- The Industrialist and the Mountaineer: The Eastham-Thompson Feud and the Struggle for West Virginia's Timber Frontier by Ronald L. Lewis, and: No Hope for Heaven, No Fear of Hell: The Stafford-Townsend Feud of Colorado County, Texas, 1871–1911 by James C. Kearney, Bill Stein, and James Smallwood
The Industrialist and the Mountaineer: The Eastham-Thompson Feud and the Struggle for West Virginia's Timber Frontier and No Hope for Heaven, No Fear of Hell: The Stafford-Townsend Feud of Colorado County, Texas, 1871–1911 focus on the history of feuding during the Reconstruction era. In both works, the authors share thrilling stories of violence and economic conflict in an effort to reveal fundamental shifts in southern society in the years after the Civil War. While these are important similarities, the works grew from distinct methodologies and look at two areas at opposite ends of the region.
Ronald L. Lewis is an expert on the history of working-class Appalachian people and is a professor emeritus of history at West Virginia University. He has spent many years teaching courses on the history of Appalachia and has written numerous books on this subject, including Transforming the Appalachian Countryside: Railroads, Deforestation, and Social Change in West Virginia, 1880–1920 (Chapel Hill, 1998) and Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class, and Community Conflict, 1780–1980 (Lexington, Ky., 1987).
Lewis's newwork, The Industrialist and the Mountaineer, focuses on the conflict between timber tycoon Frank Elmer Thompson and small landowner Robert [End Page 195] Woodford Eastham. The dispute, which began as a fairly conventional conflict over money and land in West Virginia's timber country, spiraled out of control. Eastham murdered Thompson and was eventually tried for the crime. Lewis moves beyond the story of two men, arguing that the dispute provides insights into a greater cultural conflict that Richard Brown calls the "'Western Civil War of Incorporation,'" in which new market elites displaced traditional agrarian aristocrats (p. 7). To support his argument, Lewis paints Eastham—a member of an old Virginia family, an ardent Democrat, and a former member of Mosby's Rangers, one of the most notorious units in the Confederate army—as a traditionalist. In contrast, Lewis presents Thompson, a descendant of a wealthy New England family and a Republican who was too young to have served during the Civil War, as a member of the new elite. Lewis's goals are ambitious, and he is ultimately successful.
James C. Kearney, Bill Stein, and James Smallwood formed an inadvertent partnership to write No Hope for Heaven, No Fear of Hell. The project began with archivist Bill Stein'sresearchduringthe1990s.WhenSteinpassedawayin2008, his brother Chris Stein approached University of Texas professor and family friend James Kearney in hopes that he would complete the work. Kearney agreed and received assistance from James Smallwood, professor of history at Oklahoma State University. Smallwood envisioned a much broader study of violence in Texas, while Kearney hoped to focus more tightly on the Stafford and Townsend families at the heart of the feud. In 2013, Smallwood passed away, and Kearney completed the work with the more narrow focus that he and Bill Stein preferred.
The book focuses on a series of conflicts in Colorado County, Texas, that took place between 1871 and 1911. Like Lewis, Kearney moves beyond the limited context of feuding to address broader shifts in southern society during Reconstruction. While many people were eventually drawn into the dispute, the conflict, at its core, was between the old money Stafford family and the prominent, new money Townsend family, who reached...