FEUD FACTS: The Real Story Of The Hatfields & McCoys (2022)

FEUD FACTS: The Real Story Of The Hatfields & McCoys (1)

Hardly any person in America can hear the name “Hatfield” without thinking “McCoy.” This most infamous feud in American folklore happened right in the Tri-State’s back yard.

The 2012 release of the History channel’s “Hatfields & McCoys” miniseries, starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, has sparked a renewed interest in the saga. You can find in the pages of the Tri-State Visitors’ Guide several feud-related attractions, activities and festivals. But before you go exploring, here’s a tutorial on what really happened in the hills of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

The feud between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky had its roots in the Civil War and continued through 1981. The feud was led by patriarchs William “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Randolph McCoy. Here are some key events in the feud:


Both William “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Randolph McCoy were Confederates and were both along in a raid that killed Union Gen. Bill France in the fall of 1863. That raid sparked into action the Kentucky homeguards, who were sent to take Devil Anse and his men. One of France’s men, Asa Harmon McCoy (Randall’s brother), came after Anse in revenge.

He camped out in a rock house near his home. Anse found out and sent his Uncle Jim Vance and Jim Wheeler Wilson, a fellow soldier, to confront McCoy.

(Video) The Untold Truth Of The Hatfield-McCoy Feud

It is believed that one of those men shot and killed Asa McCoy.


A couple of court decisions helped to fuel the feud. In the late 1870s, Devil Anse Hatfield got into a land dispute with McCoy’s cousin Perry Cline. Anse won the land dispute and was granted Cline’s entire 5,000-acre plot of land. A few months after the verdict, Randolph McCoy stopped to visit Floyd Hatfield, a cousin of Devil Anse. While visiting, McCoy saw a hog that he said bore the McCoy marking on its ear. Hatfield denied the accusation and the two were hauled into court with Preacher Anderson Hatfield (a Baptist preacher and justice of the peace) to settle the suit.

Both Hatfields and McCoys served as jurors. Randolph’s nephew Bill Staton, also a brother-in-law of Ellison Hatfield, swore that Floyd Hatfield owned the hog.

Floyd won the case. On June 18, 1880, Staton was killed in a shootout with Paris and Sam McCoy, who were sent to prison for their crime.

Ellison Hatfield testified at that trial.


(Video) The Hatfield-McCoy Feud Complete Story

Two months after the killing of Staton, Devil Anse’s son, Johnse met Roseanna McCoy, the daughter of Randolph McCoy, at an 1880 Election Day event.

They became lovers, but Randolph did not approve.

When she went to be with Johnse in West Virginia, a posse of McCoys rode to the cabin, took Johnse prisoner and set out for the Pikeville jail. Roseanna told Devil Anse, who gathered his own crew to cut off the McCoys and rescue his son. After that, the couple remained apart. Roseanna would give birth to their daughter, Sarah Elizabeth McCoy, in the spring of 1881. The baby died of measles later that year. Johnse Hatfield, who would be married four times in his life, met Nancy McCoy (the daughter of Asa Harmon McCoy, who had been killed by the Hatfields) and they were married on May 14, 1881.


On Aug. 5, 1882, it was Election Day and at the polls on Blackberry Creek, Ellison Hatfield got into a fight with Tolbert McCoy (Randolph’s son). Tolbert’s two younger brothers, Pharmer and Randolph Jr., jumped in the fight with knives, and Pharmer McCoy shot Ellison.


Preacher Anse Hatfield ordered constables to take the McCoy brothers to the Pikeville jail to face charges. They stopped at Floyd McCoy’s house for food and decided to spend the night further up Blackberry Creek. Devil Anse Hatfield found out and the next morning arrived on the scene, and a posse of nearly 20 family and friends took charge of the McCoy boys. When Ellison died, Devil Anse crossed into Kentucky, tied the boys to paw paw trees and the group of men executed the boys who had killed Ellison.

(Video) Family Fued: The Hatfield's Vs. The McCoys


Hoping to leave no witnesses, the Hatfields raided the McCoy cabin in the dark of morning on New Year’s Day 1888. A firefight ensued, killing Randolph McCoy’s daughter Alifair and son Calvin. The raiders burned Randolph’s cabin to the ground. Randolph, his wife Sarah and the remaining children escaped.

The murders of the McCoys caused Kentucky’s governor Simon Buckner to unleash special officer Frank Phillips and 38 men to arrest the nearly 20 men and put out a special reward which brought a slew of bounty hunters to come after the Hatfields. Phillips captured several of those men, and Phillips shot and killed Uncle Jim Vance on Jan. 10, 1888.

On Jan. 19, a large firefight between Phillips and his men and Devil Anse Hatfield and his men happened, since known as the Battle of Grapevine Creek. Although no one was killed in the fight, it prompted Devil Anse to order 25 new Winchester repeating rifles to prepare for future attacks.

The raids brought the ire of West Virginia Gov. E. Willis Wilson, and many thought there might be another Civil War break out along the Tug Fork between factions in the two states. Both states ordered their National Guard units to prepare to defend their borders.

West Virginia’s governor sued Kentucky for the unlawful arrest of nine prisoners and unsuccessfully appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in April 1888. The court ruled the Hatfields would have to stand trial in Kentucky whether or not the original arrests by Phillips were legal. Elison Mounts was hanged on Feb. 18, 1890, for the shooting of Alifair and Calvin McCoy, and the rest were given life sentences for their roles in killing the three McCoy brothers.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Hatfields and McCoys

1. Hollywood has always loved the Hatfields and McCoys.
The Hatfields and McCoys saga has been reflected in various forms of entertainment, including books, songs and Hollywood films. Some of the most memorable portrayals of the feud include a 1952 Abbot and Costello feature; a Hatfield- and McCoy-themed episode of the animated series “Scooby-Doo”; and Warner Bros.’ 1950 “Merrie Melodies” cartoon “Hillbilly Hare,” in which Bugs Bunny finds himself ensnared in a dispute between the rival Martin and Coy families.

(Video) Hatfields and McCoys What really happened

FEUD FACTS: The Real Story Of The Hatfields & McCoys (2)

2. The Hatfields and McCoys inspired a famous game show.
The conflict is believed to have been the primary inspiration for the popular game show “Family Feud,” which premiered in 1976. In 1979 members of both families appeared on the show during a special Hatfields and McCoys theme week to battle it out for the usual cash rewards—with one unique twist. Also included in the prize package was a pig, symbolizing the origins of the feud. (It was the rumored theft of a valuable pig by a Hatfield ancestor that had served as a catalyst for the eruption of hostilities more than 100 years earlier.) The Hatfields won the contest.

3. The formerly feuding families were featured in Life magazine in the 1940s.
In May 1944, an issue of Life magazine revisited the Hatfields and McCoys nearly 50 years after violence among them rocked the Tug Valley area between Kentucky and West Virginia. The article was meant to show how the two “famous families now live together in peace,” and interviewed a number of descendants about the rivalry and relations between the two families five decades after the conflict. Among the photographs was a shot of two young women, Shirley Hatfield and Frankie McCoy, working together in a local factory that produced military uniforms. It was meant to symbolize the unifying effect of America’s war efforts at the height of World War II.

4. The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1888 several Hatfields were arrested and stood trial for the murder of two of Randall McCoy’s children. West Virginia sued for the men’s release, arguing that they had been illegally extradited across state lines. The Supreme Court eventually became involved in the case, known as Mahon v. Justice. In its 7-2 decision, the court ruled in favor of Kentucky, allowing for the trials and subsequent convictions of all the Hatfield men. Seven of them received life sentences, and one, Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts, was executed for his crimes.

5. A rare medical condition may be partly to blame for the violence of the notorious clash of clans.
In a 2007 study, a team of doctors and geneticists who had studied dozens of McCoy descendants noted an unusually high rate of Von Hippel-Lindau disease, a rare, inherited condition that produces tumors of the eyes, ears, pancreas and adrenal glands as well as high blood pressure, a racing heartbeat and increased “fight or flight” stress hormones. The researchers also collected numerous oral histories from family members detailing the combative and often violent nature of the McCoy family dating back to the feud’s roots.

6. The Tug Valley witnessed another violent clash nearly 30 years after the Hatfields and McCoys feud.
On May 19, 1920, detectives working for the anti-union Baldwin-Felts Agency evicted the families of workers who had attempted to unionize the Stone Mountain Coal Company mines outside Matewan, West Virginia. After Sid Hatfield, the Matewan chief of police and a Hatfield descendant, intervened on the miners’ behalf, a violent clash broke out that left seven detectives and four locals dead. The Matewan Massacre became a rallying cry for union activists across the country, with Sid Hatfield garnering fame for his defense of the miners. A year later, however, Hatfield was assassinated, purportedly by Baldwin-Felts agents. The events surrounding the Matewan Massacre and Sid Hatfield’s murder were depicted in the acclaimed 1987 film “Matewan.”

7. There are thousands of Hatfield and McCoy descendants—but not all of them are real.
Sid Hatfield is just one of many notable Hatfield and McCoy descendants. Others include Henry D. Hatfield, nephew of family patriarch Devil Anse, who served as a senator and governor of West Virginia; 1930s jazz musician Clyde McCoy; and basketball coach Mike D’Antoni. There have even been fictional descendants, including Leonard “Bones” McCoy from the television and film series “Star Trek,” who was supposedly dozens of generations removed from his McCoy family roots.

(Video) The Hatfield and McCoy feud. The Hog Trial | History Facts


The family names have become such a part of our language that people sometimes forget there were two actual families called the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Although the people living in Appalachia kept out of national politics for the most part, as reported by History Collection both the Hatfield and McCoy families were generally on the Confederate side when the Civil War broke out.. As the Herald-Dispatch notes , it was one of the many Hatfield-McCoy couplings that moved the family feud to the next level.. In 1880, Johnse Hatfield, son of family patriarch Devil Anse Hatfield, met Roseanna McCoy, Randolph McCoy's daughter.. As History reports , three McCoy boys ran into two of Devil Anse Hatfield's brothers at the polls and exchanged angry words.. The Hatfields organized an assault on Randolph McCoy's cabin on New Year's Day in 1888.. Although the legality of the arrests wasn't settled, the Court's ruling allowed the trial to be held in Kentucky.. As reported by History, all of the Hatfields were convicted.. All in all, the Hatfield-McCoy feud lasted a little less than 30 years.. According to History , the Hatfields and McCoys actually inspired Family Feud , one of the most famous game shows of all time.

Find out how the famous Hatfield and McCoy feud started and learn more about tHatfields & McCoys on History.com.

The Hatfields and McCoys.. The families even intermarried and sometimes switched family loyalties, even once the feud had started.. The first event in the decades-long feud was the 1865 murder of Randolph’s brother, Asa Harmon McCoy, by the Logan Wildcats, a local militia group that counted Devil Anse and other Hatfields among its members.. At a local election day gathering in 1880, Johnse Hatfield, the 18-year-old son of Devil Anse, encountered Roseanna McCoy, Randolph’s daughter.. Three of Randolph McCoy’s sons ended up in a violent dispute with two brothers of Devil Anse.. What had been a local story was becoming a national legend.. The trial began in 1889, and in the end, eight of the Hatfields and their supporters were sentenced to life in prison.. Ellison Mounts, who was believed to be the son of Ellison Hatfield, was sentenced to death.

The family names have become such a part of our language that people sometimes forget there were two actual families called the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Those family names have become such a part of our language and national mythology people sometimes forget there were two actual families called the Hatfields and the McCoys, and they did, in fact, have a long-running and often incredibly violent feud that became legendary in its persistence and its regional character.. The Hatfields and McCoys lived along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River in what is now West Virginia (the Hatfields) and Kentucky (the McCoys) long before the former state existed as a separate entity.. Although the people living in Appalachia kept out of national politics for the most part, as reported by History Collection both the Hatfield and McCoy families were generally on the Confederate side when the Civil War broke out.. As reported by The Herald-Dispatch , in the late 1870s Hatfield patriarch William "Devil Anse" Hatfield sued a McCoy cousin over a land dispute.. Some time later, McCoy patriarch Randolph McCoy visited Floyd Hatfield's farm and spotted a pig that appeared to have a distinct McCoy family mark on its ear.. In 1880, Johnse Hatfield, son of family patriarch Devil Anse Hatfield, met Roseanna McCoy, Randolph McCoy's daughter.. According to History , the Hatfields and McCoys actually inspired Family Feud , one of the most famous game shows of all time.. Tourists love to visit places like Dils Cemetery in Pikeville to see the gravesite of McCoy patriarch Randolph McCoy (as well as his wife and daughter), the spot where Floyd Hatfield was put on trial for stealing a McCoy pig in the late 1870s—and the spot where three McCoy boys were tied to trees and executed in cold blood by vengeful Hatfields after the death of Ellison Hatfield.

<p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Feud-Hatfields-Appalachia-1860-1900-Morrison/dp/0807842168/ref=la_B000APRBOI_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1339521262&amp;sr=1-1"><img alt="" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51RbwTwfEUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg" style="width: 240px; height: 240px; float: left;"></a>Almost twenty-five years ago I finished writing my book on the violent conflict in Appalachia that came to define feuds everywhere.&nbsp;After ten years of research I thought I had clearly laid out what happened and why, at least as far as the historical documents allowed.&nbsp;I tried to cut through the myths and legends associated with this iconic event and bring it into the realm of a documentable historical event.&nbsp;Somewhat self-satisfied I went on to other projects, gratified by many reviewers’ comments that the book actually did reveal social roots of the violence in understandable if not condonable conflict over land, timber rights, and a changing way of life.&nbsp;Alas, the latest incarnation of the famous feud as portrayed in the Kevin Costner-produced made-for-TV movie has brought me down to earth with a resounding thump, for here are the old myths and legends fully intact.</p>

Although he avoids the old myth that the McCoys were Unionists and the Hatfields Confederates, he tells us that Anse Hatfield and Randal McCoy fought together for the South, but when Anse decided to go home and deserted, Randal never forgave him.. Even though Anse makes some attempts to stop it, the film gives the impression that the entire Hatfield clan was lined up on the West Virginia side of the river ready to annihilate all McCoys on the Kentucky side of the river.. Although most McCoys and Hatfields were Confederates, there is no evidence that I have found which supports a contention that Randal McCoy hated Anse Hatfield because of desertion from the army.. What this demonstrates is something that is not at all clear in the film, that there were McCoys supporting Anse Hatfield and Hatfields supporting Randal McCoy.. Agricultural families need lots of children to work the land and take care of household tasks; in this regard both Hatfield and McCoy families were typical in the large number of children -- thirteen in both Randal’s family and Devil Anse’s family.. Randal McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield of stealing his pig not because he was still angry about his brother’s death thirteen years before but because Floyd worked on Devil Anse’s timber crew.. What becomes very clear is that what, in Randal McCoy’s eyes, identified a member of the Hatfield group was not the Hatfield name but rather an affiliation with Devil Anse’s timber operation.. Selkirk McCoy, the McCoy who voted against Randal in the pig trial, worked on Anse’s timber crew along with his two sons.. Thus, the context that most helps to explain the feud is not the old rivalries of the Civil War but the agricultural crisis and rapid economic exploitation of the region occurring at exactly the same time as the events of the feud.

Having its roots in the Civil War, the feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families took place in the Appalachian Mountains along the West Virginia-Kentucky

Hatfield Family of West Virginia, 1897. The Hatfields of West Virginia were led by William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield who lived on the West Virginia side of Tug Fork, a tributary of the Big Sandy River in present-day Mingo County (formerly part of Logan County).. During the war, both William “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Randolph McCoy were part of the Confederate Home Guards called the Logan Wildcats.. In the fall of 1863, multiple Union guerilla attacks were made by the Kentucky Home Guard on the West Virginia side of the Tug River that were instigated by William H. Francis, Jr. “Bill France.” As a result, the Logan Wildcats surrounded Francis’ home in Pike County, Kentucky and Devil Anse killed him.. Baby Sarah died at the age of eight months from measles.. The authorities soon indicted 20 men, including Devil Anse and his sons, for the deaths of the McCoy brothers.. Using his political connections, Cline announced rewards for the arrest of the Hatfields, including Devil Anse.. Led by Cap Hatfield, Devil Anse’s son, and Jim Vance, the house was set on fire to drive Randolph McCoy into the open.. Afterward, the remaining McCoys moved to Pikeville, Kentucky to escape the West Virginia raiding parties.. Vance was killed when he refused to be arrested on January 10, 1988.. The Hatfield prisoners were then put on trial in 1889 with for the various crimes they had committed during the feud, mainly the murder of the Randall McCoy’s sons for killing Ellison Hatfield and the killing of one of his daughters during the New Year’s Massacre.. In the end, eight of the Hatfields were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, with the exception of Cottontop Ellison Mounts.. He died on January 6, 1921, in Stirrat, West Virginia at the age of 81 of pneumonia and was buried in the Hatfield Family Cemetery along West Virginia Route 44 in southern Logan County.. This is a self-guided tour that includes all of the sites of the feud, both in Kentucky and West Virginia.

Many Americans know the Hatfields and the McCoys were families that didn't like each other, but just how high was the animosity? Quite high.

Vance was the cousin of “Devil” Anse Hatfield, head of the prominent Hatfield family from neighboring West Virginia, and the murder he committed would turn out to be the start of one of the most famous blood feuds in history between the Hatfields and McCoys.. McCoy’s murder was a form of retribution for the role McCoy’s unit, the Pike County Home Guards, played in the shooting of a friend of Devil Anse.. That probably would have been the end of the Hatfields and McCoys feud if not for a hog.. Thirteen years after Harmon’s death, the family patriarch, Randolph McCoy, took the Hatfields to court for stealing one of his hogs.. Once again, that might have been the end of the Hatfields and McCoys feud.. Roseanna McCoy, daughter of Randolph McCoy, soon ran away from her home to live with Johnse Hatfield, the son of Devil Anse.. Obviously, the whole episode left even more bad blood between the Hatfields and McCoys.. A group of Hatfields serving as constables arrested the McCoy brothers and began marching them to nearby Pikeville to stand trial.. But before they got there, Devil Anse and a large group of armed men met the party and took the McCoys to West Virginia.. In 1886, Jeff McCoy killed a man named Fred Wolford, and Cap Hatfield, who served as a constable, was sent to pursue him.. On New Year’s Eve, 1888, Cap Hatfield and Jim Vance led a group of Hatfield men to the McCoy family cabin and set fire to it in the middle of the night.. Phillips and a party of McCoy men began pursuing the Hatfields and managed to corner and kill Jim Vance.. That was largely the end of the whole affair between the Hatfields and McCoys, though trials of those involved continued for years.. But the Hatfields and McCoys feud soon became a legendary part of Appalachian folklore and to this day is remembered as the bloodiest family rivalry in American history.

Everything you need to know to get up to speed on the story of the day The History Channel made its own history with "Hatfields & McCoys." The miniseries drew the biggest audience ever for a nonsports event—twice. More than a century later, the storied feud is as much about American mythology as it is [...]

The History Channel made its own history with " Hatfields & McCoys .". The Hatfields, headed by timber merchant William Anderson (aka Devil Anse), and the McCoys, whose patriarch Randolph "Old Randall" McCoy owned land and livestock, lived in Tug Valley within Kentucky and West Virginia.. 1865 : The militia group Logan Wildcats, which include Devil Anse, his uncle Jim Vance and other Hatfields, kills Asa Harmon McCoy, Randolph McCoy's brother.. 1878 : If there's a beginning, this would be it: Randolph McCoy accuses Devil Anse's cousin, Floyd Hatfield, of porcine theft.. The same year, Johnse Hatfield, son of Devil Anse, gets it on with Roseanna McCoy, daughter of Randolph.. 1889 : The Supreme Court rules that the Hatfields can be tried, and the trial ends with eight Hatfields and friends sentenced to life in prison.. Lawyer Cline, a distant cousin to Randolph McCoy, had lost 5,000 acres to his neighbor Devil Anse in court battles over the years.. Plans to build a railroad now made that lost Tug Valley property even more valuable, so Cline's motives for rounding up the Hatfields have been suspected as more a financial grudge than a real penchant for justice.. People searched online for "battle of grapevine," "hatfield and mccoys history," "hatfields and mccoys trails," "hatfield and mccoys pictures," "hatfield and mccoys family tree," "what started the hatfield and mccoy feud.". Sorry, Team McCoy: Hatfields had double the look-ups.. Most popular Hatfields and McCoys (Yahoo!. Kevin Costner Talks About His 'Hatfields & McCoys' Character, 'Devil' Anse Hatfield. Bill Paxton Talks About His 'Hatfields & McCoys' Character, Randall McCoy

For more than a century, the enduring feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys has been American shorthand for passionate, unyielding, and even violent confrontation. Yet despite numerous articles, books, television shows, and feature films, nobody has ever told the in-depth true story of this...

Gangly, on his way to six feet, Anse, whose mother called him Ansie, was always on the move, slipping adroitly through the trees, already with the signature Hatfield slouch in his gait.. As the buck topped the ridge of Big Pigeon Mountain, Anse took into account the distance and the rise, leveled the barrel of his gun considerably above it, and squeezed the trigger.. She told Big Eph that she was afraid that Anse was hurt.. He laughed when Nancy suggested that a bear might have attacked Anse.. But the next day, Nancy was even more worried that a bear might have gotten Anse, who, no matter how stout and sure of shot, was still just a boy.. Big Eph and their oldest son, seventeen-year-old Wall, rode over to Ben's Creek, to the east, where two Hatfield uncles lived, to see if Anse had stayed there or stopped by for a meal.. Following the buck's and dogs' trail along the top of the ridge, Anse lost track of time.. Caught between his missing dogs and his spilled shot, Anse did the same below.. Of the four sons of Joseph Hatfield's son Eph (known as "Eph of All"), three—Joseph, George, and Jeremiah—lived on the Kentucky side of the Tug, mostly in Pike County.. Only one, Valentine, Devil Anse's grandfather, settled on the West Virginia side.. They were first cousins descended from William McCoy, who in 1804, having been awarded two hundred acres of land in Virginia (now part of Kentucky) for service in the Revolutionary War, had settled in the Tug Valley.. Cousins Randall and Sally started out in Logan County but after a while moved across the river to Pike County, where they set out to build a life and a family on property given to them by her father.. Almost all of the Hatfields and McCoys on the Virginia side of the river stood with the Confederacy, and almost all of the Hatfields and McCoys on the Kentucky side went with the Union.


1. Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning: The Feud | History
2. Hatfields and McCoys New feud evidence unearthed
(Wendy Richardson)
3. How the Newspapers Covered the Hatfield-McCoy Feud | The Feud | American Experience | PBS
(American Experience | PBS)
4. Chapter 1 | The Feud | American Experience | PBS
(American Experience | PBS)
5. Dean King on His New Book "The Feud: The Hatfields & McCoys: The True Story."
(Newsmax TV)
6. Why did Hatfield & McCoy's have a feud?
(Think Harder)

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