Family Feud

The game show starring Steve Harvey is amazing in it’s own right. However I’m talking about a more infamous family feud. One that recently crawled into my brain and has sat there waiting for me to research it. So for your reading pleasure here is the brief history of the legendary family feud of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s.

William Anderson ‘Devil Anse” Hatfield (left) and Randolph ‘Ole Ran’l” McCoy

The Hatfields of West Virginia were led by William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, while the McCoys of Kentucky were under the leadership of Randolph “Ole Ran’l” McCoy. The Hatfields were more affluent than the McCoys and politically well-connected. Anse’s timber operation was a source of wealth for his family, while the McCoys were more of a lower-middle-class family. Ole Ran’l owned a 300-acre (120 ha) farm. Both families had also been involved in the manufacturing and selling of illegal moonshine, a popular commodity at the time.

The feud began in 1863, during the American Civil War, when the two families lived on either side of Big Sandy River between West Virginia and Kentucky, and fought each other when Asa Harmon McCoy was killed. It was rumored that the Asa had been murdered by the head of the Hatfield family, William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield. However it was later learned that Devil Anse was at home sick when young Asa McCoy was killed. It was believed that another member of the Logan Wildcats murdered him, an uncle to Devil Anse.

There were other instances of retaliation murder between the two families, however the second recorded instance of violence in the feud occurred in 1878, after a dispute about the ownership of a hog. Floyd Hatfield, had the hog, but Randolph McCoy claimed it was his, saying that the notches on the pig’s ears were McCoy, not Hatfield, marks. The matter was taken to the local Justice of the Peace, Anderson “Preacher Anse” Hatfield, who ruled for the Hatfield’s by the testimony of a relative of both families. In June 1880, that same family member was killed by two McCoy brothers, who were later acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.

The feud escalated after Roseanna McCoy entered a relationship with Devil Anse’s son Johnson, known as “Johnse”, leaving her family to live with the Hatfield’s in West Virginia. Roseanna eventually returned to the McCoy’s, but when the couple tried to resume their relationship, Johnse was arrested by the McCoy’s on outstanding Kentucky bootlegging warrants. He was freed from McCoy custody only when Roseanna made a desperate midnight ride to alert Anse, who organized a rescue party. The Hatfield party surrounded the McCoy’s and took Johnse back to West Virginia. Despite what was seen as her betrayal of her own family on his behalf, Johnse thereafter abandoned the pregnant Roseanna for her cousin, Nancy McCoy, whom he wed in 1881. Let’s just say that Johnse pulled a dick move there.

In 1882 Ellison Hatfield, brother of Anse, was killed by three of Roseanna’s younger brothers.  The McCoy brothers were initially arrested by Hatfield constables and were taken to Pikeville for trial. Secretly, Anse organized a large group of followers and intercepted the constables and their McCoy prisoners before they reached Pikeville. The brothers were taken by force to West Virginia. When Ellison died from his injuries, the McCoy brothers were killed by the Hatfields’ vigilante justice.

Even though the Hatfields and most inhabitants of the area believed their revenge was warranted, up to about twenty men, including Anse, were indicted. All of the Hatfields eluded arrest; this angered the McCoy family, who took their cause up with Perry Cline. Cline, who was married to Martha McCoy, is believed to have used his political connections to reinstate the charges and announced rewards for the Hatfields’ arrest as an act of revenge. A few years prior, Cline lost a lawsuit against Anse over the deed to thousands of acres of land, subsequently increasing the hatred between the two families.

Reaching its peak during the 1888 New Year’s Night Massacre. Several members of the Hatfield clan to surrounded the McCoy cabin and opened fire on the sleeping family. The cabin was set on fire in an effort to drive Randolph McCoy into the open. He escaped by making a break for it, but two of his children were shot and his wife was beaten and almost killed. The remaining McCoy’s moved to Pikeville to escape the West Virginia raiding parties.

Between 1880 and 1891, the feud claimed more than a dozen members of the two families.  A few days after the New Year’s Massacre, a posse led by Pike County Deputy Sheriff Frank Philipps rode out to track down Anse’s group across the border into West Virginia. The posse’s first victim was Vance, who was killed in the woods after he refused to be arrested. Philipps then made other successive raids on Hatfield homes and supporters, capturing many and killing another three Hatfield supporters, before cornering the rest in Grapevine Creek on January 19. Unfortunately for Philipps, Anse and other Hatfield’s were waiting for them with an armed group of their own. A battle ensued between the two parties, and the Hatfield’s were eventually apprehended.

Since this time the two families have remained civil towards each other. Eventually in 1979 they were featured on a week long special on The Family Feud. They were playing for a cash prize and a pig. Eventually the McCoy’s won two out of three games, but the Hatfield family won more money, eventually the McCoy’s earnings were $1 more.

Today the two families have a truce between them. They frequently collaborate for area festivals and historical tours of the famous feud between them. You can also view other movies, mini series, and TV shows about the family feud.

You are your own best investment

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