“It is a period of civil war…”
Captain Bob Lee’s Letter to “The Bonham News”, 26 June 1868
I have done everything I could to procure peace: I have even tried to buy it with money; and I have done every way in my power to do right and be peaceable: still am hunted by a squad of U.S soldiers assisted by a number of horse thieves who come to my house, throw fire in the beds, drag my children by their feet over the floor and insult my wife. Yet the U.S. troops stood by and said not a word. These “Good Union” men were principally deserters from the Southern Army and lay in the bush during the war, the lowest of God’s creation; and these good Union men, “truly Loil” are biasing the judgment of the men (U.S. troops) who should protect us impartially.
The above letter was written after Captain Bob Lee had returned home after the close of the Civil War. Having fought in the Confederate Army, he arrived to find North Texas a warzone of factions: The Union loyalists vs. those who had been loyal to the Confederacy. North Texas was a free-for-all for Union loyalists (or at least those who took advantage of the lawlessness) who would cross the Red River into Texas to rape and to pillage. Also, those neighbors who had been pro-Union during the Civil War and had thus kept their head down were suddenly emboldened once the Union had emerged victorious and the period known as Reconstruction had begun. Such fighting amongst neighbors, new arrivals from the North, and thugs in general was typical all across the newly-occupied South. Local authorities and the US Army found themselves being called upon to stamp-out these feuds and in some cases no doubt, as Bob Lee claimed in his letter to “The Bonham News”, stood idly by as both factions murdered one another. The Lee-Peacock feud, dividing families and communities, involving those who had ridden with Quantrill, Jesse James, and John Wesley Hardin, raged on even after Captain Bob Lee was finally murdered on 24 May 1869 by those who sided with Lewis Peacock, leader of the Union League.
“Those who live by the gun…”
It was 1871 and Lewis Peacock, still making threats and enacting revenge across “The Four Corners” where Grayson, Fannin, Collin, and Hunt counties meet, continued to live in Pilot Grove while some others involved had fled the violence. Dick Johnson, staying out in West Texas, received word from back home that Peacock was threatening his folks and came back home to protect them and their home which Peacock had threatened to burn down. Word spread around Pilot Grove that Dick Johnson had returned and upon hearing the news Peacock stated, “Some morning when Dick gets up and comes to the door to get wood to make a fire, I will be laying for him and will get him.”
In an irony worthy of Shakespeare, Dick Johnson and Joe Parker, another of Lee’s followers, positioned themselves on Lewis Peacock’s property and waited for Peacock to emerge from his home. Early that morning about the first of July 1871, with one man ready to snipe from an elm tree, Peacock set out of the house to retrieve firewood. Peacock “slapped empty leather” as he reached for his revolvers and realized he had forgotten them back inside the house. Multiple shots, round after round, and even shotgun blasts tore into Lewis Peacock. More shots were fired to stop his leg from twitching.
Dick Johnson was never arrested and was last seen visiting Fannin County as recently as 1920, within the lifetime of people alive today as this is being written some fifteen minutes away from the ambush scene in 2014.
“Over the graveyard and through the woods…”
Finding the grave of Lewis Peacock is easy. His mortal remains are in the eastern half of the Pilot Grove Cemetery, and helping ourselves past the unlocked gate and what appear to be vandalized graves we found ourselves looking at a large marble marker situated flush with the neatly-trimmed ground. The inscription is a poignant reminder that 1) one’s own biography will not fit on a headstone, and also 2) those left behind to compose such an inscription are much more careful to leave out the horrible things we have each done during our brief time on earth. The third reminder is that we each reap what we sow, for better or for worse. Those decisions that lead Mr. Peacock to his place beneath the marble slab were no doubt made years before what he sowed bore fruit and killed him. Considering such mortal things under the bitterly cold, overcast sky we paused momentarily and removed our cavalry hat while reading the marble slab.
1824 – 1871
Homesteaded near here 1858.
Born in North Carolina.
Married Emaline Benson in
Washington County, Georgia 1846.
Two children born of this marriage:
Malinda Catherine and John Edgar.
Agent and gunman for the
during “Texas Reconstruction”.
Shot and killed at his home
3 miles southeast of here
as a result of his participation
in “Texas Reconstruction”.
Buried here by
the Reverend Martin Gentry.
Following the vague directions to the site of his former homestead one finds themselves just yards west of 121, about midway between where roads 4460 and 4465 meet 121 between McKinney and Bonham. Previous experience shows that people often, given the opportunity, positioned themselves on or near a creek. With this in the back of our mind, stomping through the sticks and following deer tracks quickly led to a creek bed that passes right through the estimated spot where the marble grave inscription led us. Bleached armadillo bones were found scattered outside the den of an animal that had burrowed in the creek bank, which means the creek hasn’t ran high in a while. Meanwhile, the spent lead balls and shot are no doubt still in the mud beneath our feet where parts of his article were composed.