The Hatfields and McCoys


For the record, I have no beef with anyone named McCoy even though it appears that I have a number of Hatfields sitting in my family tree. In fact, Ephraim “Eff of All” Hatfield, the progenitor of the clan, is a 5th great-grandfather of my niece’s husband. 

The infamous feud between these two established families who were separated by the Big Sandy River which ran between Kentucky (the Mccoys) and West Virginia (the Hatfields) seems to be traced back to the Civil War. Though both families primarily aligned themselves with the Confederacy, Asa Harmon McCoy opted to fight for the Union. While at home, recuperating from a wound he received in battle, Asa was murdered. While no one was ever charged, the rumors persisted that Devil Anse Hatfield and his Logan Wildcats (a local militia group) were behind it.

A number of years later, the Hatfields and McCoys were involved over a land dispute that was decided in favor of the Hatfields. This was shortly followed by a trial involving the ownership of a hog… again the Hatfields were victorious. By then, the rancor had set in. Violence was not far behind.

In 1882, three McCoys had a violent argument with 2 Hatfield boys. Ellison Hatfield was stabbed 27 times then shot in the back. While the McCoys were apprehended by authorities, they were subsequently taken by the Hatfield clan who secreted them across the Tug Fork into their land, tied them to some pawpaw bushes and waited to see if Ellison would survive. He didn’t. The Hatfields then executed the three bound McCoys by shooting them over 50 times.

After that, things quickly escalated, resulting in warrants, ambushes on both sides, multiple murders, political intervention, and trials, including a US Supreme Court hearing. On June 14, 2003 descendants from both the McCoy and the Hatfield clans signed a joint declaration proclaiming an end to the feud as a symbolic gesture of peace.

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