John Ed Pearce

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Among the darkest corners of Kentucky’s past are the grisly feuds that tore apart the hills of Eastern Kentucky from the late nineteenth century until well into the twentieth. Now, from the tangled threads of conflicting testimony, John Ed Pearce, Kentucky’s best known journalist, weaves engrossing accounts of six of the most notorious accounts to uncover what really happened and why. His story of those days of darkness brings to light new evidence, questions commonly held beliefs about the feuds, and us and long-running feuds—those in Breathitt, Clay Harlan, Perry, Pike, and Rowan counties. What caused the feuds that left Kentucky with its lingering reputation for violence? Who were the feudists, and what forces—social, political, financial—hurled them at each other? Did Big Jim Howard really kill Governor William Goebel? Did Joe Eversole die trying to protect small mountain landowners from ruthless Eastern mineral exploiters? Did the Hatfield-McCoy fight start over a hog? For years, Pearce has interviewed descendants of feuding families and examined skimpy court records and often fictional newspaper puts to rest some of the more popular legends.

John Ed Pearce worked on the staff of the Louisville Courier-Journal for forty years and was a widely published columnist. He was co-recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in 1967.

"Provides an overview to the major conflicts while laying to rest various mistaken notions about the feuds."—Journal of Appalachian Studies

"If you are pursuing interesting stories of Kentucky’s past; if you are seeking an entertaining mythology; if you find the evolution of oral history fascinating or are just curious about feuds in Eastern Kentucky, then read John Ed Pearce’s Days of Darkness."—Lexington Herald-Leader

"Taken as a chronicle of several different feuds, the book succeeds admirably."—Lexington Herald-Leader

"A study of the feuds of Eastern Kentucky—six in all—and how the violence and brutality they were known for influenced the perception of the Appalachian region of Kentucky."—Chevy Chaser Magazine

"Recounting shatters old myths—feuds did not result from insignificant squabbles, and many feuders were not ignorant 'hillbillies,' but rather prominent businessmen and college graduates."—Kentucky Monthly

"Pearce untangles the loose threads of conflicting testimony to present the reader with the real truth on six of the bloodiest and longest-running feuds in the history of Kentucky."—Lone Star Book Review

"While the Hatfield-McCoy feud received the most notoriety, there were a number of other similar family conflicts going on in the mountains of eastern Kentucky during the period 1875 to 1920. . . . You can learn more about all these feuds and more." --Modern Mountain Magazine

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Vendetta, Kentucky, History


Appalachian Studies

Days of Darkness: The Feuds of Eastern Kentucky
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