Last week while watching one of my favorite PBS television programs, “Antique Roadshow,” I caught a glimpse of a book whose cover looked familiar during the promotional bit at the beginning of the program. I got busy with something else and didn't see the actual showing and conversation about the book.
Later in the week, the show was repeated on Thursday night and I was watching and had forgotten about the earlier hint. A woman had brought a picture of her grandfather and several letters that her great-grandfather, a surgeon in the Confederate Army, had written to his wife while he was away from home.
There in the middle of her exhibit was a book, “Murder at the Corners,” by Gladys B. Ray about the Lee-Peacock Feud in the four corners of Grayson, Collin and Fannin counties just after the Civil War. By that time I was looking for pen and paper to get what she had to say. The exhibit that also included two photos was valued at between $8,000 and $10,000.
Her great-grandfather was Dr. W.H. Pierce, chief doctor at Pilot Grove located between Van Alstyne and Whitewright. He was an educated, cultured man who didn't want to become involved in bloody fights, pistol fights or party discords, according to Gladys' book. He had a wife and two young children, a home, and all the patients he could take care of.
The Pierce family came to Texas in about 1854 and settled first at Cannon, five miles west of Pilot Grove. He had moved into the village of Pilot Grove during the recent War between the States.
The feud was between Confederate Capt. 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 the Yankees.
The feud took place in the four corners of Grayson, Collin and Fannin counties just after the Civil War ended. Gladys Ray was an English teacher in Whitewright, who wrote the book in 1957, renewing the feud. She may have been the first to write about the feud in the Pilot Grove area that evolved around the two military men and during the time that many people were murdered. But a lot has been written since then in books, magazines and newspaper articles and even in this column.
Lee came home from the 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 during the war and was one of the first to sign up with Company C of the ninth Texas Cavalry.
Some said that Peacock was a scalawag who came to the area with the carpetbaggers after the war 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, according to some who knew the reasoning for the feud.
Gladys Ray wrote her book from interviews with some of the old-timers who were involved 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 was waving 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.
But Dr. Pierce, the woman on television's great-grandfather, saved Lee's life by taking him into his home and tending his wounds. A few days later Dr. Pierce was shot in the back by a relative, Hugh Hudson, while he was standing in his own yard just because he had treated Lee. Hudson was said to have ridden up on his horse and asked Dr. Pierce what he was doing with Lee in his house. The doctor told him he was taking care of him just like he would do for anyone else.
First Lee's supporters, then Peacock's were killing each other one after the 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 where there was a row of unmarked graves known as a no man's land along the fence. Only a preacher named Martin Gentry and Dr. Holmes knew where Peacock had been buried.
The Rev. Gentry had a great-grandson, Homer Gentry who taught biology and chemistry at Denison High School as far back as the 1950s. Homer told friends it had always bothered him that Peacock was buried in the cemetery. He said he knew the burial location, but wouldn't tell where. Shortly thereafter Homer purchased a small marker about the size of a breadbox and put it in concrete on the grave site. He pulled up the stakes that had been put there and left them on the ground.
Five years later Larry Peacock of Dallas, Peacock's great-great-grandson, incorporated the breadbox marker into one that he installed, saying his marker was more befitting his ancestor. Larry Peacock, James M. Smallwood and Barry A. Crouch collaborated to write a book, “Murder and Mayhem, the War of Reconstruction in Texas.”
Several years ago I went with a friend to the Old Pilot Grove Cemetery and got a good look at Lewis Peacock's unique marker. It is a little ironic that Dr. Pierce, who was believed to have been killed by supporters of Peacock, is buried not far from the Peacock grave.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at email@example.com.