A Brief History of the Hatfield Mccoy Feud

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If you have ever gone on one of the popular ATV tours in West Virginia, then you are probably familiar with the Hatfield-McCoy trails. Aside from being an off-highway vehicle trail that is well-known to both tourists and locals, this trail system carries with it a famous story in relation to its name.

Known as a local story that turned into one of the most talked about national legends, the Hatfield-McCoy feud, also known as the Hatfield-McCoy war, is a series of vicious altercations that resulted in vengeful retaliation and several deaths.

It all dates way back to the 1800s, where two families that lived on opposite sides of the Big Sandy River existed. On the West Virginia side was the Hatfield clan, led by the successful timber merchant William “Devil Anse” Anderson Hatfield. Meanwhile, the Kentucky side of the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River was occupied by the McCoys. Their leader or patriarch, known as Randolph McCoy, was not as rich as the Hatfield head, but he did own some land and livestock.

While some people say that the feud started with the death of Asa Harmon McCoy at the end of the civil war, others believe that this was an isolated incident. Because while a Hatfield who was associated with the Logan Wildcats was blamed for this, the series of violent fights erupted due to a dispute over a hog. You might think that this is trivial, but a pig was a valuable commodity in their region, during those times. In this dispute, Randolph McCoy accused a Hatfield (Floyd) of stealing his pig. This led to a court trial where Floyd Hatfield was eventually acquitted on account of Bill Staton’s (a McCoy relative) testimonial. Years later, Bill Staton was killed in an altercation with two members of the McCoy family, both of which were acquitted on grounds of self-defense.  

After these, a series of violent clashes followed suit. One involved a whirlwind romance between a McCoy (Roseanna) and a Hatfield (Johnse). The relationship ended on a sour note, causing further anger on the McCoy side as Johnse Hatfield left Roseanna for yet another McCoy.

Finally, accounts from local historians regard the local elections dispute as one of the turning points of this great family feud.  Some family members of the McCoys and Hatfields got into a standoff which ended in the latter clan having a bounty over their heads.  This then led to the brutal New York Massacre as Hatfields killed Randolph McCoy’s wife and children in retaliation for the bounty set over their heads. Hatfields involved were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, with one of them being publicly executed.

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