The hatred was so fierce that they carried weapons just about everywhere.
A Pike County family’s verbal battle over land turned violent in spring 1880 and again at the start of 1882, leaving two brothers dead and nothing resolved.
"The hitherto quiet and unassuming little village of New Hartford… was on Tuesday the scene of a tragedy, the likes of which has not occurred in our county for many a day, and it is to be hoped that many a day may come and go before we have again to chronicle a like event,” the Louisiana Journal said.
The war of words started when Virginia native and family patriarch William Show died at age 58 on May 10, 1871. Show and his wife, Rebecca, had at least six children – Morgan, Lemuel, Ida, Altha, Parren and Florence.
Records do not indicate when Morgan was born, but one account says he may have been up to 41 years old at the time of his father’s death. His youngest sibling, Florence, was 10 that year.
Morgan reportedly served under Missouri Confederate raider William “Bloody Bill” Anderson during the Civil War. Show is mentioned in a 1913 Missouri Historical Review account of a group that delivered a vital cache of guns to Confederate sympathizers in 1861.
When the fighting ended, he returned to the family farm east of New Hartford and also found work as a teamster.
Disagreement over the division of property left by their father led to intimidation and threats among the Show siblings and their relatives for almost a decade. At one point, newspapers indicated a warrant had been issued for Morgan’s arrest on a peace disturbance charge, but it was never executed.
On May 17, 1880, Parren confronted Morgan’s wife, Martha, and had what the Louisiana Journal called “a war of words” with her. They each drew pistols, but Parren got off three shots before his sister-in-law could fire. Parren must have been a terrible shot, because the woman ran back inside to avoid bloodshed.
The next morning, Morgan went to feed the livestock carrying a rifle and a pistol. Still riled up from the night before, Parren followed him to the stable and began an argument. Accounts say Parren raised a gun and Morgan fired back, the bullet lodging just a couple of inches from Parren’s spine. Parren’s shot missed Morgan.
Just before he died 20 minutes later, the 21-year-old unmarried Parren reportedly denied Morgan’s account and said his brother was the instigator.
“There is no question about there being two shots fired, some say the shots were not close together than half a minute, others say a minute,” the Journal reported. “The supposition is that defendant after shooting deceased with his rifle took (Parren’s) pistol and shot it off for the purpose of manufacturing testimony in his behalf.”
Justice of the Peace Levi S. Moore told Pike County Prosecuting Attorney David A. Ball that Morgan “came to me right away and gave himself up.” There was no inquest, because Morgan “acknowledged more than we could prove by others,” Moore said.
Moore held the suspect at his house two miles east of New Hartford. Before Morgan could be taken to the Pike County Jail in Bowling Green, an attempt was made to kill him. While providing few details, the Journal said the effort was prevented only with “great difficulty.”
“It seems, from our informant, that (Moore) can’t say positively who it was that attempted this bold act,” but added that he thought a family member or two probably was involved.
No one saw the crime, but Moore told Ball that at least three people said they heard the shots and would serve as witnesses. For his safety, Morgan was moved to the Audrain County Jail in Mexico and was soon thereafter released on bail.
On a change of venue, the case was moved to Marion County, with the trial set for Jan. 9, 1882. On New Year’s Day, Morgan returned to Pike County and visited with witnesses. That evening, he stopped by the Olney home of a sister.
Most of the family had rejected Morgan after Perren’s death, but “as time passed on he began to repent of his conduct, or at least professed to repent, and said that he intended to lead a better life,” according to the 1888 book “History of Lincoln County, Missouri, from the Earliest Times to the Present.”
Morgan had reconciled with all except a brother identified as “Marshall.” There is no one by that name in available family records, but it’s possible the man was Lemuel, whose middle name began with “M.”
In any case, Marshall “had sworn, time and again, to take the life of Morgan on sight,” the Mexico Ledger reported.
The sister saw Marshall approaching on his horse and “after some parleying, persuaded the two brothers” to be civil. One account says Marshall shot Morgan in the yard as they walked toward the house. Another says the shooting happened inside. Either way, Morgan was killed instantly, with one shot to the head and two to the body.
On Jan. 5, Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney Robert D. Walton charged Marshall with murder. Future U.S. Congressman and presidential candidate Champ Clark of Bowling Green defended him.
Several witnesses testified that Morgan “was generally regarded as a bad and dangerous man, and that Marshall was regarded as a quiet and peaceable man,” the Lincoln County history book said. Dr. T.M. Luce had examined the deceased and testified the “murdered man might have walked to the place where he fell with one or possibly both of the wounds in his body, but could not have done so after receiving the wound in the head,” according to the book.
Marshall contended that Morgan fired first as the two were alone inside the house. A jury acquitted him on Jan. 19.
Three months later, Morgan’s widow began sending poetic letters to the Ledger. The newspaper said the words were original but pointless. After a couple of weeks, the paper told readers it would no longer print her work, saying it would now “appear in the proper place – the waste basket.”
Lemuel Show died in 1917 and is buried in Montgomery City. Parren is buried at Ashley. Records do not show where Morgan was laid to rest. The Show land was divided among remaining family members.