TNGRAING-L ArchivesArchiver > TNGRAING > 1998-04 > 0891545613
From: East Tennessee Historical Society< >
Subject: [TNGRAING-L] More about the Greene-Jones War
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 1998 14:33:33 -0500
As promised I did a little more digging on the background information about
the Greene-Jones War. Note, that I continue to cross-post this information
to the Hawkins, Grainger, and Claiborne County lists because the background
and events of the "war" were not limited to Hancock County. In fact the
"war" spilled over into the above three counties, plus counties in
southeast Kentucky and southwest Virginia.
Despite the colorful history of the Greene-Jones War I can find no
reference to any books written specifically on the subject. However, a
handful of books in the McClung Collection holdings did contain some
mention of the subject. I'll mention a few of the interesting tidbits I
found, but first I'll make mention of the few books that seem to include
Most noteworthy were two books published by the Hancock County Historical &
Genealogical Society-- "Hancock County and Its People" Vol I (1989) and Vol
Vol. I includes a brief description of the war, as written byAlton L.
GREENE. Greene also mentions the war and provides a few anecdotes in two
family histories he published, "SEALE Family Tree," and "The GREENE-GREEN
Betty Jean PRICE (nee SEAL) also mentions the feud in her family history,
entitled "The River SEALS and SEAL, 1690-1991: Descendants of William
As I mentioned all of these books are housed in the McClung Historical
Collection (and, if I may be permitted a commercial announcement-- the
Hancock County books are also available for sale in the ETHS Museum Shop).
If you are unable to visit the McClung Collection in person, you may want
to check to see if these titles are also available at a regional genealogy
library near you. It appears that the Alton Greene books are out-of-print,
and I'm unsure about the status of the Betty Price book. The Hancock County
books may be in print. You will need to check with the HCH&GS to make
The only drawback to the books is that they all seem to rely upon oral
tradition and rumor. The legend of the war grows a bit in the telling, but
if half of what is printed is true, then it's still a fascinating story.
In additions to the aforementioned books, microfilmed copies of the
Rogersville and other area papers from the 1880s-90s give a bit of
background, but even as the feud is occurring the legend is being created,
so the papers themselves sometimes rely upon rumor and undocumented
accounts. Several of the participants were eventually arrested and did time
in prison, so there may very well be some sort of official documentation of
at least portions of the affair.
I'll expand a bit more on the background of the feud and then I'll try to
answer some of Sue Wetzel's and Nancy Hammes' specific questions:
After the Civil War, Robert Greene (brother of the murdered Alfred)
returned home to Hancock County. Shortly thereafter he swore revenge upon
the three men who killed his brother. According to reports he did succeed
in killing two of the men while also acquiring the title of deputy sheriff
and arranging his son's election as county sheriff.
The Greene's, led by Robert, then continued their feuding against the Jones
family, led by patriarch Asa JONES, off and on through out the next
twenty-five to thirty years. I was interested to note that loyalty to one
"army" was not necessarily determined by surname. Several branches of the
GREENEs apparently chose sides with the JONESes and often paid for it with
their lives. One Greene husband even shot his own wife, before killing
himself. (The wife survived but lost an arm). Another Greene man shot his
own first cousin in the arm, complaining all the while that he had meant to
hit him in the head.
I also noted a few occasions where a GREENE would marry a JONES (William
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, set in Sneedville), perhaps giving a few
clues as to why certain Greenes chose to fight with the Joneses.
There are way too many little anecdotes like that to try to share in one
post. I will attempt to get some of this information on the web in the near
For the record, Robert Greene eventually fled the state to Sanger, Texas,
where he is buried today. Other members of the Greene and Jones families
also fled to escape the law and/or rival families to places such as
Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, and Texas.
Some of the specific questions--
(SW): <<was a small boy killed?>>
Yes. His name was Anderson GREENE (named for his mother Mary's maiden
name). The Jones family had surrounded the house of Hamp Greene (Anderson's
grandfather). The Jones gang allowed the women and children to leave the
house in safety. Anderson, wanting to stay with the menfolk, hid under the
bed unbeknownst to his mother. The Joneses opened fire and began filling
the house full of bullet holes. Anderson was killed in the battle.
(SW): <<Did the governor declare marshal law?>>
Yes. Governor Robert Love Taylor (my favorite of the Tennessee governors)
did declare martial law and began an attempt to clean up Hancock County and
end the feud. (This was also at approximately the same time period that the
militia had been called to Anderson County to assist in ending the infamous
Coal Creek War.) Martial law was necessary since the Greene family
controlled the sheriff's department and exerted great influence upon many
of the other political offices of the county.
Taylor's attention was brought to the feud when Sheriff Greene ordered so
many rifles and munitions for his family that it required an entire box car
to bring the load to Rogersville.
The arrival of the militia helped speed up the decision of many people in
both families to head out for new homes.
Nancy Hammes asked about a story involving a member of the SEALE and JONES
family. I found no reference to the story she mentions, but that
guarantees nothing. The event could have happened in Lee County, VA (where
she assumes it does), since Lee County borders Hancock County, TN. Another
likely clue is that the GREENEs and the SEAL/SEALE families were
intermarrying during this time period in the region.
The migration to Indiana fits with the migration of other members of the
Greene and associated families (including BERRY, SEALE, and others). The
time frame is also correct. Beyond that I can't say much about this
particular story. The aforementioned SEALE family books might have a
reference to this event, or at least provide some clues to help you decide
whether the story is likely true or not.
At any rate, that's enough to hopefully satisfy some folks' interest in the
Greene-Jones War and maybe picque some others' interest enough to research
it a bit more in-depth on their own.
Thanks for letting me ramble on a bit.
Shane S. Rhyne, Public Relations Coordinator
East Tennessee Historical Society
P.O. Box 1629, Knoxville TN 37901-1629
**Please note that ETHS does not currently have the ability to answer
online requests for research assistance. Unfortunately such requests must
go unanswered at this time.**