The Hatfield & McCoy Feud
Tonight, the History Channel airs part 3 of their record breaking miniseries, Hatsfields & McCoys. Have you been watching the series about the vicious and violent clash between the Hatfield and McCoy families? The bitter feud between the Hatfields, headed by Devil Anse Hatfield, and the McCoys, whose head patriarch was Randolph “Ole Ran” McCoy, has made a lasting impression in American folklore.
The Hatfield Clan
The origins of the feud can be traced back to the murder of Harmon McCoy, who was killed on January 7, 1865. Jim Vance, uncle to Devil Anse Hatfield, despised Harmon for joining the Union Army during the American Civil War. Although Jim was suspected in Harmon’s murder, no one was ever brought to trial.
In 1878, the feud was brought into the courtroom over the ownership of a pig. Floyd Hatfield believed it belonged to him since the pig was on their land. However, Randolph McCoy stood firm that the pig belonged to him. The McCoys lost the case due to the testimony of Bill Staton, a relative of both families. A couple of years later, Bill was killed by two McCoy brothers, Sam and Paris, who were later acquitted.
The feud escalated after Roseanna McCoy began a relationship with Johnse Hatfield, Devil Anse’s son. She briefly left her family to live with the Hatfields, but returned soon afterwards. However, when the couple tried to resume their relationship, Johnse was captured by the McCoys. He was rescued by Devil Anse after being alerted by Roseanna. Johnse eventually abandoned a pregnant Roseanna and married her cousin Nancy McCoy in 1881.
In 1888, Ellison Hatfield, brother to Devil Anse, was killed by Randolph McCoy’s sons, Tolbert, Pharmer and Randolph “Bud” Jr. The McCoy brothers were then murdered in turn. The feud’s violence peaked with the 1888 New Years Night Massacre. Several members of the Hatfield gang opened fire on the McCoy home and set it ablaze. Two of McCoy’s children were murdered.
The families ultimately agreed to stop fighting in 1891, ending the vicious feud. Check out the Hatfield McCoy Feud project on Geni to learn more about the members of the feuding families, from their earliest known roots to their present day descendants. Are you related to the Hatfields or McCoys?