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Les Hornbuckle and Geraldine Locke are preparing to write a book about the Moore family of Morgan County. They recently found a box of Civil War era letters that will be the center of the book.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Les Hornbuckle and Geraldine Locke are preparing to write a book about the Moore family of Morgan County. They recently found a box of Civil War era letters that will be the center of the book.

Moor(e) hunted down father’s killer
4 years looking for murderer to be part of Moore family history book

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Sometime shortly after the Civil War, a teenage Alabama boy went west looking for his father’s killer.

Joseph Moor spent four years riding the cattle trails of Texas before finding Jeff Darter, the man he believed ambushed and murdered his aging father in 1864.

In the middle of the night, Moor cut Darter’s throat, got on his horse and rode back to Alabama.

Deathbed confession

Moor never told family members where he had been or about his actions until he was on his deathbed in January 1937.

The story of his deed is one of the tales Les Hornbuckle and Geraldine Locke plan to write in their history book of the Moore family of Morgan County.

With roots in England, the original family members spelled their last name Moor. Most of the living descendants spell it Moore.

“It’s really unclear when or why they picked up the ‘E,’ ” Locke said.

Of course, for her and Hornbuckle, how the last name is spelled is not as important as the information they want to include in the book.

“We’re still researching,” said Hornbuckle.

The central character will be John Hezekiah Moor, a Confederate veteran who brought the Moor family to Morgan County with his wife, Pemelia Melissa Stubbs Moor.

John was born Nov. 1, 1844, in Jefferson County to the Rev. Hezekiah Balch Moor Jr. and Elizabeth McLaughlin Moor.

He joined the Confederate Army as a member of the 20th Alabama Infantry Company C.

Paroled in North Carolina, John returned to his family home in Leeds as the Moors struggled to survive Reconstruction.

Seeking a better existence, John and Pemelia moved to DeKalb County before arriving in Morgan about 1900 with eight of their 13 children.

They settled on Six Mile Road near Blue Springs Baptist Church before moving west of Hartselle to the Hopewell community.

John died July 26, 1908, and is buried in Blue Springs Baptist Church Cemetery.

Unknown to most family members was a collection of letters that survived John and his wife.

The couple’s daughter, Minnie Alto Moore Randolph, inherited the letters before John’s granddaughter, Nola Randolph White, got them.

White shared the letters with Donald and Geraldine Locke in the mid-1990s. But, she swore them to secrecy.

White died Nov. 1, 2006. The Lockes were at the funeral home and mentioned the letters to Hornbuckle, who is White’s son-in-law.

“I didn’t know anything about the letters and had no idea Nola was into genealogy,” Hornbuckle said.

Letters

With Locke’s encouragement, Hornbuckle and his wife, Janice, found some of the letters.

Some of them were missing, but the Lockes had copies.

The letters Hornbuckle described as priceless are the catalyst for the book.

“I told Geraldine it was time to share them,” he said.

The letters, written by Moor and Stubbs’ family members, describe the family struggles. Most of the older letters John wrote while away from his family in the Civil War.

“He was concerned about the family, the lack of food and poor health care,” Locke said. “They were a deeply religious family and he talked about how much he missed home.”

Service papers

Locke and Hornbuckle also have the Confederate War service papers of John and his father.

Although an older man, the Rev. Hezekiah Moor Jr., joined the Confederate Army.

Apparently unable to mount his horse because of a prewar injury, the Baptist minister requested a medical discharge.

“He said he was unfit for service,” Locke said.

Hezekiah returned to Jefferson County and learned that outlaws had burned his father’s gin.

Unable to fight, he helped the Confederacy track deserters.

Darter, a man the Moor family knew, didn’t want to return to his unit. Locke said he ambushed Hezekiah and “shot him dead.”

She said Joseph Moor heard Darter tell people he was going west to escape the Moor family and justice.

“Joseph spent years chasing Jeff Darter until they bedded down at the same campsite,” Locke said.

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