The Arkansas feud known as the Tutt-Everett War or the King-Tutt-Everett War or the Marion County War wasn’t over love, money, water or land – it was pure politics and it was bloody. The Marion County War might be the most appropriate name since it eventually seemed to have involved just about every citizen in the county.
The Tutt family, led by Hansford “Hamp” Tutt, had come to Searcy County, Arkansas from Tennessee sometime in the 1830’s. The Tutts were members of the Whig Party and wielded political influence in Searcy County. They were also known to be a rough bunch – gambling, horse racing, fighting and drinking. Hamp was a merchant and also owned a saloon which served as a local hangout.
The Everett family of John, “Sim”, Jesse and Bart were members of the Democratic Party and wielded great influence in the area where they lived. Marion County was created in 1836 by the Arkansas legislature out of the area where the Everett family resided. It would also place the Tutts in the same county as the Everetts. To add a little more drama, the King family, fellow Whigs, joined up with the Tutts.
By 1844 most of the county’s three hundred or so residents had lined up behind one faction or the other. The first noted public confrontation between the two sides occurred in Yellville in June of 1844 at the site of a political debate. A brawl, which would later be seen as the match that “lit the feud”, broke out – no guns, just fists, rocks and whatever else they could grab.
In the middle of the fray one of the Tutt supporters, Alfred Burnes, struck Sim Everett in the head with the blade of a hoe, cutting a large gash. Burnes, thinking he’d killed a man, quickly fled the scene. Sim did recover but thereafter both sides never ventured out unarmed. A series of lawsuits and brawls in the ensuing years served only to continue fanning the flames.
As volatile as the situation was, the first gunfight didn’t occur until October 9, 1848 in Yellville. When the gun smoke cleared, several men lay dead, including Jim Everett. Retaliation was swift when two days later the remaining Everetts ambushed and killed Billy, Sr. and Loomis King. Billy’s son and a friend of the family were both wounded but managed to escape.
For the next several months, gun fights continued to erupt although there were no more fatalities. Tensions increased when Ewell Everett became an elected judge, while George Adams, a supporter of the Tutts, was elected constable. The Everett support waned a bit though by the end of the year when Jesse Everett and ally Jacob Stratton decided to move on to Texas.
By the summer of 1849 Sheriff Jesse Mooney, having a reputation as a tough and principled lawman, decided to organize a posse and end the feud. The posse was organized on July 4 and subsequently the biggest gun fight of the entire feud also occurred on that day. Before the posse was fully engaged, the Everetts already had a plan to ambush the Tutts who had assembled at the saloon.
The gun fight was a fierce one, and when the ammunition was spent the fighting continued with rocks, sticks, bricks, again whatever they could lay their hands on. This time the body count was much higher – ten men, including one King (Jack), two Everetts (Bart and Sim), and three Tutts (Davis, Ben and Lunsford) lay dead. Dave Sinclair, an ally of the Tutts who presumably killed Sim, was killed by Everett allies the following day.
When Jesse Everett learned of the deaths of his family members, he returned to Arkansas to avenge their killings, unsuccessfully attempting to kill Hamp Tutt several times. Stepping in again, Sheriff Mooney sent his son Thomas to the capitol to ask the governor to intervene and send the state militia. The governor agreed to intervene but Thomas never made it home, presumably ambushed by one of the factions or the other. His body was never found, although the carcass of his horse later washed up in a creek.
On August 31, 1849 three King family members were ambushed by the Everetts. In September a militia was raised in neighboring Carroll County and later relieved Mooney of his duties. Several members of the Everett faction were arrested, but following the militia’s retreat were freed after a jail break. So much for martial law.
In September of 1850 the feud was essentially over when Hamp Tutt was killed, some believe by a mysterious man from Texas hired by the Everetts. It would become known as the most famous and bloody feud in Arkansas history.
Interestingly, Davis Tutt, only a child at the height of the Tutt-Everett feud, made history of his own on July 21, 1865. Said to have been the date of the first Western gunfight, James B. “Wild Bill” Hickok killed him over a gambling debt on the town square in Springfield, Missouri. The event is commemorated at the spot where Hickok stood with an historic marker:
Lottie Tutt, Davis’ sister, was Wild Bill’s girlfriend.
Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!
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© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.