The Slicker War of Missouri

And the Family of Isham Bradley, Friend of the Haston Family

"Isham Hobbs was a noted character, and probably the worst desperado ever on the borders."

Isham Hobbs (probably born in White County, TN) was the namesake grandson of Isham Bradley, a very close friend of the Daniel Haston family.  Isham (Isom) Hobbs was the person who pulled the trigger, from an ambush, in the scene above.

Some Background Information

Isham Bradley’s relationship to the Daniel Haston family can be traced back (at least) to the turn of the 19th century in Knox County, TN.  Isham was the bondsman for David Haston’s May 5, 1800 marriage to Peggy Roddy in Knox County.  But before that, David Haston had been the bondsman for Isham Bradley’s marriage to Susana Matlocks on May 13, 1798, in Blount County, TN.   Isham was one of the original four Big Spring settlers in pre-White County, TN, along with Daniel and Joseph Haston, and Daniel’s son-in-law Jacob Mitchell.  

As far as I now know, there was no family connection between Isham Bradley to the Haston family–but there is one possibility I will mention in a footnote later in this article.  Isham may have just been a close friend of David Haston and liked the Hastons so much that he just blended in with the rest of the Haston family.  Whatever the relationship was, it was strong enough for Isham Bradley to travel to the wilderness of middle Tennessee in order to settle adjacent to the Haston family (even before his bondsman-buddy, David, arrived in the area).  Isham’s name was on the July 22, 1806, petition to create White County, TN, but he seems to have struggled to settle down in White County.   He purchased 50 acres on the Haston Big Spring on August 28, 1807.   But he sold that tract to Charles Mitchell, just a year and a half later. 

 

In 1811, David Haston named his third son “Isham Bradley Haston,” who ended up living near where Isham Bradley lived in central Missouri.  And that was not the only time the first and middle names “Isham Bradley” appeared through the Daniel Haston family line.  David Haston’s son Isaac T. Haston also had a son he named “Isham Bradley Haston.”  I think it’s safe to say, Isham Bradley was well-liked among the Hastons (at least in his earlier years around them), even though he seems to have been a bit unsettled.
 

It appears that Isham Bradley moved around the county some, but in 1824, Isham Bradley and “Lady” were employed to superintend the business of Bell Tavern in Sparta.  Their credentials were described as: “long experience which they have had in this line of business, and the high reputation which they generally sustained with their friends and the public….”   But that employment didn’t seem to work out long for some reason.  And one time he was selected by the county court to be the keeper of the courthouse in Sparta, but the next day that decision was reversed for some reason.
Source: The Sparta Review, Wednesday p.m., September 15, 1824.

 

He moved back east, to Monroe County, TN before 1830 and stayed there for about ten years.  One Monroe County court record* stated that by 1840 Isham Bradley had “left the country” (probably referring to that local area) with his son-in-law, Henry Hobbs.  According to the 1840 Polk County, Missouri census, Isham Bradley lived adjacent to Henry Hobbs, in Polk County, Missouri.  The wife of Henry Hobbs was Juriah Bradley** Hobbs.  One of Henry and Juriah Bradley** Hobbs’s sons (and a grandson of Isham Bradley) was Isham/Isom Hobbs–probably born in White County, TN, and named for his grandfather.  Grandson Isham Hobbs was a desperado, a bold and dangerous criminal.

 

*Monroe Chancery Court Record, #124, Joseph Donohoo v. Charles K. Gillespie, Will Forester, Alexander Webb, and William Wooden

**According to the 1850 Census Juriah Bradley Hobbs was 56 years old.  If that is accurate, she was born about four years before Isham Bradley married Susana Matlocks.  Was Susana his second wife?  Was Isham Bradley married previously to one of Daniel Haston’s daughters who gave birth to Juriah, but died prior to Isham’s May 13, 1798 marriage to Miss Matlocks?  Was that Isham Bradley’s connection to David Haston and the Daniel Haston family?

In northern Polk County, MO (that became southern Hickory County, MO in 1845), Isham Bradley and Hiram Turk purchased land (on the same day) adjacent to each other.  Hiram Turk and his family were a bad bunch!  And the Henry Hobbs family was not much better.

The Slicker War of Central Missouri

A personal brawl that occurred on August 3, 1840, in County, Missouri escalated into a feud similar to that of the later Hatfields and McCoys feud back East.  Under the pretense of enhancing law enforcement in the area, Hiram Turk (a quarrelsome and violent man with some rough, tough, and mean sons) assembled a vigilante group that became known as “Slickers.”  Think of a de-barked (slicked) hickory branch as you look at this drawing and you will have an idea as to how night-riding “slickers” punished men they believed (or asserted) were guilty of breaking laws in their neighborhoods. 

 

But, the Slickers were even worse than the men they were slicking!  So, a group of “Anti-Slickers” formed and a regional civil war resulted which lasted for five years.  It wasn’t long until the animosities led to much greater acts of violence, including murders, some of which were in the form of cowardly bushwhacking.  

 

Isham Bradley, the very close friend of the Haston family had recently (c. 1839) moved to central Missouri, along with the Hiram Turk family and Isham’s son-in-law Henry Hobbs. The Hobbs and Turks families were neighbors back in East Tennessee, near Isham Bradley.  In fact, Henry Hobbs apparently married Isham Bradley’s daughter, Juriah, while they were living in White County, TN.

Isom Hobbs, Isham Bradley’s grandson (already reputed to be a dangerous man, even a murderer),  joined the Turk’s “Slickers” as a close friend of Tom Turk, Hiram’s son.  Isom Hobbs and Tom Turk conspired to kill Abraham Nowell, a respected Baptist man who had killed James Turk, Tom’s brother, in self-defense. Isom Hobbs (with Tom  Turk) ambushed and killed Nowell.  

As it turned out, Isom Hobbs accused Tom Turk of chickening out in the ambush of Nowell and letting Isom Hobbs do the deadly deed and face the consequences of the murder.  The scene at the top of the page depicts what ultimately happened.  Isom Hobbs, who no doubt grew up playing with Daniel Haston’s grandkids in White County, TN, ambushed and killed his former friend, Tom Turk.

 

Isom Hobbs fled to Holly Springs, Mississippi to avoid prosecution for the murder.  He again was involved in some kind of violence and captured by a posse.  He tried to flee and was riddled with bullets.

Where the Slicker War Was Fought

In 1845, after the Slicker War ended, Hickory County, Missouri (area of the main war zone) was formed out of southern Benton County and northern Polk County, Missouri.  In 1842, in the middle of the Slicker War, David and Polly Haston’s son, Isham Bradley Haston (named after David’s good friend, Isham Bradley) move to what became Hickory County.  Isham Bradley Haston was a Van Buren County, TN Justice of the Peace prior to his move to Missouri.  David and Polly Haston’s son Daniel McComiskey Haston was already living in Henry County, just west of Benton County, when the war occurred.  Sometime between 1860 and 1870, Daniel McComiskey Haston moved to Warsaw in Benton County, Missouri where he owned and operated the hotel where the Turks “Slickers” had used for their meeting place.

In all of the accounts I have read about the Slicker War, I have found no mention of Isham Bradley as a participant in the war, even though (apparently) he was living right in the middle of the war zone.  Nor have I found any mention of a Haston/Hastain as a participant.  I wonder what their thoughts were concerning the war, particularly the thoughts of Isham Bradley whose namesake grandson was the worst of the worst.

Read the Story of the 1840s Turk-Jones Slicker War of Missouri

You can scroll or click through the 16-page story.  Or, you can download the document.

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