confident of a general acquittal.His confidence was in a way justified. Though still a young man he was a feared and famous character. He was a cousin of the noted “Devil Anse” Hatfield, and a member of the noted Hatfield clan, known throughout all America in connection with the Hatfield-McCoy feud that raged for many years along the West Virginia-Kentucky border.

Witness after witness was examined, and “Smiling Sid” still smiled. Beside him sat his bride, the “gun-widow” of a few weeks.Suddenly the name of Testaman was heard from the witness stand — and just as suddenly Sid Hatfield ceased to smile.

“_____ the shot that killed C.C. Testaman was fired from inside the door of a hardware store,” the witness was saying, “and the shot was fired by his own chief of police, Sid Hatfield.”

A silence like death filled the courthouse. A hundred pairs of eyes stared at Hatfield, whose jaw was set in grim defiance, and at the woman who was flushing crimson by his side.

Captain S.B. Avis, attorney associated with the prosecution, lifted an accusing arm and pointed dramatically to the pair.

“And the fact remains,” he said slowly, “that within ten days the widow of Testaman became the bride of Sid Hatfield.”

For a tense moment anything might have happened. What actually did happen, however, was that Sid Hatfield and the other defendants were acquitted, and

“Smiling Sid” and his bride resumed their honeymoon at Matewan.

A jewelry store which Mayor Testaman had owned was converted by Hatfield into a hardware store, which sold among other things, arms and ammunition.

This store, it was said, became a popular meeting place for the striking miners, who recognized in his a leader. His sympathies were all on the side of the miners as opposed to the coal operators and the “Cossacks,” who were now in complete control of the district and were keeping a watchful eye on “Smiling Sid” and his companions. Sid was known as a dangerous character and a “two-gun” man.

One night the little town of Mohawk, where old miners had gone on strike and outsiders had been brought in to take their places, was “shot up.”

Hatfield, his boon companion, Ed Chambers, and several others later were arrested charged with participation in the shooting.

On the day of the trial Mrs. Hatfield and Mrs. Chambers decided to accompany their husbands to Welch.

*   *   *   *   *

It has never been proven in court exactly how Hatfield was slain. Just as he and Chambers, with their wives on their arms, approached the court house a shot rang out, followed by a fusillade. Hatfield and Chambers both fell dead, riddled with bullets. A group of “Cossacks” — detectives, the “law and order” men — stood on the staircase, holding smoking pistols.

According to their story, they fired when they saw Sid reach toward his pocket. A pistol was picked up from beside the body of the slain “Two-gun man.” Reports were conflicting. Mrs. Hatfield declared that her husband was unarmed.

Hatfield’s body was carried back to Matewan by his widow. The largest crowd of mountaineers ever seen in that section gathered for the funeral. Mrs. Hatfield clad in deep mourning, stood at the head of the coffin as the long line of mountain folk filed by for a last look at the face of their dead friend and hero. As the coffin was being closed the black-garbed widow fell across it and sobbed:

“I’ll never forget you, my sweetheart.”

But fate stood at her side.

Six months later, almost to a day, she became Mrs. Sylvester Petry, wife of a member of the law-and-order armed force that embraced the man or men who had slain her second husband.

Lima News (Lima, Ohio) Mar 5, 1922

In a Careless Moment Devil Anse Allowed It to Be Taken

June 3, 2012


In a Careless Moment Devil Anse Allowed It to Be Taken. — The Hatfields Wrecked the Photographer’s Establishment.

When the famous feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families, which cost many lives in the mountain country of West Virginia and Kentucky, was declared at an end in April, 1897, the families of old Randolph McCoy and the descendants of old Deacon Ellison Hatfield, led by the notorious Devil Anse, gathered on the banks of the Big Sandy river to sanction the wedding of Mary McCoy and young Aaron Hatfield. There are rumors now that this peace protocol is over and talk of a fresh outbreak. Whether there is any ground for the belief that the feud is to be reopened it is hard to tell, for fighting, not talking, is what both families engage in when the ill-feeling comes to the top and there are scores to be settled.

Four times the Hatfields and the McCoys gathered to declare off the feud that has been passed down through three generations, and three times out of the four blood was shed before the negotiations were concluded. Moonshine whisky, which both families make and drink in large quantities, has been responsible mainly for the breaking of these compacts; and if the families go at each other again it will probably be because of the bad effects of the product of the illicit distilleries in the West Virginia mountains. It is almost incredible that such a feud could start up again and continue with the same freedom that it did twenty years ago, but it is possible, for the authorities of that state are as powerless to stop it today as they were years ago, when Parish and Sam McCoy shot and killed young Bill Stayton from ambush, thereby shedding the first blood of the feud.

The picture that accompanies this story is particularly interesting for two reasons. First, it is the only group picture ever taken of the Hatfields and the only picture ever taken of any of the leaders of that family with their consent. Secondly, having been taken in times of peace, it illustrates the caution with which these outlays are observing the truce. There are four revolvers and four rifles in sight. How many small weapons there are in concealment it is impossible to tell, but the reader can be pretty certain that Mrs. Devil Anse and Mrs. Cap, in the background, and the two youngsters in the foreground, are well prepared for emergencies as their relatives. It was only a short time after this picture was taken that one of these youngsters tried to murder a deputy sheriff who had cornered his father, Cap Hatfield, who was a fugitive from justice, having escaped from jail at Williamson. The youngster came pretty near succeeding in his purpose.

After Cap Hatfield escaped from jail in July, 1897, he made for Devil Anse’s old home on Tug river, near the mouth of Peter Creek, where he was joined by the others who are shown in the picture. Some fifteen miles away, at a small settlement, a photographer had set up an establishment, and he drove out to the Tug river cabin to get a picture of the Hatfields. The Hatfields received him decently enough, but refused to allow him to take a picture at first. Cap was particularly vehement in his objections, but Devil Anse was good natured about the matter. He knew that he and Cap and other members of the family had had cameras snapped at them during visits to West Virginia towns time and again, and he finally got the whole crowd together and told the photographer to fire away.

The result was the picture here shown. The photographer took the plate away, promising to send back a set of the pictures. The next day Cap Hatfield was in an ugly mood. He cursed Devil Anse, himself, and everybody else for sitting for a photograph, particularly at a time when officers were on his track, and, armed to the teeth, he set out for the settlement to do things to the photographer and his outfit. Now, of all the Hatfields, Cap is the most reckless and murderous. He, more than any other member of the family, with the possible exception of Ellison Mounts, is responsible for the killing and maltreating of women in the feud now supposed to be closed, and he is a scoundrel without morals or mercy. Killing is his pleasure, and there is no doubt in the world that he would have murdered that photographer if he’d ever caught him.

But Devil Anse looked out for that. With Elias, Tray and Joe he headed Cap off, and sent him back to the cabin. All Hatfields have a way of doing what Devil Anse tells them to do, and,  even the bloodthirsty Cap is subservient to him. The old man told Cap that he’d see that none of the pictures were printed, and with his three younger sons he set out to keep his word.

The photographer declared on his solemn oath that he had sent the plate away to be developed. He was lying with he said it, and it was a good thing for him that it was Devil Anse and not Cap that he tried to fool. Anse and his boys found the plate and destroyed it. Then, as a lesson to the photographer, they smashed his camera and wrecked his entire establishment. Then they went back to the cabin on Tug river.

But, the photographer had struck off a proof before Devil Anse arrived. He toned this proof and made the picture shown here. It fell into the hands of the McCoys and one of htem gave it to a traveling man who went through that region a short time ago. The cabin which is the background of the picture is deserted now and was practically deserted then. It was being used when the picture was taken as a hiding place for the fugitive Cap. It is over the fireplace in this cabin that the following, done in gaudy colors, has hung for years:

Under this motto some wag wrote some years ago:

“Leastwise, not this side of hell.”

Lima News (Lima, Ohio) Feb 8, 1899

Bloody Battle at the Big Springs Union Church

August 26, 2011

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

Some of the Famous Vendettas of the Feud States

August 23, 2011

Click image to enlarge.

Some of the Famous Vendettas of the Feud States

THE killing of James B. Marcum, the prominent young lawyer and politician of Breathitt county, Ky., has once more focused attention on the “feud states” of the Union. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that in the border counties of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia men are today to be found imbued with the same spirit that prompted the Scotch border raids, the spurt of repaying real or fancied wrongs by declaring war to the death upon all connected in any way with those who they deem have injured them and of bequeathing to their sons generation after generation a hereditary animosity which can only be appeased by the extermination of their enemies.

The story of the feudists is a ghastly narrative of murder and rapine, of arson and ambuscades, of cruelty beyond description. As in the Marcum case, assassination by the bullet is the feudists’ favorite method of procedure. So widely recognized is this that when a feud county factionist is riding through a piece of woods or a mountain d???? he will drop the reins and with a revolver in each hand be on the alert for a possible attack.

Undoubtedly the most sensational feud in the history of the country has been that of the McCoys and the Hatfields, an interstate affair involving Kentucky and West Virginia. Like most feuds it originated in a very trivial dispute, a quarrel between old Randall McCoy and Anse Hatfield, better known as “Devil Anse,” over the ownership of a pair of razorback hogs that could not have brought $3 in the open market. The dispute finally got into the courts and after the trial a Hatfield witness was mysteriously slain, presumably by one of the McCoy boys. Three of them were arrested, tried and acquitted.

War then began at a rate that promised the speedy extermination of both families. From 1882 to 1887, when the two states were aroused to a realization of the situation, killing and mourning went on unchecked.

The culminating outrages were two raids on McCoy’s home by parties of Hatfield henchmen. In the first raid McCoy’s son Calvin and his daughter Alifair were killed, and in the second McCoy’s wife and five of their children met death. On both occasions the house was set on fire and the inmates slaughtered as they fled from the flames. After the last raid McCoy started on the warpath, and as a result of his efforts a number of the Hatfields were captured and sent to state prison for terms varying from eight to ten years. During that period there was comparative peace in the mountains. In 1897, however when the convicts times was up “Devil Anse,” who had been in hiding, reappeared and once more placed himself at their head. It was not long before he fell into the hands of the authorities and was clapped into jail, with three indictments for murder pending against him. He managed to cut his way to freedom and took to the cave that had been his refuge during the preceding nine years. Randall McCoy learned where this hole in the mountains was located and led the pursuers to it. The place was a natural fortress and was not stormed until a liberal supply of dynamite had been used. In the confusion old Anse escaped once more. By this time he had had enough of feud fighting, but no one suspected it until last year when he sent a message to Randall McCoy expressing his desire for peace. Jim McCoy, answering for his father, replied that there could be no compromise between the Hatfields and the McCoys. It is thus evident that the end is not yet.

One of the curious features of the feuds is the way in which one family after another is drawn into the trouble until a man may ultimately have five or feuds on his hands at the same time. “Blood is thicker than water” is a popular cry in the mountains, and the feudists consequently take up the vendettas of their relatives and friends with the ardor they display in settling personal accounts. The natural results of this multifarious feudism are pitched battles in the mountains and terrorizing out of state troops, with Gatling guns and loaded rifles, to restore order. The celebrated Baker-Howard feud is a case in point, because though of independent origin it was fomented and intensified by the participation of its principals in the White-Garrard affair, which raged for over sixty years. The latter trouble was caused by the ambition of the White and Garrard families to surpass each other in wealth and political power, and it was the bitterness of their struggle and its subsequent complications that earned for Clay county the sobriquet “Bloody Clay.” Of late years the most sensational episode in this feud was the killing of Tom Baker, a Garrard sympathizer, while awaiting trial for the murder of Will White.

Baker had been captured in the mountains by a squad of militiamen and taken under guard to Manchester, where he was confined in a tent in the courthouse yard, surrounded by troops. Half an hour before his case was to be called he stepped to the tent entrance, a shot rang out from the house of Sheriff White, across the way, and Baker fell back dead in the arms of his wife, who, before his body was cold, gathered her ten children about it and made them swear to avenge their father’s death. Since then the feud has been raging intermittently, the latest incident being the killing of Sid Baker a little over a month ago in a roadside battle with William McCollum. At one time the various factions hired a number of men to fight for them, paying each man $1 a day and supplying him with food and ammunition. One of the leaders in this notorious imbroglio was Jim Howard, now under sentence of life imprisonment for the murder of Governor William Goebel. The Howards have always supported the Whites, while the Bakers have been identified with the Garrards.

Probably the most expensive feud Kentucky has ever known was the French-Eversole affair, another instance of a feud within a feud. It began with the killing of the head of the Confederate family of Gambrills by the Union Eversoles during the civil war, and fighting went on in a desultory way until 1884, when Fulton French came from Virginia to Hazard, Ky., and opened a store in opposition to Joseph C. Eversole. Trouble soon followed. The Gambrills sided with French, and the feud was on again in deadly earnest. It is said that French and Eversole have spent about $150,000 to carry on their warfare, thirty-eight lives being the cost in human blood. One of the feud’s many brutal features was the unprovoked killing in 1894 of aged Judge Joshua Combs, who was shot from behind a fence. His only connection with the trouble, it is said, was that he was the father-in-law of an Eversole.

The French-Eversole dispute was largely tinged with politics, and it was owing to a political feud that Lawyer Marcum lost his life. In fact, politics has always played a prominent part in the Kentucky vendettas. Marcum, a member of the Cockrill faction of the Hargis-Cockrill feud, was shot down while standing in the doorway of the Breathitt county courthouse at Jackson, Ky. He had filed a motion for the reopening of certain contested election cases in which the Hargises were vitally interested, and it is asserted that this was the direct cause of his assassination. Although a number of men were near him at the time of the killing the slayer had little difficulty in escaping.

A practical joke was responsible for another feud of long standing — the Howard-Turner — when a lighted match held to the face of a sleeping man started an enmity which stirred up all Harlan county, Ky., and resulted in the loss of at least fifty lives. Yet another sanguinary feud in the Blue Grass State was started last year between the Bentleys and the Rameys, two large and influential families. Politics, moonshine whisky and women were mixed up in this feud as they have been in so many others. The Martin-Tolliver feud, with its death roll of twenty-three, was chiefly remarkable because one of its chiefs, Craig Tolliver, was undoubtedly the most desperate man who ever led feudists. Also worthy of mention as being the first feud of importance in the state was the Hill-Evans vendetta, which began in 1829 as the result of a dispute over the ownership of some slaves. This lasted for twenty years.

Some notorious feuds of other states have been the Chadwell-Morgan in Tennessee, the Malone-Tyler in Georgia, and the Barnard-Sutton in Tennessee. The first two were strikingly similar in that both were accompanied by murders committed in churches. In the Chadwell-Morgan trouble forty Chadwells and thirty Morgans have been killed, the crowning horror occurring in 1901, when a Chadwell party attacked the Union Baptist church at Big Springs, Tenn., where the Morgans were attending services. In the pitched battle that followed both sides lost heavily.


Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio) May 29, 1903

Kentucky Feuds: Bailey – White

February 16, 2010

Image from the book: Days of darkness: the feuds of Eastern Kentucky – by John Ed Pearce (Link below with book image)

Commenter, M. White, asked for information regarding those that killed Bev White, (what happened to them,) and below is what I was able to find. I found no newspaper articles about the trials/outcomes for: John Bailey’s father, William Bailey, or his brother, James Bailey, or the sheriff, Perry, that are named in one or two of the articles.  Based on the outcome of John Bailey’s appeal, I would guess they all got off scott free.

NOTE: The Whites were involved in the Howard-Baker feuds, which I posted about here. Now, in that post, a Beverly White was killed by Tom Baker. That is a different Beverly White. There were several with that name living in that area, all related, I am guessing.

NOTE: Several of the news articles have Bev White’s name listed as Beverly D. White, instead of Beverly P. White.



Bev. P. White Has Located Near Lexington.

Lexington, Ky., May 5. — (Special)

Bev. P. White, the famous sheriff of Clay county, is now a resident of Fayette county, having recently located here.

White resigned his position as sheriff of Clay county on April 1st by an agreement with the authorities of that county, and at first intended to take up a home in Clark county, but changed his mind and has secured a lease in the Dabney Carr farm, on the Winchester Pike, eight miles from Lexington.

Sheriff White was one of the leaders in the bitter feuds of Clay county, and his resignation and departure from the county was one of the results of the recent all around agreement reached to abandon bloody warfare and engage in peaceful pursuits. He says he will next year buy him a farm and he may enter the ranks of trotting horse breeders.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) May 6, 1901


Posses Searching for Alleged Kentucky Killer.

Lexington, Kentucky, April 8 —

A posse of citizens, armed with high-powered rifles, scoured the mountain districts of Clay and Knox counties, for John Bailey, Clay county farmer, who, late Thursday, scored a point in a lifelong feud between his family and that of B.P. White, wealthy farmer and coal operator of Barbourville, by shooting and killing White as he landed from a train, near Barbourville.

Meager reports reaching Lexington, today, indicate that friends of both families are arming and a battle is feared when the feudists on the White side attempt to take sides with the searching posse.

Marion Star, The (Marion, Ohio) Apr 8, 1921

Shot Dead.

Mrs. Edward Baute of this city received word last Friday that her father, Beverly White, was shot and killed by John Bailey, of Clay County.  The shooting occurred at Heldrick Depot of the Cumberland and Manchester Railroad shortly after Mr. White arrived at the depot.  Bailey is said to have opened fire without a word being spoken.  The shooting was the outgrowth of a family feud which started twenty-five years ago.  Mr. White moved away from the scene and had not been back since that time.  Bailey had been captured and is in jail at Harlan.  Feeling against him is high.  Mr. White was one of the wealthiest and most respected farmers in Central Kentucky.
Somerset, Ky., Friday April 15, 1921.

Pulaski News Apr 1921 (LINK to Ky Kinfolk, where article was posted)


William Lee Shot Dead by Bart Reid, Former Army Officer, Who Is Said to Have Given Offense by Talk about Indictment of Lee’s Brother — In Family War of Many Years.


State troops were called out here tonight to stop a threatened outbreak following an affair today in which William Lee, of upper Knox County, was shot and killed by Bart Reid, former army officer.

Lee is said to have threatened Reid because of statements the latter is alleged to have made in connection with indictments returned against Jim Lee, his brother, charged with shooting Josh Faulkner last week. It was feared that Lee’s friends might try to avenge the killing.

Old Feud Feared.

LOUISVILLE, Ky., June 7. —

Reports reached here today that the Bailey-White feud had broken out afresh in the vicinity of Barbourville, Ky., today and that one man had been killed.

Another report from Frankfort said Governor Edwin P. Morrow had been asked to send state troops to the scene of the trouble.

Meanwhile John Bailey, who on April 7 was credited with renewing the feud of twenty years between the Baker and White families when Bevereley White was shot and killed in Knox county, remains in jail in Louisville. He was brought here, authorities say, to remove him from the jurisdiction of friendly court influences at Mt. Vernon, which the state said it had reason to believe, would have released him on motion for bail and habeas corpus proceedings.

Reports of a second renewal of the feud are widespread, but verification is difficult owing to meager lines of communication.

The Bridgeport Telegram (Bridgeport, Connecticut) Jun 8, 1921

Soldiers Keep Disorder Down At Mt. Vernon

John Bailey, Jr., Alleged Slayer of Beverly White, Goes To Jail.


MOUNT VERNON, Ky., Aug. 22 —

Bailey-Lee and White rival clansmen numbering 100 are under arms here today for the opening trial of John Bailey, Jr., alleged slayer of Beverly White.

A detachment of the London cavalry troops, K.N.G., are camped on the court house grounds, dispatched here by Governor Morrow, upon request of the Mount Vernon authorities who fear trouble before the trial ends.

No trouble occurred yesterday. Incoming trains brought reinforcements of the opposing factions and many other feudists are arriving this morning.

New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) Aug 22, 1921

Armed Men Flock To Feudist’s Trial

MOUNT VERNON, Ky., Aug. 22. —

With twenty-five National Guardsmen from London and twenty special deputy sheriffs on guard, the Rock Castle courthouse presented a martial appearance, when the trial of John Bailey, Jr., alleged slayer of Beverly White, was called here today. Approximately 100 members of the Bailey-Lee clansmen factions, in the most bitter mountain feud that has torn eastern Kentucky in recent years and which is said to have resulted in a score of killings in almost as many years, were present for opening of the trial.

Major James L. Dillon, in charge of the guardsmen, has issued warning to the clansmen against carrying concealed weapons during the trial.

The killing, for which Bailey is to be tried, occurred on April 7 last at Heidricks Station.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Aug 22, 1921


Baileys and Whites Face Each Other Today.


Force Prepared To Preserve Order During the Trial of John Bailey for Murder.

Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, Aug. 23 —

Baileys and Whites sat facing each other in the drab circuit court-room of Rock Castle county, today.

Had they met under different circumstances, everything might not have been so calm.

But here automatic guns of the state troopers helped to inspire a respect for the law and to frown on feud methods of settling conspiracies.

And the enmity of the member of the feud factions was masked behind expressionless faces.

Court routine took its customary monotonous course. Attorneys for John Bailey, accused of the murder of Beverly White, asked for continuance of the trial on account of a witness. Circuit Judge B.J. Bethurum appointed a special bailiff, to be accompanied by two soldiers, to arrest four missing witnesses.

The Whites and Baileys left the court-room and went their respective ways. The London cavalry troopers and twenty special deputies kept a center course. Realization that the slightest dispute, even between minor members of the clans might precipitate a general clash, kept the troops vigilant to keep the factions apart.

Every person entering the court-room was searched. But the warning of Major James Dillon, commanding the troops, had been heeded. Weapons had been left in the rooms.

A few knives were collected.

Marion Star, The (Marion, Ohio) Aug 23, 1921


Mount Vernon, Ky., August 22.–

With twenty-five national guardsmen from London and twenty special deputy sheriffs on guard, the Rock Castle county courthouse presented a martial appearance as the case of John Bailey, Jr., alleged slayer of Beverly White, was called for trial here today. Bailey’s case was brought here on a change of venue from Knox county, where the slaying occurred. Approximately 100 members of the Bailey-Lee clan and the Whites, opposing factions in the most bitter mountain feud that has torn eastern Kentucky in recent years, were present for the opening of the trial. The troops and special deputies were summoned to keep down any possible flare up of the feudal spirit that in the last few years has caused a number of deaths on both sides of the mountain war and which in the last quarter of a century has resulted in possibly a score of killings.

Judge B.J. Bethurum, who is conducting the court here, asked for special guards for the courtroom.

Major James L. Dillon, in charge of the guardsmen, has issued warning to the clansmen against carrying concealed weapons during the trial.

The killing, for which Bailey is to be tried, occurred on April 7 last at Heidrick’s station near Barbourbille.  Bailey was with his father, William Bailey; a brother, James Bailey, and a deputy sheriff named Perry, took to the woods but surrendered two days later and was taken to the Harlan county jail. Later he was transferred to Mount Vernon and then to Louisville and finally granted bail at Mount Vernon. John Bailey was indicted on the charge of wilful murder and for this he is to be tried. His father, brother and Perry have been indicted on the charge of conspiracy to murder Beverly White and their cases already are set for this term.

Although the best of order is being kept here by the state troops and special deputies, the White and Bailey-Lee clans present somewhat the appearance of wrestlers preparing to leap at one another. The Whites have made the Rock Castle hotel headquarters for their adherents, while the Baileys and Lees are putting up at a boarding house. On the street one seldom sees a member of one clan on the same side with members of the other.

When court hour approached this morning, according to officials, there was no indication of a continuance of the case.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Aug 23, 1921

Mountain Feud Calls For Drastic Measures

Mount Vernon, Ky. —

The first day of the John Bailey murder trial, growing out of the Bailey-White mountain feud, was productive of nothing more than the search of every person who entered the court room for weapons. Soldiers and deputy sheriffs stopped each clansman as he entered the door. None resisted the search and no weapons were found except a few pocket knives. Even the women were not exempt from search.

When the case was called both the commonwealth and the defense asked for a continuance because essential witnesses were absent.

The prosecution asked for attachments for four and the defense for nine material witnesses. Circuit Judge Bethurum appointed Sheriff Walker to deputize two soldiers and bring them into court, and adjourned court until Tuesday.

The sheriff was also ordered to establish a censorship of telephone wires and instructed to prevent the transmission of any messages which might inform the missing witnesses of his order.

The Kingsport Times (Kingsport, Tennessee) Aug 23, 1921

More Jurors Are Needed in Trial

MOUNT VERNON, Ky., Aug. 23.–

With eleven men in the jury box and no more available for duty until they can be summoned by Sheriff Tip Langford, the trial of John Bailey, mountain feudist, charged with murder of Beverly D. White of Versailles, was adjourned this afternoon until 9 o’clock tomorrow morning. The sheriff and his deputies spent the afternoon and night summoning a special venue of one hundred men, ordered by Judge Bethurum from which to obtain a jury.
Bailey tonight was free under a new bond executed this afternoon before the county clerk.

Logansport Morning Press (Logansport, Indiana) Aug 24, 1921


Mount Vernon, Ky. —

Watt Norton died last night, after having been shot by James Winstead at Norton’s home, ten miles from here.

Winstead is a bondsman for John Bailey, on trial for slaying Beverly White. Winstead surrendered and is in the county jail, charged with murder.

The tragedy is the renewal of an old quarrel growing out of a suit to locate a roadway across Norton’s farm.

The jury to try John Bailey was completed before the noon adjournment of court today.

The Kingsport Times (Kingsport, Tennessee) Aug 26, 1921

Reports of Civil and Criminal Cases Decided by the Court of Appeals of Kentucky– Volume 195
Authors    Kentucky. Court of Appeals, Kentucky. Supreme Court
Publisher    S.I.M. Major, 1922

You can read the whole appeal record at this Google book LINK, starting on page 485. It gives the testimony of both sides. Evidently, Watt Norton lived long enough to tell others what happened.



John Bailey, mountain feudist, who has been on trial here for more than a week, on Wednesday was found guilty of murder and sentenced to imprisonment for life.

Bailey shot and killed Beverly D. White, last April. The tragedy was the outgrowth of a feud of 20 years between the Bailey and White families, whose kin and clansmen gathered here in large numbers for the trial.

State troops guarded the courthouse.

Eau Claire Leader (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) Sep 2, 1921


Precautions Taken as Kentucky Feudists Go on Trial


Baily Family Accused of Plot to Kill B.D. White

FRANKFORT, Ky. — (By Associated Press)

Thirty Kentucky national guardsmen and three commissioned officers, armed with pistols, rifles and two machine guns, today went on duty at Barbourville to guard the Knox circuit court during trial of members of the Bailey family on the charge of conspiring to murder Beverly D. White of Versailes.

White was killed by John Bailey, who now is in jail at Danville, Ky., awaiting final disposition of his life sentence by the court of appeals.

Orders for the guardsmen to proceed to Barbourville were issued here. This is the third time that the militia has been called out in connection with the Bailey-White feud.

Lima News (Lima, Ohio) Dec 6, 1921

In 1922 John Bailey had trouble with Beve White and shot and killed him. He was tried in Rockcastle Co., KY and was sentenced to Life in prison, but after only 1 year, his brother Jim got him out of prison.

Trouble continued between the 2 famlies for several years . On May 2, 1927 Beve Bailey was waiting to board the train at Rodonald Station, though he knew the Whites were going to be aboard, he boarded anyhow. Someone threw Beve a pack of Cigarettes and when he bent over to get them , a Jim Lyttle , brother in law to the Whites, shot Beve 3 times in the back. Beve returned fire, hitting Jim Lyttle in the shoulder. Beve then walked a few steps, sat down and asked for a smoke and then died.

With Beve Bailey now dead, that only left John and Jim and on March 30, 1931 they killed each other in Harlan. So I suppose you can safely say that the feud between these two families, whose boys used to be the best of friends and got in an argument over trading horses lasted from 1915 to 1931. As the Baileys and the Whites had trouble between them until they were all gone.


Note: This article is written based on facts from various newspaper articles on the troubles between the 2 families.

Posted on Rootsweb by CuzSmith – LINK

This is the book where I found the Feud Counties Map: Google Book Preview LINK

The following newspaper transcription can be found at TNGenWeb – Hancock Co. under the Hopkins surname HERE.

Sheriff J. H. Blair had a run in with George Lee and Bev Bailey, in the office of the County Judge Howard, in Harlan, last week, when Lee refused to surrender his pistol to the sheriff.

Lee and Bailey had some trouble with Chief of Police Pearl Noe, early in the day, when they drew their weapons on the officer and later forced him to go to the court with them.

When the sheriff came into the office, Judge Howard suggested that the men be searched, to which Lee objected, and when he reached for his front pocket, as if to draw a gun, Sheriff Blair grabbed his hand and stuck him, finally taking from him two large revolvers.  Lee and Bailey were then remanded to jail, in default of a peace bond of $5,000.00 each.

Lee shot and killed Neal Christian, a deputy sheriff, at Wallins Creek, two years ago.  Bailey was mixed up in the White-Bailey feud, in Knox County. several years ago, in which six or seven men were killed, including two sons of John C. White.

The Corbin Times-Tribune Oct 24, 1924



Bev Bailey was shot and killed in Clay County Monday morning in what is reported to have been a resumption of the old Bailey-White feud of long standing, according to information received here.  Bailey, whose brother John Bailey killed Bev White sometime ago, was shot about ten times.

The Pineville Sun May 5, 1927



Reports Reach Here That Bev Bailey is Shot to Death On Train by White Boys

Monday Morning


Reports have reached here that Monday about 9 o’clock, at Roadon- ald, Ky., four miles out of Manchest- er, in Clay county, on the C. & M. railroad, a shooting affray occurred between Bev Bailey and three White boys, in which Bailey was killed.  This is considered an outbreak of hard feeling which has existed be- tween the Bailey and White families for a number of years.  About five years ago two or three members of the White family were killed by the Baileys, and the feud since that time has been quiescent until the out- break Monday morning.

Details of the shooting are lacking, it being said that  John  C. White, Jr., J. E. White, Jr., and another White were on the train as it came from Manchester to Barbourville, and at the Roadonald station, the shooting took place, with Bev Bailey, who was at the station, being killed.  As to the number of shots fired and who started the fray, it is not known.

The report is that on the excursion train the day before, when some thousand Clay countians visited Cumberland Gap and the Pinnacle, Bev Bailey stuck his pistol in the ribs of one of the White boys and made some threats.  No fight occurred, however, on the train.

One of the train officials said that the coach in which the White boys were riding, was shot up consider- ably.

The Corbin Times, May 6, 1927

Old Feud Supplies Hogs with a Fresh Meal

January 18, 2010


Hogs Partially Devoured Dead Body.


Greenwood, Ind., Nov. 8. — William Pherson, living five miles southeast of here, who killed Milton Knapp, has made a full confession.

A grudge had been existing between the men for some time. The farms of the two are side by side, and Knapp went out on his farm, where his son lives, to look after some work.
Pherson saw Knapp crawling through a fence, and, picking up a cudgel of wood, attacked him.

Knapp drew his knife and defended himself as best he could, but he was beaten to death with the club and left lying in the fence corner. When discovered the hogs had devoured much of his body.

Pherson, it is claimed, came to Greenwood and made a confession to his daughter, Mrs. Charles League.

He was arrested by marshal Dunlavy and taken to the office of the prosecuting attorney, where he is said to have made a full confession.
He was taken to jail at Franklin. Pherson is about 70 years old.

The Evening News (San Jose, California) – Nov. 8, 1900


In the Tragedy Resulting in the Death of Milton Knapp.

Franklin, Ind., Nov. 5. — the tragic death of Milton Knapp near here last week was the sequel of a feud. the men were brothers-in-law and both aged. Knapp long since retired from active life and occasionally visited his farms from his quiet home in the village of Whiteland. Saturday he went out to his Harbert farm, and it was here that Pherson came upon him just at dark. The quarrel commenced years ago was briefly renewed. Pherson, though 70 years, was the younger and stouter of the two. Seizing a heavy stick, he felled his defenseless antagonist and literally mauled him to death.

No one was near to witness the struggle, and when Pherson had done his work he mounted his horse, rode home and remained there during the night. When the body of Knapp was discovered by a farm hand early Saturday morning it was being torn to pieces by hogs. The ravenous swine had gnawed the old man’s head away and almost stripped the flesh from his bones and had to be beaten away from their victim.

The Carroll Herald (Carroll, Iowa) – Nov. 7, 1900

1900 Census - Johnson Co. Indiana

On this census record, you can see that the Pherson family lives next door to Milton Knapp’s son, who, according to the article, lived on his father’s farm.

1900 Census - Pleasant, Johnson Co. Indiana

This 1900 census record shows Milton Knapp living in town, and listed (not shown here)  as a landlord.

Elizabeth Pherson and Catherine Knapp were apparently sisters, their father being Oliver Harbert.

Indiana Marriage Records:

Name: William H. Pherson
Spouse Name: Elizabeth Harbert
Marriage Date: 13 Feb 1865
Marriage County: Johnson
Source Title 1:     Johnson County, Indiana


Name: Milton Knapp
Spouse Name: Catharine Harbut
Marriage Date: 16 Oct 1860
Marriage County: Johnson
Source Title 1:     Johnson County, Indiana

Kentucky Feuds

July 23, 2009

Bourbon State Feuds 1


As Sicily is the country of the vendetta in Europe, so Kentucky is the home of the feud in our own country. There have been almost innumerable quarrels of this description in the Blue Grass State. Just now these family shooting bees are attracting attention owing to the recent outbreak between the Bakers and Whites, who are killing each other off as fast as they can.

The story of the feud is a long one and to one unacquainted with the ties of kinship which nowhere else bind so tightly as in old Kentucky, it seems ridiculous that people should go gunning for one another over such a simple cause. To the Kentucky mountaineer, born and bred as he is with an exaggerated sense of family rights, it is terribly real. First, last and all the time he will fight with his family if it becomes embroiled with any other. For good or ill and for life or for death he obeys the call to arms whether sounded by a dying relative or by one craving for vengeance. The Gallic adage “Look for the woman” applies to this quarrel. Whoever would find her, however, must go back 56 years, and it is said that something like 3,000 graves for the filling of which she is more or less directly accountable will be crossed on the way. The feud that cost Tom Baker his life the other day began in 1842, when another Tom Baker, a promising young doctor, moved with his wife from Virginia to Kentucky and settled in Clay county. Soon after his arrival he had, or thought he had — nobody knows or cares which now — reason to be jealous of one John Bates, a neighbor. So Dr. Baker used a shotgun or a rifle — nobody is sure about that, either — on John Bates, and the result was that as Bates lay dying on the ground he cursed Baker and called upon the Whites to avenge the murder. The doctor fled to parts unrevealed, but he left behind a baby son, who was the father of the Tom Baker just killed. From the crime of the jealous husband there grew up a widespread feud. At first involving only two families and one town, it spread through the mountains until now it has many names and fills with implacable enmity the members of scores of families. In Perry and Leslie counties it is known as the French-Eversole feud, in Harlan county as the Howard-Turner feud, in Letcher county as the Lee-Taylor feud, and in Clay county as the Howard-Baker feud. They are all branches of the same evil tree, and every one of them is green and vigorous. Occasionally there is a truce between this or that pair of factions, but most of the time it is bloody war.

The original reason has been forgotten in most cases and the different feuds have no connection at this late day as far as the present antagonists are concerned.

The famous Hatfield-McCoy feud was more the product of West Virginia than of Kentucky, but some of the participants lived on the Kentucky side of the line, and, in spite of the effort of Governor Wilson of West Virginia to reclaim them for trial, were held by the Kentucky authorities. Pike county was not good ground for a feud, a fast over which three of the Hatfields are brooding while serving life sentences at Frankfort. Another of the gang ??? in jail before trial. The McCoys were almost exterminated, and as the Hatfields are out of the way there is something like peace on the waters of ?ug Fork.

Bourbon State Feuds 2

The Rowan county feud was one of the bloodiest, most brutal and most stubborn. Unlike most of these feuds, it flourished in a county penetrated by a railroad, and most of its battles took place within sight of that agent of civilization. Beginning with an election quarrel between two striplings of the Tolliver and Martin families, in 1884, it raged during three years of terror. Craig Tolliver, a young, blue eyed giant, led the Tolliver faction. The Martins had friends, but lacked leadership, and were almost exterminated. The Youngs were drawn into the quarrel as friends of the Tollivers, and the Logans were marked for destruction as friends of the Martins. That was Craig Tolliver’s blunder, and led to his overthrow. As usual, the forms of law assisted rather than hindered the crimes.

The Harlan county, or Lee-Taylor feud, which has been a source of trouble to more than one governor of Kentucky, and which has cost the lives of at least six men, has been recently settled, and without the aid of the state militia. For the first time in many years the citizens of that county are resting easy and without fear of being killed. On June 17 the Lee and Taylor factions of the feud, which includes a large part of the population of that county, marched to Harlan courthouse and surrendered their arms and agreed to return to their homes once more as peaceful citizens.

Bourbon State Feuds 3

This is the logical result of the work of the law abiding and respectable people of that section. Some days before they organized at the county seat and marched in a body to the homes of the leaders of the factions. Here they pleaded with both the Lees and Taylors to return to peaceful pursuits and to bury their differences with their dead.

They were told what a reputation they were giving the county, and what the inevitable result would be should the governor be forced to send troops to quell the disturbances.

After much persuasion both sides agreed to surrender their arms. When the factions met at Harlan courthouse, the county seat, there were stirring scenes. Men who have been trying to kill one another for years grasped hands. Tears of joy could be seen trickling down the faces of many of the rough mountaineers.

An unmerited atmosphere of romance has been thrown about these feuds by fanciful writers. The plain truth is that they were remarkable only for brutality. Most of the killing was done from ambush. All sorts of treachery was practiced. Open fights rarely occurred, unless one side had big odds and the other side couldn’t get away. Human life simply had no value, and there were hundreds of men in the mountains ready to accept employment as retainers for any man who was able to pay them for committing murder and to put up money to protect them afterward.

The North Adams Evening Transcript (North Adams, Mass.) July 13, 1899