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Pistol Holler

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The year was 1931. In the hills and hollers of old Kentucky, where time had seemed to stop 100 years earlier, lived multiple factions of mountain men and holler dwellers. These normally peaceful clans enjoyed the tranquility of the hills. They enjoyed a nice Sunday picnic by
a mountain creek, the crisp cool air of a higher altitude, the smell of bacon from a freshly killed hog sizzling in a cast iron skillet on a pot
belly stove and the sound of guitars, fiddles, banjos and mandolins being played fireside on a summers eve. They may not have had
much, but they had their family, their faith and their music and that was good enough for them.

One of those holler dwellers, George Cupp, had been involved in an argument on Saturday afternoon, April 11, 1931. Shortly afterwards,
he was ambling slowly on his mule along a trail beside Little Goose Creek, about eight miles from Manchester. As George travelled home
the black snout of a rifle poked its way cautiously between the leaves. It rested steadily for a moment and then pinged sharply. George
Cupp toppled to the fresh green grass with a small hole in his forehead, almost directly between the eyes. This was the beginning of a
feud that would last nearly eight years. Although it was less popular than the Hatfield/McCoy Feud, it was far more deadly. This feud would
involve multiple families. Two of those families being the Benge's and the Cupp's.The Benge's were among the first of the clans to partner
with the Cupp's in the feud. However, by joining in, it only exposed them to the dangers of angry Appalachians. Newt Benge, a brother of
Ernest, had been a proud father only a couple of weeks when, on the last Sunday afternoon of May 1934, he started on a tour of the
district to spread glad tidings. He got as far as Byron, on Little Goose Creek. Someone was waiting for him there. One of his kinsman later
found his body. Two years later, another Benge, brother Charlie, was ambushed on his way to Manchester. He fell within a rifle shot of
where Newt had been killed. The Benge's and the Cupp's were not just victims in this story. They did their fair share of killing as well. It is
said that Ernest Benge killed up to four men in the feud. When tempers run high and moonshine runs free even allies can turn against
each other. Take Walter Benge for example. DEATH: 21 JUL 1931, Clay Co., KY; Ambushed And Shot In Back By A Cupp. In the end
there was a total of 13 families involved in the feud. 50 people were killed and 25 houses/barns burned to the ground. It all ended up in
the Clay County courthouse. There were convictions in the lower court. However, due to the lack of impartial juries and no change of
venue being granted, the lower court convictions ended up being overturned by the Appellate Court in the capital of the state. The only
justice served was the vigilante justice the families had handed down. The Little Goose Creek became known as Pistol Creek and the holler
where it all went down could rightly be monikered Pistol Holler.

As time marched on and World War II gave boom to industry, the holler dwellers left the mountains and migrated North to pursue a
better life. Members of the Benge and Cupp families found themselves in Southern Ohio leaving their turmoil behind to find better
economic conditions and less dangerous passageways. Wanting to leave their violent pasts behind them and maybe as a way to make up
for their sins, and the sins of their fathers, both families found themselves involved in the Lord's work. Members of both families and their
later generations became preachers, pastors, church musicians and travelling Christian bands. Today's generation of Benge's and Cupp's
still carry on the musical traditions passed down by previous generations. They may not have much, but they have their family, their faith
and their music and that is good enough for them. You can still hear hints of those Southern roots in every note they sing or play. If you
listen closely, you can close your eyes and hear that cool mountain stream. You can feel the crisp mountain air, you can almost smell the
bacon from a freshly killed hog sizzling in a cast iron skillet on a pot belly stove. But no matter what changes have taken place in the years
gone by, no matter what past sins have been atoned, if you listen close enough, you will also hear the cry of children who have lost their
fathers, wives who have lost their husbands, mothers who have lost their sons and the thundering echo of gun shots in the place known
as Pistol Holler.
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