and photos by Kathleen Walls
The Hatfield McCoy feud was too big for
one state to contain it all.
It raged along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River that
separates West Virginia from Kentucky. The Hatfields mainly
lived on the West Virginia side while Kentucky was home to most
of the McCoys but the families and the feud spilled back and
forth over the
|Papers on file at the Coal House
show both Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy were in
Some link it to a killing of Asa Harmon
McCoy, Randall McCoy's brother, on January 7, 1865. Asa had
joined the Union Army although Randall had fought for the
Confederacy and was in a Union Prison when Asa was shot. Devil
Anse Hatfield also was in the Confederate Army but deserted
after West Virginia became a
state (See more
here) and rejoined the Union. He still professed
Confederate sympathies. Most of the people in the Tug Fork area
were Confederate in their beliefs so Asa was considered a
traitor even by many of his own family.
Although a lot of people believe slavery was the main
cause of the Civil War, they do not realize that West Virginia
was a slave holding Union state as was Maryland and Kentucky.
|Portrait of Randall McCoy at the
Big Sandy Heritage Center
|Posed newspaper photo of
at Matewan Museum
Asa McCoy owned slaves
and while he was hiding out one of his slaves brought him
Vigilantes, called the Logan Wildcats and originally started by
William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield, tracked him by following
his slave's footprints in the snow. It is commonly believed
Devil Anse was not present at the shooting. His Uncle, Jim
Vance, was the likely shooter.
However, since over a dozen
years elapsed between
that and the next incident it seems improbable to consider this
the cause of the feud. Meantime, Devil Anse prospered due to his
timbering activities. He was often involved in land deals that
ended up in court. One such deal occurred when he acquired land
belonging to a young lawyer, Perry Cline. Cline was married to
Martha McCoy and his sister, Martha Cline, was married to Asa
Harmon McCoy. Cline was
so disgruntled by the loss of his land that he left West
Virginia and moved to Pike County Kentucky closer to the McCoy
Matewan Depot Museum
|Bill Richardson pointing out Bad
Frank Phillips at
an exhibit in the Matewan Depot
I am going to tell the story in a
chronological order but that will cause some doubling back to
visit the actual sites if you follow it that way. (Take note,
many of these sites will require walking on steep hills
so wear comfortable shoes.) There are many more twists and turns
to the tale but it would take a book to tell them all.
Matewan, which is featured in another
story of violence, has a wonderful little museum located in an
exact reproduction of the former depot that tells a lot of the
history of the feud. There are many photos of the family members
and news article from the era.
It is also a trail head on the Hatfield and McCoy ATV Trail.
This is a great way for ATV riders to get up close and personal
with the countryside and sites involved in the feud. If you do
not have an ATV there are several outfitters that rent them.
|An ATV on the Hatfield and McCoy Trail
The towns around the ATV Trail allow ATVs
on the streets so you can come down off the trail and dine,
sightsee or spend a night in one of the towns.
This was my first ATV ride and I loved it
but did get covered with mud. It's a good idea to wear something
that can be washed off easily and if you are going into town for
any length of time, you may want to bring a set of clean clothes
|The bullets found at the site of
the McCoy house
The Coal House which houses the Tug
Valley Chamber of Commerce was where my interest in the
Hatfields and McCoys found its focus. Bill Richardson, a
renowned Hatfield McCoy historian and filmmaker, met us there
and showed us some of the many artifacts related to the feud.
The most exciting are a group of shells found at the Randall
McCoy house shootout. These were unearthed when the show The
Pickers was filmed here. These were actual bullets fired by the
McCoys as the Hatfields attacked from the nearby hillside. Once
you visit the Coal House and see the many photos and artifacts
related to the story you will be drawn in as I was. It is almost
a magic carpet back to the era of the feud. The Coal House had
other historical significance as well
Bill Richardson offers tours of the
Hatfield and McCoy feud area if you wish a guided tour.
Pig Trial and Election
|Sign at the site of the Hog
Your next must see spot is the site of
the famous "Pig Trial." The cabin where the trail was held is in
Pike County, Kentucky at the intersection of Rt. 1056 and Rt.
319, about 4 mi. from Matewan, WV. It overlooks the Tug Fork.
The cabin which was also
Judge Anderson Hatfield's home is a faithful reproduction of the
original. The judge also known as "Preacher Anderson" to
distinguish him from his cousin, Devil Anse. In that time, the
cabin was also the local polling place for elections in Pike
County Kentucky. Elections were a cause for a big festival where
families from both sides of the river would gather for fun and
of what happened later had its beginnings here. In the fall of
1878, Randall McCoy claimed a pig in Floyd Hatfield's possession
was his based on his notch marks on the pig's ear. Floyd was a
cousin of Devil Anse Hatfield.
Preacher Anderson, wishing to remain impartial, appointed a jury
of six Hatfields and six McCoys to decide the case. At the
trial, Bill Staton, Floyd Hatfield's brother-in-law, testified
that he saw Floyd notch the pig in question's ear.
When the jury voted,
Selkirk McCoy, a nephew of Sarah McCoy, voted with the
Hatfields. He was employed by Devil Anse in his timbering
operation, possibly a factor in his vote.
|The site of the Hog Trial and
1880, Bill Staton paid the ultimate price for his testimony. He
was shot and killed by
Sam and Paris McCoy, Randall's nephews. The two boys were tried
and acquitted in a trial presided over by
Valentine Hatfield, uncle of Devil Anse.
"Hatfields & McCoys", a drama about the feud, is performed each year at
the Cliffside Amphitheater at Grandview, WV. Left
to right, Roseanna, Devil Anse, Randall and Cap, Anse's
At the same location on election day in
1880, another event fanned the flames. Johnson "Johnse"
Hatfield, Devil Anse's oldest son and a notorious ladies man among
the young ladies of the Tug Fork area, cast his eye on Roseanna
McCoy, Randall's 21 year old daughter. After spending just
one day together, Rosanna was in love and wished to marry.
Johnse claimed he also wanted to marry her and took Rosanna home
with him to his father's house. Devil Anse was not pleased but
allowed the couple
to remain. Johnse soon began to cast his wandering eye on other
young ladies and Rosanna found herself pregnant and
alone. She returned to the West Virginia side of the river but
her father would have nothing to do with her. She moved in with
her aunt Betti McCoy. Johnse continued to make clandestine
visits to see Rosanna while still romancing others which
infuriated her brothers. They captured Johnse and claimed they
were going to turn him in to Kentucky authorities for his
moonshining activities. Rosanna feared for his life. At that
point she was eight months pregnant and made a midnight ride to
ask Devil Anse to rescue Johnse while not harming her brothers.
Devil Anse complied and Johnse was rescued with no one killed.
But the fuse was still simmering. Johnse garnered additional
hatred by marrying Rosanna's 16 year old cousin, Nancy McCoy.
The next incident began at the same site
during the election on August 7, 1882. Ellison Hatfield, Devil
Anse's brother, got drunk and got into an argument with three of
Rosanne's brothers. The McCoy boys shot and stabbed
Ellison repeatedly. Ellison was brought home for his wife to
nurse. The McCoy brothers were arrested by Hatfield constables
who proceeded to take the prisoners to
Pikeville to stand
trial. Devil Anse and a party of Harfields intercepted the
constables and took the three McCoy boys into their own custody.
Paw Paw Shooting
Devil Anse had the McCoys held prisoner
on the West Virginia side of the river by some of the Hatfield
men until they knew the fate of Ellison.
On August 9, Ellison died of his wounds and Devil Anse
gave the orders. Pharmer, Tolbert and Randolph, Jr. were brought
to the banks of the Tug Fork and led across about six paces into
Kentucky. They were tied to small paw paw trees and shot to
several of the Hatfields were indicted by Kentucky authorities,
nothing happened. Most people believed it was justice and West
Virginia refused to extradite the Hatfields to Kentucky. Because
of the extradition problems, the feud lay mostly dormant for
You can see the place they were executed
from either side of the river. If you are on the Kentucky side
of the river there is a marker near Buskirk, KY on State Highway
1056. It is about a mile from Matewan.
Well and Homesite
|Randall McCoy's well. The home
was to the right rear and the
from the hillside to the left rear.
It is logical to believe Randall and the
other McCoys were enraged over this situation.
By now Perry Cline, the
lawyer who had lost his land to Devil Anse, had gained political
influence in Kentucky. He was able to influence the governor,
former Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner, by promising
and delivering the vote from Pike County. He offered rewards for
the capture of the Hatfields and authorized bounty hunter "Bad
Frank" Phillips and others to go into West Virginia after them.
Another factor that may have influenced Buckner was that at this
time as the industrial age needed the coal found in this region,
the railroads were coming into the Tug Fork area and
Buckner wanted it to appear a peaceful environment for business.
The Hatfield's, hearing of this new
development, decided to "finish off" the McCoys. Over a New
Years Eve celebration they hatched a plot to raid the McCoy
Randall's homestead is located on Hwy 319 in Pike County,
Kentucky. There is a highway marker that pinpoints the location.
When you visit it now, all that remains is the well. The
location of the house is marked and you can visualize the
firefight. The home was not the simple cabin used in the
miniseries, it was story and a half and had two large rooms
separated by a covered porch.
|Copy of the arrest Warrant for
located at the Big Sandy Heritage
It occurred on January 1, 1888. The
Hatfields raiders set
the house on fire in an attempt to smoke out Randall. Instead,
they ended up shooting Alifair, Randall's grown daughter, near
the well and his
teenage son, Calvin, as he tried to make the safety of the corn
crib. Randall's wife Sarah, was struck in the head by a gun butt
and severely injured.
Randall escaped and later moved the
remainder of his family to Pikeville.
Grapevine Creek, near present Matewan, on January 19.
Up until this time people had considered
the Hatfields somewhat justified for their killings. Now public
opinion swung away from them. The states of Kentucky and
Virginia almost went to war over Bad Frank and other bounty
hunters' incursions across the state line.
At one point, the Hatfields with a large
body of men met Bad Frank and his "deputies" at Grapevine Creek
and a gunfight erupted. No one was killed here but Bad Frank
continued a relentless pursuit. Nancy McCoy had left Johnse and
married Bad Frank.
Devil Anse Rock
For those of you who want to go far off
the beaten trail, you can visit Devil Anse Rock. It is about a
quarter mile off Double Camp Branch road near Newtown, Mingo
County, West Virginia at GPS coordinates 37 36.696 N 82 4.847 W
near the Ellison Hatfield Cemetery. The earliest burial dates to
1881, and is the grave of Ephraim Hatfield. The cemetery
contains 21 burials including Ellison and Elias Hatfield,
brothers of "Devil Anse" Hatfield
It was at Devil Anse Rock that Bad Frank
and his men tracked and found Jim Vance and Cap Hatfield.
Philips killed Vance with a point blank shot.
Chief Logan State Park
|The logs from
Valentine Hatfield's cabin at the museum in
Logan State Park. There are plans for the
be reconstructed at the park
Many of the Hatfields saw the way things
were headed. In 1888, Valentine Hatfield, Devil Anse's brother
and the judge who had acquitted Sam and Paris McCoy, and seven
others were arrested by a posse led by Frank Phillips and
returned to Kentucky to stand trial for the murder of Alifair
Soon you will be able to see Valentine's
cabin formerly located on Beech Creek. The cabin was
disassembled and the logs are now at Chief Logan State Park,
where it is going to be
rebuilt and used as a museum.
Because due process had been ignored
and illegal extradition
preformed, the case went all the way to the United States
Supreme Court (Mahon v. Justice, 127 U.S. 700 (1888)). However
they ruled 7 to 2 in
favor of Kentucky. that, "even if a fugitive is returned from
the asylum state illegally instead of through lawful extradition
procedure, no federal law prevents him from being tried in that
Eight members of the Hatfield clan were
tried in Kentucky. they were all found guilty. Ellison
"Cottontop" Mounts, Ellison Hatfield's mentally handicapped
illegitimate son, was executed by hanging on
February 18, 1890 The other seven including
Valentine Hatfield, received life imprisonment. Valentine died
in prison in Feb 1890. Anse made no move to rescue Cottontop or
any of the imprisoned members of the clan. For the most part,
Cotton Top's death marked the end
of the feud.
A sign on a hillside of Pikeville College
campus in Kentucky marks the site of Cottontop's execution. As
in the miniseries, Cottontop did cry out "the Hatfields made me
do it" just before he was hung as portrayed in the miniseries.
|Devil Anse's grave at the
Anse died of pneumonia on
Jan 6, 1921 having
outlived Randall who died Mar 28, 1914. Randall suffered most in
the feud, losing five of his children to violence. Roseanne died
supposedly "of a broken heart" in 1889, just before her 30th
birthday. Medical records as to cause of death were skimpy then
but "died of a broken heart" was a common euphemism for suicide.
Even Randall's death was more painful. He
caught fire while lighting a fireplace and died from burns.
The Hatfield Cemetery is real must see
even though it is located a steep hill accessed by a rocky path.
It is located off Hwy 44 near New Town, West Virginia. Devil
Anse's grave is marked with a life sized stature made in Italy
from Carrara marble at a cost of around $3500. Johnse is buried
next to his father. Before his death, Anse became a Christian
and was baptized. Legends claim when he was dunked into to the
creek, the water around him boiled.
The Big Sandy Heritage
|Exhibit at the Big Sandy
Heritage Center about the feud
Located in Pike county Kentucky, the
center is housed in the historic railroad station in downtown
Pikeville. It's a good place to visit to learn about the feud.
Everett Johnson, the musuem's longtime curator, is a fountain of
knowledge about not only the famous feud but all things related
to Pikeville's history. The museum is a gem.
A trip like this can be planned to take
in so much activities on both sides of the state line and you
will find many other activities in both West Virginia and
Kentucky no matter your interests.
This Tour Map from Pikeville CVB
is very helpful finding
the sites in my article as well as may other relevant ones.