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The Terry-Wagoner Feud
a.k.a. The Ambrose-Terry Feud

For years, stories have circulated among researchers about an Arkansas feud involving the AMBROSE family.  My thanks to Shirley Sieting and Danette Robinette for finding the records that allowed us to confirm the stories.

The timeline below charts the involvement of Franklin Barton AMBROSE and his brothers William  and John with the Arkansas and Missouri Courts from 1886 through 1894.  The origins of the Terry-Wagoner Feud which flared up in 1887 on both sides of the Arkansas/Missouri border are not known. It has been suggested that the feud was part of the Bald Knobber, Anti-Bald Knobber activities. However, the Ambrose "boys" were arrested many more times than are documented here, and it is generally agreed that they were enthusiastic and frequent participants in the drinking, gambling and fighting which the original Taney County Chapter of the Bald Knobbers was organized to stop. Contemporary newspaper accounts refer to the "feud" separately and it appears to me that the feud had a different origin, perhaps a result of one of the fights that were endemic in the Missouri towns of Forsyth and Chadwick. 

Frank and William were indicted on two serious charges known to be connected to the feud: arson (the burning of Isaac "Ike" Terry's barn), and the murder of Alvin Culloden "Cul" GARRET.  Records relating to the arson charges are highlighted in yellow. Murder records are highlighted in green. For context, some significant Bald Knobber dates are included and are highlighted in gray.

Date Place Who Event Description/Comments Source
Sep-Nov 1883 Taney Co MO Bald Knobbers Organized Nat Kinney called together 12 respectable citizens to form a vigilante group that would put an end to the marauding gangs and bushwhackers that had freely roamed the area since the end of the Civil War.  Originally organized as the "Anti-Horse Thief Association", and followed by "The Law and Order League", but were soon referred to by the locals as Bald Knobbers because of the location of their meetings. Asher
10 Apr 1886 Taney Co MO Bald Knobbers Taney County Chapter formally disbanded The Anti-Bald Knobbers petitioned the Missouri Governor John S. Marmaduke to disband the group.  Marmaduke sent his Adjutant General, J. C. Jamison, to Forsyth for a meeting with the Bald Knobbers and Jamison recommended to Kinney that an official dissolution of the Bald Knobbers would be in the best interest of the County. The next day a formal dissolution ceremony was held in the town square. However, by this time, Stone, Douglas, Greene, and Christian counties had adopted the idea of masked night riders and the Bald Knobbers continued unofficially in those counties until about 1890. Asher
11 Jul 1886 Carroll Co AR John Ambrose Assault John drew a pistol and threatened to shoot Joseph Reynolds. Indictment not sustained since a fine had already been assessed by the J. P. and paid. Court Record
11 Mar 1887 Christian Co MO Bald Knobbers Green-Eden murders Incited by incendiary speeches at their meeting, several members leave to scare into silence William Eden and Charles Green, both out-spoken critics of the Bald Knobbers. Eden and Green are killed and several others are wounded or killed. Asher
16 Mar 1887 Christian Co MO Bald Knobbers 19 members arrested for Green-Eden murders NINETEEN OF THE BALD KNOBBERS LOCKED UP ...
Ozark, Mo., March 17. -- Eleven members of the Bald Knobbers' organization were arrested and brought here yesterday, making 19 in all now under arrest and confined here.  These prisoners are believed to include the leading spirits of the gang, and also a majority of the masked band concerned in the murder of William Eden and Charles Green last Friday night. Read the entire article
10 May 1887 Carroll Co AR William Ambrose Shoots and wounds John Carr Indicted for Assault with intent to Kill during August 1887 Term. Court Record
May 1887 Carroll Co AR John Ambrose Indicted for Bribery. Offered $50 to any one who would "try Bill Ambros and turn him loose in the case against him for shooting John Carr." Court Record
7 Dec 1887 Dateline: Little Rock AR Garrett & Waggoner Account of the killing of Cul Garret and Grant Waggoner VICTIMS OF AN ARKANSAS FEUD. Little Rock, ARK., Dec. 6. -- Particulars of a singular double tragedy have just been received from Berryville, Ark.  Grant [Cul] Garrett and Cul  [Grant]Waggoner, living in the Polo Township, met on the roadside and began firing at each other.  Garrett was killed outright, and Waggoner will die from his wounds.  The murder is the result of a feud, which thus far has cost four lives, and further bloodshed is imminent.  Several prominent families are involved. --THE NEW YORK TIMES, Published: 7 Dec 1887
9 Dec 1887 Stone Co MO Wagner, Ambrose boys, Cull Garret Account of the killing of Cul Garret & Grant Waggoner From Galena Oracle : The 1st inst., about 25 miles from Galena, near the house of Missouri H. Wilder and about 1/4 mile from the state line, a boy named Wagner and another young man named Ambrose concealed themselves on the road and as Cull Garrett was passing them fired upon him from the brush. He dismounted and fired back. Another Ambrose boy heard the firing and rode rapidly to the place. Several shots had been exchanged and Garret had been hit in both arms. Ambrose at once fired on Garret and gave him the wound that proved fatal. Garret in the meantime had hit and killed Wagner. Garret, after being mortally wounded, fired on and wounded young Ambrose; both Ambrose boys took flight and left the state. Garret rode to Wilder’s and called for help. He died near 10 o’clock. --SPRINGFIELD EXPRESS [Greene Co], Published  9 Dec 1887

Grant Waggoner is buried in Blackjack Cemetery near Berryville, Carroll Co, AR.  The original tombstone was replaced by a descendant and now reads:
R. Grant Waggoner 22 Sep 1867 - 1 Sep 1887
Contemporary records indicate he was killed the 1st of December.
16 Dec 1887 Dateline: Marion Co AR Cul Garret
& Grant Wagoner
Account of the killing of Garret & Waggoner HARRISON HASH (Times, 10th. Inst.)
Cul Garrett and Grant Wagoner were the two men killed in the Carroll county ruckus last week. --The MOUNTAIN ECHO, Yellville [Marion Co], AR: Published 16 Dec 1887
23 Dec 1887 Stone Co MO William Ambrose, Grant Wagner, Cull Garret & Frank Ambrose Account of the killing of Grant Wagoner & Cull Garret. FIGHTING WITH OUTLAWS.; A DEADLY WAR BEING WAGED IN MISSOURI. Ozark, Mo., [Christian Co.] Dec 23 -- A deadly warfare is progressing near Galena, Stone County, and an appeal has been made to Gov. Marmaduke to send troops to the scene. Stone County is on the southwestern border and has neither railroad nor telegraph. It is the home of many of the Bald Knobbers who were recently punished by the Government, and the majority of its citizens travel armed. Col. Almus Harrington of Ozark returned from Stone County to-day, and says that the whole section along the White River is terrorized. Very little is known of the history of the feud, but it seems that the Terry brothers, five in number, living near Maybury's Ferry on the White River, have for years defied the law and terrorized the community. They have been charged with various crimes, including horse stealing, and finally a vigilance committee was organized to drive them out of the county. The Terrys, with their friends, overawed the leaders of the regulating movement, and the outlaws held their ground. Two weeks ago one of the Terrys was shot from ambush and killed. Soon after this one Meeks, a member of the anti-Terry faction was shot to pieces by unknown assassins.

A few days later Cull Garret, a friend of the Terrys was fired upon by Grant Wagner and William Ambrose, who had secreted themselves behind a tree. Garret carried a Winchester rifle, and when fired upon by the assassins, jumped from his horse and took a position behind a tree about 45 yards from Ambrose and Wagner. The fight which ensued lasted about 15 minutes during which over 20 shots were exchanged. Wagner received two mortal wounds, and his ally [William Ambrose] fled, leaving Garret master of the field. About this time Frank Ambrose, brother of William, who had heard the shooting came up, armed with a revolver, and opened fire on Garret, killing him on the second shot, and reeceiving himself a wound from the effects of which he will die. [Frank did not die until 1943.]

The Stone County Oracle says about 10 men have been killed in this neighborhood, and that no one has received any legal punishment. A correspondent of the same paper, writing from the vacinity of the disturbance, says that good men are being ordered to leave the locality, and thinks Gov. Marmaduke ought to send assistance immediately to restore order, as the authorities of the county seem powerless to enforce the law.
--The NEW YORK TIMES, Published 24 Dec 1887.
20 Jan 1888 Stone Co MO Terry Brothers Background BLOODY BATTLE PROBABLE. Ozark, Mo., Jan 20 -- Reports from Galena, Stone County, indicate that the war between the Vigilance Committee of the county and the Terry outlaws is liable to culminate in a bloody battle. Six weeks ago, when the outlaws were driven out of Stone County, they crossed the Arkansas line and fortified themselves at Boon. Their depredations soon aroused the people in the neighborhood and they were ordered to leave. They refused and purchased 25 Winchester Rifles and defied the authorities. The outlaws number altogether about 30 and the Vigilance Committee about 100 and both are preparing for battle. The Stone County committee has joined forces with the Arkansas committee. --The NEW YORK TIMES, Published: 21 Jan 1888 NYTArch
6 Feb 1888 Carroll Co AR Terry, Waggoner, Mitchell, Ambrose Account of arrests for 1 Dec 1887 shootings DESPERATE OUTLAWS CAGED. Little Rock, Ark., Feb. 6. -- Intelligence of the arrest of Miles and John Terry was received today from Berryville.  They are border outlaws having killed a number of men, the last being John Meeks.  The scene of their exploits for some time past has been Stone County, Mo., and the border Arkansas counties.  Lately these men, with numerous followers, had a desperate fight on the highway in Carroll County, Ark., with a party of their foes headed by an ex-Federal soldier named Waggoner.  He was killed, two of his men were wounded, and the remainder were dispersed, of whom William Waggoner, John Mitchell, and Frank and William Ambrose have been arrested.  They are out under bond.  The Terry faction threaten to burn the jail and release the Terry's. --THE NEW YORK TIMES Published:  7 Feb 1888  NYTArch
16 Feb 1888 Carroll Co AR Isaac Terry Purchased Land Patented 80 acres adjoining the farm of Henry Clark Ambrose.   Land Record
Feb 1888 Carroll Co AR Rufus Peters, Frank Ambrose, William Ambrose, Cole Wagoner, John Mitchell Arson Charge: Indicted Defendants recognizanced $750 each.  Henry C. Ambrose is security for Frank. William requests a change of venue to Madison County stating that it would be impossible to obtain a fair trial in Carroll County. Change of venue is granted by the Court.

Cole Wagoner was the twin brother of Grant Wagoner who was killed 1 Dec 1887.
Court Record
Jul 1888 Carroll Co AR Wm. & Frank Ambrose Arson Charge: Bond forfeiture 1) Frank and William fail to appear in Court.
2) Henry Ambrose and C.S. Davis, securities for Frank and William, are summoned to appear Aug 1, 1888 to show cause why bond should not be ordered forfeit.
3) Arrest warrants issued for Frank and William.
Aug 1888Carroll Co ARFrank AmbroseArson Charge: TrialFirst trial ends in Hung Jury.Court Record
20 Aug 1888 Taney Co MO Nat Kinney Killed by Billy Miles The Anti-Bald Knobbers resented Kinney's continuing influence and conspired to remove him. They designated William Miles as the assassin.  Miles shot the unarmed Kinney, then immediately surrendered claiming self defense. Asher
29 Aug 1888  Greene Co MO Bill Miles Description Bill Miles, the slayer of Capt. N. N. Kinney was in Ozark today and caused a sensation. He is a small man, weighing only about 30 pounds [sic] and is only 22 years old. He was born in Virginia and has lived in Taney county only a few years. The only marked feature is a pair of deep set, vigilant eyes. --SPRINGFIELD EXPRESS, Published 29 Aug 1888 Asher
Oct 1888 MO/Indian Territory Terry, Wagoner & Meek Meeks killed by John & Abe Terry abt 21 Oct. Wagoners pursue Terrys. One Wagoner and one Terry killed. AN OLD FEUD REVIVED. Ozark, MO., Oct 28 -- The Terry-Wagoner feud that broke out a year ago along the Ting River on the borders of Missouri, Arkansas, and Indian Territory was renewed on Friday with fatal effect. Last January three of the Terrys were killed from ambush by two of the Wagoners, and a relative named Meek. About a month ago John Terry and Abe Terry, a brother and cousin of the two [sic] killed, heard that Meek was in the Indian Territory. They charged him with murder, and secured appointments as Deputy United States Marshals to make the arrest. They went down into the Territory a week ago, and arrested Meek. While on the way to Vinita they riddled the prisoner with bullets, and then alleged that he had attempted to escape. The Wagoners heard of the murder and started in pursuit of the Terrys and came up with them. A bloody fight took place, in which one Wagoner and one Terry were killed, while Abe Terry escaped only through the superiority of his horse. The friends of both sides are up in arms, and more bloodshed is expected. --The NEW YORK TIMES, Published: October 29, 1888 NYTArch
Feb 1889 Stone Co MO Frank & William Ambrose Murder Charge: Indicted Week of Feb 11, Indicted for 1st Degree murder of A. C.  Garret. SpringfieldX89
22 Feb 1889 Christian Co MO Wm. M. Ambrose & Frank B. Ambrose Murder Charge: Arrested Arrested by Sherriff of Stone Co for 1st Degree murder of Cul Garret. Moved to Christian Co for safekeeping. ShirleyS
1 Mar 1889 Greene Co MO Frank and William Ambrose Murder Charge: Account of indictment and arrest. Ozark MO Feb 23 - Two members of the anti-Terry faction of the Stone county feud, Frank and William Ambrose were brought to Ozark for safekeeping, charged with murder on A.C. Garrett on 1 December 1887. They were indicted for murder in the first degree last week. Both are young men, Frank being only 23 and his brother William 20. --SPRINGFIELD EXPRESS, Published 1 Mar 1889                     SpringfieldX89
22 Mar 1889 Barry Co MO John Ambrose Arson Charge: Prison Record Sentenced to 5 years in the Missouri State Penitentiary for Arson Penitentiary Record
8 Apr 1889 Christian Co MO Wm. M. Ambrose Murder charge: Released on Bond
Wm. M. Ambrose
in Account with Z. A. Johnson
Committed: February 22, 1889
Christian County Jailer
by Sheriff Stone County
Discharged: April 8, 1889
Offense: Murder 1st Degree
How Discharged: On Bond
Ledger Page: 128
Acc't Payable by: State
February 22, 1889
Commitment 1.00
April 8, 1889
Board of Deft 46 Days 23.00
Clothing furnished deft 2.50
July 26, 1890 - 26.50 paid
8 Apr 1889 Christian Co MO Frank B. Ambrose Murder charge: Released on Bond
Frank B. Ambrose
in Account with Z. A. Johnson,
Committed: February 22, 1889
Christian County Jailer
by Sheriff Stone County
Discharged: April 8, 1889
Offense: Murder 1st Degree
How Discharged: On Bond
Ledger Page: 128
Acc't Payable by: State
February 22, 1889
Commitment 1.00
April 8, 1889
Board of Deft 46 Days 23.00
Clothing furnished deft 2.40
December 23, 1890 - Board paid, Clothing not paid

ShirleyS suggests that Frank was released because he was "nearly starved to death" and "in a dying condition".  If he was seriously wounded in the shoot-out with Cul Garret per the contemporary newspaper articles, the effects could have lingered. Another researcher says he had tuburculosis and was expected to die.

10 May 1889 Christian Co MO Dave Walker, Billy Walker, Deacon John Mathews Executed for the Green-Eden murders Out of dozens arrested, four men were sentenced to be hanged for the murders. Wiley Mathews escaped jail before the execution and was never heard from again. Asher
4 Jul 1889 Taney Co MO Billy Miles Branson & Funk killed Frustrated over the exoneration of Miles for the killing of Nat Kinney, Sheriff Galba Branson must have obtained a new warrant when he hired a bounty hunter named Ed Funk. Together they found Billy Miles at the Kirbyville Fourth of July picnic. They approached him and a gunfight broke out between the Anti-Bald Knobber supporters, the Bald Knobber supporters, and the lawmen. Both Branson and Funk were killed, and Billy Miles and his brothers fled.  Billy Miles surrendered to the Springfield Sherriff 9 Jul 1889 and was released on bond.  Bill and Jim Miles requested a change of venue to Christian Co which is granted and are arraigned there 5 Jun 1890. Asher
1890 Carroll Co AR Rufus Peters, Cole Waggoner, and John Mitchell Arson Charge:
Tried and found not guilty.  The Court orders they be "discharged fully acquitted". Court Record
27 Feb 1890 Carroll Co AR Frank Ambrose Arson charge: Sentence Comes the State by her attorney in their behalf prosecuting and the defendant in his own proper person in custody of the Sheriff and being informed of the nature of the charge plea and the verdict of the jury was asked if he had any legal cause to show why the judgment and sentence of the law should not be pronounced against him and no legal cause or excuse being shown, it is by the Court considered and adjudged that said defendant, Frank Ambrose be taken by the Sheriff of Carroll County to the State Penitentiary of the State of Arkansas and there delivered to the keeper of said Penitentiary and that he be confined at hard labor in said Penitentiary for the period of two (2) years from this date and it is further ordered and considered that the State of Arkansas have and recover of from said defendant all its costs in thus first laid out and expanded and ??? issue thereof. [Transcr. Danette Robinette, MB 21 Aug 2006] DanetteR
26 Jul 1890 Christian Co MO Wm. M. Ambrose Murder Charge:  Christian Co committment, board, and clothing charges paid. Jail Record
26 Aug 1890 Carroll Co AR Wm. Ambrose Arson Charge: Pleads guilty and is sentenced. State of Arkansas vs. William Ambrose 
On this day the order of this court continueing this cause and by consent of the Defendant set aside and comes the Defendant and in open court interposes his plea of guilty as charged of Arson him and the court doth assess his punishment at two years imprisonment . . . more in Source/Court Record.
Court Record
28 Aug 1890 Arkansas State Penitentiary Wm. Ambrose Arson Charge: Penitentiary Records Commitment Record and Description of Prisoner.
Peniteniary Records
Sep 1890 Christian Co MO Jim & Billy Miles Trial: Killing of Branson & Funk The Miles brothers claimed self-defense and were acquitted.  John & Miles Terry were summoned by the Christian Co Circuit Court to testify on behalf of the defendants. Asher
23 Dec 1890 Christian Co MO Frank Ambrose Murder Charge: Partial payment of Christian Co committment, board, and clothing charges. Jail Record
27 Nov 1891 Arkansas Frank Ambrose Arson Frank's prison records have not yet been found, but if he (like William) was released 3 months early, he would have been released this approximate date.  
27 May 1892 Arkansas William Ambrose Arson Released approximately 3 months early. Peniteniary Records
6 Sep 1892 Stone Co MO Frank B. Ambrose Murder charge: dismissed Nolle Prosequi The State of Missouri Pltf vs. Frank B. Ambrose Deft
Indicted for murder in the first degree--Nolle prosequi
Comes now the prosecuting attorney of Stone County on the part of the state and the Defendant in his own proper person and by attorney and the said prosecuting attorney says that he will not further prosecute this action against the defendant but will suffer the same to be dismissed. Wherefore, it is considered, ordered and adjudged by the court that the State of Missouri take nothing by virtue of this with that the defendant be discharged here without delay and that he have and recover of the State of Missouri his costs in his behalf and expenses. [Transcr. Danette Robinette]

"Nolle Prosequi" means the prosecution has decided not to pursue the prosecution at this time. It is not an acquittal, and it is not a judgment by the Court on the merits of the prosecution. Charges may be reinstated should the prosecution acquire new or additional evidence, usually within a statutory time period.
*1892 Stone Co MO Franklin B. Ambrose Charge unknown: Action on forfeited recognizance  dismissed State of Missouri Plff ) Action on Forfited Recognizance
Vs Franklin B. Ambrose ) Dismissed by the State
By W. P. Weatherman )
Now at this day comes the Prosecuting Attorney for the State and says he will no further prosecute this action against the Defendant, but will suffer the same to be dismissed. It is therefore considered and adjudged by the court that the plaintiff (the State) take nothing by reason of its writ, that Defendant be discharged and hence hereof without day.
Source: Circuit Court Stone Co, MO [transcr. Shirley Sieting]

*Shirley says the copy of the Court entry she received was not dated, but she believes it was made on 8 Apr 1889, the same day Frank was released from the Christian County Jail. However, since he was released on bond, unless he had another charge pending in Stone County for which the bond had been ordered forfeit, 1892 seems a more likely date for this entry.  The 27 Sep 1892 dismissal of the murder charge ordered that the defendent recover his costs and expenses, so the State would have been unable to pursue a forfeited bond on that charge.
11 Jan 1893 MO State Penitentiary John Ambrose Released Released early under the 3/4 Law. Penitentiary Record
1894 Madison Co AR William Ambrose Assault Tried and convicted of "assault with a deadly thing" on a change of venue from Carroll County. Fine $200 and 30 days in the County jail.
4 Jul 1895 Carroll Co AR John Ambrose Death Shot and killed by F. S. Helt.
Green Forest Tribune


ARCCHS: Carroll County Arkansas Historical Society, Cemetery Listings, Blackjack Cemetery

ARGW: ARGenWeb, Marion County, Mountain Echo Newspaper,
Asher: Background on the Bald Knobbers was drawn from a number of sources, including but not limited to
Wikipedia: Bald Knobbers
Legends of America: MISSOURI LEGENDS, The Fierce Missouri Bald Knobbers
How a Bald Knobber was Killed
A Bald Knobber Sues Springfield, White River Valley Historical Quarterly Vol 32, No 3, Spring 1993
Troubles in Taney County - 1880's, White River Valley Historical Quarterly Vol 9, No 5, Fall 1986

DanetteR: Danette Robinette
Ambrose Message Board post 21 Dec 2006
Email transcriptions and copies of original Court and Penitentiary records.
NYTArch: The New York Times Archives (on-line)

 ShirleyS: Shirley Sieting
Ambrose Message Board post 28 Sep 2006
Springfield Express [Greene Co MO], Excerpts from: