Devil Anse Hatfield and the Hatfield Family Cemetery & Wash Stand
The Hatfield Family Cemetery near Sarah Ann contains the graves of Hatfield patriarch Devil Anse Hatfield and most of the other members of the Hatfield family who were involved in the famous Hatfield-McCoy Feud. The series of skirmishes, murders, and lawsuits between the Hatfield and the McCoy families from the 1870s to the 1890s became a national media sensation and turned the families into icons of Appalachian culture. In 1926, the children of Devil Anse Hatfield erected a large Italian marble sculpture over his grave which remains the most prominent feature of the cemetery. Once neglected, the site has now become a local tourist attraction following a resurgence in interest in the feud during the 2010s. The cemetery, and a second one seven miles away was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Backstory and Context
William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield was born in 1839 in Logan County, West Virginia. The Hatfields were one of the largest and oldest families in the Tug River Valley along the border with Kentucky. Devil Anse fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War and in its later stages formed a guerilla group known as the Logan Wildcats. After the war he became heavily involved in the logging industry, acquiring and timbering large amounts of land in the area. His timber business made Devil Anse and his family fairly wealthy and influential in the region.
During the last few decades of the nineteenth century the Hatfields became entangled in a bitter and violent feud with the McCoy family of Pike County, Kentucky, led by Randolph “Randall” McCoy. The feud originally began during Devil Anse's time with the Wildcats, when the group killed Asa McCoy, who fought for the Union, in retaliation for the death of Devil Anse's friend during the war. The feud as it is known in modernity, however, can be traced to 1878 when Randall McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield of stealing one of his hogs; Hatfield was found not guilty in court but the incident created animosity between the families. The feud escalated dramatically in 1882 when Devil Anse’s brother Ellison Hatfield was murdered by three McCoy brothers. Devil Anse had the brothers captured and killed in retaliation. The following years saw a number of tit-for-tat skirmishes, murders, kidnappings, and arrests between the two sides.
The feud largely ended after 1890 when ten members of the Hatfield family were tried and found guilty of murdering several of Randall McCoy’s children. Nine Hatfields received life sentences while one was executed. The Hatfield-McCoy Feud was just one of multiple family conflicts in Appalachia at this time, but sensational reporting and national media coverage turned the Hatfields and McCoys into folk legends. A number of books, plays, shows, and studies of the feud have made it an enduring part of Appalachian culture.
Devil Anse Hatfield was never tried for any crimes, and lived a peaceful life after the feud before dying in 1921. He was buried at the Hatfield Family Cemetery near Sarah Ann in a $2,000 dollar steel coffin that he had purchased himself. His children later commissioned a statue to be placed overtop his grave. The life-sized statue, the most prominent feature of the cemetery, was sculpted in Italy with Carrara marble. It was completed and erected at the cemetery in 1926; reportedly it cost $3,500. The statue stands on top of a pedestal listing the names of Devil Anse’s wife and thirteen children.
There are actually two Hatfield family cemeteries located in the area. The first one, seven miles away near New Town, dates back to 1881 and contains the graves of 21 family members. It includes Devil Anse’s parents as well as his brother Ellison, whose death in 1882 exacerbated the feud. The second cemetery, near Sarah Ann, dates back to 1898. Some accounts say the Hatfields began using this cemetery instead after Devil Anse moved to this area in 1906. This cemetery contains over 130 graves. The two cemeteries were jointly added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. A small marker at the Sarah Ann cemetery notes the listing.
Among the graves in the same cemetery at which Devil Anse rests is the Hatfield wash stand. The wash stand, carved from sandstone by Devil Anse's cousin, Robert Hatfield, who was the son of Preacher Anderson Hatfield. The wash stand was originally located near the well which sat at the homestead of the Hatfields, where family members and farmhands would wash up for dinner. The well and wash stand were also also open for travelers to drink from and wash their hands.
For years the
Hatfield Cemetery sat neglected and overgrown. The site has since become a
local tourist attraction following the airing of the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries in 2012. The new surge in
interest in the feud during the 2010s has led local officials in both West
Virginia and Kentucky to develop a tourism industry around sites related to the
two families. Bus tours to the cemetery are now even available. Plans for a
walking path to make the cemetery more accessible are currently in development.
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January 19, 2017. Accessed October 25, 2018. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/314