Hatfield's Hideout Campground serving the Hatfield McCoy Trail System

Hatfield McCoy Feud History

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585 River Rd. McCarr, KY 41544

History Of The Hatfield McCoy Feud

The mention of these two names stirs up visions of an unrelenting family feud. It brings to mind gun-toting vigilantes hell-bent on defending their kinfolk which would ignite bitter grudges that would span generations. Who were the Hatfields and McCoys, and what caused this violent clash between the families? During the the time the feud was most heated each family was ruled by a well-known patriarch. William Anderson Hatfield was known as “Devil Anse,” and had the appearance of a tough backwoods mountain dweller. By 1870 Devil Anse was a successful timber merchant and employed dozens of men, including some McCoys. The other patriarch was Randoph “Old Ranel” McCoy. Though he was not as prosperous as Devil Anse, Randolph still owned some land and livestock. Both families lived along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River that was the boundary between Kentucky and West Virginia. Family loyalty was often determined not only by blood but by proximity and where they were employed. There was even marriage between the two families while the feud was going on that caused changing of family loyalties. The start of the feud in some peoples minds was the 1865 murder of Randolph’s brother, Asa Harmon McCoy, by the Logan Wildcats, a local militia group that had Devil Anse and other Hatfields among its members. Many members of both familes regarded Asa Harmon who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, as a traitor. While some people believe that his murder set the stage for the feud, some historians now see this incident as a standalone event. Relations between the two families continued to deteriorate over the next decade before flaring again over a dispute over a single hog. In 1878 Randolph McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield, a cousin of Devil Anse, of stealing one of his pigs. Floyd Hatfields’s trial took place in McCoy territory but was presided over by a cousin of Devil Anse. It case hinged on the testimony of the star witness Bill Staton, a McCoy relative married to a Hatfield. Staton testified in Floyd Hatfield’s favor, and the McCoys were infuriated when Floyd was cleared of the charges against him. Two years later, Staton was killed in a confrontation with Sam and Paris McCoy, nephews of Randolph. Sam stood trial for the murder but was acquitted for self-defense reasons. Inside of a few months of Staton’s murder, another issue of a different sort was set ablaze. While at a local election day gathering in 1880, Johnse Hatfield, the 18-year-old son of Devil Anse, ran into Roseanna McCoy, Randolph’s daughter. According to reported accounts, Johnse and Roseanna hit it off, disappearing together for hours. Supposedly she feared retaliation from her family for mingling with the Hatfields and stayed at the Hatfield residence for a period of time which upset the McCoys even more. Johnse and Roseanna had a several month romance but eventually Johnse left the now pregnant Roseanna. In May of 1881 he married Roseanna’s cousin which emotionally devastated Roseanna and she never fully recovered. According to most historians the real turning point in the feud occurred on another local election day in August 1882. Three of Randolph McCoy’s sons ended up in a violent dispute with two brothers of Devil Anse. The fight soon erupted into chaos as one of the McCoy brothers stabbed Ellison Hatfield multiple times and then shot him in the back. Authorities soon apprehended the McCoys, but the Hatfields interceded, taking the men to Hatfield territory. After getting word that Ellison had died they bound the McCoys to some pawpaw bushes. They then fired more than 50 shots into the three brothers killing them of course. The authorities felt the revenge was unwarranted even though the Hatfields might have felt their revenge was warranted. Indictments were issued against 20 men including Devil Anse and his sons. The Hatfields evaded arrest, leaving the McCoys boiling with anger about the murders and outraged that the Hatfields hadn’t been arrested. Their case was taken up by Perry Cline, an attorney who was married to Martha McCoy, the widow of Randolph’s brother Asa Harmon. Years earlier Cline had lost a lawsuit against Devil Anse over the land deed for thousands of acres of land. Many historians believe this left him looking for his own form of revenge. Using his political connections, Cline had the charges against the Hatfields reinstated and announced rewards for anyone arresting the Hatfields, including Devil Anse. The situation began gathering steam and the media started to report on the feud in1887. The Hatfields were often portrayed as violent backwoods hillbillies roaming the mountains stirring up violence. This sensationalist media coverage planted the seed for the rivalry to become a natioal legend in the American imagination. The Hatfields were upset about the bounty that had been placed on their heads. In an effort to end the situation once and for all, a group of the Hatfields and their supporters came up with a plan to attack Randolph McCoy and his family. Led by Devil Anse’s son Cap and ally Jim Vance, a group of the Hatfields ambushed the McCoys’ home on New Year’s Day in 1888. Randolph fled, escaping into the woods. His son Calvin and daughter Alifair were killed in the crossfire and his wife Sarah was badly beaten by the Hatfields, suffering a crushed skull. A few days after the New Year’s massacre bounty hunter Frank Phillips caught up with Jim Vance and Cap Hatfield, killing Vance. Phillips then rounded up nine Hatfield family members and supporters and took them to jail. Years of legal pleas including cases being filed by the states of Kentucky and West Virginia unfolded as a series of courts judged the legal merits of the Hatfield case. At last the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which decided that the Hatfields being held in custody could be tried. At the time this was a ground breaking decision allowing lawsuits between states. The trial began in 1889, and when it was over eight of the Hatfields and their supporters were sentenced to life in prison. Ellison Mounts, who many believed to be the son of Ellison Hatfield, was sentenced to death. Mounts who’s nickname was Cottontop was known to be mentally challenged, and many people viewed him as a scapegoat even though he had confessed his guilt. Although public executions were against the law in Kentucky, thousands of people gathered to witness the hanging of Ellison Mounts on February 18, 1890. People said that his last words were, “They made me do it! The Hatfields made me do it!” As the feud faded, both family leaders tried to recede into obscurity. Randolph McCoy became a ferry operator. In 1914 he died at the age of 88 from burns suffered in an accidental fire. People say that he continued to be haunted by the deaths of his children up until his death. Devil Anse Hatfield, who had been a skeptic about religion, was born again later in life when he was baptized for the first time at age 73. Even though the feud was over decades ago the Hatfield and McCoy names continue to loom large in American history.
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Hatfield's Hideout Campground serving the Hatfield McCoy Trail System

Hatfield McCoy Feud History

The mention of these two names stirs up visions of an unrelenting family feud. It brings to mind gun-toting vigilantes hell-bent on defending their kinfolk which would ignite bitter grudges that would span generations. Who were the Hatfields and McCoys, and what caused this violent clash between the families? During the the time the feud was most heated each family was ruled by a well-known patriarch. William Anderson Hatfield was known as “Devil Anse,” and had the appearance of a tough backwoods mountain dweller. By 1870 Devil Anse was a successful timber merchant and employed dozens of men, including some McCoys. The other patriarch was Randoph “Old Ranel” McCoy. Though he was not as prosperous as Devil Anse, Randolph still owned some land and livestock. Both families lived along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River that was the boundary between Kentucky and West Virginia. Family loyalty was often determined not only by blood but by proximity and where they were employed. There was even marriage between the two families while the feud was going on that caused changing of family loyalties. The start of the feud in some peoples minds was the 1865 murder of Randolph’s brother, Asa Harmon McCoy, by the Logan Wildcats, a local militia group that had Devil Anse and other Hatfields among its members. Many members of both familes regarded Asa Harmon who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, as a traitor. While some people believe that his murder set the stage for the feud, some historians now see this incident as a standalone event. Relations between the two families continued to deteriorate over the next decade before flaring again over a dispute over a single hog. In 1878 Randolph McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield, a cousin of Devil Anse, of stealing one of his pigs. Floyd Hatfields’s trial took place in McCoy territory but was presided over by a cousin of Devil Anse. It case hinged on the testimony of the star witness Bill Staton, a McCoy relative married to a Hatfield. Staton testified in Floyd Hatfield’s favor, and the McCoys were infuriated when Floyd was cleared of the charges against him. Two years later, Staton was killed in a confrontation with Sam and Paris McCoy, nephews of Randolph. Sam stood trial for the murder but was acquitted for self-defense reasons. Inside of a few months of Staton’s murder, another issue of a different sort was set ablaze. While at a local election day gathering in 1880, Johnse Hatfield, the 18-year-old son of Devil Anse, ran into Roseanna McCoy, Randolph’s daughter. According to reported accounts, Johnse and Roseanna hit it off, disappearing together for hours. Supposedly she feared retaliation from her family for mingling with the Hatfields and stayed at the Hatfield residence for a period of time which upset the McCoys even more. Johnse and Roseanna had a several month romance but eventually Johnse left the now pregnant Roseanna. In May of 1881 he married Roseanna’s cousin which emotionally devastated Roseanna and she never fully recovered. According to most historians the real turning point in the feud occurred on another local election day in August 1882. Three of Randolph McCoy’s sons ended up in a violent dispute with two brothers of Devil Anse. The fight soon erupted into chaos as one of the McCoy brothers stabbed Ellison Hatfield multiple times and then shot him in the back. Authorities soon apprehended the McCoys, but the Hatfields interceded, taking the men to Hatfield territory. After getting word that Ellison had died they bound the McCoys to some pawpaw bushes. They then fired more than 50 shots into the three brothers killing them of course. The authorities felt the revenge was unwarranted even though the Hatfields might have felt their revenge was warranted. Indictments were issued against 20 men including Devil Anse and his sons. The Hatfields evaded arrest, leaving the McCoys boiling with anger about the murders and outraged that the Hatfields hadn’t been arrested. Their case was taken up by Perry Cline, an attorney who was married to Martha McCoy, the widow of Randolph’s brother Asa Harmon. Years earlier Cline had lost a lawsuit against Devil Anse over the land deed for thousands of acres of land. Many historians believe this left him looking for his own form of revenge. Using his political connections, Cline had the charges against the Hatfields reinstated and announced rewards for anyone arresting the Hatfields, including Devil Anse. The situation began gathering steam and the media started to report on the feud in1887. The Hatfields were often portrayed as violent backwoods hillbillies roaming the mountains stirring up violence. This sensationalist media coverage planted the seed for the rivalry to become a natioal legend in the American imagination. The Hatfields were upset about the bounty that had been placed on their heads. In an effort to end the situation once and for all, a group of the Hatfields and their supporters came up with a plan to attack Randolph McCoy and his family. Led by Devil Anse’s son Cap and ally Jim Vance, a group of the Hatfields ambushed the McCoys’ home on New Year’s Day in 1888. Randolph fled, escaping into the woods. His son Calvin and daughter Alifair were killed in the crossfire and his wife Sarah was badly beaten by the Hatfields, suffering a crushed skull. A few days after the New Year’s massacre bounty hunter Frank Phillips caught up with Jim Vance and Cap Hatfield, killing Vance. Phillips then rounded up nine Hatfield family members and supporters and took them to jail. Years of legal pleas including cases being filed by the states of Kentucky and West Virginia unfolded as a series of courts judged the legal merits of the Hatfield case. At last the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which decided that the Hatfields being held in custody could be tried. At the time this was a ground breaking decision allowing lawsuits between states. The trial began in 1889, and when it was over eight of the Hatfields and their supporters were sentenced to life in prison. Ellison Mounts, who many believed to be the son of Ellison Hatfield, was sentenced to death. Mounts who’s nickname was Cottontop was known to be mentally challenged, and many people viewed him as a scapegoat even though he had confessed his guilt. Although public executions were against the law in Kentucky, thousands of people gathered to witness the hanging of Ellison Mounts on February 18, 1890. People said that his last words were, “They made me do it! The Hatfields made me do it!” As the feud faded, both family leaders tried to recede into obscurity. Randolph McCoy became a ferry operator. In 1914 he died at the age of 88 from burns suffered in an accidental fire. People say that he continued to be haunted by the deaths of his children up until his death. Devil Anse Hatfield, who had been a skeptic about religion, was born again later in life when he was baptized for the first time at age 73. Even though the feud was over decades ago the Hatfield and McCoy names continue to loom large in American history.
Hatfield McCoy Cabins | Hatfield McCoy Camping | Hatfield McCoy Rentals | Matewan Cabins | Matewan Camping | Matewan Rentals |
585 River Rd. McCarr, KY 41544

History Of The

Hatfield McCoy Feud

Hatfield’s Hideout