A TRAGIC MORNING ON BULL CREEKTaken from "Tales of the Bull Creek Country" by John H. Mitchell
Of the many gun fights that occurred in the Bull Creek Country, one of the bloodiest tookplace the 28th of November 1898. On that late fall day a dispute over a line fencebetween the Meadows and the Bilyeu families resulted in a pitched battle. Three mendied that day and the events leading up to that tragedy, the accounts of what happenedand the after effects are well worth recounting here.The Meadows family was among the pioneer settlers of the Bull Creek Country. Theytraced their ancestry back to Israel Meadows who was born in Virginia and served in theRevolutionary War. Israel had a son, William, who moved to Kentucky and later toMissouri. One of William's sons was Alexander Meadows, a Civil War soldier and knownas 'Old Bob'. This was to distinguish him from his son, Alexander, who was called'Young Bob' or 'Bobby'. Another of Old Bob's sons was John Sanvern, nicknamed 'Bud'.Bud is one of the principal characters of this story.Like the Meadows, the Bilyeus were also early settlers in the area. Of French descent,the Bilyeus came to America to the Dutch colony at what is now New York. The branchof the family we are concerned with migrated to Tennessee and from there Isaac Bilyeumoved to Missouri. Isaac's son, John Witten Bilyeu, settled on the Old Wilderness Roadnear Spokane, Missouri, and one of his sons was Steve, also a main character in theseacts. At the time of the battle, Steve was 52 years old; he was a prominent farmer andhad served as a constable in Christian County.Steve Bilyeu and Bud Meadows owned adjoining farms on the west side of Bull Creek atthe mouth of Dry Hollow. They had built a line fence separating their farms and hadentered into an agreement as to the upkeep. As the years passed, the fencedeteriorated and arguments arose over who was not keeping the agreement on repairs.Meadows served notice on Bilyeu that he was dissolving the partnership and wouldremove his part of the fence rails. This action Steve said he would not allow. Apparentlythere were numerous confrontations between the two factions and Pete Bilyeu, Steve'sson, reportedly took delight in heaping verbal abuse on Meadows. On occasions Petehad threatened Bud and forced him to perform degrading acts. Once Bud was made tobite the muzzle of a cocked rifle that Pete was holding.In those days, it was the practice of the County Road Department to permit thetaxpayers to work out their tax bills by repairing the county roads. Such work was under way in the fall of 1898 and the work crew included both the Bilyeus and Bud Meadows.Due to the friction between the families, Bud requested to be allowed to work at adifferent location so he would not encounter the Bilyeus.When Pete Bilyeu learned of Bud's request, he became angry and threatened Bud with apistol and compelled him to crawl on the ground and perform other demeaning acts. MattStevenson, who witnessed the incident, told Pete he was making a serious mistake."That man will kill you for what you made him do," Matt warned Pete. "I saw it in hiseyes." Pete scoffed at the warning, saying Meadows didn't have the nerve to kill anyone.But Matt recalled later, "Within three weeks, I helped lay Pete Bilyeu out."