Friday, February 01, 2008

Hatfield McCoy Feud

Pictures from the Libby Preston collection

The Story
Hatfield-McCoy feud
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A section of the floodwall along the Tug Fork in Matewan, West Virginia, constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, depicts the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
The Hatfield-McCoy feud (18781891) is an account of American lore that has become a metaphor for bitterly feuding rival parties in general. It involved two warring families of the West Virginia-Kentucky backcountry along the Tug Fork River, off the Big Sandy River.
1 Family origins
2 The Feud
2.1 Beginning
2.2 Escalation
3 Tourism
4 Possible genetic explanation
5 References
6 Further reading
7 External links
Family origins
The McCoys lived on the Kentucky side of Tug Fork (a tributary of the Big Sandy River), and the Hatfields lived on the West Virginia side. Both families were part of the first wave of pioneers to settle the Tug Valley. Both were involved in the manufacture and sale of moonshine. Both apparently were involved in guerrilla activity during the American Civil War. Fighting for the The Confederacy, the Hatfields were led by William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield (18391921). Fighting for the Union, the McCoys were led by Randolph "Ole Ran’l" McCoy (18251914).
The Hatfields were more affluent than the McCoys and were well-connected politically. "Devil Anse" Hatfield's timbering operation was a source of wealth for his family, but he employed many non-Hatfields, and even hired Albert McCoy, Lorenzo Dow McCoy, and Selkirk McCoy.
The Feud

] Beginning
According to historian Michel Sellers, the feud began when a Hatfield wanted to marry a McCoy, but the clans disagreed and strife resulted. "Most people believe that the Hatfield-McCoy feud began with the death of Asa Harmon McCoy (Randall McCoy's brother) on January 7, year unknown." The uncle of Devil Anse, Jim Vance, and his "Wildcats" despised Hans Hall McCoy because he had joined the Union army. Harmon had been discharged from the army early because of a broken leg; several nights after he returned home, he was murdered in a nearby cave.
The first recorded instance of violence in the feud occurred after an 1873 dispute about the ownership of a hog: Floyd Hatfield had it and Randolph McCoy said it was his.[1] But in truth, the dispute was over land or property lines and the ownership of that land. The pig was only in the fight because one family believed that since the pig was on their land, that meant it was theirs; the other side objected. The matter was taken to the local Justice of the Peace, and the McCoys lost because of the testimony of Bill Staton, a relative of both families. The individual presiding over the case was Anderson "Preacher Anse" Hatfield. In June 1880, Staton was killed by two McCoy brothers, Sam and Paris, who were later acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. But the court decided later on it was not self-defense; it was murder in the first degree.

] Escalation

The feud escalated after Roseanna McCoy began an affair with Johnse Hatfield (Devil Anse's son), leaving her family to live with the Hatfields in West Virginia. Roseanna eventually returned to the McCoys, but when the couple tried to resume their relationship, Johnse Hatfield was kidnapped by the McCoys and was saved only when Roseanna made a desperate ride to alert Devil Anse Hatfield, who organized a rescue party.
Despite what was seen as a betrayal of her family on his behalf, Johnse thereafter abandoned the pregnant Roseanna, marrying instead her cousin Nancy McCoy in 1881.
The escalation continued in 1882 when Ellison Hatfield, brother of "Devil Anse" Hatfield, was brutally murdered by three of Roseanna McCoy's brothers, Tolbert, Pharmer, and Bud. Ellison was stabbed 26 times and finished off with a shot. The brothers were themselves murdered in turn as the vendetta escalated. They were kidnapped and tied to pawpaw bushes, where each was shot numerous times. Their bodies were described as "bullet-riddled."
Between 1880 and 1891, the feud claimed more than a dozen members of the two families, becoming headline news around the country and compelling the governors of both Kentucky and West Virginia to call up their state militias to restore order after the disappearance of dozens of bounty hunters sent to calm the conflict.[citation needed]
Eight Hatfields were kidnapped and brought to Kentucky to stand trial for the murder of Alifair McCoy.[citation needed] She had been shot after exiting a burning building that had been set aflame by a group of Hatfields. Because of issues of due process and illegal extradition, the United States Supreme Court became involved. Eventually the eight men were tried in Kentucky and all were found guilty. Seven received life imprisonment, while the eighth was executed in a public hanging (even though this was prohibited by law)[citation needed], probably as a warning to end the violence. Thousands of spectators attended the hanging in Pikeville, Kentucky. The families finally agreed to stop the fighting in 1891.
In 1979, the two families united for a special week's taping of the popular game show Family Feud, in which the two families played for a cash prize and a pig which was kept on stage during the games.
On June 14, 2003, descendants of the Hatfield and McCoy families signed a truce in Pikeville, even though the conflict had really ended a century earlier.

] Tourism

Many tourists each year travel to parts of West Virginia and Kentucky to see the areas and historic relics which remain from the days of the feud.
Bo McCoy, a college student, organized a joint reunion of the Hatfield and McCoy clans in 1993 which attained national notoriety[2].
Additionally, an entire recreation area, the 500-mile Hatfield-McCoy Trails system, has been created around the theme of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud.[3]

] Possible genetic explanation

There has been some recent speculation in the press (Associated Press, April 6, 2007) that the feud may have been fueled in part by a rare tumor, pheochromocytoma ("pheo"), that sometimes leads to "hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts." In the McCoy family, pheos are one of the consequences of a rare disease known as Von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL), which is prevalent among McCoy descendants.[4] The condition sometimes produces tumors of the adrenal gland (pheochromocytomas), leading to excess adrenaline production. According to the National Cancer Institute, most people interpret these surges as panic attacks or palpitations. Pheos occur also in the general population, and in families with any of five other genetic mutations. [5]

] References

Jones, Virgil Carrington. The Hatfields and the McCoys. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1948. (Still regarded by local historians as the best and most balanced narrative history of the feud.)
Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900, Altina L. Waller, University of N. Carolina Press, 1998 ISBN 0807842168

] External links
Listen online – The Story of the Hatfields and McCoys - The American Storyteller Radio Journal
Hatfield-McCoy Feud West Virginia Division of Culture and History
The Hatfield and McCoy FeudMatewan, West Virginia website
Hatfield-McCoy Feud; Roseanna: Juliet of the Mountains; from Blue Ridge Country, March/April 1996.
Official Matewan, WV Website at
Official Matewan, WV Tourism Website at
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Categories: All articles with unsourced statements Articles with unsourced statements since April 2007 Articles with unsourced statements since August 2007 History of Kentucky History of West Virginia Rivalry Southern United States
Tags: Hatfield and McCoy feud, GarysWorld 'Appalachia'

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