Feud Flares at Ray City

In the summer of 1926, the widow Lucretia “Cresie” Luke was living near Ray City, on the Ray City-Adel road.  After the death of her husband in 1905 she had raised her family in Nashville and Lenox, GA.  Her two eldest boys, Walt and Perry,  had married two sisters, Ellie and Estell Nash, and the two couples rented a house together in Nashville.

Following these unions, Cresie first went to live with a younger son, Ollie, at New River, but by 1926, she moved from New River down near Ray City.  The Nash girls’ parents, Susannah and Eddie Nash, were also living near Ray City,  and in the late summer of 1926 a third Nash daughter, Bessie Nash Johnson, and her husband, Lonnie Johnson, returned from Florida to Berrien County and Ray City.

Apparently, the relationship between the  husbands of the three Nash girls had grown contentious, with the Luke brothers on the one side and Lonnie Johnson on the other. Later, Walter Luke would observe “that there had been ‘a little feud brewing between them’  for some time.” It was in late August of 1926, in the dog days of summer, that things came to a head.

On the afternoon of Saturday, August 28, 1926 Perry and Estell took their six-year-old son, Horace, for a drive to pick up Perry’s mother, Cresie. This particular weekend, the matriarch of the Luke family was going to spend Sunday with her two sons and their families in Nashville.  Perhaps Perry was expecting trouble or perhaps he was always cautious, but he carried his pistol  along for that afternoon drive.

With temperatures rising and tempers, too, Lonnie Johnson reached a fateful decision that Saturday afternoon to confront Perry Luke.   With loaded pistol a with wife Bessie in tow, he drove out in search of Perry Luke.    The outcome was reported in the Sunday papers in Atlanta:

The Atlanta Constitution
August 29, 1926

1 DEAD, 3 HURT AS FEUD FLARES NEAR NASHVILLE

Aggressor Is Shot to Death, One Man, Woman and 6-Year-Old Child Injured in Family Duel.

CORONER TO PROBE FATAL SHOOTING

Lonnie Johnson, 35, Returns Suddenly From Florida and Threatens To “Wipe Out Family”

Nashville, Ga., August 28. –(AP)– One man is dead and three others are seriously wounded as a result of a gun battle between the Johnson and Luke families in the lower end of Berrien county this afternoon.

The dead:

Lonnie Johnson, 35, of Daytona, Fla., formerly of this county.

The wounded:

Perry Luke, 35, bullet wound in the shoulder.

Mrs. Perry Luke, shot through the neck, the bullet coming out at the mouth.

Perry Luke, Jr., aged 6, child of Mr. and Mrs. Perry Luke, bullet wound in the chest, within an inch of the heart.

Doctors say he cannot live.

Lonnie Johnson, just back from Florida, who was in an automobile with his wife, is said to have driven to the home of Walter Luke, this afternoon, informing him that he was going to wipe out the family of Walter’s brother, Perry, on sight.

At the time, according to information in the hands of county officers, Lonnie Johnson, who married a sister of Mrs. Perry Luke, ascertained that Perry Luke had gone to the home of his mother, to get her to spend Sunday with them. The mother resides on the highway between Adel and Ray City.

As Johnson drove away rapidly in the direction of the residence of his mother, Walter Luke cranked up his truck and obtained his shotgun and started in pursuit, but the automobile outran the truck in the chase.When approaching the residence of his mother, Walter Luke found Lonnie Johnson’s car turned across the highway, blocking traffic, while he said Lonnie Johnson was shooting into the car containing his brother and the members of his family.

As he climbed out of the truck, Walter Luke says that Lonnie Johnson turned his pistol upon him, but Walter Luke opened fire with his shotgun and killed Johnson almost instantly.

The wounded were taken to a doctor’s office in this city [Nashville] and they are being cared for by relatives tonight.

Perry Luke tonight informed the officers who investigated the case, the latter said, that there had been “a little feud brewing between them” for some time, but he said he did not consider it serious. Perry Luke said that he didn’t know that Lonnie Johnson was in the county.

Perry Luke told officers that he had a pistol on the seat beside him in the automobile, but would not use it for fear of killing his wife’s sister, Mrs. Johnson, who was at the latter’s side, endeavoring to prevent the tragedy.

There have been no warrants issued. Officers of this county said that there would probably be a coroner’s inquest. 

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