Randolph McCoy Grave Site
Grave of Sarah and Randolph McCoy in Dils Cemetery
Marker at the cemetery
Photograph of Randolph McCoy
Backstory and Context
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 Kentucky.