Buffalo Mountain Trailhead, Hatfield McCoy Trails
Backstory and Context
The historic feud of the Hafields and McCoys occurred in the Tug River Valley where the river was the barrier between most of the two families’ clans. The first incident occurred at the end of the Civil War in 1865, when Hatfield clan leader Randle McCoy’s brother Asa was murdered. There was speculation that Anderson Hatfield, known as “Devil Anse,” was involved, but there are no known incidents of revenge from the McCoy side.
In the 1870s, the two families argued over 5,000 acres of land, which legally ended in the Hatfields’ favor. This argument catalyzed theft and arm brawls between the families for years. 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, and it was speculated that he did so because he worked on Devil Anse’s timber crew.
In 1880, a Romeo and Juliet-esc romance occurred between Hatfield’s daughter Roseanna and McCoy’s son Johnse. The couple wanted to get married after spending a day together. Devil Anse allowed the couple to reside together in his home, but it is rumored that he refused to consent to their marriage because of the girl’s last name. After becoming pregnant and realizing Johnse would not marry her, she left to return home. However, Randle 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 brother of Devil Anse Ellison got in to a brawl with three of Randle McCoy’s sons. Ellison was stabbed 27 times and then, shot in the back. Anse and his supporters caught the three brothers and took them across the river to Kentucky where they tied up the murders to trees and shot them. The Hatfields were issued indictments, but no action was taken for five years, until in 1887 when the McCoy family was able to persuade Kentucky’s new governor to pursue Devil Anse for the murder of Randle McCoy’s three sons. During this period of pursuit, Devil Anse with others set fire to Randle McCoy’s home, killing two of his other children and injuring his wife; this event catalyzed the Battle of Grapevine Creek, where many Hatfields and supporters were captured to be tried in court. In 1888, those involved in the burning of Randle McCoy’s property were all given life in prison except for one Ellison Mounts, who was hung in 1889. No reaction from Devil Anse occurred after the conviction of the Hatfields and their supporters, and the feud finally ended