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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bloody Breathitt

(originally posted September 5, 2009) 

The clip below is a brief review of how my home county earned its notoriety in a long political struggle for power, "the bloodiest feuds in the history of the nation." Here are the words from the historical marker that was removed: "The courthouse that stood here, 1899-1963, was a landmark of Kentucky's "feudin' 'n' fightin'." Stemming from Civil War, family feuds and political disagreements, unnumbered slayings, ambushes and assassinations occurred between 1870-1920. In 11 months, 1901-02, 40 men were slain. Probably 100 Breathitt County officials were killed in that era of the past." (Thanks to Cousin Bill for the link.)

My mother told of her father, Arthur Haddix (always carefully neutral, whenever possible), being at the election polls at Clayhole in 1921 when this gun battle broke out; he was forced at gunpoint to take one of the injured on his mule to get medical care. Another time he was in town (Jackson) when guns flared - he and his young son Vergil took refuge behind the cannon on the courthouse lawn, as I remember the story. (Is that right? Was there a cannon?)

(Here's a link to the Ky. Historical Society's web page listing all the historical roadside markers in the state.)


  1. Yes, I remember the cannon -- stood to the left of the front door. And that is also the way I remember the story our mother told about her father and brother, Vergil.

  2. OK, good. I think I remember seeing the cannon too, but suddenly just wasn't sure. Glad to hear I remembered correctly!