Even though the Westport Fight took place in Rapides Parish, the white participants were from Vernon Parish. The fight is a big part of Vernon Parish history. It took place on December 24, 1881.
For those who don't know, the Westport Fight was a shootout between the whites of Vernon Parish and the redbones of Rapides Parish in the Westport community between Pitkin and Glenmora. Officially, the fight took place over a horse race between the two groups on December 16. Unofficially, the fight took place over encroachment by the whites in the redbone community.
The fight took place at a store owned by Cpt. Joseph Hatch and Lt. Joe Moore.
Before the Civil War they owned a store in the once Huddleston community (Pickering).
After the war they decided to build a store at the intersection of the Pitkin to Glenmora road (present-day LA Hwy. 113) and the Sugartown to Hineston road (present-day LA Hwy. 462). They called the location Westport from Lt. Moore's home in Mayo County, Ireland.
The redbones felt their history was a history of being pushed out by civilization. From the Carolina Coast to Kentucky and Tennessee to Louisiana's Neutral Strip, they moved west one step ahead of civilization. They settled in the four corners of present day Vernon, Beauregard, Rapides, and Allen Parishes. The area was a vast, unexplored and unclaimed area called Cherry Winche by some and Ten Mile by others.
As with most feuds, there's a love story. Ruth Dyal, redbone daughter of Ephraim Dyal, had a forbidden love for Frank Taylor, a white surveyor sent to survey the redbone community. Ruth was from Trinity, Texas (1880 census) and was probably at the Westport community for a Christmas visit. Both names are listed in Rapides Parish records as participants in the fight.
There is disagreement between the two sides as to which side started the shootout.
Both sides agree on some facts. The two horse racers were Henry Perkins, a redbone, and Buck Davis, a white. Henry Perkins won the horse race, yet Buck Davis claimed he cheated.
The fight started on December 23, on a Friday, when the redbones met at the home of Bob Wray (Ray) for a redbone-only dance. As with most meetings, red likker for men and wine for women, the drinks of the day, were abundant. Tensions built. Frank, being new to the area, and a white, was told by Ephraim to leave for dancing with his daughter Ruth. Ruth warned Frank to leave the Cherry Winche community or he would be waylaid. Simon Maricle, the supplier of red likker, proposed a plan to waylay the whites at Chinquapin Gulch the next morning.
Waylaying whites at Chinquapin Gulch never happened. Instead it was learned that the whites were going to the Hatch store for Christmas supplies that afternoon. When the redbones arrived most stayed at the hitching post while few went inside where the whites were already located. The fight started when Gordon Musgrove suggested to Buck Davis that he take a bullwhip to Henry Perkins. Marion, Henry's brother, overheard the conversation. Marion struck Musgrove and the fight started. Marion was held inside the store by the whites and word went out for all redbones to gather their guns and come to Westport to fight it out.
The redbones held the ground around the store and the whites fired from doors and windows inside the store. When the shooting stopped, redbones Simon Maricle and Tom Perkins were killed. Hamp Dykes was the only white killed. White participant Gordon Musgrove was wounded.
There is much disagreement over who was involved in the shootout. There's four sources: the George Washington Johnson (1890-1990) retelling, Hwys. 113/462 historical marker, Rapides Parish Courthouse records, and the newspaper, "Louisiana Democrat". It must be remembered that Johnson was born nine years after the shootout and he told his story in 1988 to Webster Talma Crawford while 98 years old. The Rapides Parish Courthouse records are the best source because nicknames and spelling variations are non-existent. Newspaper articles tend to agree with courthouse records. I used all four sources in my research.
The trial was held on April 20 and 21, 1882. Selecting a jury was difficult. Marion Perkins, Gordon Musgrove, and Jess/Jeff were found not guilty of murder by a talis jury. Louis Lacaze and John Watson were released from a murder charge by nolle prossque (no prosecution). John Watson was released and murdered on August 24, 1883 by bushwhackers.
Not long after the fight the Hatch & Moore store was burned to the ground. Cpt. Hatch moved to Poland in Rapides Parish and opened a mercantile store. Lt. Moore moved to Oberlin in Calcasieu Parish and opened a mercantile store also. The store site became known as the "Old Burn Down" by the redbones. Today the ste is at the intersection of LA Hwy. 462 and Jim Thompson and Freedom Roads.
Never again did whites encroach in the redbone community.