News, history always in the making
By By Lloyd Albritton
I'm not a news reporter, but a fellow told me about an incident over in Baldwin County recently which, though tragic, made a rather interesting and entertaining story.
The fellow who told me this story was a surveyor on duty in the area when he witnessed the following events: Two fellows over that way, Greenberry Bryars and James Hadley, both owners of cattle stock, have been feuding for some time over disagreements and misunderstandings having to do with land and stock and such. Their hostilities toward one another came to a head the other day as Mr. Bryars and his son, Larry, were plowing about 150 yards from their house, when Mr. Hadley, accompanied by a party of five others comprising his son "Dink," two other sons, and his sons-in-law, Bud Pricher and Thomas Stewart, all armed with shotguns, rode up on their horses and declared that they had come "to settle the matter."
The elder Mr. Bryars and his son were unarmed, but following an exchange of some angry words, Mr. Bryars caught up a piece of pine root about a foot and a half long, and climbed over the fence, his son following, and advanced toward the Hadley party. As he approached them he was shot down and instantly killed. When son Larry ran to assist his father, he also was shot and killed. Another son, Joseph Bryars, then came out of the house with a double-barrel shotgun, but both barrels misfired and he also was shot dead by the Hadleys. Dink Hadley then sped toward the house on his horse, sprang from the horse, and took cover behind a pine tree to await the coming of another Bryars son, John.
When John Bryars advanced from the house with two guns blazing, he accidentally dropped one of the guns and quickly took cover behind a post in the road which provided only scant cover. John Bryars then began exchanging fire with Dink Hadley from a distance of about thirty yards, while the rest of the Hadley clan continued to fire on him as well, but from a further distance. Dink Hadley was wounded in the knee in the exchange and fell to the ground. As Dink lay on the ground attempting to reload, he saw John Bryars make a dash to retrieve his other previously dropped gun. Taking advantage of this moment of respite, Dink managed to quickly scramble aboard his horse, rejoined his party, and rode away with them. John Bryars continued firing at the band of men as they rode away, wounding Hadley Sr. in the shoulder. During the course of the battle, John Bryars was wounded in the head, arm and foot, but not dangerously. While, the youngest of the Bryars boys, was seriously wounded in the thigh when he ran to where his father and brother, Larry, had fallen.
The locality of these occurrences is near the Florida line, about four miles west of Perdido. A posse of sheriff's deputies armed with warrants later went to the Hadley homes to arrest them, but found all the Hadley residences deserted. Mr. Bryars was reputed to be a leading man of religious affairs in the neighborhood and Hadley a respectable person as well.
Actually, I pull your legs just a little bit. This news item did not really happen recently. Rather, the story was published in the Pensacola Gazette on July 29, 1875 and an extract of the story was sent to me by one of my readers the other day. I have transcribed all the names and details directly from the extract.
Though such uncivilized behavior by our local citizenry is not something to boast or be proud about, whether it happened yesterday or yesteryear, our local history is filled with such fascinating tales which rival those of the old wild west. I have been told many of these stories of local fame and infamy by older citizens since my childhood. Some are told from personal memory, while others are passed down in oral family chronicles and are sometimes embellished, changed or inaccurate in other facts and details.
In 1890, the U. S. government closed its patent office in Washington, D.C. based upon the foolish notion that everything had already been invented. That closure did not last long, of course, for creative minds continue to invent new things without end. The same thing might be said of ignorant and violent behavior. History is always in the making and variations of the above described events continue to take place in the back streets and backwaters of our communities today. Just when we begin to think we are living in a more civilized and modern society where men have learned to settle their differences rationally and peaceably, we hear, read of, or even experience another violent incident where neighbors resort to settling their disagreements by fighting and shooting one another. These violent squabbles make great news and history, but to those involved, they make nothing but misery, pain and tragedy. And, like the Bryars-Hadley shootout of 1875, they settle nothing. Chances are these families are still arguing and fighting today.
Lloyd Albritton publishes The Albritton Letters on the Internet at www.Lloyd-Albritton.com. He can be contacted at LloydAlbritton@aol.com.