The Civil War officially ended on April 9, 1865 with the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, but certain groups and individuals in the United States continued to commit hostilities beyond that date. One such conflict became known as the Lee-Peacock Feud in Texas, and it occurred roughly where Fannin, Grayson, Collins, and Hunt counties converge.
Allies of the Lee family had once included the Borens. Daniel Lee was one of the senior members of the Lee family and Robert J. “Bob” Lee was his son. Before the war, the Boren and Lee families appear to have been friends. Henry Boren was one of the older members of the Boren family during this period. When the war broke out some years earlier, Bob Lee joined the Confederate Army, enlisting in the 9th Texas Cavalry, whereas the Borens were generally considered to be Unionists. This essentially ended the friendship of many in the Lee and Boren families.
Following the official end of the war, the Union League established itself in Pilot Grove, in North Texas. The Texas State Library describes the Union League as follows, “The Union League, organized in 1863 in the North to support the policies of President Lincoln, established its first local council in Texas in 1865. A secret organization, it was primarily a political association. Members were to support only Republicans for public office. The League also mobilized African-American voters. Many African-American legislators were at one time associated with the League. …. Due to in-fighting and to increasing suppression after Democrat Governor Coke’s election in 1873, the League faded as a viable political force.” The leader of the association in Pilot Grove was Lewis Peacock, who had come to Texas in 1856 and the headquarters of the organization was roughly seven miles from the home of the Lee family.
Unlike some Confederate veterans, Bob Lee had returned from the war with the appearance of wealth, an aura of success and something of a loyal local following. His wartime rank had been captain. There was also a local legend that the Lee family had accumulated a fortune in gold and brought it with them from Virginia when they originally came to North Texas. The rumors of a fortune and possible buried treasure may have played a part in the feud. No treasure has ever been found, but the stories have persisted for more than 100 years.
According to old newspaper articles, the Peacock group took an interest in Lee and decided to make him a target. Dressed in blue uniforms, though they were not Army soldiers, Peacock and some associates once came to Lee’s house, “arrested” him and headed towards Sherman with him, reportedly to see to it that that he was tried for “war crimes.” They stopped at a place called Choctaw Creek bottoms and took his watch, $200 in gold and prepared a document whereby the Lees would pay a $2,000 ransom for him to be freed. As part of the agreement, Lee was also to leave the area. Lee was eventually released but the $2,000 was never paid. Lee later identified at least three of his captors as Lewis Peacock, Israel Boren and one other man named Madison. Lee was said to have brought a civil suit in Fannin County against his captors. though the litigation may have not ever gone to trial given the post-war Reconstruction legal system.
The Peacock faction continued their harassment and pursuit of Lee for the next couple of years, 1867 to 1869. In 1867 they were able to persuade Army General J. J. Reynolds to issue a $1,000 reward for Lee’s delivery to the Post Commanders of either Austin or Marshall, Texas. Lee was able to evade his opponents for a while but one day in February, 1867 he was allegedly shot from behind by a Peacock follower named Maddox at Pilot Grove, a community formerly known as Lick Skillet. Lee was treated by a Dr. William Pearce who was later shot and killed by an alleged Peacock associate. Fatal skirmishes continued between Lee and Peacock followers and also included individuals looking to collect on the $1,000 government reward. At least three bounty hunters were killed pursuing Bob Lee. The Peacock faction was unsuccessful in capturing Lee until May, 1869 when on a suspected tip from one of the Borens, Lee was shot and killed by Federal troops while he was hiding in a place known as Wildcat Thicket. A nephew of Henry Boren but loyal to Lee is suspected of later having retaliated by going to the Boren home and killing his uncle.
There are many more side stories to this feud that involve other Texas families. Casualties are said to have numbered over 50 fatalities. After Lee was killed, there was more loss of life, but the conflict seems to have begun to subside with Lee’s death and Peacock’s death before finally ending with the political changes that marked the end of the Reconstruction era.
Around 1966, a historical marker was placed in Pilot Grove to commemorate the conflict. The text of the marker is as follows: “Founded in early 1850s. On Bonham-McKinney Stage Line. Called Lick Skillet; renamed, 1858, for J. P. Dumas’ Ranch. Site of Lee-Peacock feud, 1865-1871, between ex-Confederate Capt. Bob Lee with his gold and Union supporter Lewis Peacock. Although Lee was killed in 1865, his followers carried on the fight until Peacock was shot.” (Image and text credit: http://www.waymarking.com)
Ordinarily, Texas historical markers tend to be fairly accurate. One difference in this one is the year given for Bob Lee’s death. It is shown as 1865, which is at variance with later information that tends to support that his death occurred in 1869.
Lewis Peacock (1824 or 1829 to 1871) was shot and killed at his home in 1871. He is buried in Old Pilot Grove Cemetery in Grayson County. Bob Lee (1835 to 1871) is buried in Lee Cemetery in Hunt County. Henry Boren (1828 to 1869) is buried in Old Richards Cemetery in Collin County. Israel Boren (1817 to 1895) is also buried in Old Richards Cemetery in Collin County.
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