Opening officially in 2000, the Hatfield-McCoy Trail systems is comprised of eight different systems: the Rockhouse, Buffalo Mountain, Bearwallow, Indian Ridge, Little Coal River, Pocahontas, Pinnacle Creek, and Ivy Branch. Named after the legendary Hatfield-McCoy Feud that occurred during the 1800s, the Hatfield-McCoy Trails cover approximately 600-700 miles and span over nine counties including Logan, McDowell, Mercer, and Wayne. Developing the trails and connecting the individual ones together is an ongoing project which the West Virginia state legislature hopes will eventually result in 2,000 miles of riding trails in southern West Virginia. According to the HMT's website, the trails are open all year long to ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs. Additionally, 4x4 ORVs could be used to ride the Ivy Branch trail as well. However, as of 2015, the Little Coal River and Ivy Branch trails were closed off after a change in land ownership which involved land those two trails were stationed on.
Backstory and Context
The historic feud of the Hatfields and McCoys, known by journalists as the Hatfield-McCoy war, occurred in the Tug River Valley where the river was the barrier between most of the two families’ clans. The entirety of the feud occurred from 1863-1891. The first incident occurred at the end of the Civil War in 1865, when the McCoy clan leader's, Randall McCoy, brother, Asa, was murdered in cold blood. There was speculation that William Anderson Hatfield, known as “Devil Ance,” was involved somehow, but there are no known incidents of revenge from the McCoy side. Asa was apart of the 45th Kentucky Infantry and served during the American Civil War where service records say he was captured by rebel forces and released to a Union hospital in Maryland to heal from a gunshot wound to his chest. He served in a company owned and operated by the Pike County Home Guards where it is believed he sustained his wound while serving in this unit.
In the 1870s, the two families argued over 5,000 acres of land, which legally ended in the Hatfields’ favor and ownership. This argument catalyzed theft and arm brawls between the families for years to come. There was even a court hearing over a stolen McCoy hog in which the jury was comprised of six McCoys and six Hatfields. One of the McCoys actually ended up voting in favor of pardoning the accused Hatfield of the crime and it was speculated that he did so, because he worked on Devil Ance’s timber crew. In 1880, a Romeo and Juliet-like romance occurred between Hatfield's daughter, Roseanna, and McCoy’s son, Johnse. The couple wanted to get married after spending a day together and Devil Ance allowed the couple to reside together in his home, but it is rumored that he refused to consent to their marriage, because Roseanna was a McCoy. After becoming pregnant and realizing Johnse would not marry her, she left to return home to her family. However, Randall McCoy did not welcome her home and she went to have her baby at her aunt’s. Unfortunately, the baby died at six months old from the measles.
The war between the families reached a climax during an Election Day celebration in 1882 when the brother of Devil Ance, Ellison, got into a brawl with three of Randall McCoy’s sons. Ellison was stabbed 27 times and then shot in the back left for dead. Ance and his supporters caught the three brothers and took them across the river to Kentucky where they tied up the murderers to trees and shot them. The Hatfields were issued indictments on murder charges, but no action was taken for five years, until 1887, when the McCoy family were able to persuade Kentucky’s new governor to pursue charges against Devil Ance for the murder of Randall McCoy’s three sons. During this period of pursuit, Devil Ance and his family set fire to Randall McCoy’s home, including killing two of his other children and injuring his wife. This event catalyzed the Battle of Grapevine Creek, where many Hatfields and their supporters were captured to be tried in court. In 1888, those involved in the burning of Randall McCoy’s property were all given life in prison except for one Ellison Mounts, who faced the death penalty and was hung in 1889. No reaction from Devil Ance occurred after the conviction of the Hatfields and their supporters, but this justice led to the feud finally ending for good. The feud would be reimagined as a comedic, family friendly dinner theater performance that took a much lighter approach with an original story of the feud and it opened up in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
The trails opened up in October 2000 and were named after the legendary feud that the Hatfields and McCoys had. It became a multi-county project that enlisted the help of Logan, Kanawha, McDowell, Wyoming, Mercer, Wayne, Lincoln, Mingo, and Boone. Multiple trails were created that allowed visitors to ride motor vehicles like ATVs and ride horses through the trails. The entirety of the trails run through each county that helped and have at least 600 miles that run through the trails. An expansion plan was announced for the addition of 2,000 miles to the trails to house suitable facilities and an Off-Highway Vehicle Park in Kanawha County. Law enforcement officers patrol the trails daily to make sure riders and visitors follow safety protocols. In 2015, the Little Coal River and Ivy Branch trails closed down access after a change in land ownership that involved land those trails were stationed on.
"About the Trails," Hatfield-McCoy Trails. Accessed July 5th 2021. https://trailsheaven.com/about-the-trails/
"Hatfield-McCoy Trail Systems," West Virginia Tourism. Accessed July 5th 2021. https://wvtourism.com/company/hatfield-mccoy-trail-systems/