In the 1890's Coffeeville in Clarke County Alabama was at the center of a blood feud that is today called the Mitcham War. The conflict was loosely attached to county politics in which the small landholders on one side supported the Farmers Alliance and the large or wealthy landholders on the other side stayed with the Democratic Party. The election of 1892 for Governor of Alabama was won by Democrat Thomas Goode Jones and Clarke County was carried by the Democrats thanks to the strong African American vote. A group of angry Alliance members in the Mitcham Beat section of the county secretly named "Hell-at-the-Breech" began robbing, raiding and killing political opponents. It has been rumored that violence actually began prior to the election in 1891 with the murders of a white opponent of group and a black miller that was robbed murdered. Like most events of the past, historians often try to make sense of these tragedies by attaching a moral compass to a societal issue as the root cause. The fact is this was feud between the heaves and have not's and it began with a bank seizing the assets of a farmer.
On December 1, 1892, a legal notice appeared in the The Clarke County Democrat newspaper that the property of Kirk James would be sold on the courthouse steps on December 26th. The day before the property was sold Coffeeville Cemetery resident and creditor Ernest McCorquodale was murdered. An investigation took place and the prime suspect Kirk James had an alibi so he was not arrested. The following year on February 23, 1893 the Vernon Courier reported that Phil Jones shot and killed a negro at Coffeeville last week. This person may have been a black man named William Howze who was reportedly murdered for mistreating a white woman (some report this even took place in June 1893). It has been claimed that William Howze's brother was arrested on the same charge a few months later and several prominent citizens of the county stepped forward to save him from a lynch mob. This angered the Mitcham Beat mob to burn barns, churches and kill livestock. Whatever the reason, a posse formed with over 300 county citizens in August 1893 and they attacked the people that held responsible for the murder of Ernest McCorquodale and those they held responsible for the lawlessness that had been going on in the county. The first person they caught was Lev James brother of Kirk and shot him to death. Three days later on August 10th they caught up with Kick James and Quincy Farrington Bedsole also called "Tooch", torturing them and forcing a confession before shooting them. On August 17th the posse caught Bob Burke, Macke Burke and James Jordan, but the escaped into the swamp and reportedly made it to Mississippi. The posse dispersed and returned home on August 24th releasing Dick Atchison another suspected outlaw they had captured.
The violence ignited again the following winter when Murphy Pink (some have said his name was Pinkerton) was shot in his field on November 27, 1894 dying two days later. A pose captured and arrested George Brunson, Charles Smith and Lee Brown a few days after the incident and they were tried and acquitted. Arrested again when new evidence was found the three men were dragged from the jail by a mob who shot them to death on December 14, 1894.
It is said that tragedy will tear a hole in the fabric of time and space which can be felt by the living. If you visit this location include a walk down River Street.