The Lee Peacock Feud

The Lee-Peacock feud involved several of the Boren's & Maddoxes.
This account is from stories told by descendants of the Borens and Maddoxes.
This story has been recorded in several of the county histories of Collin, Grayson, Hunt,
and Fannin counties, known as Four Corners. The story has been documented in the book,
"Murder At The Corners", by Gladys B. Ray, "The Frontier Times",
The Handbook of Texas Online, & many publications.
See the
Letter written by Bill Boren to Dick Boren explaining his reasons why he had to kill Henry,
and how he felt about Quantrill's Raiders and John Wesley Hardin.

Following the Civil War, young men began to come home to Texas. If a young man could have his druthers it might have been to have no Dixon, Lee, Peacock, or Boren blood in his veins. Before the Great War, they were all thick as molasses, good friends and neighbors, and even kin. According to legend, Richard and Henry Boren were even living in the Lee household, for a time. But later became “cussing and shooting kin”. Young hellions with Lee at the helm, took to robbing travelers, stealing cattle and horses, and hijacking the freight wagons. Their pastime and livelihood was derived by rowdy civil disobedience. With War clouds brewing, the Borens took the Union cause and the Lees, though they had no slaves, held the rebel cause. The happy families began to take separate sides.

In 1861 the Governor of Texas issued a call for three thousand troops to help the Confederacy. It was the end of August, cotton pickin’ time, but Bob Lee explained to his wife Melinda and 3 children, that a man had to go fight when called. He joined Captain Jackson E. McCoole’s recruits that very day and headed off to Sherman. The Ninth Texas Cavalry headed up by Colonel Sims, gladly accepted every able bodied man. Each man provided his own arms, clothing, and horse, with a monthly pay of $18.40.

They were off to Arkansas as Company C. On March 7, 1862 the 9th Texas Cavalry was at Elkhorn Tavern (Pea Ridge) Arkansas assigned to McIntosh's Cavalry in Ben McCulloch's wing of the Confederate Army.

"The 9th Texas being the nearest to the battery were the first to reach the guns and Company K,
the center and guide company of the regiment, was the first to plant a flag on that battery."

Other men in the area, John Harrison Maddox, his brothers William & Francis, along with a cousin Jim Maddox and several of the Borens, had also joined the Ninth Texas.

The 9th fought at Pea Ridge, Wilson’s Creek, and Elkhorn Tavern, then headed across Mississippi at Corinth, Iuka, Vicksburg, Nashville, Murphreesboro, Missionary Ridge, and then the siege of Atlanta. Of their gallant fighting General Ross had said in his reports:

John Harrison Maddox
b. January 25, 1840
d. May 10, 1919

“The gallant bearing of the Ninth Texas is deserving of special commendation,
the charges made by them have never been and cannot be surpassed by a Cavalry of any nation.”

Four years of living in the saddle and sleeping in the open and now it was time to come home. But Bob Lee was hearing of troubling times in Texas and wondered what he and the others would find upon their return. Partisan feeling was growing worse instead of better and the Union League (an organization for the protection of Negroes and Union Sympathizers) was gaining strength. Federal Troops were being sent to Texas, because she had not and would not surrender so easy.

Bob Lee wrote to the Bonham News on July 26, 1868 explaining his side of the conflict in "Four Corners". He still felt strongly about his Confederate calling and saw the Union League as an omen of trouble. One night, while sick in bed, a posse surrounded his house and men dressed in the uniforms of US soldiers stormed his house and announced to Bob that he was under arrest, and their orders were to take him to Sherman. What were the charges, Bob demanded. He was to be tried for crimes he had committed during the War.

Bob Lee
b. unknown
d. May 24, 1869
Bob recognized these men as Lewis Peacock, James Maddox, Bill Smith, Sam Bier, Hardy Dial, Doc Wilson, and Israel Boren. They demanded he dress and ride with them. Bob’s brother road along with him and the posse. They turned off the road and struck camp in the Choctaw Creek Bottoms. Bob pleaded all night that they take him onto Sherman, but after 36 hours, along with his gold watch, a twenty dollar gold coin and after signing a promisary note of $2000, his mule and bridle, he was released. This robbery in the Choctaw Bottoms was the start of the Lee-Peacock Feud.

It might have ended there if Bob and his brother had chosen to abide by the terms of the signed note, but Bob was mad, and felt the whole episode a great injustice.

Bob rode to Bonham and filed suit in the civil courts against the leaders of the posse. Bob, his brothers, and father, began to count men who would stand with them to remember the South’s cause and form an organization in opposition to the Union League and the sympathizers. Lee's men included Parson Martin Smith, the Dixon's, and many relatives. The wheels were set in motion for the beginning of a deadly feud.

Lewis Peacock began to count his men against this rebellion such as, James Vaught, James Maddox, Hugh Hudson, John Baldock, some of the Nances, and the Borens.

The last week of February was one of those beautiful days that seem to forecast an early spring, when Bob Lee rode into town. He was in the grocery store when Jim Maddox, the son of Nicholas Maddox, came face to face and the words began to fly. Fightin’ words about freedmen, carpetbaggers, and rebels, brought on the challenge to step outside and settle this argument. Suddenly Jim Maddox did an about face and brushed off his words with a laugh, Lee thinking it was all for naught, turned to walk away when a bullet grazed his ear and head and he fell to the ground. Maddox hurriedly put away his pistol and quickly ran. Out of every store, saloon, and residence, friends and supporters of Lee came to aid their stricken hero, vowing vengeance for the deed. Dr. W. H. Pierce, chief doctor of Pilot Grove, was among those who had run forward at the sound of the shots. His home was nearby and he immediately ordered the men to carry Lee to his house for aid. People waited outside for the doctor's report. Lee was not dead, but seriously wounded. Bob’s wife hurried to his side, to help nurse him back to health.

A report went to Austin to the Headquarters of the Fifth Military District under command of General John J. Reynolds, and the following entry was made in his ledger:

"Murder and Assaults with Intent to Kill", listed as criminals were James Maddox and John Vaught, listed as injured was Robert Lee. The charge: "Assault with intent to murder." The result: "Set aside by the Military".

A few days later, while Lee was still, convalescing in Dr. Pierce's home, a rider by the name of Hugh Hudson rode up to the Pierce home. The doctor stepped onto the stoop and was suddenly shot by Hugh Hudson. This time no one could save the doctor, for the bullet had taken a deadly course. Some time later Dr. W. C. Holmes, who had taken over Dr. Pierce's practice, went to Saltillo, to identify a man said to be Hudson. The description met that of Hudson.

Lee swore to avenge the Dr.’s death and word was soon spread out to the trails and thickets of Four Corners. Hatred spread from home to home. Scared people locked there doors, barred the windows, and pistols were kept ready for use.

In the year of 1868 Lige Clark, Billy Dixon, Dow Nance, Dan Sanders, Elijah Clark, and John Baldock were killed and many others wounded. Even Peacock suffered a wound at the hands of Lee's followers.

Early in the spring of 1868, Elijah Clark, a Peacock man, called on Hester Anne Dixon to invite her to a dance. She refused him. Elijah disappointed ran out of the house, leaving behind his gun on the table. He ran right into Billy Dixon, who was only 16 years old at the time. Elijah grabbed Billy's gun and shot him. Billy ran into the house, grabbed Elijah's gun that he had accidently left on a table and shot Elijah leaving on his horse. In less than a month, Billy met his death. He was on the way to Jefferson with a load of cotton when about 20 miles from home the wagon broke down. His cousin, Charlie Dixon, was with him. They were repairing the wagon when suddenly a dozen men appeared (Peacock's men) and surrounded them. They told Billy to march ten paces with his hands up...five, six, seven...a single bullet split into the air and Billy slumped to the ground.

Lee's followers were not sitting on their laurels. A couple of Peacock's men forced two Lee women to feed them, and when only a few hundred yards from the house, with full stomachs, they were shot right out of their saddles. In mid-May a meeting was being held at the Nance farm. Messengers quickly reported the meeting to Bob Lee, in Wildcat Thicket. Lee and a posse made a raid on the horse lot, where the meeting was being held. In the fight three of Peacock's men were killed. Dow Nance, John Baldock and Dan Sanders all lost their life that day.

On August 27, 1868, General J. J. Reynolds issued his famous proclamation putting a price on Lee's head by offering a one thousand-dollar reward for "anyone who would deliver Lee to the Post Commander at Marshall or Austin.

The $1,000 reward for Bob Lee, dead or alive, was attracting bounty hunters from all over the country to "The Corners". Dressed as citizens of the area, three Kansas "Red Legs", were laying plans to kill Bob Lee for the reward. It was early spring 1869 and sitting in the Lee's kitchen, Dorinda Pierce and Melinda Lee were chatting about the day ahead at the Lee School were Dorinda taught, when suddenly the serenity was shatterd by gun shots. They rushed down the road leading to Pilot Grove and found three dead men who were strangers to the women. The bodies of the three "Red Legs" laid there all day. Peacock's men were afraid to come and get the bodies for burial. Later the two women went back down the road and buried them.

Lee was on the defensive more than ever. He never slept at home, he spent most of his time in his hideout in the thickets, until one of his family made sure it was safe to emerge. Lee knew someone would be trying to collect that one thousand-dollar reward.

General J. J. Reynolds dispatched his blue boys, Fourth United States Cavalry, headed up by Lieutenant Charles A. Vernon to the troubled spot of Four Corners. The countryside resented the presence of the Yankees that they had fought so desperately for four years. General Reynolds report follows:

"Lee seems to be the most popular man in this section of the country, and I am sure that the citizens of that neighborhood would not only give him all the aid in their power, but will even help him with force of arms if necessary. I have strong hopes that Lieutenant Sands will eventually capture this man... He has at all times a portion of his command under a non-commissioned officer lying in the brush...and he has put Lee on the defensive".

On March 28, 1869, a military posse left from Sherman and came to McKinney. They were joined by Sheriff George Wilson and his deputies. This party of thirty men went to the home of Colonel William Fitzhugh, north of McKinney, about midnight looking for Bill Penn, Dow Witt, and companion named Hayes; but the three men were not there. Witt was located at another farm near by and killed in an ensuing gun battle. The next day a smaller posse again rode out to the home of Colonel Fitzhugh where they found Penn and Hayes. In the gun battle that ensued, Deputy William C. Hall of Collin County was mortally wounded and a soldier, James Johnson, was severely injured. Both Penn and Hayes escaped; but Hayes was later killed near Bonham by a posse on April 20.

Bob Lee dressed in a black suit, boots and black hat with plume, and all his side arms, decided to go to Mexico. On June 25, 1869, just a short distance from home, he was caught in a flash of Federal musket fire. Henry Boren had betrayed Bob and exposed his secret trail to Lee's hideout in Wildcat Thicket. Killed by Henry Boren and Captain Charles Campbell's, Sixth Cavalry, the deed was finally done. (Another account gives this date as May 24, 1869). Bob Lee's obituary reads, that he was killed on May 14, 1869.

Tough times in the Thickets continued for several years, Daniel Webster Lee, Bob's father was killed in 1877. This clipping from the Herald explains why Will Smith shot Daniel Lee:

Correspondence of the Herald
Bonham, Mar. 18, 1877

There was a shooting affray three and one half miles south of this place yesterday, in which Daniel Lee (The father of Bob Lee a noted desperado) received a dangerous, if not fatal wound, at the hand of William Smith. It is a bloody finale of a feud of some two or three years standing. Smith had Lee indicted for stealing some of his stock, and Lee was tried and acquitted at the present term of the district court, the same or probably the day before he was shot. It seems they left here together yesterday, in the company with three or four mutual friends, and at or near Henry Tyler's farm, one of Lee's sons, a youth some 13 or 15 years of age, and Smith had some words and they dismounted to fight, fisticuffs. While they were quarrelling; old Uncle Daniel, he being some 40 to 50 yds. behind came up, and some words were passed between him and Smith, when the latter drew a revolver and fired two or three shots one of these taking affect in the side, ranging round and coming out on the opposite side near the point of the shoulder blade. The wounded man now lies in a very critical condition, at the residence of Thomas J. Gales' in the city, and Smith has not been captured. Lee's friends say he was unarmed, which puts Smith in an ugly situation, should he be captured.

Not all Borens held the Union cause, and many were mad that Henry had assisted the Federal Troops. As an aftermath to Lee's death, Bill Boren, a nephew of Henry's, rode up to his uncle's house the next morning. He called to his uncle to come out. Henry came out and was instantly killed by his nephew, who silently turned and rode away. "Death to a Traitor" was evidently the opinion of some of the Borens. Bill Boren had ridden with Quantrill's Raiders during his forays in Texas. After killing Henry, Bill began to ride with John Wesley Hardin. He returned to Montague county in the late 1870's and wrote a letter to his Uncle Dick Boren expressing his feeling's about the killing of Henry. Letter to Dick Boren.

After Lee's death in 1869, both the Lee and Peacock followers scattered to other parts of the state, but a few did stay. Lewis Peacock stayed in the "Four Corner's" area. Dick Johnson had gone out to West Texas, to avoid trouble. He had already lost his three half-brothers, Simp Dixon, Bob Dixon, and Charlie Dixon. Charlie was killed at Black Jack Grove, now Cumby, TX. Charlie and his father were headed to the lumber mills near Winnsboro for lumber when Peacock and his followers caught up with them and killed Charlie. His father brought his son's body home in an ox wagon and buried him. His father was heart broken, and soon died leaving behind 3 daughters. Peacock still seeking revenge sent them word that they were going to burn down their home and there would not be a rail left on their farm. They were so scared, they wrote to Dick Johnson out in West Texas to come home and protect them. He came in a hurry and news spread the Dick was back in Pilot Grove. Whe Peacock heard the news, he was in the drug store of Dr. Kurkendall in Pilot Grove. He remarked, "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."

Joe Parker, another Lee follower, was still in the area. He and Dick were both vieing for the honor of slaying Peacock. Around the first of July, 1871, one of them climbed an elm tree, just in sight of Peacock's home. Some say it was Dick in the tree, others say it was Joe. But the two were working in unison and with the same goal in mind. Early one morning Peacock came to the door to get wood to make a fire...and was slain in his own yard. Dick Johnson was never arrested, and he and his wife moved to Missouri, where the lived for many years. He was seen visiting in Fannin County in 1920 and was last heard to be living in Red River County, TX.

There are dozens of yarns and legends of the shooting of Bob Lee and the Feud with Lewis Peacock. However, very little is known of how it blew the Boren family apart. Bill's killing of Henry ignited a Boren-Boren feud. The family didn't want any interference by law officers and simply went to bushwhacking each other with a vengeance. Bill disappeared for several years, but was baited back and killed by Henry's son. Forgotten is that three Borens were ambushed nearby and buried in a wagon bed in the Dulaney Graveyard.

Finally in 1871 the four-year feud ended but it has remained the subject of conversation in the vicinity, and is still studied by historians.

Please email me if you have any information on the Lee-Peacock feud.
I would be very interested in hearing from you.

 

1997 Denise Maddox