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Local History

The Alsup Family Feud

Backwaters of Proposed Dam Would Inundate Feudal Site

“Gainesville, Mo. When the backwaters from the proposed dam to be built 15 miles north of here at Althea Springs spread north into the valleys of Southern Douglas and Ozark Counties, they will inundate the feudal grounds of the famous Alsup and Fleetwood clans. 

“Tourists who will visit the project when it gets under way, and it now appears that construction will begin soon, probably will be told of the bitter feud which raged here 50 years ago, costing more that 200 lives.

“In the old graveyard at the forks of Bryant and Fox Creeks in the Vera Cruz neighborhood are stones marking the ancient graves where Shelt and Lock Alsup were laid away. Others of the Alsup clan also were buried there, and in this same cemetery lies the remains of many of the Fleetwoods, the Bransons and the Spurlocks, all pioneers who participated in the longest and bloodiest feud ever waged in Douglas and Ozark Counties when the Alsup and Fleetwood families fought each other in open warfare for half a century.

“According to Charles Alsup, now living at Ava, there was never a real feud between the Alsups and Fleetwoods but it was a case of ‘more or less the field against the Alsups.’

“The vendetta did not end with the Civil War but lasted until about 1873, he said, when Sheriff Shelt Alsup was shot from ambush. His relatives did not take up the task of punishing the assassins, he said. [Other articles indicate that Shelt Alsup and one of his children died in a shootout with law enforcement officers in March of 1879.]

“The first of the Alsups came to the Ozarks in 1812 from Eastern Tennessee. Tom Alsup headed the colony of 12 Alsup families, all mountaineers.

“A few years later the Fleetwoods, equally numerous and vigorous, came from Kentucky and settled in the Ozarks Mountains. One clan lived on Bryant Creek, the other on Fox Creek. The plateau dividing the two clans was common ground, later a battlefield.

“Trouble started between the younger generation. A young Alsup was taking his sweetheart home from church one night when the Fleetwood boys separated him from his girl and gave him a thrashing. The boy’s father went over to have the fracas adjusted, a quarrel followed and an Alsup killed a Fleetwood.

“News spread and the men took sides. Years passed, each seeing the bloody results of the feud. Sometimes an effort was made to end the troubles, there would be an armed truce but for trivial reasons feud fires would blaze again with redoubled violence.

“In October 1870* [sic], it was mutually agreed to meet and fight it out in battle formation. The level plateau between these two creeks were chosen. In this typical post oak flat the two clans met, about 100 to a side, and fought in Indian fashion from behind trees.

“The fight was a draw but more than 20 were killed. The matter was brought up before a grand jury by the Circuit Judge and special prosecutor and 50 men were indicted. They were scheduled for trial in the spring of 1861 but the war interfered and the Fleetwoods went to war wearing the gray while the Alsups battled them for the federals.

“When the Alsups came back, having fought for the victors, they at once got into the official saddle, holding most of the county offices. Once when the county court did not agree with Sheriff Shelt Alsup, he came into the courtroom, threw his official report on the table, fired one shot into the ceiling, another into the floor and said, ‘I have a third bullet here for the first damned county judge that turns down that report.’

“The report was instantly adopted. For 20 years the Alsup faction reigned in Douglas County. According to Charles Alsup his grandfather was employed by the Missouri legislature to select a site for the Douglas County seat. He laid out the town of Ava and sold enough lots to build the wooden courthouse, now in the public square.”

*This was probably meant to be 1860.

Other accounts of the death of Shelt Alsup and the Alsup family feud can be found at , available through the library.

* Library card required for use outside the Library

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