History of the Hatfield McCoy Feud | Pigeon Forge Dinner Show

History of the Hatfield & McCoy Feud


History of The Infamous Feud

Infamous Feud Between The Hatfields & McCoys Mural On Matewan, WV Floodwall

Floodwall Mural

The infamous feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families is memorialized in this section of the floodwall along the Tug Fork in Matewan, West Virginia. The 2,350-foot long floodwall was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1992.

The Hatfields

Location: West Virginia

The Hatfields, led by William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, son of Ephraim and Nancy (Vance) Hatfield, lived mostly on the West Virginia side. The majority of the Hatfields fought on the Confederate side in the American Civil War (1861-1865). The Hatfields were politically connected and for the most part wealthier than the McCoys due to Devil Anse Hatfield’s timbering operation.

The McCoys

Location: Kentucky

The McCoy family, led by Randolph McCoy, lived mostly on the Kentucky side of Tug Fork (a tributary of the Big Sandy River). Most McCoys, living in Pike County, Kentucky, also fought for the Confederates with the exception of Asa Harmon McCoy, who fought for the Union. The McCoys were more of a lower-middle-class family with Randolph owning a 300-acre property.

The Feud

Date: 1863 – 1891

On January 7, 1865, Asa Harmon McCoy was killed near his home just thirteen days after leaving the Union Army. A group of Confederate guerrillas called the Logan Wildcats took credit for the killing. McCoy family tradition points to James “Jim” Vance, an uncle of Anse Hatfield and a member of a West Virginia Militia group, as the culprit.

Devil Anse Hatfield

Devil Anse Hatfield

Devil Anse Hatfield

In the late 1870s, Devil Anse Hatfield was involved in a land dispute with Randolph McCoy’s cousin, Perry Cline, over a 5,000 acre tract of land that both held title to. Hatfield eventually brought a civil suit against Cline. Hatfield won in what was seen by the McCoys as a Hatfield-friendly court.

In 1878, after a dispute about a pig occurred between Floyd Hatfield, a cousin of Devil Anse’s, and Randolph McCoy who claimed it was his. The matter was taken to the local Justice of the Peace, Anderson “Preacher Anse” Hatfield, who ruled for the Hatfields by the testimony of Bill Staton, a relative of both families.

In June 1880, Bill Staton was killed by two McCoy brothers, Sam and Paris, who were later acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.

Roseanna McCoy

In November 1880, Roseanna McCoy started a relationship with Johnse Hatfield, son of Devil Anse. Roseanna left her family to live with the Hatfields in West Virginia. She returned home to the McCoys but tried to resume her relationship with Johnse who was arrested by the McCoys for bootlegging. In order to try and save Johnse, Roseanna made a desperate midnight ride to see Devil Anse, who responded by organizing a rescue party. The party was successful in freeing Johnse but Roseanna was rewarded with her betrayal of her family by being abandoned by Johnse despite being pregnant. Johnse left her for her cousin, Nancy McCoy, whom he wed in 1881.

The Hatfield Clan

The Hatfield Clan

Election Day

On an election day 1882, a drunken Ellison Hatfield, brother of Devil Anse, and his other brother got into a fight with Tolbert, Pharmer, and Bud McCoy (Roseanna’s brothers). Ellison was stabbed 26 times and also was shot. The McCoys were arrested by Hatfield constables and taken to Pikeville to await trial. Devil Anse organized a large group and took the brothers by force to West Virginia, to await the fate of gravely wounded Ellison Hatfield. When Ellison died from his injuries, Tolbert, Pharmer, and Bud were killed by the vigilantes. They were tied to pawpaw bushes, where each was shot numerous times with a total of 50 shots fired.

Devil Anse, as well as 20 other men, were indicted but eluded arrest. The McCoy family approached Perry Cline with their grievances. Cline was married to Martha McCoy and had a history with the Hatfields. Historians believe that Cline used his political connections to reinstate the charges and announced rewards for the Hatfields’ arrest as an act of revenge.

On The Banks Of the Tub River

In 1886, Jeff McCoy killed a mailman named Fred Wolford. The constable who went after him for his crime was Cap Hatfield. Cap and a friend named Tom Wallace shot him while on the run on the banks of Tug River. In the spring of 1887, Tom Wallace was soon found dead.

New Year’s 1888

On New Year’s night in 1888, Cap Hatfield and Jim Vance led several members of the Hatfield clan to surround the McCoy cabin. They fire on the structure despite knowing the McCoy family was sleeping inside. The cabin was then set on fire to drive Randolph McCoy outside of it. While he did manage to flee into the woods, two of his children were shot and killed. Randolph’s wife was beaten leaving her disabled. The remaining McCoys moved to Pikeville to escape the attacks.

Randolph McCoy

Randolph McCoyA few days after the New Year’s Massacre, Pike county deputy sheriff Frank Philipps and a posse rode out to track down Devil Anse’s raiding party across the border into West Virginia. Its first victim was Jim Vance, who was killed after he refused to be arrested. Philipps captured three more with other raids before cornering the rest in Grapevine Creek on January 19th, 1889. A battle ensued between the two parties, and the Hatfields were eventually apprehended. There were three casualties in all but Wall Hatfield and eight others were arrested and brought to Kentucky to stand trial for the murder of Alifair McCoy who was killed during the New Year’s Massacre.

The men were tried in Kentucky and all were found guilty. Seven received life imprisonment, while Ellison “Cottontop” Mounts was executed by hanging. Thousands attended the hanging in Pikeville.

In 1901, the last of the feud trials occurred with the conviction of Johnse Hatfield.

Did You Know?

The Supreme Court actually handled a case involving the Hatfield & McCoy Feud. In May 1888, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Plyant Mahon v. Abner Justice which was about whether or not a person who was taken “without warrant or other legal process, and by force and against his will” could be tried for their crimes.






Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud