Recently, in a comment posted to Yvonne Bivins’ essay on the Ainsworth-Smith-Knight family of Smith County, Mississippi. a reader mentioned an infamous neighborhood battle of the early nineteenth century that involved several members of the Ainsworth clan. Reminiscent of stories that abound in popular literature about the feuding Hatfields and McCoys, or, closer to home, the Sullivans of Smith County’s Sullivan’s Hollow, the Ainsworth-Windham feud ranks with the “best” in its portrayal of stereotypical Southern mayhem. My thanks to Yvonne for providing Renegade South with the transcript of this story.
Vikki Bynum, Moderator
From the Ainsworth Trading Post
Smith County Reformer Raleigh, Mississippi Thursday, February 26, 1903
A PITCHED BATTLE
Of all the horrible battles into which Satan has ever had the pleasure of leading his forces, there never was one as far as our memory serves us in the history of the county of Smith, which breathes a more Satanic odor or beats a more demonical aspect than the one fought at the Jeffrey Ainsworth old place in the Southeastern part of Smith County near the line of Jasper county on last Saturday evening. We have heard of wars and rumors of war, but this was the biggest war ever fought on Smith county soil. This was a battle in which A.L. (Coon) Ainsworth and his two sons, Jesse and Sloney Ainsworth were arrayed against Anse Windham, in particular, and the other Windhams in general. It is claimed that over 100 gun and pistol shots were fired in this battle, in which Coon Ainsworth and his two sons, Jesse and Sloney were literally riddled with balls. The wounds are so severe that the victims are not expected to recover there from. No other human flesh was penetrated by balls except Anse Windham was slightly wounded in the side after he had emptied his six shooter and was retreating from the battleground in double-quick time.
It is remarkable that no more damage was done in the midst of such an array of balls flying hither and tether, cutting holes through the raiment of many persons and especially that of the Windhams. While human flesh was spared to a seemingly miraculous degree, yet the flesh of the dumb animals were not entirely spared. One horse, one yoke of oxen and a few dogs passed through the ordeal of this historical battle with many marks on their carcasses. This row or riot began at the close of a session of justice court presided over by Justice Andrew Bryant of Beat 2, in which Anse Windham had been proceeded against by Coon Ainsworth’s daughter in a case of bastardy which procedure resulted in the justice binding the accused over in a bond of $1000 to appear at the next term of circuit court to answer the complaint. It is said at this junction Coon Ainsworth kicked over the table, threw the justice docket out at the door and cursed out the justice of the peace, forbade any of the Windhams going on the bond and made an attack on Anse Windham and from that shooting began furiously. It is true that the enormity of the offense which Anse Windham had committed against the Ainsworth family and himself was enough to incense their feelings against his conduct beyond human utterance; for a man to seduce his sister-in-law in this way is wicked to the extreme. But one wrong can’t be corrected by committing another wrong, therefore Coon Ainsworth was not justifiable in letting the case go to trial and then tank up on mean whiskey and cause the shedding of so much blood. These two families of Ainsworths and Windhams related by blood as well as by affinity – hence the feud. Anse, Bill, Hiram, D. Windham and Jim Ainsworth, one of Y.E. Ainsworth’s sons, were brought in Tuesday by N.B. Boykin and G.M. Martin and committed to jail. They will have a preliminary trial here at Raleigh tomorrow. The committal of crime has reached an alarming point in Smith County and in nearly every case mean liquor plays a conspicuous part.
Smith County Reformer, Raleigh, Mississippi, Thursday, March 5, 1903
When court convened here last Friday for the preliminary trial of Anse Windham, Bill Windham and Jim Ainsworth, their cases were dismissed by the court for want of a prosecutor, and the defendants discharged. After that affidavits were made charging Anse and Bill Windham with the murder of Sloney Ainsworth; Anse and Bill Windham for assault and battery with intent to kill A.L. Ainsworth; Anse and Bill Windham for an assault with intent to kill Jesse Ainsworth; papers were issued for their arrest and preliminary trial set to be tried before A.L. Jones at Raleigh today. [final sentence unintelligible]
Smith County Reformer, Raleigh, Mississippi, Thursday, March 26, 1903
Dr. Hill, the attending physician, informs us that Coon Ainsworth who was so severely wounded at Ainsworth’s Store in the unfortunate shooting aggray which occurred on the 21st February 1903, with the Windhams, is improving and is likely to recover. He was shot in different places, but the wound made through the stomach is the most dangerous and difficult to manage. Jesse Ainsworth has about recovered from his wounds. It will be remembered that Sloney Ainsworth died from his wounds which he received at the same time about a week after the lamentable affray.