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Hatfield–McCoy Feud

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  • Rachel E. Smith (1754 - 1858)
    Find A Grave Memorial # 11340363. Submitted by Helen L (Smith) Hoke Deposition of Rachel Hatfield to obtain widow's Rev. War pension: "In order to obtain the benefit of the third section of the act...
  • Rebecca Hatfield (1871 - d.)
  • Johnson "Johnse" Hatfield (1862 - 1922)
    Roseanna McCoy's old lover Johnse Hatfield was convicted and sentenced to prison. In a twist of fate, Johnse's wife, Nancy McCoy, divorced him and married Frank Phillips, the special officer appointed ...
  • Elias M. Hatfield (1878 - 1911)
    For more pictures, go to the Media section. Spouse: Mary Harriet Holland-Hatfield Stemple (1888 - 1962). Detroit "Troy" Hatfield and his brother Elias both became involved in the saloon business in...
  • Levisa Hatfield (1842 - 1929)
    WV death certificate #4665 gives Levisa's cause of death as Myocarditis. The informant was Mrs. Logan Hatfield. Birth: Dec. 20, 1842 Pike County Kentucky, USA Death: Mar. 15, 1929 Stirrat Logan C...

This project is to trace the Hatfield and McCoy families back to their earliest known roots, focusing on the descendants involved in the famous feud, and notable descendants up to the present.


  • Earliest known ancestors: Ephraim Hatfield b. c.1765; William McCoy b. c.1750
  • Heads of clans: William Anderson Devil Anse Hatfield; Randolph Ole Ran'l McCoy


Additional Reading:


The Hatfield–McCoy feud (1878–1891) involved two warring families of the West Virginia–Kentucky backcountry along the Tug Fork, off the Big Sandy River. Those involved in the feud descended from Ephraim Hatfield (born c. 1765) and William McCoy (born c. 1750). The event has entered American folklore as a metaphor for bitterly feuding rival parties in general.


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 (also called the Grand Horse 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. He 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.

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:
* Valentine "Uncle Wall" Hatfield, the elder brother of Devil Anse, was overshadowed by Devil Anse'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.
  • William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield, the younger, more militant brother of the eldest Hatfield, Valentine, led the clan in most of their combative endeavors.
   * 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 and 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).

The feud: Beginning

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 fatally.

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. The pig was only in the fight because some of the Hatfields believed that since the pig was on their land, 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. [edit] Escalation

The feud escalated after Roseanna McCoy began a relationship 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 her 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".

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 Randolph 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. 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.

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.


Assassinated police chief Sid Hatfield, Washington State Senator Brian Hatfield and singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield are descendants of the Hatfield family.

Clyde McCoy, a famous jazz trumpet player from the 1930s and 1940s was a descendant of the McCoy family.

Shaun McCoy and Marty McCoy from the metal band Bobaflex are descendants of 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.


  • 1865: Former Union soldier Asa Harman McCoy killed January 7, 1865 probably by the 'Logan Wildcats' led by Jim Vance.
  • 1878: Bill Staton (nephew of Randolph McCoy was killed in 1878 as revenge for testifying for Floyd Hatfield in his trial for stealing a McCoy hog.
  • 1880: Ellison Hatfield was killed from wounds received from Tolbert, Pharmer and Randolph McCoy, Jr. on election day in the spring of 1880 (he died in 1882).
  • 1882: Tolbert McCoy tied to pawpaw trees & killed as revenge for Ellison Hatfield's 1880 election day shooting/stabbing on August 9, 1882, the day Ellison died.
  • 1882: Pharmer McCoy tied to pawpaw trees & killed as revenge for Ellison Hatfield's 1880 election day shooting/stabbing on August 9, 1882, the day Ellison died.
  • 1882: Randolph McCoy Jr. tied to pawpaw trees & killed as revenge for Ellison Hatfield's 1880 election day shooting/stabbing on August 9, 1882, the day Ellison died.
  • 1886: 'Jeff' killed fall of 1886 following his murder of Fred Wolford.[16]
  • 1888: Alifair 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.
  • 1888: 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.
  • 1889: Ellison Mounts was hanged on February 18, 1889 for Alifair's murder.