The Feud, Myths or Legends

In the backcountry of the Appalachian Mountains, family pride and honor mattered more than life itself.  Love, lust and romance crossed all boundaries of hate  and “ blood” became the common enemy.  Moonshine, coal mining, timber, hard work  and poverty were the stables of life;  family pride  was the honor of both families.

The Hatfield McCoy Feud began in the mountainous Tug River Valley.  The Tug River separates West Virginia from Kentucky and separated most of the Hatfield and McCoy clans.  William Anderson Hatfield was the recognized leader of the Hatfields and went by the nickname of “Devil Anse”.  The leader of the McCoys was Randle McCoy.  The Hatfields lived in West Virginia.  The McCoys in Kenucky.

Legends say that the blood was shed and  lives were taken because of a “girl” and a “pig”.  This tragedy of love only represented part of the story.  The Confederate and Union conflict added salt to the wound.  Greed, politics and murder capped it off.  Like dynamite in a dark, damp coal mine, it was ready to explode.

The first known event linking the Hatfields and McCoys was at the end of the Civil War.  Devil Anse fought for the Confederate Army.  Then he and some of his family members left the army and returned home.  They joined a local Confederate militia known as the Logan Wildcats.  Randle McCoy’s brother, Asa Harmon McCoy was a Union soldier.  In 1865 Asa was wounded in battle and came home.  While Asa was recuperating, he was murdered.  It was rumored that Devil Anse led the Logan Wildcats in the murder.  The McCoys did not retaliate, but many folk back home think this is when the conflict started.

Then in the late 1870’s, Devil Anse Hatfield got into a land dispute with Perry Cline, Randle McCoy’s cousin.  Devil Anse won the land dispute and took 5,000 acres from Cline.  A few months later, Randle McCoy accused Devil Anse’s cousin and best friend, Floyd Hatfield of stealing his hog.  A lawsuit was brought against Hatfield and the McCoys loss.  This heightened ill feelings between the two flood families and several armed confrontations followed throughout the years.

Then in 1880, two years after the Hog Trial,  two youngster in “heat’ ignited a firestorm.  At a community celebration Devil Anse’s son Johnse Hatfield met Randle McCoy’s daughter Roseanna.  Pretty as a flower and softer than fresh snow on a hillside, Roseanna McCoy’s mystical beauty could not be resisted.  After one night together, the couple decided they wanted to get married.  Roseanna came home with Johnse to his fathers mountain home.  Devil Anse allow them to live together at the house but would not let Johnse marry Roseanna.  Roseanna soon became pregnant with Johnse’s baby.  Eventually she realized Johnse wasn’t going to marry her and she left the Hatfield home.  However, her father refused to take her back in and she went to live with her Aunt Betty.  Shortly after moving in, Roseanna gave birth to her baby but it died of the measles at age eight months.  Then six months after the death of the baby, Johnse married Roseanna’s cousin, Nancy McCoy.   Randle McCoy swore revenge for the dishonor.  Roseanna McCoy to this day is known as the “Juliette of the Mountains”.

Shortly thereafter, It was election day in the mountains and Devil Anse’s bother, Ellison Hatfield, got into a fight with three of Randle McCoy’s sons.  One of the McCoys pulled a knife and Ellison was stabbed 27 times and then shot in the back.  Anse and a posse intercepted the McCoys brothers as they were being taken to a Kentucky jail and escorted them back to West Virginia.  Ellison was still alive and, according to Anse, the three McCoys would live only if Ellison survived.  The following day Ellison died.  Anse and his followers then transported the McCoy brothers across the tug River to Kentucky, tied them up to several pawpaw trees and shot them.    Indictments were issued for Anse and several others, but for five years no legal action was taken.  Several armed confrontations followed throughout the years with family members and followers being ambushed and their lives taken in  revenge.

Then in 1887 he McCoy family gains influence with Kentucky’s new governor.  They tried to extradite Devil anse and posted a reward for his capture.  On January 1, 1888 the Hatfield family decided to retaliate by attacking and burning Randle McCoy’s home in Kentucky.  During the raid two of Randle’s children were killed and his wife was seriously injured.  This led to The Battle of Grapevine Creek at which several Hatfield were killed and/or captured.  In September, 1888 the Hatfields involved in the raid on Randle McCoys home were tried for their crimes.  All received life except Ellison Mounts, who was hanged.  His last words were “The Hatfields made me do it”…….

At the height of the feud, both West Virginia and Kentucky call out their militia in preparation to war over the conflict.   The “Tale of the Devil” was now a reality as he traveled throughout  the mountains in search of McCoys…….

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Stories are told by people over the years, but none are as real as the story of the Hatfields and McCoys. Truly one of the longest standing family feuds in recorded history. Full of heartbreak, love and loss. Experience it on TV with the History Channel.