October 2, 2020
The Hatfields and McCoy’s are probably the most famous family feud of all time but they hardly have the market cornered on feudin’. In fact, in the late 1800’s, there commenced a spat between two families in Marion that spilled blood into the dirt streets and went on for several years.
It began sometime in 1892 over a legal issue that involved Albert A. Carroll (sometimes referred to as A.A. or Ab) and Thomas Jefferson Roark, both prominent citizens of Marion. Or rather the argument simply started due to a disagreement about testimony over the lawsuit. Either way, the next round of escalation was uncalled for but highly entertaining.
On January 2, 1893, an argument began in the street in front of Thomas’ General Store in Marion, Louisiana. Oscar Cox and William Brasher began to debate the testimony of the lawsuit. The dispute became heated and Brasher grabbed an axe while Oscar pulled his pistol. At this point, briefly, cooler heads prevailed and the men were separated. As they were being parted, shots rang out from bystanders. At this point, all men began to turn and fire upon each other in the streets for a gun battle that lasted around a mere 30 seconds but during which around 30 rounds of ammunition were fired. The battle lines consisted of the Cox brothers: Lee, Wade (who also happened to be the constable) and Oscar accompanied by R. A. Alexander versus Ab Carroll, his brother James Carroll and William Brasher. While Thomas Roark was a topic of discussion, he apparently was not present for the actual initial gunfight.
Ab Carroll was severely wounded and bleeding profusely, even so, he managed to drag himself up and stumble into Thomas’ only to collapse and die upon the floor of the General store. James Carroll was shot up bad as well with wounds in the head, chest and hip but survived that day. Lee Cox was shot through the neck and apparently died shortly after from his wound. Oscar was gut shot and was expected to die, he lived…that time. Wade Cox and R. A. Alexander were unharmed.
Wade Cox and R. A. Alexander were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 months in the state penitentiary but quickly escaped from parish jail probably with help from friends of Wade’s. The blood shed was far from over.
James R. Carroll had made a miraculous recovery considering how he had been shot to pieces. By September of 1893, he was again tending business on his farm, unaware that he was being stalked patiently by killers bent on revenge. On the evening of September 30, 1893, he was returning from a short business trip from Monroe with the son of his African American farm overseer asleep in the wagon. The pair had probably crossed the river by ferry in those days and were making their way over the bumpy wagon road when a load of buckshot felled James from the wagon seat, startling the child awake. The killer burst from his hiding spot in a nearby corncrib which was on property owned by R.M. Alexander (probably not a coincidence).
Interestingly, of note, the police believed every word that the young black child had to say about the crime. The killer or killers were tracked for several miles before the trail was lost and the case was never officially solved.
In May of 1895, Wade Cox and R. A. Alexander turned themselves in to serve the sentence that they had been given for their part in the killing of Ab Carroll and their brazen escape from the Union Parish Jail and began to serve their time. They admitted no involvement in the killing of James Carroll.
Oscar never was quite right in the head after the initial gun battle. Maybe it was guilt, maybe it was trauma, maybe it was the fact that he had a hole in his belly that would never heal up all the way, or maybe it was the fact that he got acquitted and that didn’t sit well with nobody. He took to talking crazy and alternating claiming to have killed James and denying it. He began to carry pistols and rifles loaded down wherever he went. He thought people were following him. Most people thought he was nuts, but he wasn’t. On August 27, 1895, shortly after his brother surrendered to his jail sentence and was no longer around to protect him, Oscar was shot off of his horse about a mile from Marion by no less than three assassins at once. He was armed with a large colt pistol and a Winchester rifle but had drawn neither. Oscar had been shot eleven times through the back. And that appears to be where that actual feud blood shed ends. Of course it seems only fitting, Oscar started it, and in some strange way, he also ended it.
Wade served his sentence and lived out his life on his farm, raising his kids quietly and caring for his elderly mother. He died in 1932 at the age of 66. He, Oscar and his mother Mary Wheelis are buried at Marion Cemetery in Marion, Louisiana. I suppose Lee is buried there as well but must be unmarked.
James Carroll and Ab Carroll are both buried at Union Cemetery in Sadie, Louisiana which is just north of Marion.
Thomas Roark is buried in the Roark Cemetery in Marion, Louisiana. William Brasher is buried at Concord Cemetery in Marion, Louisiana.