Randolph McCoy was the face of the infamous McCoy clan from the famous feud with the Hatfields. McCoy lost 5 of his 16 children to the feud which raged in the Tug River Valley for 12 years. The feud that started with an argument over a hog would claim the lives of many involved and ended with the hanging of a Hatfield, Ellison Mounts. Randolph McCoy and his family suffered much at the hands of the Hatfields – their home was burned down, 3 children executed, 2 others shot. In return they put 8 Hatfields in jail for life. This feud is one of the most famous in national history, and buried here in Dils Cemetery is the patriarch of the McCoy clan and his wife, Sarah.
Randolph McCoy was a poor man and he and his family worked
and lived on a small farm. Randolph and his family lived on the Kentucky side
of the Tug Fork. He married his first cousin, Sally “Sarah” McCoy, and they had
16 children, of these five would die as a result of the feud. Some of his
kinsmen worked for the Hatfields, a fact that would further complicate some
events during the feud. McCoy had a brother named Asa Harmon McCoy who was seen
by many as a traitor for fighting with the Union army.
The first direct act of violence and what many consider the
true start of the feud occurred at a local election in 1882. Ellison Hatfield
and one of his brothers were in Kentucky and got into a drunken brawl with
three of Randolph McCoy’s sons, Tolbert, Pharmer, and Bud. The brawl which
allegedly started because of a debt owed over a fiddle, led to Ellison’s death.
The McCoy brothers stabbed him 26 times and then shot him in the back. The
McCoy’s were arrested by Hatfields and were being taken to Pikeville to be
tried for the murder of Ellison Hatfield, but Devil Anse had them captured and
taken to West Virginia. Devil Anse told the McCoy boys that if Ellison died,
they would be killed. Two days after this threat was made, Devil Anse’s brother
Ellison died of his wounds.
The Hatfields took the McCoy boys into the woods and tied
them to papaw bushes where they were shot at a total of 50 times. All three
boys were dead within five minutes. While the Hatfields viewed this as justice,
their vigilante style revenge was still very illegal. Many of the men involved
immediately had indictments against them, including Devil Anse and his sons.
The Hatfields alluded arrest for an extended period of time and the governor of
Kentucky requested that efforts be made for the removal of the Hatfields from
West Virginia to Kentucky for trial. Governor E. Willis Wilson from West
Virginia refused this request and created tension between the states, but
allowed the Hatfields to avoid arrest.
On New Year’s Night January 1, 1888, Jim Vance, Devil Anse
Hatfield’s uncle, led a raid on Randolph McCoy’s cabin in Pike County Kentucky.
Hatifield men surrounded the cabin and began to fire while the McCoy’s were
sleeping. The attackers burned the cabin to force the occupants out. Two of
McCoy’s children, Calvin and Alifair, were shot in the back while fleeing their
home Sarah McCoy, Randolph’s wife, was beaten nearly to death by the men and
left by the burning house. There was nothing of value left of the house, so the
McCoy family relocated to Pikeville to avoid the reach of Hatfield raiders.
Randolph McCoy was never the same after losing so many of
his children and family members to the feud. He became a ferryman on the Tug
and he faded into obscurity while the legend of the Hatfield-McCoy feud lived
on. McCoy died on March 28, 1914 at the age of 88 while tending a fire. McCoy
was buried next to his wife Sarah in the Cemetery known as Dils Cemetery in