In 1839 land disputes, fraudulent land transactions, and cattle rustling in Harrison and Shelby Counties of Texas led to the formation of the Shelby County Regulators the following year. The principal leaders of the Regulators were Charles W. Jackson and Charles W. Moorman with its primary goal of preventing cattle rustling.
However, as the Regulators’ actions became too extreme a counter-vigilante group was formed, called the Moderators, to “moderate” the Regulators. This opposing faction’s principal leaders were Edward Merchant, John M. Bradley, and Deputy Sheriff James J. Cravens. The roots of the conflict lay in the land disputes over the neutral ground that lay between the American and Mexican borders. As the violence between the two factions escalated and eventually spread to San Augustine, Nacogdoches, and other East Texas counties, the conflict became known as the Regulator-Moderator War.
Of the whole affair, Sam Houston reportedly stated, “I think it advisable to declare Shelby County, Tenaha, and Terrapin Neck free and independent governments, and let them fight it out.” By the time the conflict was finally resolved in 1844, at least ten people had been killed, including Regulator leader Charles W. Jackson.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.