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Two family names have come to be associated with the violence that plagued Colorado County, Texas, for decades after the end of the Civil War: the Townsends and the Staffords. Both prominent families amassed wealth and achieved status, but it was their resolve to hold on to both, by whatever means necessary, including extra-legal means, that sparked the feud. Elected office was one of the paths to success, but more important was control of the sheriff’s office, which gave one a decided advantage should the threat of gun violence arise.
No Hope for Heaven, No Fear of Hell concentrates on those individual acts of private justice associated with the Stafford and Townsend families. It began with an 1871 shootout in Columbus, followed by the deaths of the Stafford brothers in 1890. The second phase blossomed after 1898 with the assassination of Larkin Hope, and concluded in 1911 with the violent deaths of Marion Hope, Jim Townsend, and Will Clements, all in the space of one month.
“I am enormously impressed by this project. There is high drama, tragedy, strong characters, conflict between families, vengeance, and a series of vicious shootouts over a lengthy period of years.”—Bill O’Neal, State Historian of Texas and author of The Johnson-Sims Feud
“The story is one of a conflict between two rival local families, the Staffords and the Townsends, and the subsequent Townsend-Reese struggle. This book adds to what is known of events in Colorado County by its use of new sources, and is original in its more balanced account of events.”—Carl Moneyhon, author of Texas after the Civil War
“There was no shortage of blood on the streets of Columbus and surrounding communities. The feud became so violent that the governor of Texas, the Texas Rangers, and other outside law officers became involved in trying to keep the peace. For the most part, their efforts failed. One of the more intriguing aspects of this feud is that both the Stafford and Townsend families attempted to use elected offices (often the sheriff’s office and his appointed deputies) to cover up their activities and to protect them from prosecution.”—Kenneth W. Howell, editor of The Seventh Star of the Confederacy and Still the Arena of Civil War
"The last major Texas feud has been explored in No Hope for Heaven, No Fear of Hell. . . . Kearney brought the project to completion with this well-researched, well-written study."--True West
"[T]he Stafford-Townsend feud has the unique distinction of bringing in the top-level Texas Rangers, not only the "Four Great Captains" (John H. Rogers, John R. Hughes, Bill McDonald and James Brooks) but also Quartermaster Lamartine P. Sieker and no less an important personage than Adjutant General Thomas Scurry. . . . [A] masterful study of the lesser-known Central Texas feud between the Staffords and the Townsends."--Wild West History Association Journal
"[Y]ou will find this book endlessly fascinating, filled with gunfights, ambushes, unexplained deaths, murder, juries allowing culprits to go free, and all sorts of skullduggery within the law enforcement community, since many of the sheriffs were related to one combatant or another. Anger, resentment, revenge, hard feelings, and smoldering payback fill these pages."--Chronicle of the Old West
"[A] fascinating and sophisticated examination of a Texas feud that should be of interest to scholars of Texas history, the West, and the South. . . . The Stafford-Townsend Feud has the distinction of being probably Texas's longest running feud, beginning with a shootout in Columbus in 1871 and lasting until 1911."--Southwestern Historical Quarterly
[A] well-written and carefully researched contribution to Reconstruction scholarship."--Journal of Southern History
"Readers will also find interesting many of the subplots that are woven into this narrative, including the role of African Americans in local politics, the influence of local politicians and lawmen on small communities, the transition of the Central Texas region at the turn of the twentieth century, and the role Texas Rangers played in placating a feud."--Central Texas Studies
"For the Western buff looking for a new feud or wishing to know more about just what constituted one, No Hope for Heaven, No Fear of Hell delivers the goods."--Wild West Magazine