Smokeytown Trouble
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This article appeared in the Newberry Observer in 1879. Fannie Frances Dickert Banks, wife of Pierce Butler Banks, was the first cousin of W. H. Long. Her father, William T. Dickert and Sarah Ann Dickert Long were twins. W. H. Long and his brothers were suspected to be part of the group of Regulators involved.  After this event, they fled to North Carolina for three years.


More Trouble In Smokey Town

James C Banks Shot Down By Butler Banks. The house of Butler Banks Burned Down and His Wife and Little Children Left Out in the Cold Without Shelter

For three or four years past, frequent deeds of lawlessness and violence have occurred in the extreme southern portion of the county in the settlement long known as Smokey Town, now called O’Neal. There have been several cases of incenderism varied with occasional shootings. There was some trouble down there in 1876 which left bad blood between neighbors; but the first act that attracted public attention was the burning of the barns and stables of Mr. Jacob H Boozer one night three or four years ago. The purpose was to make a clean sweep of his premises, but the winds shifted at an opportune moment and drove the flames from the dwelling/house and it was saved. After that, Mr. Orlando Dickert had two horses taken from his premises and killed.  Later on, Mr. Walter Wise’s barn and stable were set on fire and burned. There were various acts of lawlessness of a more or less serious nature. All these acts have occurred in a radius of not more than four miles.

A few months ago, Butler Banks was shot at by someone in ambush on the roadside, and was slightly wounded. He thought that James C Banks was the man that shot him or had it done and vowed vengeance upon him. Butler Banks is regarded as a man of desperate character *** ****** ***** *** * ******* ***** ****.

Butler Banks

Butler Banks lived in a log cabin of one room on a small tract of nine acres that belonged to his wife. Banks has acted the part of an invalid for a good while. He is a small man, small and sallow, quiet and reserved in his general demeanor, with nothing of the bully or desperado in his appearance. He hunted a great deal and has the reputation of being a crack shot and of being a fighter and shooter, and a bad man to fool with. Mrs. Banks, a hard working woman, tended the farm, her only help being an ox with whose aid she made last year 2 bales of cotton and 65 or 70 bushels of corn, besides a good crop of peas and potatoes. The cotton had been sold and a small portion of the corn had been used, the balance, about 60 bushels, was in the barn with a quantity of fodder and the peas, and two banks of potatoes were in the garden. These things formed the means of living for the family of eight for the year, and were nearly their whole worldly possessions, the furniture of the house being of the rudest and simplest kind, but there were enough to keep them comfortable in their humble way. The children are too young to be of any assistance on the farm, the oldest being 13 and very small for his age, and the youngest, 2- the five oldest, boys, the youngest a girl, such was this little household on Saturday last.

Threatened By Regulators

Butler Banks was not a desirable neighbor, at least to some members of the community. It is quite likely that the fault was not all on his side. Lately he had received several written notices from anonymous sources, ordering him to leave. One of these notices, signed ‘Regulator’, he attributed to his neighbor and distant cousin, James C Banks. It is said the he was heard to remark after receiving this, that he would ‘fix that regulator.’ There is no evidence that his suspicion was correct- this is   non to the public. Mr. James C Banks is well known in the county, having frequently attended the county convention as a delegate where his occasional sallies of wit, made him a conspicuous figure. Six or eight years after he was a candidate in the primary for county commissioner, he was 47 years old and appears to be a peaceable, jolly, good-natured man. He has 4 grown sons.

Whether moved by the threats of the ‘regulators’ or for other reasons, more likely because he had been offered a good price for his little farm, Butler Banks decided to sell out and leave Smokey Town. He had bargained his place to Mr. John Henry Koon, whose land adjoins his, for $20 an acre, and the sale was to be completed and the deed executed at Prosperity on Saturday last, but early that morning, an event occurred that knocked all the neighbors into ‘pi’ and culminated in the most diabolical deeds of this bitter feud.

The Shooting of James C Banks

Butler Banks left his cabin that morning- armed, as was his custom. He and James C Banks came in sight of each other by accident, at a point near O’Neal Academy. James C Banks went into the house of Dorothy Holman- the house formerly occupied by Mr. M. L. Lon- to sell some pictures or papers or something else of the kind. As he came out of the house, Butler Banks, who had taken a position in a large pine tree in front of the house, blazed away at him with a double-barrel shotgun, discharging both barrels at him in a quick succession and following them up with two shots from a pistol. The shotgun was loaded with buckshot.

James C Banks was wounded in four places. One buckshot struck him on the right hand, one struck him in each shoulder, and one entered the forehead just above the left eye. The wound in the forehead was the only serious one. Dr. Wyche, who was called to see him, probed for this ball to a depth of about 2 inches, but could not find it. It ranged a little downward and is a very serious wound. Butler Banks, after the shooting, fled in the direction of Edgefield.

Butler Banks’ House Burned

On Saturday night, about midnight, a pair of men went to Butler Banks’ residence, where his wife and six young children were. They set fire to the dwelling/house, after saturating the timbers with kerosene oil. Mrs. Banks came out and extinguished the fire. They drove her back into the house, and again set it on fire, and this time, burned it down. Mrs. Banks got out with her children, but saved very little else. The party then fired the other houses on the place and burned down every one of them, leaving nothing but a chicken coop.

After the burning of the house, the mother and children, who had escaped with scant clothing and two old quilts, and part of a bed tick, huddled together with no other protection from the winter’s cold, than the smoldering embers of their little cabin. There they remained until Sunday morning. All the children were barelegged, only two had on shoes, and only one a hat, and all were thinly clad. On Sunday morning, Mrs. Banks went off in search of some friend or relative and the children were left alone to make out as best they could in the open field around the fire. The neighbors were afraid to interfere, lest they might involve themselves in the deadly feud. Mr. John Henry Koon, sent the children some dinner, and this, with the potatoes they roasted in the ashes, they satisfied their hunger. Three men who went to the juvenile camp on Sunday afternoon, found the children making themselves as comfortable as possible. Their philosophy being somewhat of the Mark Topley order, they were quite jolly, no whimpering or complaining. They talked quite freely and intelligently about the events of the preceding night; said there were about 20 persons in the crowd that burned the houses; but no doubt in their excited condition, that a few figures flitting about in the firelight would appear to be many. They said it was the Banks crowd and mentioned one by name. Sometime during Sunday night, Mr. James Albritton, the stepfather of Mrs. Butler Banks, carried the mother and her children to his home and gave them shelter.

More Trouble Expected

What next? That is the question in the minds of the people in that neighborhood, for few, if any, believes that the matter will stop here. Some new development is expected every day. The parties concerned are not likely to appeal to the law. They have that rude border notion that a man should be able to take care of himself and it is cowardly *** **** **** *** personal difficulties **** *** *** **** appears to **** *** * *** **** desire the intervention of *** *** * *** * *** reported in the neighborhood.

Butler Banks has vowed retaliation for the burning of his house and that he threatens a ‘clean sweep’ for his enemies. The people of the community are naturally very much excited over this new outlook. There are many excellent, law-abiding citizens in the community who deeply deplore these repeated acts of violence but heretofore they have been powerless to prevent or punish them. It is hope that these new acts will be thoroughly investigated and sifted and that the guilty parties will all be brought to the bar of justice to answer for their crimes.

Trial justice Hair has made out a warrant for the arrest of Butler Banks on the charge of shooting James C Banks but no efforts have been made to execute it. No warrants have been executed for the burning of Butler Banks’ house.


The following article ran in the State Newspaper in 1893. Thanks to Dena at for posting this article. Please visit her site and contribute any Newberry County, South Carolina info you may have.


Bloody Work in Newberry; Butler Banks Proves Himself a Very Bad Man; He Resists Arrest at the Hands of Four Men, Stabs Two of Them, and Puts the Quartette to Flight

The State - February 20, 1893

Newberry, Feb. 19 - What may prove a very serious cutting affray too place in this county today. Two men are very seriously, if not fatally cut. Butler Banks, a white man, residing about four miles from Newberry, some two years ago was interested in a prosecution in the Sessions court, both as prosecutor and defendant. The case was never terminated, but is still on the contingent docket. There seems to have been some understanding that if all parties left the county the case would never be pressed for trial. The others interested in the case have gone, but Butler remained and has been out of jail on bond. Yesterday, it seems, he had an interview with one of his boundsmen, and as a result this bondsman decided to turn Butler over to the custody of the court and relieve himself of liability on the bond.
It seems that he never went to a trial justice to get a warrant, but just authorized a man to bring Banks in, and this party, in company with three others, went this morning to Banks's house for him.
John C. Neel is the bondsman, and the parties who went after Banks were Amos Taylor, Simpson Taylor, J. Henry Todd and John Henry Chappell. When they arrived they found Banks at home with his wife and children. They had some conversation with him, but he soon understood what they were after, and as Chappell placed his hand on Banks's shoulder from behind, Banks, who had his knife up his right sleeve, reached back and gave Chappell a very severe stab in the right hip, about three inches long and four deep. Dr. Houseal, who attended Chappell, does not think the knife reached the abdominal cavity, and if not it may not prove fatal.
About the time Chappell was cut, Amos Taylor rushed upon Banks and threw his arms around him, and Banks gave another lunge with his knife and Taylor received a deep gash - under the right arm, and also three or four ugly cuts on his arm and hand.
Chappell had a pistol, but it had only two chambers loaded, and they failed to go off. Todd drew his pistol, but as he fired Banks ran in a room and slammed the door, and the shot did no harm.
It is said that some time during the scene Mrs. Banks got down her musket and leveled it on the boys, and about that time they concluded it was time to get away, which they did as best they could, and Banks and his wife remained masters of the field. They also say that as they left, Banks fired two shots at them, but they managed to dodge the balls. The other two of the party seem not to have been hurt at all.
It is reported that a party left here soon after the wounded men got to town, not in search of Banks, but to try to find one of the four who left here this morning, and who was supposed to have been either killed or lost, but he has since turned up, and says he is not hurt unless he hurt himself running from the scene of the conflict.
Dr. J. H. McIntosh, who attended Taylor, says he does not think his wounds are serious. Both of the wounded men were brought home on wagons.
Why the bondsmen selected Sunday to deliver Banks up I do not know. He was in town yesterday, and it was then that he had the interview with his bondsman, and I suppose that as it was not satisfactory, he thought best to have him delivered as speedily as possible.