The news account of this shootout in Union, Mississippi in 1909 appeared in papers across the United States. This included the cities of Dallas, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; San Diego, CA; Springfield, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Washington D.C.; Columbia, SC; New Orleans, LA; Charleston, SC; Kalamazoo, MI from 18 July through 23 July, 1909. For .PDF files of these other articles, please see the bottom of this page.

The Newton Record
Vol. VIII., No. 30, Thursday, July 22, 1909


P. J. and D. J. McDonald Instantly Slain and
Cornelius Chisolm and Joe Miller Badly Shot.

A deplorable and shocking tragedy occurred at Union in the northern part of this county, Saturday morning about 9 or 10 o’clock, as a result of which two men were instantly killed, two seriously wounded and another slightly injured. The dead are P. J. McDonald and D. J. McDonald brother, well-to-do stockmen and farmers.

The wounded are, Cornelius Chisolm, a well-known planter and cattle dealer, living near Union; Joe Miller, lumber and brick dealer; and Murphy McDonald, son of P. J. McDonald, who was engaged in the livery business.

There had been bad feelings between Miller and McDonalds and Chisolm and the McDonalds for some time, the outbreak coming on Saturday. There have been so many versions of the fatal affair that it is difficult to get the exact facts, but as near as can be learned, the trouble was about as follows: It seems that some time since P. J. McDonald that a fight with a school teacher at Union. It is said that Miller took sides with the teacher, though he took no part in the altercation. It is reported that before the fight with this teacher occurred, Miller borrowed a pistol from one of the merchants for the teacher to use, if necessary, when he had the encounter with McDonald. McDonald, afterward hearing of this said he was going to whip Miller. Meeting on the streets of Union Saturday, McDonald and Miller had some words which led to blows. Just what was said, is not known, as there was no one near when the fight began. After passing two or three licks, each grasped the other in the collar and thrust their hands in their pocket about the same time, McDonald drawing a gun and Miller a knife. While Miller was endeavoring to open his knife McDonald fired, two shots taking affect. One struck Miller in the thigh and the other just above the navel, glancing to one side and lodging near the hip, from whence it was afterwards removed.

In the meantime, D. J. McDonald, and perhaps others who were not far away, seeing the difficulty, started to the scene of the trouble, presumably to separate the combatants, or to take part of one of the other. When Chisolm drew near, it is reported that P. J. McDonald turned and fired at him, the ball striking Chisolm in the right breast and ranging around to the left, inflicting what was thought at the time a dangerous wound. Chisolm then began shooting at his antagonist, lodging two balls in the region of the heart, which resulted in almost instant death. Following the first shot, McDonald fell forward somewhat, and fired two or three more shots at Chisolm, until his pistol was emptied, but failed to hit him again. Chisolm also continued to shoot until his revolver was emptied, and when the firing ceased, both McDonalds lay dead, with their hearts pierced. Some say that Chisolm killed them both while others claim that D. J. McDonald was accidentally shot by a stray bullet from his brother’s pistol, as he and Chisolm came up to the scenes of the battle from the same direction. Murphy McDonald was shot in the hand by a stray bullet, which it is believed was from his father’s pistol.


Reports of the number of guns brought into use are conflicting. Some who were witnesses to the fusillade, allege that shots were fired from a good many directions, while others do not think there were any pistols used except those of P. J. McDonald and Cornelius Chisolm. It is reported that after the firing ceased Chisolm walked out to one side and reloaded his weapon, and then went to a nearby drugstore, believing at the time that he was fatally wounded.

Shortly after the tragedy, a message was wired to Meridian for physicians, and a special train brought Drs. Turner and Tatum from that city to Newton, reaching here in time to catch the northbound train that afternoon. They were also accompanied by Dr. Tatum from this place. On investigation it proved that the injured men, who were first reported as fatally wounded, were not as badly injured as thought, and the bullets were extracted and their wounds dressed. At last reports they were getting along as well as could be expected with fair prospects for recovery, though Miller is still in a dangerous condition.


One of the reports that was given by a number as to the immediate cause of the trouble was that cattle stealing had been in progress in the vicinity of Union for a number of years, and that Miller had taken some part in endeavoring to break it up. This report seems to have been erroneous, and no doubt grew out of the fact that the preacher-detective Penson was in Union just before the trouble, and was endeavoring to organize a law and order league. Miller may have been interested in this, and some feelings might have been aroused on account of it.


Another cause of the bad feeling between Chisolm and the McDonalds was on account of Chisolm’s connection with an incident relative to a cow that was alleged to have been stolen. Some days ago, a cow that was tied on the premises of an old negro who claimed the ownership of her, was taken from where she was staked out and driven over to Meridian with some other stock and sold. The negro learning of the whereabouts of the animal, took steps to get her back. It seems that the sheriff deputized Chisolm to go over to Meridian with the negro and identify the cow. This he did, and when the negro saw the cow not only did he identify her, but the cow recognized him, by coming to him when he called her by name, which was proof conclusive that he had owned her. A writ of reprieve was at once instituted and the hearing was set for Monday next. According to reports form Meridian, the cow had been sold by McDonald to a Mr. Tyner, who in turn sold her to a man named Enslen. Mr. Tyner, who first bought the cow, says that P. J. McDonald had sold the cow to the negro some time ago, but the negro had not paid for her, and he took the cow back and resold her along with other cattle. As to how true this is The Record cannot say.


Learning of Chisolm’s action in the matter the McDonalds became incensed, and got together to meet Chisolm upon his return home from Meridian. Friends of Chisolm notified him before leaving Newton that he had better be prepared for trouble when he arrived home. When he reached the depot, as reported, the McDonalds were there, as well as other citizens who were expecting trouble and went there to stop it, if possible. The McDonalds followed Chisolm up town, and Murphy McDonald, it is said, accosted him at or near the bank, and said he had not run off any oxen and that they were still there. Chisolm, it is claimed, replied with the statement that no one had accused him of attempting to “run off” any oxen or steers, and went on, so no difficulty ensued then. Feeling was at a pretty high tension then, and an outbreak was expected at any time, but it did not materialize until the next day, when the tragedy occurred.


The town of Union was pretty badly demoralized for a time, and business was almost suspended that day, but while feeling was at a rather high pitch, everything has been quiet since, and no more outbreaks are anticipated. Both sides have numerous friends, and of course wach side has its theories and reports. The sheriff went to Union that afternoon to investigate the affir. No arrests were made at the time, but some one was deputized to guard Chisolm until a preliminary hearing could be held. Miller needed no guard as he was in no condition to get away. There was no disposition on the part of either to escape. The preliminary hearing awaits the development of the condition of the wounded men.


The funeral of the McDonalds took place at Beech Springs, in Neshoba county, Sunday, and was largely attended. The brothers were between 50 and 50 years of age and moved from Neshoba county to Union several years ago, and were prominently known in both counties, where they have many friends. P. J. McDonald leaves a wife and several children, while D. J. McDonald, was a widower, and is survived by several children all about grown.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, TX
Vol. XXVII., Issue 185 Page 1, July 18, 1909.

Union, Miss., Fight May Claim Five Victims
Dispute Regarding a Cow Led to Fisticuff and Then Shooting.
McDonald Brother’s Were Among the Town’s Most Prominent Residents
Special to The Star-Telegram.

Meridian, Miss., July 17.—The streets of Union, Miss., ran red with blood this morning, following a street duel, in which two men were killed, two fatally injured and one seriously wounded.

The dead:

    D. J. McDONALD.

The fatally wounded: Cornelius Chisholm. Joe Miller.
Seriously wounded: Murphy McDonald, son of D. J. McDonald.

Word of the tragedy was first received in Meridian this morning in a telephone message to Dr. R. L. Turner, summoning him to Union, together with other physicians, at the earliest possible moment. Later, an attempt to obtain details over the telephone from Union resulted in failure, as the telephone operator could not be found, and when located only the most meager account of the causes which led up to the fatal street duel were obtained.

According to information received, the shooting began when Pete McDonald and Joe Miller engaged in a fight in front of the Union bank. Cornelius Chisholm interfered and suddenly pulled his gun and short Pete McDonald, killing him instantly. The latter’s brother, D. J. McDonald, was standing near and when he saw what had happened he pulled his gun and fired at Chisholm, who returned the fire. McDonald dropped dead and Chisholm was fatally wounded. Several shots were fired, a number of them striking Joe Miller, taking effect in several different parts of his body. A stray bullet struck Murphy McDonald and broke one of his arms. Chisholm and Miller are badly wounded.

Business Suspended.

It was practically impossible to get into communication this morning with Union. The little town was stirred up almost to a fever heat over the tragedy and business had been suspended, not a single business house in the village being open an hour after the tragedy occurred, at 9:30 a. m.

D. J. McDonald and Pete McDonald, the two men killed were two of the most prominent residents of Union.

D. J. McDonald was a wealthy cattle dealer, while Pete McDonald was engaged in the livery business.

Murphy McDonald was associated in the livery business with his uncle, Pete McDonald.

Trouble Starts Over Cow.

The original trouble is said to have been brewing for a long time and a tragedy of the kind which occurred this morning has been expected for some months. It is understood that the direct cause of the fight this morning was about a cow, which it appears was sold in Meridian some days since by D. J. McDonald with a bunch of other cattle. Chisholm was in Meridian yesterday looking for the cow in question and claimed to have located and identified it.

The two men were in the Union Bank, where McDonald wrote a check in payment for the purchase and an altercation arose as to the amount. Blows were exchanged and the two men went into the street fighting. Miller pulled his knife and attempted to stab McDonald. McDonald pulled a pistol and shot Miller twice, once through the heart and once through the lungs.

Cornelius Chisholm, a friend of the wounded man, standing near, came to the assistance of Miller, and was shot by McDonald through the bowels and fell into the street. As Chisholm fell he pulled his pistol, and lying on his side in the road he fired, killing Pete McDonald instantly.

D. J. McDonald, a brother, ran up and Chisholm fired again, the bullet passing through D. J. McDonald’s heart and out through the shoulder, causing instant death.

Murphy McDonald, son of D. J. McDonald, came up, and Chisholm fired at him, the bullet breaking his arm.

The special train carrying the physicians left at 5 o’clock this evening.

Newspaper Accounts from across the Nation

There were dozens of articles across the Nation that had various headlines and accounts of this tragedy. The articles below were found on NewsPaperARCHIVE Icon

Two Men Killed in a Feud Battle
Cow Did Not Cause the Trouble (Biloxi Daily Herald, July 21, 1909)
Survivors Will Recover
Realty Values Rise; Result of Tragedy
A Bloody Street Battle at Union (Biloxi Daily Herald, July 19, 1909)


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