The Daniels-Christian Feud
West Virginia's Other Feuding Family
How We Connect
My paternal Great-Grandmother was Pearl Daniels, the granddaughter of Floyd Daniels. Floyd had many siblings, among them were Charles Daniels and Comfort Daniels (who married Nathaniel Christian.)
Every woman isn't a lady and every grandma isn't a saint. That can especially be said for my 4th Great-Grandmother, Rebecca Rachel Daniels. She was never married a day in her life. She did, however, start affairs with a pair of brothers, both married men, who lived as neighbors nearby. Her first child, Lewis, was born when she was only sixteen. It seems she was pregnant every year for the next two decades. According to various birth and death documents for her children, Rachel had nine children with Elijah Mounts and seven children with Charles Mounts. Richard Floyd and Charlie are believed to have belonged to Charles Mounts and their sister Comfort was documented to be the daughter of Elijah. The fathers were present in all the children's lives growing up but Rachel Daniels kept them in her household as a single mother. Censuses never show her to be working any type of job to provide for her massive brood of sixteen before the year 1870, where she is shown to be a "farmeress" and head of the household. I can only assume that she and the Mounts brothers had some type of tri-parenting system where each man helped carry the load of the children he produced as well as helped with the children of his brother. Oddly, or rather sadly enough, the wives of these men were strong women who stayed married to these men and were documented to be living with them as their spouse throughout all the years, despite the fact that every time the fresh face of a new child popped up looking over the neighbor's fence they knew without a doubt that child came from their husbands and was their own children's sibling. Rachel Daniels raised her small army of children in Pike County, Kentucky, never straying far from her own parents. She gave birth to Comfort Daniels in 1847 when she was 24-years-old. Brother Charlie was born ten years later, in 1857. Despite being raised in the same house by the same mother, the two siblings differed in many ways and had more standing between them than merely an age gap.
On June 23, 1867, Comfort married Nathaniel Robinett "Weston" Christian, who is rumored to have been a descendant of Shawnee Chief Cornstalk through his son Ellinipsico and a young Cherokee girl named Standing Deer. No documented proof has ever been uncovered to uphold the claims. The odds are just as probable as impossible, so until further descendants compare DNA results we will all have to use our imagination about who his relatives were and what kind of culture he was raised a part of. The 1900 Census lists Comfort as head of the household and mother of 16 children total with only 11 of those children living at the time. Let me reiterate: By the time Comfort was 45 years old, she was widowed and had buried 5 children. Let that sink in for a few moments...
Looking over the census records of that year, you quickly notice that the math doesn't add up. She had 16 children, five had died, five were in the home, and five had moved on to their own homes. There is a child missing but that is another story all on it's own.
Charles Daniels married Clarissa Adams on January 19, 1877, when he was only 20 years old. The newlyweds chose Logan, West Virginia to put down their roots and raise their family. By 1880, young Charles couldn't read nor write but he was earning a steady wage for his wife and small son, John, through farming their land. Clarissa helped bring home the bacon by housekeeping for other families who lived in the area. By 1900, Charlie was still working the land but was now taking care of a family of 12, including their children. The census of that year lists the children as: John, James, Rosa, Jason, Albert, Henry, Ona, Cecil, Holly, and Martha.
During the early part of the 1800s, John Daniels was serving time in Moundsville Penitentiary for grand larceny. During his second year, his cousins Mose and Bud Christian came to the yellow, two-story home of Charles and Clarissa Daniels, where they commenced to telling Charles a plan which, they claimed, would allow them to get John out of jail. The plan, they told him, would only cost him about three or four-hundred dollars. Charles listened to his nephews' story but something about it just didn't sit well with him. He told them he would need to think about it first before making any moves. He wrote a letter to his son, telling him about what his cousins had told him, and asked if it were true that he could be gotten out of jail in such a way. John told his father absolutely not. He explained to his father that he had no idea what those boys were up to but that nothing could get him released from prison, he had to do his time. He instructed his father to keep his money to himself and keep a close eye on it. Reading his son's response angered Charles at his sister's sons. He cursed them profusely at first for trying to rogue him for some unknown reason but he soon calmed himself, deciding it wasn't a cause worth dividing the family over, and he let it go.
Aside from being first cousins, Jim Daniels and Mose Christian were brothers-in-law. In 1908, Mose married Jim's sister Rosia who was said to have died during childbirth in the earlier part of 1909 while Mose was serving time in the penitentiary with Jim by his side. Jim and Mose had always had a very close relationship. That bond led them to receive and serve a prison sentence together for murder and shooting to kill. Nobody in the family imagined these two bosom buddies would soon fall out and become deadly enemies.
Not too long after being released from prison, Jim Christian stole a Winchester from Mose Daniels, or so is the story. Jim always denied the charge and Mose always pressed it. Whether he actually took the gun or not, the world may never know, but regardless, the mere thought that Jim heisted it was enough to send Mose to rally his brothers into a raid upon the Daniels home. They were going either get the gun or get Jim Daniels, if they had anything to say about it... and they did. Lots.
On November 13,1909, the knock at the door came as a bit of a surprise to the family, seeing as how remote the location of their small house was, they weren't expecting any outside visitors. Charles Daniels opened the door to see his nephews Mose and Hiram Christian standing before him. Charlie asked what was up and the guys told him they wanted Jim's tale on a stick, so to speak. Charles learned of the blame his son was receiving for the stolen property and attempted to reason with him to calm him down.
"Boy, what is your problem!?" Old Man Daniels scolded his nephew. "You come over here talkin' about gonna kill my boy over a damn gun, come here to my house a'sayin' it and you ain't gave nary thought to the fact that when your ass was in the slammer and your old woman took ill with that baby of yourn, it was me who came and got her and took care of her when you couldn't. That's what family does, yet...you accuse us of taking from you... So what if he took your damn gun. I'd say what we've done for your family is worth a lot more than that damn gun, wouldn't you?" With that, Charles turned, walked back into the house and closed the door.
Frankly, Mose Christian didn't give a rat's ass about his uncle's charity and hospitality. To Mose, it was the principle of stealing and he wasn't about to let his cousin get away with something that he wouldn't let any average Joe on the creek. His emotions were untouched and his mission wasn't deterred in the slightest. He wanted Jim Daniels and he wanted him now!
Once inside the house, Charles decided there was no stopping the Christian boys. They were going to have their altercation with Jim one way or the other. If they didn't have a word with him there in the supposed safety of his own home, they would most certainly find him alone on the tracks or in town somewhere and have their way with him then. Charles thought it would be best for his son to confront the situation while he was close at hand. He called his son down from upstairs to go face his karma and calm things down between the two families.
"What the hell did you do, Jim!?" He yelled up the stairway toward the second story bedrooms.
"Daddy, I didn't! I swear!" Jim trotted downstairs throwing his clothes on in a hurry.
"You know how those boys are!" the Old Man hissed. "What the hell were you thinking!? You better get your ass out there right now and handle this mess!"
"When I go out there, they're gonna kill me!" James yelled back.
Outside, the Christian brothers could hear Old Man Charles and Jim arguing back and forth. They knew their uncle would have a hell of a time getting Jim to come out to meet them. They were just starting to put away their guns and leave when the front door flew open and out stormed Jim Daniels and his brother Charles Jr. The two men confronted their cousin Mose in the yard, where Jim and Mose got into a push and shove match, complete with loud voices and name calling. Hiram Christian, Mose's younger brother, thought a lot like his uncle Charles and believed the two boys ought to calm down and work things out in a civil manner before things escalated. In true Daniels fashion, a son each of Charles and Comfort Daniels were about to do things they could never take back. Things that would wreck havoc on, not just their family but, towns across two states.
The Christians said Jim deliberately drew his gun on Hiram and shot him point blank for trying to stop a fight between him and Mose. The Daniels version of the event tells that things between Jim and Mose got heated and Bud Christian pulled a knife on Jim, triggering him to shoot just as Hiram attempted to step between the men and create space and peace. Whatever the precise action was that caused Jim to make the decision he did, whether intentional or accidental, one thing is certain: Hiram Christian stepped between the fighting men in an attempt to separate them and in doing so, he was hit by the flying shrapnel spent out by the blast of Jim's gun. The load of the gun tore through Hiram's left arm, tearing away the meat on its way through his heart and two ribs, ultimately ripping away part of his left lung. Realizing the seriousness of what he had just done, Jim saw his other cousins turn their attention on their fatally wounded brother and seized that opportunity to make a run for it. He and Charles Jr. mounted two horses and tore a path down the railroad tracks faster than any steam engine that ran on them. The Christian boys were taken by surprise when Jim fled but with Hiram in dire condition, they chose to let him go until another day.
After the killing of Christian by Daniels the two families and their friends became involved, and for some few days both factions have gone about heavily armed. While Jim Daniels took up refuge in his parents' home, his friends were busy going around to various neighbors, borrowing Winchesters, with the story that the guns were needed to kill off a flock of wild turkeys. Although wild turkeys were all over the area at that time, no one in town seemed to believe their story.
At this time, Pike County, Kentucky was enormous in size and police officers were very few. Because the Daniels lived in such a remote mountainous area on the banks of a river, away from the convenience of cleared roads other than the railroad track, Jim knew the chance of police officers venturing out into the hills to capture him was slim but he also knew it was a matter of time before his cousins came back to take the law into their own hands. He was right. The Christian brothers weren't about to allow the murder of their brother to just blow over without a thought or action, as if nothing had ever happened. Letting Jim Daniels get away with stealing a gun was one thing but letting him get away with murder was unthinkable.
Bud and Mose Christian rode down to the Pike County courthouse with a group of more than sixty of their comrades and filed for a warrant for the arrest of Jim Daniels on the charge of murdering Hiram Christian. Because there were no officers in the immediate area near the Daniels home, the group of men were temporarily deputized and given the authority to capture Jim Daniels, dead or alive. Given the time of year, the men decided to use the upcoming holiday to heir advantage and they waited.
On the 25th of November, Thanksgiving Day, 1909, the Christians set forth to find their assailant and serve the warrant. The brothers built a posse of more than sixty men, family and friends, who were hellbent on getting a piece of Jim Daniels. Because the Daniels home was situated on a creek at the Kentucky-West Virginia border, the posse thought it would be best to split up and hit them from both sides, as to give Jim nowhere to run. One group headed by Mose Christian and Bob Simpkins came upon the house from the West Virginia side and the other group, headed by John Ferrell and Bud Christian sneaked upon the house from the Kentucky side. The West Virginia posse took route by way of the railroad tracks. Many of both the Daniels and Christian family members worked on those tracks as rail men for the Norfolk & Western Railroad. They suspected familiarity with the tracks might make it a common route for James to travel. Those on the Kentucky side took a more straight-forward approach and rode right upon his house, surrounding it from all four sides. None of the men were officers, but they claimed they were deputized as special constables to get Daniels.
Again, there are two totally different versions of what happened this day. The Christian's story paints the picture of a teenage Annie Oakley type girl straddling her mother's dead body as it lay at her feet in the doorway, calmly blasting bullets at the posse from a gun in each hand. They painted this youngster as both fearless and dangerous as well as a sharp shooter who not only shot one of the men in the firing posse but also shot a hat clear from another man's head. It is said that the Christian boys rode up to the house, calling out to Jim and Charles that they had a warrant for their arrest on the count of murder, in good faith and keeping within the law but the two females opened fire on the men, keeping them at bay while the men of the house could make their escape. The Daniels' version seems much more realistic. According to that side of the family, Clarissa was tending to the house post-holiday dinner while the children were scattered about the various parts of the house, playing as usual. It has been told that the firing on the house started from across the river, on the West Virginia side by the posse headed by Mose Christian. Recognizing that gunfire was raining upon their home, the family said they huddled together for safety. They said Martha Daniels stood in the doorway, her mother Clarissa standing behind her. Directly behind them in the doorway was Charles Daniels Sr. Huddled around on the floor were several small children and Alert Daniels. When the shots began to fly thickest from the West Virginia side and the crowd huddled together behind the door, a steel bullet from one of the Winchesters came crashing through the casing of the door and pierced the forehead of little Martha Daniels, exiting at the back of her head, crossing the room and become lodged inside a washboard at the rear of the hallway. Immediately following that bullet, another tore through the walls and right into Clarissa Daniels's neck, just above the right shoulder, and went down through her body to the left hip where it stopped.
One of the next shots fired into the house entered from the rear and went through the fleshy part of the upper arm of Albert Daniels. Charles Sr. and one of his younger sons claimed to have seen Christian fire this shot and the old man even told how he saw him pump his gun and raise it to his shoulder and then fire. The shot which struck the younger boy was fired from the back yard, the shooter hiding inside the Daniels family's corn patch.
Charles Sr. cried out aloud with grief and called down the displeasure of the Lord on the murderers of his daughter and his wife. When Jim Daniels, who was upstairs, heard the crying, he knew that someone had been hit and he rushed down the stairs, saw his sister lying dead, his mother dying and his brother injured. His father told him for God's sake to give himself up and told him he would send a horse to get him away. Jim said something unintelligible to his father and as he did so dashed out the front door in plain view of the entire West Virginia posse, who fired shot after shot from across the river while he disappeared from sight. As soon as they realized that he was making good his escape, they ran down the track after him but after the first burst of speed was over Jim was able to seek a little cover from some outhouses and got away into the mountains.
The Kentucky posse meanwhile rushed into the house and Bud Christian pointed a gun at the old man who had his dying wife in his arms and his dead daughter on the floor beside him. Charles Sr. told his nephew and his men that the problem that stood between them and his son are just that: between them and had nothing to do with his wife and daughter who were now laying dead on the floor in front of them. He stressed how they as well as Hiram had died senseless deaths. He pleaded with the men to just drop it but, as he recalled it, they told him to shut up or they would shoot and kill him, too. Charles pleaded for his life and it was finally spared when the posse on the West Virginia side kept shouting that Jim Daniels had gotten away. Jim fled while the bullets were flying from the WV side before they Kentucky posse had even made it to the house.
Mind Your Business
Due to the isolation of the location, there was no police officer to be seen for miles and no way to contact them in times of an emergency. In this area, the police were notified of crime via the newspaper and only when it was printed in the paper would they find out and know who to pursue. Sometimes days had passed before this happened, which gave time for victims who could have given statements to die and accused thieves and murderers more than enough time to make a clear getaway out of town. This lack of policing meant the citizens of Devon had to police themselves.
Everyone related to either side of the fight understood that it was only a matter of time before they would get the call to come defend their kinsman and, for the most part, they were loaded, cocked, and ready. This uniting of the bloodlines was more dangerous than anyone not from Appalachia can imagine. Merely a few years before this feud riled up, others in the family were wreaking havoc on the hills in a nationally known feud of their own. Those relatives were none other than the Hatfields and the McCoys. While Daniels and Christian shared relatives from both the Hatfield and McCoy side of the fight, the Christians held tight bonds with their Hatfield relatives and the Daniels were backed by their Cline relatives, including Perry Cline, the infamous rival of Devil Anse Hatfield. Having let their own feud simmer down for some years, both sides from that notorious first feud were among those who dreaded getting the call of action to take sides in the new family matter. It was reported that those of the earlier feud did their best to avoid speaking to their quarreling kinsmen but were willing to take up arms and fight for their families if the new feud escalated to that same magnitude.
Newspapers from all over reported that the feud would never end so long as there was a Daniels or Christian left alive to pull a trigger. This helped to incite fear in the community because it was a commonly understood fact that the feuding families were among the most ruthless and unruly clans around those parts and even so much as showing favor over one could make you a personal target. Even the police agencies knew they were powerless to step in. They admitted to the press that the problem was larger than they could handle, therefore they would not be approaching either family. Everyone in Devon shared the outlook that if the feud wasn't your own personal battle, you stayed out of it and minded your business. Because nothing could be done to slow the feud's progression by local law enforcement, the federal government was put on standby with the notice that either Governor Glasscock of West Virginia or Governor Willson of Kentucky will be calling in troops to put an end to the bloodshed.
A Shotgun Funeral
The funeral of little Martha Daniels was held on November 27th, 1909. Her family feared that being gathered together for the occasion might make the family an easy target for anyone heartless enough or intoxicated enough to disturb the service on behalf of the Christian/Hatfield sect of the family. To protect themselves against potential marksmen, as well as to defend little Martha's lifeless body and the sanctity of her funeral rites, Daniels/Cline men in the family kept armed with their trusty Winchesters throughout the entire funeral and burial rites.
In the hours following Martha's funeral, her mother Clarissa succumbed to her own injuries and passed away. Upon her death, Charles Sr. worried for the safety of the other youngsters living in the home and stressed to his boys the importance of facing the music in order to preserve the lives of the rest of the family, as he was certain the Christian boys could be kept to their words in terms of wiping out the rest of the family if Jim didn't surface. Charles Sr. advised his sons to do the right thing and go to Pike County, Kentucky and surrender himself or the whole family would be killed but Jim was reported to have said that if he went to Kentucky it would be in a casket because he intended on killing the whole damned Christian faction.
Father Knows Best
Old Man Charlie Daniels managed to talk some degree of sense into his boys. Following losing their mother just hours after their little sister's funeral, Charlie Jr. and Jim went over what they should do about the matters at hand. It was assumed that Jim had made a getaway from the slaughter at his home unscathed but that was not so. As he mounted his horse and rode swiftly out of sight of his enemies, who fired bullets from across the Tug River, Jim had actually been hit by a bullet fired at him from someone in the West Virginia posse. While weighing their options for the best next move, a Dr. Robertson visited Jim at the home of his brother where he was in hiding, and tended to his wound. By the time news of his bullet wound made its way through the gossip of the people in the Tug Valley, Jim had gone from "getting away unscathed" to "fatally wounded" with reports prematurely factoring him into the total of the feuds victims. Jim Daniels did not die due to his injuries, however. Not even close. The following day, Jim quite ably walked himself into the police station and turn himself in to authorities. Not only did Jim come forth in his guilt, his brothers Charlie Jr., Jason, and Henry all turned themselves in for their part as well.
Justice for All
It was reported in the newspaper that Bud Christian was so distraught over imminently facing justice that he was overcome with anxiety, grief, or guilt, and killed himself as a means to not have to serve a lengthy sentence. It was told to his family by the authorities at the jail that Bud hanged himself in his cell. His body was released to his family and they took him home and laid him out for viewing. According to his nieces who were present at the wake, blood started oozing from the back of his body and from his orifices. His family quickly sent for a doctor who came to the house to examine his body. When the doctor rolled Bud over, it was discovered that he had five bullet wounds to the back, apparently from having been hanged and shot while awaiting trial. This would mean that the note he had supposedly written before his alleged suicide was fake. Bud Christian didn't commit suicide behind bars but was rather retaliated upon by fans of the Daniels side of the family.
Jim Daniels was taken to Pikeville, KY, where he stood trial for the murder of Hiram Christian and an unrelated charge of conspiracy along with John Praytor, Joe Praytor, Maney Praytor, Gurmann Praytor, George Robertson, Leornard Daniels and his brothers John and Jason Daniels who all stood trial for conspiracy. The conspiracy they were guilty of was an attack on Italian immigrants working with them at the coal mine. The men were arrested in Majestic, Kentucky, after they had driven off a number of miners from the coal plant and forced the mine to close down for lack of labor on Friday.
The men were arrested by the Baldwin-Felts detectives Mesars, Belk, Pense, Harrison and Houchins along with the assistance of two Kentucky deputies. The arrests followed the closing down of the mines of the Majestic Collierles Company, in whose plant Jim Daniels was mine foreman. For two years there had been trouble brewing between the native born hillbillies and the newly planted foreigners who were contracted into the state by coal companies to mine coal. Daniels wanted the foreign Italians fired and sent elsewhere to free up jobs and living space, or so he claimed. The company, however, insisted that there was a shortage of local men willing to work in the coal mine if the others were discharged. For this reason, the company refused to get rid of an of the Italian miners. This outraged Jim Daniels and he flipped his lid. That irrational and immature action only caused one man to get fired: himself. Jim was discharged on the spot. To retaliate on the company for putting him out of work, Jim devised a plan with his gang to put the coal company out of work, too. The posse put together by Daniels rode up to the mine determined to drive off all the Italians. Scared for their lives, many of the foreigners left that very day, never to return to that area. The situation grew so dangerous that detectives had to be called in to put a stop to the chaos.
Daniels was the ring-leader and everything he said or did, his co-conspirators reinforced. Here is where the court got clever: The court knew that all the men involved with backing Jim Daniels at the mine would run and hide the minute they caught tale of the law looking for them. Rather than make them run, the court decided to do something to bring them to the court house voluntarily, albeit unbeknownst to them. Jim Daniels was taken to the courthouse where his trial was held. In a show of support and to act as witnesses on his behalf, preaching his innocence, his buddies made a grand appearance at the trial. Upon opening statements, the warrants of arrest for each of those men were announced and served right there. All men involved, including his several brothers, were taken to jail immediately in Pikeville, Kentucky.
After being taken into custody and questioned about the chain of events that transpired, causing the feud, Jim Daniels had the opportunity to tell his side of things. He told about how his brother-in-law Mose had knocked up his sister and got locked up, not being present when she was untimely taken from this earth as she died during childbirth. He told about how his cousins appeared at his house that day, attempting to hustle their elderly dad of his money, under the guise of being able to free John from jail. Jim told the detectives how his late sister's husband accused him of taking a gun off him despite how close they had always been and how that led the men to come to his father's home in Devon on Thanksgiving and fire the shots that killed his mother and sister. Jim made sure to take this time to mention all of the men in the Christian gang by name as he told his story about the turn of events that left his mother and sister dead. Among those implicated in the murders was Constable John Ferrell.
An article appeared in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph on February 25, 1911 that reported the arrest of John Ferrell in connection to the slaying of Clarissa and Martha Daniels. Ferrell had just paroled from the West Virginia state pen when he was lured across the water to Kentucky where he was immediately arrested and charged with the Daniels' murders. An investigation of the murder proved John Ferrell to be the leader of the Kentucky posse which opened fire on the home. He was held at the Pike County Jail without bond, although every effort was made by his friends to get him out.
It was reported in the newspaper that Bud Christian was so distraught over imminently facing justice that he was overcome with anxiety, grief, or guilt, and killed himself as a means to not have to serve a lengthy sentence. It was told to his family by the authorities at the jail that Bud hanged himself in his cell. His body was released to his family and they took him home and laid him out for viewing. According to his nieces who were present at the wake, blood started oozing from the back of his body and from his orifices. His family quickly sent for a doctor who came to the house to examine his body. When the doctor rolled Bud over, it was discovered that Bud had five bullet wounds to the back in addition to the rope burns around his neck. Bud Christian had been hanged and shot while awaiting trial. This would mean that the note he had supposedly written before his alleged suicide was fake. It is believed by the family that Bud Christian didn't commit suicide behind bars but was rather retaliated upon by fans of the Daniels side of the family.
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About the Creator
A mother, daughter, sister and "Star Stuff". I have been a storyteller all my life and obsessed with genealogy nearly as long.. I'm an observer and storyteller by nature. I research the lives of my ancestors and document their stories
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Original narrative & well developed characters
I enjoyed reading this article on the Christian-Daniels feud. You did an excellent job of telling both sides of the story.