Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

More About Ozarks' Feuds

I have previously mentioned several old-time Ozarks' feuds, including the Turk-Jones feud that led to the infamous Slicker Wars in Benton County and Hickory County, Missouri, in the 1840s; the Meadows-Bilyeu feud that led to the killing of three Bilyeu men by Bud Meadows in southern Christian County in 1898; the Matthews-Payton feud that predated the Meadows-Bilyeu feud, took place in the same general vicinity, and involved at least one of the same men (Bud Meadows); and the Alsup-Hatfield feud in Douglas County in the years right after the Civil War.
The Alsups were also involved in a pre-war feud with the Fleetwoods that was supposedly even bigger than their subsequent one with Hatfield and his allies, although very little can be documented about the Fleetwood feud. I suspect that the Fleetwood feud was probably not as violent as the oral legend would have one believe (e.g. as many as 200 men suppposedly killed over a period of many years) and that some of the information or misinformation that has been handed down about it may have actually grown out of the post-war feud. In other words, the two have probably become mixed together in the retelling.
Another notorious Ozarks feud, one that I believe I have not previously mentioned on this blog, was the Tutt-Everett feud of Marion County, Arkansas. Like the so-called Slicker Wars, the Tutt-Everett feud also took place mainly in the 1840s. Davis Tutt, who was killed by Wild Bill Hickok on the square in Springfield in 1865, was a descendant of the Tutt family that was involved in this feud.
Part of the hillbilly image that used to be attached (and sometimes still is attached) to the Ozarks by outsiders was a perception that the region, because of the clannishness of its people, was rife with family feuds that often erupted in violence. There was some truth to this perception, I suppose, but I also think that the number of family feuds in the Ozarks was probably not all that much greater, allowing for differences in population, than in some other parts of the country.
Even the Ozarks' own journalists, though, sometimes bought into the hillbilly image and helped propagate it. For instance, in 1915, after a murder in Douglas County awoke the memory of previous feuds in that county and elsewhere, the Springfield Daily Leader declared that, while not as common as they used to be, feuds "are still carried on in the Ozarks. Many times each year the thunder of a rifle or shotgun rings out from a blind, and the unsuspecting victim tumbles to the earth, knowing that some deed committed either by himself or his family, has been avenged, according to the old ethics of vengeance.
"Although never as notorious as the hills of Kentucky for feuds," the newspaper allowed, "the Ozarks of Missouri have been the scene of several bloody ones; man after man has been toppled from his horse as he wound his way through the seemingly peaceful hills; vengeance has been vowed over still forms as they lay in the roadside; families have clanned together against others and feuds have extended for miles around."
Although there is obviously a grain of truth to the Leader reporter's claims, most of this story strikes me as romantic nonsense. For instance, the idea that people still died in the Ozarks "many times each year" as late as the 1910s as a result of feuds seems incredible, but it probably made for good newspaper copy.



Blogger Jimmy said...

Anyone who had done their research would know that the Alsup-Fleetwood "feud" was nothing but a story. They were not divided by Union/Confederate. They both fought for the Union. There is simply no truth to that fairy tale.

September 27, 2016 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

I agree that the so-called Alsup-Fleetwood feud has been very much overblown. It seems to be mostly just a legend. Perhaps, as you also say, there was no truth to it whatsoever.

September 30, 2016 at 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

The Henley-Barnett feud was much later than the ones mentioned here. I believe it was in the 1920's and '30's around Marshall, AR. My Grandfather would tell me stories about some of the fighting. He never talked of his involvement if any, but his uncle John Henry Barnett was killed.

September 10, 2017 at 8:36 PM  

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