The south has its own wild west stories

Published 2:47 pm Monday, May 20, 2024

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By Lloyd Albritton


Here’s an interesting historical tidbit for you. While ordering a sandwich at a Bay Minettte Subway restaurant recently I encountered a friendly, handsome young man from Perdido who observed that he and I had ordered the exact same sandwich.  We struck up a conversation and he told me his last name was Hadley.

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“Oh!” I mused, “Hadley?”

“Yes, I am one of ‘those’ Hadleys,” he quickly added with a smile, having read my mind.

“Do you know the story of the Hadley-Bryars shootout in Perdido back in 1875?” I asked him.

“No, I never heard of that,” he replied with interest.

Time did not permit me to rehearse the story, so perhaps my young friend will enjoy this old story taken from a newspaper report printed in the Birmingham Iron Age on July 29, 1875.  I hope my readers who fancy local historical lore enjoy it too.

Tombstone, you and your OK Corral shootout between the Earps and the Clantons have nothing on Perdido, Alabama’s Hadley-Bryars shootout!  Anyone native to this region of Alabama will be familiar with the long-running Hadley-Bryars feud, which paralleled the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud of the late 19th Century in the West Virginia-Kentucky area.  I think the bad blood that once existed between the Hadleys and the Bryars’ of Baldwin County is now past, but who can know for sure the efficacy of a fine old tradition like a family feud?

Dreadful Tragedy In Baldwin County, Alabama. Partial reports of a terrible occurrence near the line of the Mobile and Montgomery Railroad reached us by telegraph from the junction on Tuesday morning.  Yesterday, we were called upon by Mr. W. J. Vankirk, of Millvue, a surveyor, who was on duty near the scene of the tragedy, but not a witness to its occurrence. He visited the battleground, however, was present at the funeral of the victims, and gave us an intelligent report of a dreadful affair:

Greenberry Bryars, and James Hadley, two men of considerable means and both large owners of stock, had been at feud for some years in consequence of misunderstandings caused by the intermixing of cattle which used the same range. On Monday, Bryars Sr., with his son, Larry, were plowing about 150 yards from the house, when Hadley Sr., 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 near the fence and said they had “come to settle the matter.”  Bryars and his son were unarmed, but the father, after some angry words had been exchanged, caught up a piece of pine root about a foot and a half long and, getting over the fence, his son following him, advanced toward the party. As he approached them he was shot down and instantly killed.  His son, who ran to his father as he fell, was also instantly killed.

Joseph Bryars, then came out of the house with a double-barrelled shotgun, but both barrels missed fire and he also was shot dead. Meanwhile Dink Hadley rode toward the house, sprang from his horse and got behind a pine tree to await the coming of another son, John Bryars, who advanced from the house under fire with two guns. He dropped one of them and sprang to a post in the road which did not shelter more than a third of his person, and exchanged fires with Dink Hadley about thirty yards off, the rest of the attacking party meanwhile firing on him from a distance.

At his second fire, Dink Hadley fell.  Attempting to reload, but seeing Bryars run back and get his other gun, he scrambled upon his horse, rejoined his party, and rode away with them.  John Bryars continued firing at them as they left and wounded old Hadley in the shoulder.

Dink Hadley’s wound was in the knee. John Bryars was wounded in the head, arm and foot, but not dangerously.  While the fight was going on near the house, Whylie, the youngest son of the Bryars family, ran to where his father and brother, Larry, had fallen and was shot down, the wound being in the thigh and dangerous.

The summary of the affair is a father and two sons murdered and two sons wounded, on one side; and on the other, a father and son wounded. We are told that Mr. Bryars was much respected, being a leading man in religious affairs in the neighborhood, and that Hadley had always been deemed a respectable person. The dead were buried on Tuesday, a large assemblage being present.  Tuesday, a posse of men, provided with warrants for the arrest of the murderers, went to the Hadley settlement but found their residences deserted. The locality of these occurrences is near the Florida line, four miles west of Perdido station, or about midway between the Junction and Tensas Bridge.

Source: Birmingham Iron Age, July 29, 1875