Daviess County, Missouri Genealogy Trails

The Heatherly War

History of Daviess and Gentry Counties Missouri – (Daviess County portion by John C. Leonard and Buel Leonard – Printed by Historical Publishing Company, 1922 – Transcribed by Veneta McKinney




What is usually styled the "Heatherly War" is important chiefly because of the excitement it created in the northwestern counties. A family by the name of Heatherly lived in what is now Grundy County on Medicine river. With them were four men, Thomas, Watkins, Hawkins and a colored man. All were regarded as rather desperate characters. In 1836 they were organized into a regular horse-stealing band, and made raids wherever there was any chance of meeting with success. In the fall of that year they took horses from a man by the name of Dunbar and his companion. Both men were killed trying to defend their property. The character of the Heatherly gang being pretty well known, they were under the necessity of doing something to divert suspicion. They therefore invented the story that the Indians, the Iowas and the Sacs, were on the warpath, scalping and killing and burning the homes of the settlers. Any mention of an attack by the Indians was terrifying to the settlers and they had visions of whole armies of savages pouring in upon them. The inhabitants at Moore's and Thompson's settlements assembled. Those at Moore's hastily built a block house. The militia was ordered out by General Thompson, two companies were ordered out from Ray, and two from Clay, a number joining from Daviess and Livingston. It was soon learned that it was a false alarm and the settlers determined to find out the cause. It was soon traced to the Heatherly gang, who had stated that Indians had been murdering. The bodies of the two men were found in the river. Detection being practically certain, Hawkins, one of the gang, turned state's evidence. The gang was sent to the penitentiary.

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