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4 Bloody Family Feuds in American History

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If you have a disagreement with your neighbor today, you might head to small-claims court to settle the dispute. But in rural parts of 19th-century America, such disagreements were often solved with the business end of a gun. Here are four bloody family feuds that could have used some mediation.

1. Grahams–Tewksburys: The Pleasant Valley War

Before their feud started in the 1880s, the Grahams and Tewksburys, both livestock ranchers in Pleasant Valley, Arizona, were actually friends and business partners. Granted, their business was stealing cattle from another rancher. So neither family was a pillar of the community from the start. Their falling out occurred around 1882, probably over the stolen cattle, though the over-grazing of land by the Tewksburys' sheep was also a point of contention. At the time, the feud resulted in the occasional fistfight or bout of name-calling, but little more.

Things got more violent in February 1887, when Thomas Graham shot a Tewksbury hired hand who had been herding sheep on contested grazing land. In retaliation, Graham was shot by Ed Tewksbury, who immediately went on the lam. Shortly after, the Grahams and their sympathizers laid siege to the Tewksbury cabin, engaging in a shootout that lasted for hours. The only cease fire was granted to Mrs. Tewksbury—so she could dig shallow graves for her son, John, and his friend, William Jacobs, who had been killed in the melee.

Over the next few years, between 20 and 50 men from both sides were killed, often by bands of masked men, which made arrests a rarity. However, the feud finally came to an end in 1892, when Tom Graham, Jr., the last surviving member of his family, was shot and killed in Tempe by the fugitive Ed Tewksbury, the last of his clan. Tewksbury was tried and convicted, but due to a legal technicality, his case was dismissed in 1895. Tewksbury died of natural causes in 1904 as the sole survivor of The Pleasant Valley War.

It wasn’t just the two families that were affected by the feud. For many years before the War started, Arizona had been vying for statehood. But since the feud remained unresolved for so long, many legislators in Washington saw it as proof that Arizona was not yet civilized enough to be a part of the Union. Some historians believe the War might have set back Arizona statehood for decades.

2. Turks-Joneses: The Slicker War of the Ozarks

The feud between the Turks and the Joneses, both of Benton County, Missouri, in the Ozark Mountain region, started like so many others at the time – on Election Day. Most men were given the day off from work so they could visit the polls, which meant they also spent a lot of time in the local saloon after casting their votes. A combination of whiskey and politics inevitably resulted in fistfights, such as the one in 1840 when Andy Jones and Jim Turk got into a scuffle that was soon joined by other members of their clans.

Later, a bounty hunter came into the region looking for a relative of the Joneses named James Morton. The County Sheriff wasn’t willing to help, but the Turks saw an opportunity to get back at their rivals, so they nabbed Morton and turned him over. Because of their actions, patriarch Hiram Turk was arrested for kidnapping, but the charges were later dropped. Feeling they’d been wronged, the Jones family got their revenge when Andy Jones allegedly shot and killed Hiram on July 17, 1841. Jones went to trial, but he was acquitted.

Feeling the justice system had failed them, the Turks publicly announced their intention to form a vigilante group to rid the area of counterfeiters, robbers, and murderers. Under the guise of public welfare, they rounded up people from the community, and went after these unwanted elements, which naturally included their enemies, the Joneses and their allies.

The group soon earned the nickname “Slickers,” based upon their usual mode of punishment, called “slicking”, which involved tying a person to a tree and whipping them with a hickory switch. In retaliation, the Joneses started “The Anti-Slickers,” who guarded their allies, and occasionally went after Slickers as well. The battle raged until the Slickers mistakenly went after an innocent farmer and nearly killed him, after which the Missouri government charged 38 of the Slickers with the crime. The arrests diminished the Slicker numbers significantly and led to the feud dissolving over the next few years.

Unfortunately, the Slickers' form of justice caught on with the people of Missouri, as more Slicker groups sprang up that had nothing to do with the Turk-Jones feud. Much like the Turks' Slickers, these groups were easily influenced by leaders with less-than-honest intentions, so many innocent people were accused, beaten, and even killed for crimes they did not commit.

3. The Lee-Peacock Feud

In August 1861, Bob Lee joined the Ninth Texas Cavalry of the Confederate Army, leaving behind his family in northeast Texas. While he was away, the Union League, a civil group created to promote loyalty to the Union and to protect blacks and Union sympathizers, set up a local chapter headed by Lewis Peacock. After the War, Lee returned home to find the League using their political weight to force the area to adopt what the community saw as unfair Reconstruction initiatives. Many of Lee's neighbors looked to him—a former Confederate—as the leader in the push back against this new form of Northern oppression.

To quash his new rival, Peacock rounded up his men and arrested Lee on trumped up charges of war crimes. Knowing he would be exonerated in court, Lee and his brother, who acted as a chaperone, went peacefully. But instead of taking Lee to the authorities, Peacock's men took the brothers into the wilderness and robbed them. They also forced both Lee brothers to sign a $2000 promissory note before setting them free. Alive but angry, Lee and his brother sued the leaders of the Union League and won. But instead of settling the matter, the 1867 judgment only escalated the bitterness between the two sides. When a relative of Peacock's later shot and wounded Lee, the first blood had been spilled in what would become a small-scale Civil War in Texas.

In the summer of 1868, after a year of ambushes and shootouts that resulted in the death of about 50 men, Peacock requested help from the Federal Government. Peacock's political allies arranged for a $1000 reward to be posted for Bob Lee—Dead or Alive. However, Lee had friends and family who helped him move safely about the countryside, allowing him to fight for another year before the Fourth United States Cavalry was sent in to settle the feud. With the pressure on, Lee decided to run to Mexico, but was shot and killed en route by the military. Lee's plan was betrayed by a former supporter, Henry Boren, who met his maker the next day at the hands of his own nephew, who saw his uncle as a traitor.

Even though Lee was dead, the battle wasn't over. His men scattered, but they continued to come back into the area for years to take shots at Peacock and his men. In fact, it was June 1871 before Lee sympathizers killed Peacock, finally ending the feud once and for all.

4. The Hatfields and The McCoys

While the most famous family feud, between the McCoys of Kentucky and the Hatfields of West Virginia, dates back to 1865, the feud's most deadly era began on Election Day in 1882. Three McCoy men killed Ellison Hatfield, stabbing him 26 times before finishing him off with a bullet to the chest. The next day, as the three young men were escorted to Pikeville, Kentucky, for arraignment, the Hatfield clan intercepted them, tied them up, and shot them in cold blood.

Twenty arrest warrants were issued for Hatfields, but no law enforcement bothered to serve them. Oddly, the McCoys didn’t seek immediate revenge, as it was understood that, in terms of social justice, the three boys got what they deserved. Still, animosity ran high, and minor skirmishes occurred in the ensuing years, showing that the feud was quiet, but not dead.

However, when business investors balked at putting money into a community that had a reputation for vendetta violence, the government decided it was time to step in. The State of Kentucky began serving the 20 outstanding Hatfield warrants, arresting two men within a matter of weeks. In order to stop the arrests, a small faction of the Hatfields decided to kill the head of the opposing family, Old Ranel McCoy, so that he couldn't testify in court against them.

So, early on the morning of January 1, 1888, nine members of the Hatfields set fire to Ranel McCoy’s cabin. As he and his family fled the flames, shots rang out, killing two adult McCoy children. When Mrs. McCoy ran to check on them, she was severely beaten, but survived. The Hatfields’ target, Ranel, escaped harm entirely by hiding in a pigpen. The attack was condemned by most members of the Hatfield clan, and, although there were two more deaths and the occasional scuffles for years to come, the majority of the feud fighters had decided that enough was enough.

In all, around a dozen people died during the feud. However, the two families eventually put aside their differences and now see their shared family history with a sense of humor. For example, in 1979, both clans made a week-long appearance on the nightly gameshow, Family Feud, where both sides took shots at each other with pistols loaded with blanks. In this feud, the McCoys were declared the winners, three games out of five.

In 2000, the clans shared the first of what has become an annual joint family reunion, now called the Hatfield and McCoy Reunion Festival, in a weekend full of events that take place in both Kentucky and West Virginia.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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