Family Stories

One of the Bloodiest Days in Garrard County History

The Hill-Evans Feud

Garrard County, Kentucky

March 13th will be the 160th anniversary of one of the bloodiest days in Garrard County history.  The Hill-Evans feud had begun twenty-three years previous over an argument about land and money between John Hill, Sr., and Dr. Hezekiah Evans.  Court suits involving the two began in 1839, and when John Hill, Sr., passed away during the year, those suits were continued with his administrators – his grandchildren.  Words and blows passed back and forth, and for many years there were nothing but harsh feelings between the two families.

In March of 1850 everyone was in town for court days, and to hear Judge Robertson speak.  After a bandy of words and barbs Hezekiah Evans shot Jesse Hill.  Jesse was carried to an upstairs room of Dr. Oliver Perry Hill, but his wounds soon proved mortal.  Dr. Evans escaped the crowd and the law and made his way to his home on Sugar Creek.  He was fortified on the hill, and at night slipped away to Indiana, the home of his wife, Nancy Cole.  There he stayed until he was acquitted of all charges.

Until the end of that year there were many minor skirmishes between the two factions, one taking place in the square in downtown Lancaster.  In December both families were brought to court and charged to keep the peace “with all the good citizens of Garrard County” but especially with each other.  Large penal sums were imposed on both sides and for the duration of the year calm again reigned.

On the morning of March 13, 1852, Isaiah, Fred and Russell Hill, brothers, set out to move John Brown to Teatersville.  The first part of the day was uneventful, but on the return trip things went awry.  As they passed a tobacco house shots rang out and Russell fell to the ground dead.  More shots came and the party tried to take cover, while pulling out their weapons and returning fire.  John Sellars shot and killed Isaiah Hill.  William Chrisman shot Fred Hill, but he continued to fight.  James Alverson and Samuel Sellers, a brother to John, were also in the barn and took part in the battle.  Sons of the fallen men took up where their father’s left off, and soon Sellars and Chrisman breathed no more.  A total of four men were killed and several seriously wounded.  Fred Hill died a few months later from his wounds.

A few smaller battles were fought in the next few months.  Nelson Sutherland was shot and killed by Sam Evans.  On his way into town Jesse May was gunned down by Dr. O.P. Hill and Joseph Murphy.  Dr. Hill and Murphy were the only participants in the feud to spend any time in jail.  However they were released on bail but didn’t return for their trial.  Governor Lazarus W. Powell issued a proclamation for their arrest.  In May of 1853 Sam and Tom May came upon Joseph Murphy in the local hotel and calmly put a bullet in his head as sat at a table.

A total of nine men were killed and many wounded during the duration of the feud.   Although all were brought to trial, each and every one was acquitted of murder charges.  Most of the members of the Hill family left Garrard County and settled in Washington or Anderson Counties.  Most of Hezekiah Evans sons moved to Texas.  One son, Lemuel Evans, lived in Garrard County until his death in 1915 at the age of 96 years.  Mary, a daughter of Isaiah Hill, married James Simpson and raised a large family, living in Garrard County until her death in 1919.

Few know about the feud today.  It is a forgotten time period in Garrard County history.

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