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The Hatfield clan in 1897.
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 folklore 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.

Those involved in the feud descended from Ephraim Hatfield (born c. 1765) and William McCoy (born c. 1750).


Family origins

The McCoys, led by Randolph "Ole Ran’l" McCoy (grandson of William), lived mostly on the Kentucky side of Tug Fork (a tributary of the Big Sandy River), and the Hatfields, led by William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield (great-grandson of Ephraim), lived mostly on the West Virginia side. Both families were part of the first wave of pioneers to settle the Tug Valley. The majority of the Hatfields living in Mingo County (in what would eventually become West Virginia), fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. The majority of the McCoys living in Pike County, Kentucky fought for the Union army. The first real violence in the feud was the murder of a returning Union soldier, Asa Harmon McCoy. Harmon was killed by a group of ex-Confederates Homeguard called the "Logan Wildcats." "Devil Anse" Hatfield was a suspect at first, but was later confirmed to have been at home, sick, at the time of the murder. However, it was widely believed that his uncle Jim Vance, a member of the Wildcats, committed the murder.[1]

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 major participants


Hatfield clan

  • William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield, the younger, more militant brother of eldest Hatfield, Valentine, led the clan in most of their combative endeavors.
  • Valentine "Uncle Wall" Hatfield, the elder brother of "Devil Anse" was overshadowed by Anderson's ambitions but was one of the eight convicted to end the feud. He died in prison of unknown causes. He had petitioned his brothers to assist in his emancipation from jail, but none came for fear of being captured and brought to trial. He was buried in the prison cemetery which has since been paved over.
  • Doc D Mahon, son-in-law of Valentine and brother of Pliant, was one of the eight convicted to end the feud. He served 14 years in prison before returning home to live with his son Melvin.
  • Pliant Mahon, son-in-law of Valentine, brother of Doc, was one of the eight convicted to end the feud. He served 14 years in prison before returning home to rejoin his ex-wife who had remarried (she left her second husband to be with Pliant again).

Corey Hatfield - Decendent of the above.

McCoy clan

The feud


Asa Harmon McCoy was murdered on January 7, 1865. Jim Vance, the uncle of Devil Anse Hatfield, despised Harmon because he had joined the Union army during the American Civil War. Harmon was discharged from the army early because of a broken leg. He returned home to a warning from Vance that Harmon could expect a visit from Devil Anse's Wildcats. Frightened by gunshots as he drew water from his well, Harmon hid in a nearby cave, supplied with food and necessities each day by his slave, Pete. But the Wildcats followed Pete's tracks in the snow, discovered Harmon and shot him dead.

At first, Devil Anse Hatfield was the prime suspect. Later, after finding the Wildcats' leader had been confined to his bed, the guilt turned squarely on Vance. But in an area where Harmon's military service was an act of disloyalty, even Harmon's own family believed he had brought his murder on himself. In the end, the case died with no suspect brought to trial.

The second recorded instance of violence in the feud occurred thirteen years later, in 1878, after a dispute about the ownership of a hog: Floyd Hatfield had it and Randolph McCoy said it was his.[2] The pig was only in the fight because some of the Hatfields believed that since the pig was on their land, that meant it was theirs. Some of the McCoys objected, saying the "notches" (markings) on the pig's ears were McCoy marks, not Hatfield marks. 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. 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.


The feud escalated after Roseanna McCoy began an affair with Johnson "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 arrested by the McCoys on outstanding Kentucky bootlegging warrants. He was freed from McCoy custody only when Roseanna made a desperate midnight ride to alert Devil Anse Hatfield, who organized a rescue party. The Hatfield party surrounded the McCoys and took Johnse back to West Virginia before he could be transported to the county seat, Pikeville, Kentucky, for justice the next day.

Despite what was seen as a betrayal of her family on his behalf, Johnse thereafter abandoned the pregnant Roseanna, marrying instead his cousin Nancy McCoy in 1881.

The escalation continued in 1882 when Ellison Hatfield, brother of "Devil Anse" Hatfield, was killed by three of Roseanna McCoy's young brothers: Tolbert, Pharmer, and Bud. Ellison was stabbed 26 times and finished off with a shot during an election day fight that took place in Kentucky. The McCoy brothers were initially arrested by Hatfield constables and were being taken to Pikeville for trial. Devil Anse Hatfield organized a large group of followers and cut off the constables with McCoy prisoners in tow before they reached Pikeville. The brothers were taken by force to West Virginia to await the fate of mortally wounded Ellison Hatfield. When Ellison finally died from his injuries the McCoy brothers were themselves murdered in turn as the vendetta escalated. They were tied to pawpaw bushes, where each was shot numerous times. Their bodies were described as "bullet-riddled".[citation needed]

The escalation reached its peak during the 1888 New Years Night Massacre. Several of the Hatfield gang surrounded the McCoy cabin and opened fire on the sleeping family. The cabin was set on fire in an effort to drive Randal McCoy into the open. He escaped by making a break but two of his children were murdered and his wife was beaten and left for dead. The remaining McCoy family moved to Pikeville to escape the West Virginia raiding parties.

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[citation needed] The Governor of West Virginia once even threatened to have his militia invade Kentucky. Kentucky Governor S.B. Buckner in response sent his Adjutant General to Pike County to investigate the situation.

In 1888, Wall Hatfield and eight others were arrested by a posse led by Frank Phillips, and brought to Kentucky to stand trial for the murder of Alifair McCoy who was killed during the New Years Massacre.[3] She had been shot after exiting the burning house. Because of issues of due process and illegal extradition, the United States Supreme Court became involved (Mahon v. Justice, 127 U.S. 700 (1888)). The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kentucky. Eventually the men were tried in Kentucky and all were found guilty. Seven received life imprisonment, while the eighth, Ellison "Cottontop" Mounts, was executed by hanging.[4] Thousands attended the hanging in Pikeville, Kentucky.

The feud ends

The families finally agreed to stop the fighting in 1891. The trial of Johnse Hatfield was the last of the feud trials. It took place in 1901.

In 1979, the two families united for a special week's taping of the popular game show Family Feud, in which they played for a cash prize and a pig which was kept on stage during the games.[5]

On June 14, 2003, on the initiative of Reo Hatfield, an actual peace treaty was drawn up and signed in Pikeville by representatives of the two families, even though the feud had ended over a century before. The idea was symbolic: to show that Americans could bury their differences and unite in times of crisis, most notably following the September 11 attacks.[6]


Assassinated police chief Sid Hatfield and singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield[7] are descendants of the Hatfield family.

Bobaflex, a rock band formed in the 1990s, has two frontmen, brothers Shaun and Marty McCoy, who have ancestral ties to the McCoys. Medical researchers have discovered that many McCoys suffer from the autosomal dominant Von Hippel-Lindau disease, with approximately 75% of them having tumors on their adrenal glands. This has led to speculation that symptoms of this disease caused some of the violent tendencies manifested by McCoys during the feud.[8]


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. In 2004 a large project known as the "Hatfield and McCoy historic site restoration" was completed. This project was funded by a federal grant from the SBA. Many improvements to various feud sites were completed. A committee of local historians spent months researching reams of information to find the factual history of the events surrounding the feud. This research was compiled in an audio CD called the "Hatfield - McCoy Feud Driving Tour". The CD is a self guided driving tour of the restored feud sites. It includes maps and pictures as well as the audio CD. (see external link below)

Bo McCoy, a college student, organized a joint reunion of the Hatfield and McCoy gangs in 2000 which attained national attention; more than 5000 persons attended the reunion dubbed "The Reunion of the Millennium".[9]

Additionally, an entire recreation area, the 500 mile (800 km) Hatfield-McCoy Trails system, has been created around the theme of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud.[10]


  • [1] 1865: Former Union soldier Asa Harman McCoy killed January 7, 1865 probably by the 'Logan Wildcats' led by Jim Vance.[11]
  • [2] 1878: Bill Staton (nephew of Randolph McCoy - not shown on family tree) was killed in 1878 as revenge for testifying for Floyd Hatfield in his trial for stealing a McCoy hog.[12]
  • [3] 1880: Ellison Hatfield was killed from wounds received on election day in the spring of 1880 (he died in 1882).[13]
  • [4] 1882: Tolbert, Pharmer & Randolph McCoy Jr. tied to pawpaw trees & killed August 9, 1882 (the day of Ellison's death) as revenge for Ellison Hatfield's 1880 election day shooting/stabbing.[14]
  • [5] 1886: 'Jeff' killed fall of 1886 following his murder of Fred Wolford.[15]
  • [6] 1888: Alifair & Calvin McCoy killed January 1, 1888 at Randolph's house by 9 attackers led by Jim Vance. The attackers failed in their attempt to eliminate witnesses against them.[16]
  • 1889: Ellison Mounts was hanged on February 18, 1889 for Alifair's murder.[4]

Numbers in square brackets are cross references to names on the family trees below.

Hatfield family tree

Names in red indicate those who were killed as a direct result of the feud.[17]
Names in blue highlight intermarriages between Hatfield and McCoy.
Numbers in square brackets are cross references to the timeline in the "Deaths" section above

with Mary with Anna
Ephraim Hatfield
b. c1765
m. Mary Smith Goff
m. Anna M. Musick Bundy
b. 1789
m. Martha Weddington
b. 1804
m. Nancy Whitt
b. 1805
m. Rachel Vance
(Big Eaf)
b. 1811
m. Nancy Vance
(Deacon Anse)
b. 1835
m. Polly Runyan
b. c1840
m. Nancy Lowe
(Bad 'Lias)
b. 1853
m. Jane Chafin
b. 1858
m. Anne Pinson
m. Jenny Hunt
b. 1838
m. Elizabeth McCoy
(Uncle Wall)
b. 1834
m. Jane Maynard
b. 1838
(Devil Anse)
b. 1839
m. Lavicy Chafin
b. c1842
m. Sarah Staton {daughter of Nancy McCoy{below}
(Good 'Lias)
b. 1848
m. Elizabeth Chafin
b. 1862
m. Plyant Mahon
Ellison Mounts Dr. Henry D.
b. 1875
m. S.C. Bronson
b. 1862
m. Nancy McCoy
m. Rebecca Browning
m. Roxie Browning
m. Nettie Toler
Wm. Anderson
b. 1864
m. Nancy Glenn
Robt E. Lee
b. 1867
m. Mariah Wolford
b. 1869
m. John Vance
m. Charlie Mullens
Elliott Rutherford
b. 1872
m. Margaret Shindler
b. 1873
m. Frank Howe
b. 1875
m. John Caldwell
b. 1878
m. Peggy Simple
b. 1881
m. Pearl
b. 1883
m. Grace Ferrell
b. 1885
m. Marion Browning
Willis Wilson
b. 1888
m. Lakie Maynor
m. Ida Chafin
b. 1890
m. Lettie Hunter
m. Sadie Walters
m. Margaret

Family genetics

The male members of the family may have belonged to Y chromosome haplogroup E1b1b Ysearch user 3AC8Z is a descendant, and the family participates in the Hatfield DNA surname project. (Kit number 79827 is descended from Ephraim Hatfield.)

McCoy family tree


Names in red indicate those who were killed as a direct result of the feud.
Names in blue highlight intermarriages between Hatfield and McCoy. Numbers in square brackets are cross references to the timeline in the "Deaths" section above

}}1982 William Arthur Sargent/Theresa Lorena Bobel

William McCoy
b. c1750
b. c1782
m. Elizabeth (Davis?)
b. 1790
m. Margaret Taylor
b. 1788
m. Margaret Jackson
b. c1810
m. Eleanor Burress
b. c1811
m. Mary Buress
b. c1823
m. Betty Blankenship
b. 1829
m. 1st cousin
b. 1825
m. 1st cousin
*Asa Harmon[1]
b. c1828
m. Martha Kline
b. c1809
m. Wm Staton
b. c1830
m.Louisa Williamson
b. c1838
Ephraim Hatfield
Mary M
b. 1851
m. Bill Daniels
b. 1853
m. Elizabeth Vance
m. Ruth Christian
b. 1856-d.1937
m. Mary Coleman.
*Louis Jefferson[5]
b. 1859
Asa H
b. c1862
b. c1865
m. Johnse Hatfield
m. Frank Phillips
b. c1844
m. *Ellison[3] Hatfield
*William Staton[2]
b. c1852
Lorenzo Dow
b. c1852
m. Phoebe
Frank McCoy
m. America Hatfield
granddaughter of *Ellison[3] Hatfield
Elliott Hatfield
m.Mathilda Christian
parents of America Hatfield wife of Frank McCoy
b. c1850
James H.
(Uncle Jim)
b. c1851
m. Malissa Smith
b. 1853
m. Mary Rutherford
b. 1854
m. Mary Butcher
b. 1855
m. Martha Jackson
b. c1856
b. 1857
b. 1858
Rose Anna
b, 1859
b. c1862
b. c1863
*Randolph Jr.[4]
b. c1864
b. c1866
b. c1868
m. William Thompson
b. 1870
b. 1873
m. Roland Charles


The 1923 Buster Keaton comedy Our Hospitality centers around the "Canfield-McKay feud," a thinly disguised fictional version of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.

The 1946 Disney cartoon short, The Martins and the Coys, was another very thinly disguised caricature of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.

In 1949, the feature film Roseanna McCoy tells the story of the romance between the title character, played by Joan Evans, and Johnse Hatfield, played by Farley Granger.[18] In 1975, a television movie titled The Hatfields and the McCoys retells the feud.[19]

The two feuding families on Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud are called Hatfield and McCoy.[20]

The West Virginia native Heavy Metal band Byzantine feature a song titled "Hatfield" on their debut album The Fundamental Component. The theme of the song is forgetting your family's past so you can move forward.

The Hatfield-McCoy feud is also said to be the inspiration for a long-running game show, Family Feud.

Ann Rinaldi authored a book, The Coffin Quilt, on the subject of this famed American feud.

There was a Scooby-Doo episode involving the Hatfields and McCoys, in which the Hatfields have ended up living in the McCoys' cabin after their own cabin was washed away in a storm. They are haunted by the ghost of Old Witch McCoy, a woman executed for witchcraft years before, until the gang unmasks her as one of a pair of bank robbers who have come to the area to find their loot.


  1. ^ Pearce p. 59-60.
  2. ^ Hatfield-McCoy Feud, Beckley Post-Herald August 7, 1957.
  3. ^ Rice p. 70.
  4. ^ a b Rice p. 111.
  5. ^ Game Show Network airs milestone episodes, including Hatfield-McCoy battle.[1]
  6. ^ CBS news report on the treaty between the families.[2]
  7. ^ In My Room: Juliana Hatfield, SPIN August 2008.
  8. ^ "Hatfield-McCoy feud blamed on ‘rage’ disease". 2007-04-05. Retrieved 2007-04-05. 
  9. ^ The Hatfield-McCoy reunion on About:genealogy.
  10. ^ Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Area on
  11. ^ Rice p. 13.
  12. ^ Rice p. 17.
  13. ^ Rice pp. 24, 27.
  14. ^ Rice p. 28.
  15. ^ Rice pp. 33–35.
  16. ^ Rice pp. 62–63.
  17. ^ a b Rice (inside rear cover).
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^

Further reading

  • Rice, Otis K (1982). The Hatfields and McCoys. The University Press of Kentucky. pp. 150 pages. ISBN 0-8131-1459-4. 
  • Pearce, John Ed (1994). Days of Darkness: The Feuds of Eastern Kentucky. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 227 pages. ISBN 0813118743. 
  • U.S. Supreme Court Mahon v. Justice, 127 U.S. 700 (1888)
  • Jones, Virgil Carrington. The Hatfields and the McCoys. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1948.
  • Waller, Altina L. Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860–1900. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. ISBN 0807842168

External links


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