Harris and Dooley Feud No.1


(Article from St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 19, 1900)


Wes Harris' Desperate Fight for Life Against Five Dooleys With Winchesters and Pistols and Les Dooley's Pretty Young Wife a Factor in the Tragedy.

Characters in the Feud:

WILLIAM DOOLEY, the father.
JOHN, JOE, LES and BILL DOOLEY, the boys.
MRS. AMANDA HARRIS, the mother.

The Victims:

WILLIAM DOOLEY, aged 65, killed by Wes Harris.
JOHN DOOLEY, aged 24, fatally wounded by Wes Harris.
WES HARRIS, aged 32, killed by the Dooleys.
JIM and FRANK HARRIS, badly wounded by the Dooleys.
MISS ORA LITTERAL, aged 16, accidently wounded by the Dooleys.

The Consequences:

JOE, LES and BILL DOOLEY held in $8,000 bail each for the November term of St. Francois County Court. In jail at Farmington.

Culmination of the Feud.
>From a Sunday Post Dispatch Staff Correspondent

DOE RUN, St. Francis County,Mo., Aug. 18 - "I care more for the little finger of Frank Harris than I care for your whole body."

This declaration was made by pretty Ollie Swinford Dooley, 17 years old, to Les Dooley, her husband.

The girl-wife was riding a dummy horse on the steam swing at the Doe Run citizens' picnic Saturday, Aug. 4. On the horse beside her sat her cousin, Miss Effie Blankenship. Leaning against Ollie's horse, to the rear, stood Frank Harris, who had bought swing tickets for the girls.

Les Dooley had approached when the swing stopped, with a package of tickets which he had bought.

"I want you to ride with me," Dooley said to his wife.

Mrs. Dooley then made the remark quoted above.

Five minutes later Frank Harris was lying in some underbrush a hundred yards away, with a Dooley bullet in his side and another in his left arm.

Jim Harris was lying behind the baseball grand stand, still farther away, with four bullets in his body, one having penetrated a lung.

Wes Harris was lying dead 60 feet from the swing, seven Dooley bullets having struck him.

Les Dooley was on horseback, chasing Bill Harris, also mounted, down the hill, firing at Bill from a Winchester rifle as rapidly as he could pump the weapon.

Charlie Harris was running for dear life; for life is dear to a boy on the farm only 17 years old.

Old man Dooley was dead a few feet from the swing, struck down by two of Wes Harris' bullets.

John Dooley, shot twice by Wes Harris, was lying near his dead father.

John's twin brother, Joe, and the baby of the family, Bill Dooley, were firing at Harrises in every direction.

Bill Dooley, with a revolver in each hand, seeing no more live Harris boys for targets, was shooting bullets into the corpse of Wes Harris and stamping the upturned face, while the aged mother of the dead man sat by, fanning flies from the blood-smeared features.

Miss Ora Litteral of Knob Lick, a beautiful girl of 16, lay screaming on the ground having been hit in the ankle by one of the Dooley bullets that missed its Harris mark.

The 1000 or more picnickers were running wildly about the grove, tumbling into the deep ditch at one side, hiding behind lemonade stands and farm wagons, or standing awe-struck in their tracks, frozen with fright, trying to comprehend the startlingly sudden turn of affairs which had transformed the peaceful picnic into a bloody battle ground, with armed men shooting and swearing, running and rough riding, retreating and cross firing - and over all the pall of firearm smoke and the ghastly consciousness of sudden and violent death.


Old Kentucky's Contribution.

This is a tale of the "Jinin' farms" in Southeast Missouri. It is the story of the latest and bloodiest family feud in the history of the state. It is a record of romance and tragedy, love and hate, jealousy and vengeance, blood and fire, death and desolated firesides, stricken sons and father, a mother bereaved, a wife more sinned against than sinning, a gloomy jail now and a murder trial to come.

If there be any glory to a community in becoming the seat of a family feud that ends in a pitched battle and several graves on the hillside, part of the glory attaching to the Dooley-Harris feud of St. Francois County, Mo., belongs to Kentucky, the state where that sort of thing has been cultivated to its fullest development.

The Dooleys who did most of the shooting are from Kentucky. They were born there, in the mountains near Glasgow, and came to Missouri with their parents 15 years ago. The father was a typical Kentucky mountaineer. The boys, like all true Kentuckians, learned how to shoot before they grew up. That they had educated their trigger fingers was shown by the result of the feud culmination at the village of Doe Run two weeks ago, Saturday, August 4.

The Harrises are not Kentuckians, but they also have learned how to shoot. According to the evidence thus far adduced, the only Harris who was armed at the time of the battle was Wes, who killed old man Dooley and wounded John Dooley before the remaining Dooleys killed him.

But each of the Harris boys is handy with the trigger, and the four who remain alive have remarked that if they had taken their pistols to the picnic, there would be fewer Dooleys in jail at Farmington.

"I reckon it's well enough that we didn't have our guns," said Frank Harris, "for if we'd had 'em we would now probably be where the three Dooley boys are, boarding with Sheriff Jeff Highley. We got shot up considerable, but I reckon that beats being in jail with a murder trial hanging over us."

"Poor Wes is in his grave, but he put up a plucky fight. Wes was the sort of man that wouldn't be whipped. The way he peppered away at them Dooleys after he was hit three of four times showed he was a game hand with a gun. If he had been left alive, he would never have stopped till he had cleaned out the whole Dooley outfit. That was Wes, clean through.

I'm kinder sorry for the Dooleys. I'm not inclined to worry 'em any more, for they have troubles enough of their own now. I'm in for quits."


Cultivation of the Feud.

The Dooleys and the Harrises lived on adjoining farms two miles from Doe Run. The trouble between the two families began about four years ago, when Jim Harris purchased a farm tenanted by the Dooleys, Jim moved his family and furniture to the farmhouse and the Dooleys refused to give possession. He was compelled to unload his goods outside the gate and shelter his family with a neighbor until the Dooleys moved out.

Naturally, this episode created bad feeling between the two families. Jim Harris' brothers resented it and joined him in opposition to the Dooleys.

After the Dooleys bought the adjoining farm there were frequent occasions of difficulty between the families. The neighborhood is rife with stories of Dooley-Harris differences.

One of the Harris boys was charged with stealing a set of harness. Old man Dooley and one of his boys testified against the Harris. This fanned the feud.

John Dooley, who is a graduate of the Baptist College at Farmington has taught country schools in his neighborhood for several winters. Charlie Harris was one of his pupils. One day Schoolmaster Dooley whipped the Harris boy for an infraction of the school rules. The feud augmented with every stroke of the birch.

The Dooleys had some dogs that attacked the Harris sheep. The Harrises shot the Dooley dogs. Then the Dooleys shot some Harris dogs to get even. It was good gun practice on both sides. And it assisted the growth of the feud.

Four weeks ago, Jim Harris attended a picnic at Flat River. The same steam swing was steaming and swinging there, as at Doe Run, two weeks later. Two of the Dooleys met Jim Harris at the swing. There was a fight, sans pistols. Reports conflict. The Dooleys claim that Harris whipped them with brass knucks. Harris claims that the Dooleys drew knives on him. At any rate, the feud flames were fanned, and it needed only one more picnic and one more quarrel to explode it.


Pretty Ollie Swinford's Part.

A year ago Ollie Swinford was the belle of the community. She was a farmer's daughter, living near the Harrises and the Dooleys. She was tall and plump. Her dark hair fell in fetching ringlets about her ears. Her black eyes were able to look love to eyes that spake again. Her hands were small and dainty, despite the fact that they were accustomed to doing much of the farm house work. Her feet, which frequently were bare as she tripped about the cow pasture, milking the cows, plucking dandelions and daisies with which to deck her raven tresses, were like those which the poet described. Like little mice they stole in and out.

Ollie was just 16. She was courted by all the boys in the neighborhood. All Flat River Valley was eager to do homage to the pretty farmer's daughter, the flower of the valley. She could ride horseback with the boldest of them. She could fish in the mountain streams and catch lovers while she pulled out black bass.

Her parents, honest farmer folk, were on good terms with all the neighbors. They exchanged visits with both the Dooleys and the Harrises. They made no objection when a Dooley boy or a Harris boy called to escort Ollie to a party or a picnic. The Swinfords had nothing to do with the feud.

Frank Harris was 21, auburn-haired and handsome. His pink mustache was the pride of his heart. He had fine white teeth, and when he smiled it was more than the average girl could do to withstand his winning ways. Frank and Ollie were firm friends. They liked each other - there was no concealing that. The little god of love, in duplicate, perched on the shoulders of each and shot his arrows in a merry cross-fire until each young heart was pricked.

Love's young dream was budding rapidly, when gruesome tragedy intervened, unspeakable misfortune overtook the laughing, loving girl, and the dream was rudely shattered.

Ollie did not favor the advances of Bill Dooley, who was 19 years old and not so handsome as Frank Harris. Bill was fond of the girl who shunned him. He hated Frank, not alone because of the feud, but because Frank was winning Ollie.

The 20th of last August was the day when Ollie's sorrows overtook her. She had gone on an errand to a neighbor's. Coming homeward by a short cut through the woods she was singing merrily, thinking of young Harris and the next time they were to meet.

Suddenly Bill Dooley confronted her, his dark, piercing eyes mad with passion. Here in Doe Run it is asserted that the Dooleys have Indian blood in their veins. Bill Dooley has the eyes and the stealthy tread of an Indian.

Prosecuting Attorney Hensley who caused an indictment to be issued against Bill tells what happened in the lonely woods. Ollie also told it. She went home and took to her bed. Farmer Swinford heard her story and communicated with the Prosecuting Attorney. Sheriff Jeff Highley rode out to the Dooley farm to arrest Bill for criminal assault. Bill met him with a Winchester and dared him to advance.

But the Dooley boy was taken, placed under a bond of $2,000.00 and released to await his trial on the serious charge. Then Bill went to the Indian Territory and became a cowboy.

Les Dooley, two years older than Bill, soon followed him to the Territory. There the boys advanced themselves in pistol practice. Last November Les came back to Doe Run. He had been a model youth and the Swinfords thought well of him. The fact that one Dooley had wronged them was no reason why they should become a party to the feud or make it a three-pronged affair.

Les Dooley was received in the Swinford household. He was handsomer than Bill. He laid siege to the heart of Ollie Swinford and in a very short time they were married.

Les took Ollie to live at the Dooley farm house. After a few months the girl returned home, careworn, pale and shrinking. Her mother said that she was covered with bruises. Little by little she told her story.

In the presence of her parents Mrs. Dooley told today how she came to leave her husband.

"They were cruel to me." she said. "Bill and Les beat me. Once they were practicing pistol shooting, one Sunday afternoon in the rain. At least they said they were practicing. A bullet hit me in the side of the head and glanced off. They just laughed ad went on with their practice.

"Another time my man took me out into the woods, in a lonely place on the mountain side, where nobody ever goes. We rode horseback and could hardly get through the tangled underbrush. Bill was out there. I believe he intended to shoot me, but he was too drunk to do it. I was afraid of them, and I came back home.

"That day of the battle I went to the picnic with Frank Harris. He called by, and my mother told him to take good care of me and Effie, as some of the Dooleys might shoot us. Frank said he would take care of us.

"I'm afraid to go out since that terrible affair. I know that the Dooley boys are in jail, but I won't go to town because I am afraid."

Ollie's voice was low and musical. She talked timidly and modestly, showing pretty teeth when once she smiled sadly at the recital of some pleasant recollection of the old days before her sorrows came.

Since Ollie went back to her parents, Frank Harris had been paying her marked attention. Gradually she was becoming her old self again, and once more the future began to look roseate. Les Dooley had applied for a divorce. Frank Harris was still unmarried.

Ollie was only 17. It was not too late for the resumption of love's young dream. The duplicate Cupid was priming his arrows anew. But fate - or was it fortune? - intervened again.


The Warning.

Doe Run is one of southeast Missouri's typical mining towns. The great lead belt of the Flat River Valley runs down hither, and huge concentrating mills furnish the excuse for this town's being.

There is one long street, a straggling country road, which, by slow degrees during the past 15 years, has been converted into the main street of a town. The houses are nearly all of frame, with spacious yards and plenty of vacant lots. Here and there a general store or a saloon is andwiched between two dwellings. At the general store one may buy anything from a threshing machine to a paper of pins, or from a stick of candy to a barrel of dried apples.

At the edge of town, near the Mississippi River & Bonne Terre railroad, which terminates here, there is a pretty grove of oak trees. The ground slants down to the gravel road leading to Farmington, five miles away. Between the road and the grove is a dry ditch twenty feet wide and ten feet deep, fringed with underbrush on the groveward side. It is a natural entrenchment, and would be hailed with delight by the Filipinos closely pursued by benevolent assimilators.

Across the road is a level tract which is used as a baseball ground. A grandstand, not very grand, but large enough for the purpose, occupies one end.

The day of the citizens' picnic arrived. It was bright and balmy. Hundreds of townspeople and farmfolk had anticipated that day with keen delight. It meant a brief vacation from the cares of life. For weeks huge posters, printed at Farmington and tacked to trees and fences had announced that Aug. 4 was to be a gala day at Doe Run.

Among the attractions promised, and the chief thereof, was the big steam swing. This was what city folk would call a merry-go-round. It was so built that it could be taken apart and hauled from place to place. It had done duty at other picnics in St. Francis County, and some of the Doe Run young people already had traveled many miles to enjoy the sensation of becoming seasick for 5 cents.

Such was the interest taken in the steam swing that the night before the picnic when it arrived, circus-like, and was being set up, many gathered around it and watched the men drive the stakes and put the framework together securing the gaily painted dummy horses in place.

Les Dooley was there. Floyd Dees, a neighbor's boy, was nearby.

"Have you seen my wife?" Dooley inquired of Dees.

"Yes, she's up at the old man's," meaning Farmer Swinford. "Are you coming to the picnic, Les?"

"Sure I am," Les replied, "I'm coming to the picnic, going to get drunk and have a high time."

Dooley added something about the Harrises, and Dees went to Elvins and saw Jim Harris.

"Are you going to the picnic tomorrow, Jim?" he asked.

"Of course," said Jim. "We're all going. Why not?"

"Well, Jim, I saw Les Dooley tonight and I just thought I'd tell you that if you go you'd better watch out."

"I reckon the Harrises know how to take care of themselves." remarked Jim. "So long, Floyd."


Chapter VI
The Battle.

It was the biggest day of the year. All Doe Run turned out. Delegations from Bonne Terre, Farmington, Flat River, Elvins and other towns were on hand. For miles around every farmer and his family came in to enjoy the day.

The steam swing was doing a rush business. By 11 o'clock the keepers of the lunch stand and the lemonade and popcorn emporium farther down the hill were beginning to think that the picnickers would spend all their money for swing tickets and have nothing left for refreshments.

Frank Harris had treated Ollie Dooley and Effie Blankenship to several swings around the circle and still had tickets left. Jim, Wes and Charles Harris were standing by watching the fun. Thirty feet away, slightly up the hill, stood old man Dooley and his four sons. They had come in by wagon and horseback.

In the wagon, which stood between the Dooley group and the lemonade stand, was some loose hay covered with a quilt. Under the hay, known only to the Dooleys, was a Winchester rifle, with cartridge belts and ammunition for a siege. Some of the Dooley boys had hitched their saddle horses under the trees to the rear.

Jack Matkins and Wes Harris engaged in conversation near the group of Dooleys. Les Dooley had gone to the ticket booth and purchased tickets determined to have his wife ride with him instead of with Frank Harris.

"I hear you've been chasing foxes?" remarked Wes Harris to Matkins. "How many did you catch?"

"Not a fox." Matkins replied.

"You're no account, just like the Harrises," Wes said, jocularly, "But I'm the best man for my size at the picnic."

This remark was heard by the Dooleys. Witnesses of the subsequent proceedings tell conflicting stories of what happened, but all agree that the storm broke just at that moment. First came reports from two pistols, followed by a louder report, supposed to be that of a big six-shooter.

"Don't do that!" old man Dooley is said to have cried. "Don't do that!"

The Harris faction claims that Wes Harris backed away, blood streaming from his face, and pulled a big revolver from his pocket. The weapon was wrapped in a handkerchief. Harris unwrapped it, held the revolver in both hands, and began firing at the Dooleys.

Old man Dooley fell. Then John Dooley dropped. Joe, Les and Bill Dooley whipped out revolvers and opened fire on the Harrises. Frank and Jim Harris ran. Bullets from Dooley pistols brought both down, but they arose and ran on, the Dooleys still firing.

Wes Harris kept backing down hill, firing rapidly. He stopped a moment to eject empty shells and reload. Another Dooley bullet hit him, and he took refuge behind a huge oak tree at the lemonade stand.

Joe Dooley chased the other Harrises. Les and Bill ran down the hill, cross-firing at Wes Harris. As they passed their wagon Les Dooley took the Winchester from the hay. He and Bill stopped behind a water wagon 15 feet from Wes Harris' tree.

For five minutes the opposing forces, the two Dooleys and the one Harris, kept up a hot fire from these positions. Wes Harris reached around the tree, still holding the weapon in both hands, to steady it, and fired repeatedly at the Dooleys behind the wagon.

A Dooley bullet struck his pistol, tore off one side of the handle and wounded his thumb. Harris held to it with a firm grip.

Reaching around the tree to get another shot he was struck in the head by a ball from the Winchester which cut a notch in the bark of the tree before it entered his brain, killing him. Harris fell, seven ghastly wounds attesting the nerve with which he had fought for his life.

Young Charlie Harris was then chased off the grounds. He declared that two Dooleys emptied their revolvers at him as he ran. There was a lull in the proceedings, no more, Harrises being in sight.

At this point, Bill Harris, who had not heard the shooting, rode up on horseback with an ice cream bucket on his arm. Les Dooley espied him.

Dooley leaped astride his horse and was after the new Harris arrival in an instant. Bill heard many voices warning him to retreat and he turned his horse and started down the hill. Les Dooley pursued, firing his Winchester like clockwork. Bullets whistled about Bill's ears.

His horse stopped at the edge of the ditch. Dooley was closing in. There was a frail footbridge, built for the picnic, spanning the ditch. As a last resort, Bill Harris tried to make his horse cross this structure. The animal plunged it, but broke through before reaching the other side.

"I then took to my trotters." Bill explained afterward, "and got away. But if I had just had my six-shooter that I left at home it would have been a different sort of stag party, and don't you ever forget it."

Harris took refuge in a house and Dooley lost the scent, though he rode through town hell-to-split, searching everywhere for the only able-bodied Harris left, not counting the boy, Charlie.

In the meantime, on the picnic grounds, a pathetic scene was being enacted. Old Mrs. Harris, mother of the boys, had witnessed the desperate battle between her son Wes and the Dooleys. She had seen Wes fall as the Winchester bullet cleft his skull. She ran to her dead boy, moaning and sobbing, and fanned his face.

Ten minutes after Harris had bee killed, Bill Dooley ran up with a revolver in each hand. With an oath he yelled: "You killed my father, and now I've got you where I want you!"

Dooley then stopped, ground the muzzle of a revolver into the dead man's face and fired two more bullets into the corpse.

G. C. Clements, who was in the lemonade stand alongside, begged him to desist.

Old Mrs. Harris hit Dooley with her umbrella, but he pushed her aside. "You killed my father!" the maddened young man yelled, and he stamped the dead man in the face with his heel and turned away.

Meanwhile, Miss Ora Litteral, with a bullet in her ankle, which carried her shoe lace through the member, was moaning on the ground a few feet away. She was the only outsider hit during the battle.

"We are not shooting at anybody but Harrises," remarked a Dooley, when 'Squire' Ledbetter, in the lunch stand, begged them to quit shooting lest they hit persons not concerned.

The battle broke up the picnic. Even the steam swing had lost its attraction. New delegations from Bonne Terre and elsewhere up the line who came in on the noon train, went back at once, carrying the news of the conflict, and telling how every Harris and every Dooley, with several other persons, as they heard the story, had been killed.


The Surrender:

For the rest of that day the three Dooleys ran the town. Doe Run, though it has a population of 1500, is not incorporated, owing to the fact that the land belongs to mining corporations which are opposed to the place having a government of its own. Consequently, there is no officer of the law except a constable, and operating against all member of Dooleys did not cut much of a figure.

After the last Harris was disposed of, the Dooley boys, Joe, Les and Bill, loaded their dead father into the farm wagon, together with their brother John, desperately wounded and paralyzed from the hips down. They drove to a drug store, lifted John out and took him inside for surgical attention. They turned their father's body over to an undertaker, mounted their horses, still armed to the teeth, and looked for more Harrises.

Nearly everybody remained indoors, but the Dooleys assured those whom they met that they would harm no one but a Harris.

Up in Farmington, Sheriff Highley organized a posse of 40 men to come to Doe Run ad capture the Dooleys. But before the posse started down the gravel road, Representative Bradley of this county had conferred with the Dooley boys and advised them to give themselves up. The boys willing consented, but insisted upon keeping their firearms until they were safe in jail. After seeing that their brother had proper attention, the boys climbed into the hack of George Sutherland, running regularly between Doe Run and Farmington, and rode into the county seat, surprising the sheriff by surrendering their arms and ammunition and submitted to being locked up.

One of the Dooleys had worn a belt containing 125 cartridges, 21 of which he had fired at the Harrisses.

They turned over to the sheriff four revolvers and a Winchester. One of the revolvers, they said, belonged to Wes Harris. Bill Dooley had picked it up after Harris fell.


Jim Harris cracks a Joke.

Ollie Dooley, when the firing began, was advised by her father to go to the depot and take refuge. She ran down the road but the fact that Frank Harris was in danger caused the brave girl to stop at a house nearby so that she could go to his assistance if possible.

After the battle and the departure of the Dooley boys, Ollie stole back to the grounds. Jim Harris, scarcely alive, lay behind the grand stand for hours, his friends being afraid to remove him lest the Dooleys should finish the job.

Frank Harris lay in a clump of bushes. Ollie Dooley found him and brought him succor.

The wounded Harrises were taken into Farmington. Jim is still in bed, but Dr. Frank L. Keith, his surgeon, says that he will recover. Harris remarked to the doctor who told him that the three bullets in his body could not be extracted safely:

"All right, doc - if I die, I'll be a good mineral prospect - lead in three places."


Bill Harris Enjoys the Trial.

The preliminary trial of the three Dooleys began Monday and lasted until Wednesday evening. Justice of the Peace, J. D. Turner, who had called as associate justice Squire J. W. Moore, heard the testimony

Prosecuting Attorney Walter Hensley and B.H. Mabery conducted the case for the state. Attorneys Mont Highley and D. L. Rivers looked over the interests of the Harrises. The Dooleys were represented by Judge J. S. Gossom.

The Dooleys were held for trial in the circuit court, in bonds of $8,000 each, and were returned to jail. Many think the bond is excessive. Sentiment seems to be almost evenly divided between the two families to the feud.

Bill Harris attended all sessions of the trial. He sat on the Judge's desk most of the time. Bill said that he and Wes had made arrangements to go to the Indian Territory and take up claims; and were to start a few days after the picnic of August 4.

"I wish now we'd started a few days before the picnic." he remarked. "Poor old Wes! Thar was the gamest boy that ever growed up in these here diggin's."

Published by the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, St. Louis, MO, Sunday Morning, August 19, 1900.