County named after killer

So an outsider comes to town and shoots one of the locals dead in cold blood. The shooter is then hailed as a hero, and the townfolk decide to name a county after the killer. This is the true story of Louisa County, Iowa.

In the 1830s, William Smith wanted a mining claim owned by the Massey family. So Smith and his son shot and killed Woodbury Massey... and then rode through town proclaiming that they'd kill any other Masseys they could find. At this point, Woodbury Massey's brother, Henry, took preemptive action and killed William Smith. Then the story gets interesting. 16-year-old Louisa Massey, sister of Woodbury and Henry, arrives in town and cooly proclaims she's just doing some shopping. But when she spots the younger Smith in the store, she pulls out a gun and shoots him dead too.

Louisa became an instant hero. Newspaper reports wrote: "The upper river county went wild with her praise. No war hero was ever welcomed with greater enthusiasm... cheering throngs greeted her at every stop." What is the moral of this story? I have no idea. Certainly, no one today wants 16-year-old girls involved in revenge killings. It might be one thing to exonerate Louisa, but to make her a hero, and name a county after her? It all seems very strange. You might explain it by saying that times were different then; but after Lincoln was shot, nobody was clamoring to create John Wilkes Booth county. About the only explanation I can come up with: the Smiths must have been some really mean and nasty dudes.

You can read contemporaneous news reports about Louisa Massey here. And a book here. (Another great story for a screenwriter. But who to play Louisa? Hailee Steinfeld? Dakota Fanning? Selena Gomez?) 

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