STEVENS PARMALEE 1821-1891
William, Dan, Lemuel, Nathaniel, Nathaniel, John, John
|From the Utica (N.Y.)
Daily Observer, Dec. 5, 1871:
How a Feud was Settled in Nebraska -- Dueling Without Any Formalities
from the Omaha Bee Dec.7
For several years past a bitter feud has existed between Tom Keeler and Dan Parmalee, both old citizens of this country, and very widely known. Saturday evening about 5 o'clock, near Elkhorn Station, about 20 miles west on the Union Pacific Railroad, the two men met, and the feud terminated in a fatal duel, in which Keeler was killed. It was a very impromptu affair, the usual preliminary arrangements of the dueling code being dispensed with.
It appears that Mr. Parmalee, although living in Omaha, has a grain warehouse at Elkhorn, and a farm about 4 miles from Elkhorn, adjoining Tom Keeler's place. The old feud between the two men, originating in a dispute, as some say, about a piece of land, had been kept alive and fanned into greater bitterness by Keeler's attacks and Parmalee's defenses.
Mr. Parmalee left Elkhorn at about 5 o'clock in a spring wagon, while William Philpot, a young man in his employ, was driving a team of mules ahead with a load of cobs. About the same time, Tom Keeler, who was at Elkhorn, also started for home, and soon drove his team ahead of Philpot. Parmalee came up and told Philpot to stop, when Keeler asked Parmalee if he wanted to fight, and told him to say "yes or no."
Parmalee replied, "Go to h-ll." Both parties then drove a short distance, and again stopped. Parmalee then picked up his Winchester rifle, a sixteen-shooter -- with which he always went armed, as he had often been threatened by Keeler, who had warned him several times to "heed" himself -- and jumped to the ground and ran around to the right side of his wagon. Keeler, who always went armed, had a revolver strapped to his hip, as usual, and also a double-barreled shot-gun loaded with buckshot. Grabbing up his shotgun almost at the same instant, jumped out to the left side of his wagon, putting young Philpot between the two men.
Having thus simultaneously chosen their positions, it would appear that each had come to the conclusion that the hour had arrived when their differences must be settled by bloodshed. Parmalee, who is a man of great coolness and remarkable nerve in times of great danger, raised his sixteen shooter to the shoulder and opened the duel by blazing away at Keeler., the two men not being more than 10 rods apart. He quickly fired again. Both shots struck Keeler but did not hurt him much, merely grazing him and glancing off.
Keeler returned the fire, the buckshot scattering, one hitting the arm of Parmalee, making a slight scratch, and others hitting Parmalee's own team, which started on a runaway. Keeler emptied the other barrel of his shot-gun, missing Parmalee, but striking his own team with some of the shot, causing them to also run away. Parmalee, now "got the drop" on Keeler, who, instead of pulling his revolver, no doubt thinking it useless at so long a range, especially in opposition to a Winchester rifle, started and ran towards a corn-field. Parmalee covered him with his weapon, and sent a ball after him, hitting him in the back, passing out in front, and putting daylight clear through him. Keeler here cried out for mercy, asking Parmalee to spare him and not kill him.
Two more shots instantly followed from the deadly rifle, one taking him in the neck and the other in the head, both passing clear through and killing him instantly. Thus was the career of the notorious Tom Keener brought to a close.
Parmalee got into his wagon and Philpot remarked, "I guess he's dead. You had better go and see." Parmalee replied that he could do that if he wished and remarked that he was ready to give himself up, which he accordingly did to Henry Stanton, a Deputy Sheriff, who came up to them soon afterwards.
The above is the substance of Philpot's testimony.
The verdict of the Coroner's jury was to the effect that Keeler came to his death at the hands of Parmalee. Officer Hanlon brought Parmalee into the city late yesterday afternoon and, taking him before Judge Peabody, he gave bail in the sum of $3,000, Byron Reed and W.F. Sweesy being his bondsmen.
Each of the duelists has a history, which, could it be given in full, would be found to be of deep interest. Both came to this State nearly twenty years ago and are widely known throughout the Far West.
Tom Keeler had the reputation of being a notorious rough and daring desperado. In early times he was located near Kearney, in the vicinity of which he had four ranches and a wife on each ranch. Many hard stories are told of him while he was located there. It is said the he made a comfortable living by plundering the "pilgrims" while on their way to the mountains and California. An old settler related to us that he met Tom and his four wives at a dance at Florence ten years ago and had the pleasure of an introduction to each one of them.
It is told of him that a few years ago he lost some money at a game of poker, and soon afterwards, meeting the winner coming up on a stair-way, he drew his revolver and told him to lay the money down on the steps and "git."The winner did as commanded and Tom thus got back his money.
He never was seen without a revolver openly strapped to his hip-belt, and he has often paraded the streets of Omaha thus armed. Last summer he was arrested for carrying "concealed" weapons, but he claimed that his revolver was not concealed, and he was accordingly discharged with a reprimand and on condition that he would not make such as an open exhibition of his arsenal. Mr. Parmalee, who was in the continual fear of Keeler's threats, consulted the District Attorney in regard to the matter, but that officer informed him that there was no law that would prevent Keeler's openly carrying weapons.
Keeler, during the last eighteen months, had got into several quarrels with c his neighbors and friends of Parmalee, and had "assault and battered" some of them. Parmalee assisted them to prosecute him, and he was tried several times of different offenses. We believe there are not two or three [illegible] cases against him in the District Court.
Keeler had threatened Parmalee with vengeance, and
warned him to go armed. Parmalee accordingly did so, and
put his safety in a Winchester rifle. He never felt safe,
even on his own premises, fearing that Keeler would
Dan Parmalee is a prominent and well-to-do citizen of this county, his real home being at Omaha. He was a member of the Territorial Legislature of 1866 and the two following State Legislatures.
The general opinion seems to be that Parmalee pursued the right course, and that Keeler just got what he deserved. The feud had ripened to such a degree that it was only a question of time as to who should make the first demonstration to "get the drop" on the other.
Parmalee is a man very much respected in this community, while Keeler was a notoriously bad man, over whose death there seems to be a general feeling of satisfaction.
|Photo No.: 01-0528|