Source: Lawrence County Historical Society Journal
Researcher/Author: Wayne Henry
Website :

Apparently, archives of the Walnut Ridge newspaper were destroyed by termites and fire some years ago, but articles from some of the newspapers of nearby towns were collected and published.  This story of the feud has been re-constructed from those sources, with numerous mysteries still remaining.

On March 4, 1905, Jesse Edward “Ed” Bagley had, apparently, been drinking and City Marshal Robert Lee Ridgeway attempted to arrest him.  Ed Bagley resisted, whereupon the marshal drew his gun and shot Bagley three times, killing him.  The front page newspaper article was headlined “Murdered at Walnut Ridge.”  There may have been a coroner’s jury or a grand jury inquiry because Lee Ridgeway was exonerated in the killing on the plea of self-defense, but he and his family moved away from the county for their own safety.

Later, Ridgeway and his family moved back to Walnut Ridge, and on October 24, 1908, he was shot.  According to a newspaper article, Lee Ridgeway was shot by Alf Bagley, brother of Ed Bagley, who Ridgeway had killed when he resisted arrest.  Alf Bagley was arrested and held in the jail at Powhatan.  Bagley was the son of a wealthy farmer, Isham J. Bagley.  It was said that ever since Ridgeway was acquitted a feud existed between the families.

Apparently, Alf Bagley was tried for killing Ridgeway, but he wasn’t convicted.  At the trial, Dr. John C. “Jack” Hughes testified against Bagley, which made him Bagley’s enemy.  A newspaper article dated September 24, 1910, stated that Dr. Jack Hughes fired six shots at Alf Bagley, with one of the shots “carrying away a finger of one of Bagley’s hands.”  The shooting was the result of alleged threats which sprang up after Dr. Hughes testified in the murder trial.

On October 28, 1910, both Alf Bagley and his father, Isham, were shot and killed on the streets of Walnut Ridge.  According a newspaper article headlined “Assassin Kills Father and Son at Walnut Ridge Last Saturday Afternoon,” Alf appeared in town and fired a pistol shot into Jack Hughes’ office.  The article stated Bagley was taken to the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. I.J. Bagley, where his body was prepared for burial.”

The article went on to say, “Meantime, I.J. Bagley, the father of the dead man, walked up town, stood around the streets, bought a pair of shoes, and was walking leisurely when a shot was fired from a second story window of the Rhea Hotel at him.  The shot took effect in his back, and as he yelled and turned around another load from the gun struck him in the face, and he died instantly.  Neither of the men uttered a word after they were shot. Like the shooting in the first instance, no one saw who fired the shots.”

There was no statement as to whether Isham Bagley was armed at the time. The article added that “Dr. J.C. Hughes, a practicing physician, who fired 6 shots at Alf Bagley several weeks ago, is under arrest.”  The coroner’s jury recommended that Dr. Hughes not be prosecuted in either death.  Apparently, Dr. Hughes admitted to shooting Alf Bagley in self-defense, but he claimed that he had nothing to do with the killing of Isham Bagley.  Seven grand juries refused to recommend prosecution.

August 4, 1912, according to a newspaper article; “Dr. Hughes was returning from a professional call in the country about 12 o’clock last night, and as he approached the bridge over the village creek about 1/2 mile west of town, he saw the dim form of a man skulking by the roadside.  His suspicions aroused, the Dr. leaned forward to get his whip out of its socket in order to whip up the horse.  As he leaned forward the man by the roadside fired.  A charge of small shot passed through the buggy about where the Dr.’s head would ordinarily have been.  He whipped up the horse, and as the animal dashed down the road the man fired another charge after the retreating vehicle.  This went low and took effect in the bottom of the buggy.  No arrests have been made, as Dr. Hughes was unable to identify his would-be slayer.”

On October 9, 1912, Wolf Benningfield shot and killed John Bagley, son of Isham and brother of Alf.  Before John Bagley died he said he didn’t know why John would have shot him, they had always been good friends.  It was the general opinion that the Bagley-Hughes feud had something to do with it.  Benningfield surrendered to officers.

Wolford Benningfield was charged with the murder in the first degree and was tried in the Walnut Ridge Courthouse.  The courthouse attic housed a scaffold and gallows that was used once.  The irony is that the carpenter who built the gallows was Wolf Benningfield.

Wolf Benningield’s first trial resulted in a hung jury.  At his re-trial, he was found guilty of 2nd degree murder and on August 9, 1912 was sentenced to 20 years in the state penitentiary.

September 22, 1914, J. Solon Crook, well-known real estate agent {plus he was Wolf Benningield’s cousin} was shot to his death at his home.  He was sitting near a front window when he was shot from the sidewalk.

September 30, 1914, a coroner’s jury returned a verdict that Crook had died at the hands of an unknown person.

October 23, 1914, Dr. John C. Hughes was indicted for murder in both Bagley deaths and was taken to Little Rock for safe keeping.

November 15, 1914, fire destroyed the Hotel Rhea {both Alf and Isham Bagley were shot from the hotel} and the entire block.  The block included at least eight businesses.  The hotel was owned by W.C. and Lizzie Burel.

December 3, 1914, L.A. “Kirby” Bland was arrested for the murder of J. Solon Crook, but on December 3, 1914, Lizzie Rhea Burel was indicted on a charge of being an accomplice in the murder of Isham Bagley.  According to the newspaper account, Lizzie Burel owned the Hotel Rhea, and her husband was running it at the time of the shooting.  “Since that time a separation has taken place between Mr. and Mrs. Burel and divorce is pending.”

December 16, 1914, the jury was unable to reach a verdict and was released.  According to a newspaper article, the jury was deadlocked 8 to 4 for acquittal.  All agree that I.J. Bagley had been shot from room 47, on the second story of the Hotel Rhea building.  As Dr. Hughes had admitted to the killing of Alf Bagley, about three hours before, the burden of the state’s proof was that Dr. Hughes had killed I.J. Bagley also. Dr. Hughes proved a strong alibi, introducing witnesses to prove that he was in his own office 200 feet away from room 47 when the shooting was done.

December 17, 1914, Dr. Hughes was released on bail of $5,000 for each of the two murder counts.  Mrs. Lizzie Burel was also given bail in the amount of $5,000.

December 18, 1914, Bland was released when a grand jury failed to indict him.

April 24, 1915, Dr. Hughes was acquitted in the death of Alf Bagley and on November 1 a decision was made in the Independence County Circuit Court that Dr. Hughes would not be prosecuted in the death of Isham Bagley.

“The case was brought to this county last spring after Hughes had been tried and acquitted on another first degree murder charge for killing Alf Bagley, son of I.J. Bagley. Hughes claimed self-defense in the first charge and denies that he killed the elder Bagley.  There was nothing but circumstantial evidence against him.  The cases were brought to this county on a change of venue at the request of the defendant.  The killing of the Bagleys, was the result of a prolonged Lawrence Co. feud in which several men have been killed at various times.”

It appears that with the dismissal of that case the feud had run its course.  The feud left seven people killed, several wounded, women widowed, and children orphaned.  Apparently, only one man, Wolf Benningfield was found guilty of any of the murders.  September, 1916, Governor George Washington Hays pardoned Wolford Benningfield.  He was released from prison after serving a little less than 4 years of his 20 year sentence


Robert Lee Ridgeway left a wife, Cora Israel Ridgeway and three children: Edna, Lucille, and Harry.  In 1911, a marriage license was issued for Cora Ridgeway and John Towell.

J. Solon Crook left a wife, Pearl Haigh Crook and two children: Bessie Josephine and Darrell.  Pearl Crook died in 1923 at age 40 and is buried beside J. Solon Crook at Lawrence Memorial Park Cemetery.

Dr. John C. Hughes was married twice.  He and his first wife {Alice Medearis} had three children: Lucille, Max and Doris.  After he and Alice divorced, he married Gladys Bottom, who died he 1926.  Dr. John C. Hughes died in 1948 at the age of 64.  Survivors included his son Max, a physician and his daughter, Doris.

Wolford R. Benningfield was married to Katie Belle Nance in 1899.  Apparently, Belle and Wolf divorced while he was in prison.  In 1914, Belle Benningfield married C.F. Belew.  Wolf was released from prison in 1916 and on the 1920 census; Wolf and Belle had re-married and were living in Pulaski County with three children: Jessie, Lennie and Cameon.  According to the 1930 census, Belle Benningfield was living with her daughter, Lennie and was listed as a widow.

Nancy Elizabeth Salling Bagley, wife of Isham J. Bagley, and mother of Ed, Alf, and John Bagley, died in 1928 at the age of 81.  She is buried with her husband and several of her children in the Mt. Zion Cemetery near Walnut Ridge.

Lizzie Burel was born Mary Elizabeth Cooper in 1861.  She married John A. Rhea, who died in 1893.  She later married James H. Turner and W.C. Burel.  John and Lizzie Rhea had two children: Harry and Annie Lindsey “Linnie” Rhea.  Lizzie died in 1925.