A Texas Feud From 1800’s to Present Day | Lee – Peacock

16 October 2013 – Donna Hunt is former editor of “The Denison Herald”

Last Saturday I met with a group of people interested in family genealogy at the public library in Tom Bean. Several of them originally came from the Pilot Grove area. Hearing the words Pilot Grove and mention of the Old Pilot Grove Cemetery brought back a story I wrote several years ago. It is one of those area stories that to me is a treasure.
An English teacher named Gladys Ray wrote a book in 1957 that renewed a feud that started around the end of the Civil War. “Murder at the Corners” told the story of Confederate Captain Robert J. “Bob” Lee and a young Yankee officer named Lewis Peacock, who was sent to the area called “The Corners” to keep peace among the settlers who didn’t want to be told what to do by Yankees.

My sister, Monna Buckley of McKinney and I attended a couple of gatherings of the Lees and Peacocks just because we got interested in the story. We quickly found out that the feud is not completely over. Each side still contradicts just about every story.

The Corners was the center of activity for Grayson, Fannin, Collin and Hunt counties. Pilot Grove was in the center of the geographical area.

In 2007 I talked to Betty Stripling who lived east of Sherman. Betty spent many years in Pilot Grove and her great-grandparents, William Wallace Davis and Sarah Neathery Davis homesteaded the section of land on which two cemeteries now stand. Davis donated land for the Old Pilot Grove Cemetery where Lewis Peacock is buried.

Betty did a lot of research on the Lee-Peacock feud and said that those interested have made Peacock out to be a “dirty dog,” blaming him for everything bad that happened during that period.

Betty told me what she called “the rest of the story.”

Lee came home from the Civil War beaten and not wanting to be told what to do. Yet he was a hero to people in the Corners. He had served for four years and was one of the first to sign up with Company C of the Ninth Texas Cavalry.

Peacock was sent to the Corners to keep peace, not only among the residents, but the Jay Hawkers looking for a new life, Red Legs from Kansas with sympathy for the union and also wandering soldiers from Missouri who sometimes preyed on the community and some who became respectable citizens. There also were bushwhackers who hid out in the brush and preyed on the residents.

Betty called Peacock a scalawag who came to the area with the carpet baggers after the war ended to oversee things for the Union. The feud began when Peacock had Lee arrested and tried to disgrace him because he was loved and wouldn’t knuckle under to his demands. Gladys Ray wrote her book from interviews with some of the old-timers who were involved in the feud and remembered the facts. It is believed that 20 to 25 people were murdered, mostly by ambush.

Things really heated up in February 1867 when Lee was shot in the face in sight of his wife who waved goodbye as he rode his horse toward Wildcat Thicket. He was ambushed and shot with eight balls by a squad of Federal infantry. The shooters robbed his body of valuables and left him for dead.

Dr. Wm. H. Pierce saved Lee’s life by taking him into his home and tending his wounds. A few days later Dr. Pierce was shot in his yard by a relative, Hugh Hudson, because he had treated Lee. First Lee supporters, then Peacock’s were killing each other until May 24, 1869, when Lee was killed by a flash of musket fire just south of Lee Station. He was buried in Lee Cemetery at Leonard.

Things were pretty quiet for about two years, then on June 14, 1871, Lewis Peacock came out of his house one morning to get wood for the cook stove and while his arms were full of wood, he heard a turkey gobble noise and someone shot him between the eyes.

His body lay in the yard all day while his wife and others were afraid to go near him lest they also be shot. Dr. W.C. Holmes, who had replaced Dr. Pierce as a doctor in Pilot Grove, picked up the body and buried it in the Old Pilot Grove Cemetery.

There is a row of unmarked graves known as a no-man’s land along the fence row in back of the cemetery where travelers and others who died or were killed were buried and Peacock was buried near that area. Big dark stakes were driven into the ground to mark the spot and only Rev. Martin Gentry, who had remained neutral in the feud, and Dr. Holmes knew where he was buried.

Rev. Gentry had a great-grandson, Homer Gentry, who taught biology and chemistry at Denison High School. One day Homer Gentry went into the Boot Hill Store at Pilot Grove that was owned by Betty and her husband. Betty said she told Homer that it had always bothered her that Peacock was buried in the cemetery but she didn’t know where. She said Homer knew where Peacock was buried but wouldn’t tell her.

A short time later Betty became ill and the store was closed for two months. Homer called and said he had bought a small marker and put it in concrete on the grave site. As soon as Betty was well enough to walk across the road from the store to the cemetery, she said that she and her husband, Carl, an assistant principal in Denison, went over to see the marker and she picked up the stakes and kept them in the store.

Now for the rest of the story.

Five years later Betty had heart surgery and while she was recuperating she had a visit from Larry Peacock of Dallas, who called and asked if she wrote columns or a book on Lee and Peacock. He told her he was Peacock’s great-great-grandson and that the entire story was wrong.

Betty told him she had quoted Gladys Ray, who interviewed old-timers to get her information. She said Peacock tried to convince her that his ancestor was a hero and he maligned Gladys Ray. He incorporated Homer Gentry’s small marker into one that he installed, saying his marker was more befitting his great-great-grandfather.

Larry Peacock and two others wrote a book, “Murder and Mayhem, The War of Reconstruction in Texas.”

Betty said that Lee’s grave has been dug up many times by people looking for treasure after hearing rumors that it was buried with him. The Old Pilot Grove Cemetery contains very few graves placed there after 1900. Most burials were in the mid to late 1800s.


Leave a Reply