Land of the Hatfields and McCoys

It was a fight over land -- and family honor. Revisit the places where the Hatfields and McCoys fought to the bloody end on both sides of the Tug River Valley, between West Virginia and Kentucky.
By: Lisa Singh
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Photo By: West Virginia Division of Tourism

Photo By: Natalie Young

Photo By: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library, Wikimedia Commons

Photo By: Vicki Pinson

Photo By: Natalie Young

Photo By: Natalie Young

Photo By: Natalie Young

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Photo By: David Gore

Photo By: David Gore

Photo By: David Gore

Photo By: Natalie Young

Photo By: Wesley Blaine Wilson

Photo By: Pikeville Historic Mansion

Photo By: West Virginia Division of Tourism

Photo By: Natalie Young

Photo By: David Gore

Hatfield-McCoy Patriarchs

Meet the patriarchs from each side of the infamous feud: "Devil Anse" Hatfield (left) and "Randall" McCoy (right). Devil Anse would lose a brother and nephew to the violence, Randall would lose five children. Numerous other kin died on both sides. The root cause of the conflict was money, jealousy -- and a desire for revenge.

Tug River Valley

The Tug River separated the Hatfields from the McCoys, as well as West Virginia from Kentucky. Hatfield (of West Virginia) built one of the most successful timber businesses in the valley. McCoy (of Kentucky) was not as lucky. Animosities grew in 1872 when Devil Anse Hatfield won 5,000 acres of land in court that had previously belonged to Randall McCoy’s cousin. McCoy was furious.

Floodwall, Tug Fork River

This floodwall in Matewan, WV, notes the years of the feud: 1878-1890. The first real violence between the families was the murder of a veteran Union soldier, Asa Harmon McCoy. Initially, Devil Anse Hatfield’s uncle was a suspect. Thirteen years later, in 1878, tensions between the Hatfields and McCoys grew over the disputed ownership of a hog. The McCoys lost based on the testimony of a local man, Bill Staton -- he was later killed by two McCoy boys.

Hatfield-McCoy Love Match

This feud wouldn’t be complete without a tragic love story. Randall McCoy’s daughter, Roseanna, fell in love with Devil Anse Hatfield’s son, Johnse, at an Election Day event in 1881. Soon after, Roseanna became pregnant with Johnse’s child. But Johnse didn’t stick around for long. Roseanna’s baby died of measles at 8 months; 6 months later Johnse married Roseanna’s first cousin. Roseanna died several years later -- no one knows of what -- but some say she died of a broken heart. Here, a shot of the baby's gravesite in Pike County, Kentucky.

Election Day Fight

Tensions between the families exploded in August 1882 on this spot -- in Pike County, KY, at the intersection of Rt. 1056 and Rt. 319. On Election Day, Ellison Hatfield (brother of Devil Anse) was stabbed 26 times by 3 McCoy boys, then finished off with a bullet to the back. More blood would soon be spilled.

Pawpaw Massacre

Ellison Hatfield died an agonizing death after three long days -- and soon the three McCoy boys would pay the price here, along the Tug River, off Route 1056 in Buskirk, Kentucky. They were tied by Hatfield kin to pawpaw trees and shot multiple times. Witnesses described their bodies as "bullet-riddled." The Hatfields weren't through with the McCoys...

New Year's Night Massacre

In the dark, remaining hours of 1887, members of the Hatfield clan surrounded Randall McCoy’s cabin in Hardy, Kentucky, and set it on fire. Randall escaped, but two of his children were murdered and his wife was beaten with a rifle butt. (All that remains of the cabin is this well.) The horror of that night led Randall’s cousin (the guy who lost 5,000 acres to the Hatfields years before) to hire a posse led by "Bad" Frank Phillips -- and bring the Hatfields to justice in Kentucky.

Old Courthouse and Jail

In 1888, seven Hatfields stood trial in this courthouse on Main Street in Pikeville, Kentucky. All were sentenced to life imprisonment. But someone had to pay the ultimate price. That scapegoat turned out to be an 8th Hatfield, Ellison Mounts. Despite a mental impairment, he was hanged before a crowd of thousands in Pikeville. The year was 1890, and the Hatfield-McCoy feud had finally ended, leaving 12 people dead.

Hatfield Cemetery Entrance

So, which family won the feud? That question was settled -- once and for all -- nearly a century later, in 1979, when both sides appeared on the game show Family Feud... the Hatfields beat the McCoys 301-227. Later, in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, both families symbolically authored an official truce. Today, an annual reunion is held the second weekend in June in Pikeville, Kentucky, Matewan and Williamson, W.V. Pictured here is the Hatfield Cemetery, located along West Virginia Route 44.

Devil Anse Hatfield Statue

The centerpiece of the Hatfield Cemetery is this life-size statue of Devil Anse, who died of pneumonia at the age of 81. The statue was commissioned by his 13 children shortly after his death in 1921, and erected in 1926. It’s made of Carrara marble from Italy, with Devil Anse’s likeness based on old photographs and physical descriptions of the patriarch's 5-foot-9-inch frame.

Matewan Historic District

This street sign in Matewan, W.V., bears the names of the two families. In the decades following the famous family feud, Matewan’s historic district was the site of another violent chapter: the Matewan Massacre, a 1920 shootout between local miners and the law. This time, a Hatfield was on the side of the law: Matewan’s police chief was Sid Hatfield. The district also includes the Matewan Depot, where you'll find old photographs of the Hatfields and McCoys.

The Matewan Depot

Explore the Hatfield-McCoy feud at the Matewan Depot. The small museum showcases various photographs from both families, as well as other key figures from the conflict such as "Bad" Frank Phillips -- the leader of the posse that brought the Hatfields to justice. The museum also includes a miniature replica of the cabin where the hog trial was held.

Coal House

Also get your bearings at the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce (about 20 miles from Matewan). It's housed inside the Coal House, a black building in Williamson, W.V., built out of West Virginia coal. Inside, you’ll find an original legal summons once issued against Devil Anse Hatfield. Across the street, spend the night at the historic Mountaineer Hotel, where icons past and present, from JFK to Loretta Lynn, have stayed.

Pikeville Historic Mansion

While touring Hatfield-McCoy sites on the Kentucky side, spend the night at Pikeville Historic Mansion Bed & Breakfast. Nearby attractions include Dils Cemetery, which is the final resting place for several members of the McCoy clan, including family patriarch Randall, his wife Sarah and daughter Roseanna.

Hatfield-McCoy Trails

Channel your inner Hatfield-and-McCoy rage on an ATV and rip across one of the largest off-highway vehicle trail systems in the world. The Hatfield-McCoy Trails cut through nine West Virginia counties, across 500 miles.

Wingo's Grill

Near the Pawpaw Massacre site, you’ll find Wingo’s Grill. The restaurant, based in Matewan, W.V., specializes in vinegar-based, slow-cooked barbecue. Pull up a seat and enjoy some good mountain cooking.

Morrison's Drive Inn

And when night falls, kick back at Morrison's Drive-Inn in Logan County, W.V. Since 1948, the restaurant has been servings its famous hot dogs, earning it the distinction as the "No. 1 Hot Dog in the State of West Virginia."

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