The Beginnings Of "Bloody Breathitt"
Note: For sixty years after the Civil War, Breathitt County, Kentucky, was the site of numerous family feuds and wars. Beginning with killings during the Civil War and finally ending in 1912 with the death of Ed Callahan, there were at least six major family feuds and any number of lesser troubles. (In fact, the last major feud, the Marcum-Cox-Hargis-Callahan Feud, was more famous than even the Hatfield-McCoy Feud at the time. It was covered in newspapers around the world.) Below is given a newspaper article taken from the January 7 , 1879, issue of the Kentucky Yeoman published in Frankfort, Kentucky. It lists many of the early victims of the deadly feuds in Breathitt County. Sad to say, the list grew much longer after 1878. In 1878 the county judge and several other citizens were shot and killed on the streets of Jackson during what history recalls as the Strong-Burnett-Little Feud. For the second time in four years the governor of Kentucky ordered state troops into Jackson and Breathitt County to restore some order. (They would come again in 1903.)

A Reporter's Letter

Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky
December 22, 1878

Editors Yeoman:
During the rebellion the following citizens of this county were killed by the Home Guards, to- wit:

Alex. Overbee, Jesse Spencer, Lasson Noble, Wash Noble, Pleasant Davis, Ambrose Hollon, John Pence, Lake Woods, John Chaney, John South, A.J. South, Wm. South, David Little, Pat Hounshell, John C. Little, Reuben Angel, Wm. Taulbee, Wayne Taulbee, and James Barnett. All these were private citizens when killed.

Since the war the following persons have been killed, viz: Robert Little, Wm. Moore, Wilson Callihan, John Amis, Alfred Amis, Anderson Amis, George C. Haddix, Mason Combs, Lee Miller, Robert Overbee, Dump Chaney, Frank Lucas, Curtis Jett Jr., Logan Cockrill, John Malone, Daniel Freeman, Wm. Hargis, Simon Hollon, Wm., Ledford, Mathew Back, --- Roberts, Wm. Miller, Samuel Mays, T.J. Little, and J.W. Burnett and Angeline Little, the woman who was murdered by her husband.

The following have been wounded: John Green, Jerre Little, Hiram Jett, Jas. Cockrill, James Daniel, C.O. Cardwell, Thomas Sewell Jr., Buck Combs, W.M. Combs, Wm. Little, Richard Strong, Harvey Fox, David Viers, Henry Mosely, Wm. Freeman, Hiram Freeman, James Helton, Robert Amis, Wm. Strong, Samuel Oakes, John Napier, Jack Combs, Samuel P. Frazier, Wm. Smith, Jack Hargis, Thomas J. Little, Jennie Boling, Edward Gross, John Ledford, and John Amis.

Total killed during the war, 19; total killed since the war, 26; total killed during and since the war, 45. Wounded since the war, 30. Notwithstanding all this crime and bloodshed, not one has been hung or sent to the penitentiary from this county for any of these crimes. But three persons have been sent to the penitentiary since the war--one for arson and two for grand larceny.

The magistrates, sheriffs, grand jurors, constables, etc., all drink, curse, fight, dance, play cards, and violate the laws in various other ways, together, but never steal, except what little they filch from the Commonwealth. They know no law except that concerning concealed weapons and tippling-houses, and they are perfection itself in these. The officers never think of enforcing the laws against drunkenness, profane swearing, or bribery in executions.

Judge Randall has arrived, and has organized and instructed his grand inquest today. They will begin their investigations immediately. The special term of the Breathitt circuit court will begin for the trial of equity, criminal, and penal causes tomorrow one week. Jere Little, Alfred Little, Jack Little, and Alfred Gambrel were put in jail last night about sunset. The soldiers acted promptly in making the arrests. The soldiers are quartered in the court house, and the Judge is staying with them.

With the combined efforts of the military and judiciary, we may expect a speedy settlement of the troubles, and a thorough vindication of the law.