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The Worst Feud

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
Here's a quick history question? What was the most famous and deadly feud in the United States?

The Hatfields and McCoys? Nope.

The Johnson County War of Wyoming? Wrong again.

The Earp, Clanton and McLaury feud? You're still off base.

The deadliest feud happened in East Texas between 1840 and 1844.
The Regulator and Moderators War was the first and largest American feud in numbers of participants and fatalities. No other nineteenth century feud anywhere in the US produced as many casualties as the Regulators and Moderators.

But the East Texas feud that ranged across Shelby, Harrison and Panola counties never quite captured the public's imagination as well as the other famous conflicts.

Now, thanks to a new book,"War in East Texas: Regulators vs Moderators," by Carthage author Bill O'Neal, the violent years of the Regulator and Moderators has finally been examined and explored with the depth it deserves.
First Battle - Regulators Moderators War, Texas Centennial Marker near  Center Texas
The First Battle - Texas Centennial Marker in Shelbyville
Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, March 2010
First Battle - Regulators Moderators War, Texas Centennial Marker text close up
Centennial Marker Text
Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, March 2010
More Texas Centennial
At the peak of the violence, the sheriff of Harrison County was murdered. So was the founder of Marshall, as well as a frontier district judge. And Texas Senator Robert Potter, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, was slain by Regulators at his home on Caddo Lake.

Courts ceased to operate and anarchy reigned in Shelby County, Panola District and Harrison County. Only the personal intervention of President Sam Houston and an invasion of Shelby County by 600 members of the militia of the Republic of Texas brought an end to the bloodshed.
Bill O'Neal, an old friend, was the perfect author to tackle the country's worst blood feud. His most recent book, "The Johnson County War," was named Book of the Year by the National Association of Outlaw and Lawmen History for 2005.

The Regulator-Moderators War had its roots in the so-called Neutral Ground that existed between Louisiana and Spain along the Sabine River. The area soon became a haven for fugitives from justice.
Even after the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 established a boundary between Texas and Louisiana, the violence the Neutral Ground had spawned persisted in East Texas and by the time the Republic of Texas began dispersing land grants, the area included land pirates, counterfeiters, murderers, slave stealers, horse thieves, and violent thugs.

During the war, more than 30 men were killed in assassinations, lynchings, ambushes, street fights and pitched battles.

For a copy of "War in East Texas," contact the East Texas Historical Association in Nacogdoches, 936-468-2407. Proceeds from the book are being donated to the Association.


All Things Historical > October 15, 2006 Column
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is a former president of the Association and the author of more than 30 books about East Texas.)


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