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Judge Parker's Bench at Ft.Smith, Arkansas Court

Photo by Evelyn Flood Copyright(c)1988

by Evelyn Flood


It is my understanding that The Smith-Nichols feud came about over
a land dispute.
Jeremiah Smith, was head of the SMITH Clan.
His childen consisted of the following:
i:John M Smith who was married to MARY POLLY RNA ROWLAND
Their sons James W and Stephen Smith were involved in the feud.

ii:Martha Jane Smith who had married JAMES EDWARD HENDERSON
Henderson was later to testify in the court case.

iii:Jerry Smith?, born 1830, who had married CANCADA(MNU) and
RACHEL EASTEP. He is on the 1880 Newton County census.
I believe this Jerry Smith was a son of Jeremiah and Margaret Smith,
but am not positive.

iv:Gilbert Smith who had married MARY E BRASSFIELD

v:Alfred Smith who had married (1)NANCY J BRASSFIELD and
REBECCA FLOOD, daughter of Nathaniel Flood and Mary Polly Jones
Their son Nathaniel Smith was involved.

vi:James Smith who had married SARAH FLOOD. James had died in 1863 in
Civil War time, so was not involved in this feud
But they had a son "Wild Jerry" Smith who may be involved.

vii:Levi Smith who was married to SOPHA ANN FLOOD
daughter of Nathaniel Flood and Mary Polly Jones

viii:Nancy Catherine Smith who was married to PETER CALMUS CAMPBELL

ix: Sarah Smith who married WILLIAM SMITHSON RICKETTS. They are my
husband Kenneth Flood's great-grandparents.

x:Emeline Smith who had married JOHN F STANDRIDGE.

Thanks to DALE SEXTON of Riverside, California, I know much more
about the feud and the court trial that followed. Dale sent me the
court records for this Smith-Nichols Feud Trial.
JANE HARRELL transcribed these records for me
Dale sent me a map showing the area of the feud and the location of the homes of Thomas Nichols, John Nichols and Alfred Smith.

Newton County,Arkansas Map showing the areas of interest
Jeremiah Smith owned the broad fertile bottom land which had been farmed by Richard Davis. This property adjoined the Thomas Nichols land near the Sexton graveyard and stretched down the creek to the land owned by Charles K Holt.

Jeremiah's land description reads: Section 34, Township 15 North,
Range 21 West and consisted of 39.520 acres. Dated 15 November 1854.
A Jeremiah Smith also had 40 acres in Section 34, Township 16 North,
Range 21 West and consisted of 40 acres.

Thomas Nichols had been a government surveyor who had surveyed much
of the land in Newton County and elsewhere. Thomas knew the good land
and settled on good farming land.
His land description reads: Section 25, Township 15 North, Range 20 West
Military Bounty Land Warrant No. 57823 issued 26 November 1849. Thomas claimed that his land runs to the branch below the road that runs by the Sexton graveyard. The Smiths claimed that the Nichols land goes only to the road. THOMAS NICHOLS obtained 160 acres by Military Land Warrant #51823
from William CECIL, dated 1849. WILLIAM CECIL had been in the Mexican
War as a Pvt. in 12 Regt of U S Infantry. Have a copy of this land
His land description reads East l/2 of SE l/4 and East l/1 of NE l/4
of Section 35, Township 15North, Range 20 West

Jeremiah Smith had died sometime around 1880 in Newton County, Arkansas although his tombstone lists the date as 1879. But Jeremiah Smith was living with a grandson William Riley Smith (son of Gilbert Smith and his first wife Nancy J Brassfield Smith). They were living in White Township in 1880,Visit 15-14. Jerry was age 73, a farmer, born in Tennessee, father born in Carolina and mother born in Tennessee.

It was customary to have a get-together, called an "in-fare" or "end-affair (end of affair)wedding celebration to welcome the bride into the groom's family.
This celebration included a feast and dancing.

On 24 August 1882, HARMON MARION NICHOLS, age 21,(some relation to Thomas Nichols) and SARAH HEFLEY, age 16, were married.
Daniel Sexton was the Justice of Peace who married the couple.
Harmon Marion Nichols was son of Sarah Emeline Nichols and unknown father. Emeline had married G. D. PETTAY in Franklin County, Arkansas.Pettay had died and Emeline was on the 1880 Newton County, Arkansas Census.
Sarah Hefley was the daughter of "Cedar Jim" Hefley (Levi and Caroline Hefley Family) and Sintha Wells (Alfred G and Sally Dukes Wells Family)
Sarah Hefley was born 1864\1866 in Missouri. She died 20Aug1911 in Quinton, Oklahoma. Her brothers and sisters were:
James A (1868)..Levi (1869)..Joseph (1872)..Samuel (1873..George (1875 Texas)..Betty E Hefley Reeves (1877)...and Monroe Hefley.

Thomas NICHOLS sons were:
1.James Nichols (dead before 1882).
2.William M Nichols (twin,married to SARAH A DAVIS and probably living out of the county).
3.Allen H Nichols (twin)(probably living out of the county).
The first three are from Thomas Nichols first wife.
4.Richard "Wild Dick" Nichols
5.John Samuel Nichols
6.Mary Polly Nichols
7.David Louis Nichols
8.Thomas F Nichols, Jr.
9.Larkin Monroe Nichols

Thomas Nichols' sons John, Dave, Richard "Wild Dick", Thomas Jr.
and Larkin Nichols rode up and down the creek inviting neighbors
to the celebration.
The Jeremiah Smith clan was not invited to this celebration.
But word got around that the Smiths were coming anyway.
The Nichols supposedly hid their guns under featherbeds in the house.

The dancing commenced before sundown. Fiddles, banjos and guitars could be heard up and down the creek.
It was customary for the invited folks to bring food. Hams, stewed chickens, possum gravy, sweet taters and pies of all sorts were soon spread out on tables for the merrymakers And moonshine-filled jugs added to the thirsty men which probably
fired up tempers somewhat.
It did not take long for the men to get their fill of food and
become somewhat eager to settle scores or bring about fightin' words
or whatever thoughts the men may have had at the time.

Suddenly men galloped up on their horses, firing their guns into the air
One of them is supposed to have said "dance to this tune" and fired his rifle. People scattered in all directions.
John, Dave, Dick and Lark Nichols ran into the house and pulled their guns from under the feather beds.
Two of the men were said to be Alfred Smith and the other John Cole. (I could not find a John Cole at this time.)
When the shooting began, Thomas Nichols was said to have jumped up and began waving his hands and pleading "Boys, let's not have any trouble.
A rifle shot from one of the men on horseback hit Thomas Nichols and he fell to the ground mortally wounded.
Thomas' daughter Polly Nichols and her brother John ran to their father's side and drug him into the house to safety.
Thomas Nichols died the next day, 1 September 1882.
Thomas was buried in the Sexton Cemetery in Newton County.

News of the killing spread rapidly. The Russellville, Arkansas Democrat Newspaper told of the bloody fracas. They called it "one of the most shocking and blood-curdling affairs in the history of Newton County". Newton County Sheriff Thomas J Shinn put out arrest warrants for the Smiths and the Nichols

The Nichols brothers stood trial and were acquitted. The Smiths were no where to be found when Sheriff Shinn went looking for them.
The Russellville Democrat Newspapeer reported that the Nichols family was offering a $1500 reward for the capture of Alfred, John, James,Jerry, Nathaniel and Stephen Smith for the murder of Thomas Nichols
James W., Nathaniel and Stephen Smith were grandsons of Old Jeremiah Smith
The Arkansas Gazette of Little Rick announced November 8, 1882 that
Governor T J Churchill would pay an additonal $300 for the arrest of the Smith men.

Months went by and nothing was done. On 6 February 1883, fourteen men who claimed to have seen the shooting asked to appear as witnesses against the Smiths. According to court records, each witness made bond to insure that he would be in circuit court on the trial date.
The Smiths who were accused of the murder finally surrendered and made bond of $l,000 each. It is not known if any reward money was ever paid to anyone
The trial date was set for 6 July 1883 to try the defendants on a charge of second-degree murder. During court proceedings the Smiths' attorney Martin Briscoe, submitted a list of witnesses whom he claimed would testify for the Smiths. These witnesses were not in court and the judge granted a continuance and ordered summons to be issued for these witnesses to appear.
When some did not appear, the judge pronounced them "in contempt" of court and granted another continuance of the case.
At the trial, charges agains three of the six defendants, "Wild Jerry" Smith (son of James & Sarah Flud Smith), John Smith (son of Jeremiah)and Stephen Smith (son of John) were dropped.

"Wild Jerry" Smith married his cousin Savina Smith (daughter of John Smith )and they fled to Franklin County, Arkansas.
Have been in contact with some of their descendants.
Wild Jerry and Savina Smith lived their lives out in Crawford and Franklin Counties, Arkansas.

After long deliberations the jury returned into court and reported that they could not agree on the guilt of Alfred, Levi and James Smith.
After more attempts to reach a verdict ended in a hung jury, the
prosecution gave up.

Seven Sinful Smiths
Reward of $1400 for their Return to an Arkansas Sheriff
The Governor of Arkansaw has offered a reward of $200 each for the arrest and delivery to the Sheriff of Newton County, Ark.of Alfred Smith, Levi Smith, John Smith, Jas. Smith, Jerry Smith, Nathaniel Smith and Stephen Smith,who on the 28th of August killed Thos. Nichols sr. in Newton County, Ark.

Here is text from newspaper articles:
Transcribed by Jane Harrell (
Thank you Jane for all your help.
Newton News.
Cave Creek, Ark., Sept. 4, 1882.
One more week has whirled into non-existence, and I feel secretly constrained to drop a few more items for that [can't make out] sheet, the DEMOCRAT.
One of the most shocking and blood-curdling affairs in the history of our county took place the 25th [can't make out - maybe "wit."], on Big Creek, between two of the oldest families of that creek.,
it seems that a coolness has existed between the Smiths and Nichols, for some time past, which finally grew into a warm altercation, whereupon the Smiths went equipped to the house of Uncle Thomas Nichols, and opened fire upon the Nichols boys, only one bullet doing any injury and that was upon the person of Uncle Tommy, who the doctors think will die from the wound.
Uncle Tommy Nichols is 78 years old and has many benevolent friends to mourn his loss if he does die.
Richard Nichols, a son of Uncle Thomas, emptied a double barrel shot gun charged with 48 buck shot into the Smiths, which did serious damage, wounding four of them, and it is given up by the doctors that one of them, Stephen Smith, will die.
I can't give all the particulars of this bloody affair, but the above is unmistakably true.

_______________ Sept 17, 1882.
Russellville Democrat
Since writing my last, Uncle Thomas Nichols, who was shot by the Smiths at his home in Big Creek, has passed from the stage of action into eternity.
Stephen Smith was alive at last accounts, but is expected to die.

________________ Sept 28, 1882.
Russellville Democrat
Old Tommie Nichols, who was shot in the Big Creek tragedy, died a few days ago. The Nichols boys stood trial and came clear.
The Smiths are still at large, and the sheriffs seem reluctant to look after them.

_________________ Drops from Cave Creek (unknown publication)
October 4, 1882.
All kinds of rumors afloat, relative to the Big Creek tragedy, which still remains unsettled.
Alfred Smith, who it is now believed fired the shot that killed Uncle Tommie Nichols, is now playing the maniac.
He was in Jasper last Saturday, but no attempt was made to arrest him.
He carried in his hand a cocked revolver.
It is rumored that Jerry Smith sent a messenger to the Nichols boys that if they would protect him, he would give the rest of the Smiths away: the proposition met with a refusal.

_________________ Cave Creek correspondence (4th)
Russellville Democrat:
All kinds of rumors afloat, relative to the Big Creek Tragedy, which still remains unsettled.
Alfred Smith, who it is now believed fired the shot that killed Uncle Tommy Nichols, is now playing the maniac.
He was in Jasper last Saturday, but no attempt was made to arrest him.
He carried in his hand a cocked revolver.
It is rumored that Jerry Smith sent a messenger to the Nichols boys that if they would protect him,he would give the rest of the Smiths away: the proposition met with a refusal.

_________________ Oct 5, 1882.
Name of paper unknown, S. F. Jobe, Business Manager
The Smiths, who murdered Uncle Tommy Nichols, are gone.
We learn that the Nichols family will put out a reward of fifteen hundred dollars for their capture.
Our sheriffs have been rather indifferent about the matter.
_________________ Arkansas Gazette
Nov 8, 1882, page 4, col. 3
Reward Offered by the Governor for the Arrest of Murderers.
Particulars of the Crimes:
A reward of $200 was offered yesterday by Gov. T. J. Churchill for the arrest of Levi Smith, Alfred Smith, John Smith, James Smith, Jerry Smith, Nathaniel and Stephen Smith, for the murder of Thomas Nichols in Newton county, on the 28th day of last August.
It xxx that the Smith family had a grudge against Nichols and one night when the latter had an entertainment at his house, the whole Smith family with the exception of one, armed to the teeth, went to the house. Nichols was standing on the outside of the door when one of the Smith family shot him down.
The whole gang then made off for parts unknown, and have not been seen since.
The cause of the shooting is unknown.

_________________ The following are the descriptions of the men:
Alfred Smith is a man about 53 years old, fair complexion ,blue eyes, nearly gray, but has blacked his beard lately, high cheek bones, marked slightly with small pox, high forehead, weight about 150 pounds, hight abut 5 feet 10 inches.

Levi Smith is about thirty five years old, fair complexion, large yellow eyes, slim, spare made, flat breasted, square shoulders, light hair, long nose, has a shot in his left thigh about eight inches above his knee, wears his beard on his chin, weight about 140 pounds hight about 5 feet ll inches.

John Smith is about fifty-five years old, fair complexion, blue eyes about half gray, very fleshy, marked with smallpox ,round face, wears beard on his chin. Weight about 200 pounds, hight about 5 feet 10 inches.

James Smith is about thirty-two years old, fair complexion, blue eyes, square shoulders, wears his beard on his chin an mustache, has a shot on the inside of his thigh, weight about 175 pounds, hight about 5 feet 8 inches.

Nathaniel Smith is about thirty-two years old, fair complexion, yellow eyes, round face, snub nose, square shoulders, dark hair, has a shot in his groin and one on his leg below the knee, weight, about 102 pounds, hight about 5 feet 7 inches.

Stephen Smith is about 25 years old, fair complected, blue eyes, slim, spare made, high forehead, has a shot in his groins on the right side, weight about 135 pounds, hight about 5 feet 4 inches.

Jerry Smith is about 21 years old, dark complected, yellow eyes, low forehead, flat breasted, long nose, slim, spare made, talks very fine, weight 135 pounds, hight about 5 feet 5 inches

Afterwards, the Nichols vowed to take revenge on Alfred Smith whom they saw as the ring leader of the Smiths.

Alfred Smith's land lay directly across the creek from the Bridge Hole Bluff. The Nichols brothers took turns hiding on the bluff, waiting for their chance to shoot Alfred Smith
Alfred Smith knew the Nichols were waiting their chance to kill him.
Alfred planted his corn in crooked rows so he could work without being seen.

On 7 July 1884, Tom Nichols Jr. and John Wright were hiding on the bluff waiting for Alfred Smith to show himself.
John Wright was the son of Seaborn and Celia Davis Wright.
Celia Davis was thought to be related to Thomas Nichols wife Elizabeth Davis Nichols.
About noon, Alfred Smith took his horses to water them at the creek.
A shot rang out and Alfred Smith fell on the creek bank.
He was taken to his home
Either John Wright or Thomas Nichols Jr. had shot Alfred Smith.
The two men fled from the top of the bluff to the hollow below.
Young Jack Greenhaw and his father, James Greenhaw, were picking corn in the field across the hollow and had witnessed the shooting.
Jack Greenhaw was only about ten years old and he did not tell the story until he was an old man.

At the time of the shooting of Alfred Smith, "Wild Dick" Nichols was resting on the porch at his brother Lark Nichols' place. Dick Nichols heard the shot that killed Alfred Smith. writes:
Alfred died some time later at home. He was wounded with a gunshot that ran through his body, but my Grandfather Henry C. Smith observed the women tend his wounds. They attached a silk scarf to a rifle cleaning rod and pulled the scarf through his body. They did that to clean out debris, bone shards, and such. (This was an old technique Crusaders brought back from the Saracens)
My Grandfather said his Grandpa screamed so loud as they did that, he fell off a bucket he stood on to see through the window.
He said two of his family rode off for a time and returned saying nothing but that scores were settled.
Must be the two men you mentioned.
(Was his Great-Grandpa David Crockett Smith the boy who observed the wound cleaning, as he was about the right age?)
He also said the Smiths were invited to that wedding but were ambushed. He showed me remnants of an old stone wall where the Nichols hid. You wrote that they hid weapons around the house, so it makes sense they had prepared to ambush the Smiths.
Why else would they hide weapons if they didn't expect the Smiths to show up? Obviously, the Nichols' expected them to show up and prepared to ambush them. You don't stash weapons around a place, as you related, unless you plan to use them. And since you admit the Nichols were cowardly murderers,you shouldn't be surprised they were liars,as well.
Lets set the record straight.
Jim Smith

Alfred Smith died 7 July 1884 and is buried in Sexton Cemetery,Newton Co.AR. The killing of Alfred smith marked the end of the shooting feud between the two families but hard feelings between the families continued for many years.

But, John Wright, born 24 March 1861, died on 25 December 1884.
His brother Seaborn Wright, Jr., born 12 September 1863, died on
15 September 1886.
Were they killed because of the feud?? It looks like it. No mention of their deaths, but it sure looks suspicious that they died so closely toward the end of the Smith-Nichols Feud.
Their mother Celia Davis married Seaborn Wright Sr. ca 1860 in Newton
County, Arkansas.
Celia died in 1913. Seaborn Wright Sr. died in 1900.
They are all buried in Mt. Judea Cemetery, Newton County, Arkansas
Why did John and Seaborn Wright Jr. die so young?
Were they killed resulting from the feud?
I wonder!!

My Flood children are descended from "Old John" Nichols, thought to be the brother of Thomas Nichols.
They are also descended from Sarah Smith who married William S Ricketts,(daughter of Jeremiah and Margaret Armstrong-Byrd Smith.
So my children are descended from both the Nichols and Smith
families of Newton County, Arkansas.

From Dale Sexton:
"No actual court testimony has ever surfaced. They were said to have perished in a 1938 court house fire. The clerks logs do show that none of the Smiths were ever convicted of Tom Nichol's murder. My conclusion was that no one could actually say who fired the bullet that killed him. In the melee it could have been one of the Nichols. Also, no one was ever charged with killing Alf, though the Smiths blamed the Nichols. There are reasons to believe that John Wright actually did the shooting. John Wright died very soon after Alf's death and is buried in the Sexton cemetery along with Alf.
After Alf's death the trials went on until 1888 where the last of the charges were dropped against the Smiths. Alf was my grandfather David Crocket Smith's father. Tom Nichols was my great grandmother Nancy Nichols Sexton's uncle. My grandpa Thomas Jefferson Sexton was at the party he said he was 9 years old at the time, though it appears he was more likely 7. The description of their wounds, I think make it clear that the Smiths were on horseback and never had time to dismount. Remember Dona Criner Sextons mother who was the gun fight told her the Smiths came riding up the road strumming a guitar and singing and Polly Nichols hollered for the Nichols to send them a blue boy to sing to. Almost all reports suggest the Nichols were armed and waiting for them."
- Dale Sexton

Thank you Dale Sexton for sending all that important information.
Thank you Jane Harrell for your help with this story and your transcribing of court and newspaper records, which made it easy for me to prepare the story.Jane descends from Nathaniel Smith.
Thank you Jim Smith for sharing your Smith information and setting the record straight.

Evelyn Flood

May 2016

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