PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) – The history of the famous feuding families can be taught and learned by a walking or driving tour around the county.
Perhaps the greatest draw for Pike County, Kentucky is the legendary sites of the Hatfield McCoy Feud. These sites, which include the Hog Trail Cabin (known as the “Preacher Anse” Cabin), the McCoy Homeplace and Well, the Hatfield Cemeteries, Dils Cemetery (resting place of the McCoys), and an assortment of other sites all carry with them not only incredible history, but also great responsibility.
Recently, Pike County Tourism CVB, along with volunteers, prepared these sites for Memorial Day weekend. This was no small task, which involved not only financial investment, but also labor; weed eating, mowing, cleaning, raking, pressure washing staircases, and placing wreathes. Given the financial hardship bought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, such an investment has taken its toll on our budget, and although we remain optimistic for our local tourism industry’s recovery, we are looking for ways to keep these precious sites beautiful going forward.
This would be a perfect time for you to get involved, especially if you are a descendant of the Hatfields and/or McCoys. Pike County Tourism has always cherished our relationship with the Hatfields and McCoys, some of which have dedicated time and money to boosting tourism in our region, and keeping the feud story alive for many to experience and learn from.
How Can You Help?
In Pike County Tourism CVB’s over 27 years of service to these sites, we have never asked for help. However, given the circumstances, we are in need of help to maintain these wonderful sites.
There are three ways in which you can get involved:
Make an online donation: Click below to make a secure donation online with PayPal. A PayPal account is not required. This donation will be used to offset spending for Hatfield McCoy Feud Sites’ upkeep.
Volunteer your time: Not all donations need be monetary. Contact us by phone (606) 432-5063, or by email if you would like to arrange a time to volunteer at one of our historic sites. We would love to work with you.
Mail in a donation: Feel free to mail a check of any amount, made out to Pike County Tourism CVB, P.O. Box 1497, Pikeville, KY, 41501.
The 2020 Hatfield McCoy Historic Sites Cleanup
Thank you to all of our supporters for volunteering time and resources to this project.
Giving Back, a Message From McCoy Descendant Ron McCoy
“Cleaning our cemeteries is more than a responsibility or obligation. It is a privilege and an opportunity to honor our heritage in a tangible way. For me, working in our cemeteries has always been a moving and personal experience. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt closer to my ancestors than when I’ve had a rake or shovel in my hand” said Ron McCoy, direct descendant of Randolph McCoy.
Each year, McCoy, along with many other descendants of both the Hatfields and the McCoys, visit Pike County, Kentucky, not only to reconnect with these historic sites, but to restore them. Without their volunteered time, upkeep of these sites would otherwise be impossible.
“Pike County’s historic cemeteries are more than just family memorials. They are cultural heritage sites,” said McCoy. “When we work together to maintain our cemeteries, we are preserving our mutual heritage as well as honoring the lives of those who came before us.”
Volunteer opportunities are available throughout the year, and are not limited to Hatfield and/or McCoy descendants, buy anyone who has a love for the history.
“Volunteer participation and support is vital in maintaining and conserving our cemeteries. Most cemeteries in Pike County are privately held and therefore are not supported by public funds. They are maintained through the efforts of hard-working volunteers who offer their time, labor and money to ensure that our cemeteries are preserved for future generations. “
Written by Ron McCoy and Pike County Tourism CVB
The Tug Valley has lost one of its brightest stars, as singer/songwriter Jimmy Wolford has passed away on March 5th, 2020. Wolford was also known as a storyteller, and one of the region’s pioneers in reviving the Hatfield McCoy heritage, which has drawn the interest of people from all across the globe.
Wolford recognized the importance of the tourism industry in Eastern Kentucky early on, seeing the value of the famous Hatfields and McCoys heritage long before most were willing to even come to terms with the history. Wolford knew that people from all around the world were enthralled with feud history and dedicated himself to providing a narrative for the story that was not only authentic, but also entertaining.
Wolford told the story of the Hatfield-McCoy feud in song, producing an album titled “The Hatfields And The McCoys: The Great Vendetta”. This album features Appalachian folk music that showcases Wolford’s unique storytelling flair in a style that reflects the culture. One track in particular, “Men Who Matched The Mountains”, highlighted the challenging environment that the Hatfields and McCoys were thriving in, offering a clearer illustration of who these people were; not savages, but people surviving in the mostly lawless, post-Civil War Appalachian mountains of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. Snippets from Wolford’s album are also featured on the wildly popular “Hatfields & McCoys Historic Feud Driving Tour” audio CD, which serves as an audio guide for one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions.
For more than 40 years, Wolford served as an ambassador for the “Hatfields and McCoys”, carrying the feud story with him wherever he went, across the country and around the world. Passionate about his heritage, he was also a role model for the power of grace and forgiveness. Nevertheless, telling the feud story wasn’t always easy. Growing up as a McCoy descendant in Williamson, WV in the 1930s, Wolford knew the feud was not something the McCoys were willing to discuss.
As a child, Jimmy recalled asking his grandmother about the feud. “Son, that’s something we don’t talk about,” said Wolford. “I went to Grandpa and I said, “Grandpa, tell me about the Hatfields and McCoys.” And he said, “We don’t talk about the Hatfields and McCoys.” As a musician on the campaign trail with Hubert Humphrey in the 1960s, Jimmy was often prompted by the Senator to discuss the feud. “He would say, Jimmy, tell me about the Hatfields and McCoys. I said, we don’t talk about that.” When Humphrey introduced him to the Prime Minister of England in 1971, Jimmy gave the same answer he always did: “We don’t talk about that.”
After the campaign trail, Wolford returned home to his roots, determined to tell the feud story in a way that had never been done. He partnered with songwriters Larry Johnson and Bob Stanley and spent three years researching the feud. Wolford was not content to telling the “McCoy” side of the story alone, however. He met with Willis Hatfield, last surviving son of “Devil Anse” and Dr. Henry D. Hatfield, “Devil Anse’s” nephew, and was impressed by their empathy. “They hurt for Roseanna McCoy. They hurt for Devil Anse and Ellison and them. They hurt for each other. (The feud) was something that occurred that did not have to happen, but it did,” said Wolford. His classic album, The Great Vendetta released in 1976 became the definitive musical retelling of the feud.
Purchase “The Great Vendetta” Audio CD
Click below to purchase The Great Vendetta Audio CD by Jimmy Wolford. Featuring bluegrass music themed around the Hatfields and McCoys.
Wolford’s contributions to preserving feud history extended beyond music. In 1975, Wolford was concerned about the deteriorating state of the McCoy Cemetery in Hardy, KY. He enlisted the help of businessmen Joe “Tab” McCoy and Leonard “Mix” McCoy, owners of the McCoy Caney Coal Company in Phelps, KY. The McCoys cleaned up the cemetery and purchased an $8000 granite memorial for the site, manufactured by the Hatfield Monument Company in Sarah Ann, WV. The six-foot long monument in the shape of an open Bible featured a quote from one of Wolford’s songs: “There is no secret why they died so young; pride took control – youth’s song was never sung.”
Wolford was also influential in the publication of Truda McCoy’s book, The McCoys: Their Story. After her passing, Truda’a son Paul was determined to see that the book manuscript was printed. Paul contacted Wolford to enlist his help in finding a publisher. Wolford carried the manuscript with him in the trunk of his car for nearly two years. Finally, “Tab” and “Mix” pointed Wolford in the direction of Pikeville College and the capable guidance of Dr. Leonard Roberts. The book was printed in 1976.
In 1979, Wolford led the “McCoys” to take on the “Hatfields” in a five episode series of the game show, “Family Feud.” It was the first joint-appearance of the Hatfields and McCoys on a nationwide broadcast and it showed the camaraderie that existed between the families. During the show, Wolford presented a copy of the Great Vendetta album to host Richard Dawson. The McCoys would go on to win the series after a corrected cash total allowed the family to win by $1.
At the first national reunion of the families in Pikeville, KY in 2000, Wolford was the recipient of the first “Real McCoy” award, given for his decades of tireless service to preserving feud heritage. Twenty years later, his message to the families remains remarkably relevant: “Don’t ever let anybody say anything bad about a Hatfield because you’re a McCoy. Vice versa. Don’t say anything bad about a McCoy because you are a Hatfield. Because that’s the way it started.”
Being a McCoy descendant, Wolford inspired other McCoys to not only explore their history, but also come to terms with it. “What a life, yet Jimmy remained grounded and always promoted the Tug Valley in a dignified impartial way,” said McCoy descendant Eddie McCoy. “I am glad I got to meet him because he was probably the first McCoy who still lived in the area that I contacted back when I was a kid and the feud had been less in the public eye than it is now. He was always respectful towards the Hatfield family and that attitude was one I modeled myself after whenever I interacted with the Hatfields myself.”
“Jimmy has always been one of my heroes,” said Ron McCoy, great-great-great grandson of Randolph McCoy. “He was out promoting our family history when it wasn’t always popular to talk about the feud. It was his mission to preserve our heritage and he did so in a way that was positive and affirming. He never failed to reach out to Hatfields and McCoys alike. Jimmy has been a role model for all of us who have tried to carry on after him. Jimmy Wolford was one of a kind.”
Jimmy Wolford Songs & Media
After a long day of clearing brush and cleaning gravestones, Ron McCoy takes a moment to stand before the towering statue of Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, which sits atop the famous feudist’s resting place. This interesting and deeply moving moment was captured without, at the time, Ron’s knowledge. What ran through Ron’s head as he stood there is anyone’s guess, however, such a compelling moment had an undeniable impact on me, so I snapped the photo.
Ron, along with descendant Bob Scott (Hatfield), had been spending the week in their ancestral home of Pikeville-Pike County, Kentucky assisting Pike County Tourism CVB staff and volunteers in cleaning and preparing the gravesites of the feudists for tourist season. Thousands of feud descendants, as well as history buffs from all over the world visit Pikeville-Pike County each year to tour the sites of the world’s most famous feud, and to these descendants, the gravesites’ condition are of utmost importance. To see the descendants of these famous feudists cleaning the gravestones of their family’s ancestral enemy is a powerful image of forgiveness, and truly shows the humble heart these people have developed despite a legacy of hatred and bloodshed.
Ron, along with descendant Bob Scott (Hatfield), had been spending the week in their ancestral home of Pikeville-Pike County, Kentucky assisting Pike County Tourism CVB staff in cleaning and preparing the gravesites of the feudists for tourist season. Thousands of feud descendants, as well as history buffs from all over the world visit Pikeville-Pike County each year to tour the sites of the world’s most famous feud, and to these descendants, the gravesites’ condition is of utmost importance.
As marketing director of Pike County Tourism CVB, I have, for years, sought to not only promote the Pike County Hatfield & McCoy Feud Sites as a historic destination, but also to tell the story of the feud from interesting and unique points of view. I find the perspective of the direct descendants to be particularly interesting, as their relationship with the history is so intriguing. Given that there are great many Hatfield and McCoy descendants around today, with a great variety of perspectives on feud history, we tend to reach out to the descendants that were involved in signing the Peace Treaty when creating our content, namely Ron McCoy, Bo McCoy and Reo Hatfield. William Keith Hatfield and Jack Hatfield, who are William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield’s descendants, are also two resources that we commonly reach out to, as they have worked over the years to create and enhance our Hatfield McCoy events, namely Hatfield McCoy Heritage Days which takes place each year in September in Pikeville/Pike County, Kentucky.
The Hatfield – McCoy Feud: From Retribution to Reconciliation
Recently, we called upon some of these descendants to assist us in creating a video detailing their story as it relates to the Hatfield and McCoy Feud; to tell the story of how the two families went from retribution to reconciliation. The following video was filmed in the Preacher Anse Hatfield Hog Trial Cabin, and features descendants Ron McCoy, Reo Hatfield and William Keith Hatfield.
Come experience the Hatfield McCoy Heritage Days Homecoming with us this fall from September 20th through the 22nd, 2019. Hatfield McCoy Heritage Days Homecoming is a celebration of the peace made between the Hatfields and McCoys, and serves as an event memorializing the events of the feud, as well as the steps the families took to officially bring the feud to an end. This event is open to the public, with visitors encouraged to discuss with the descendants of these famous feuding families anything they wish to learn about Hatfield & McCoy feud lore.
Below is an early schedule of events. This schedule is likely to change, yet much of it may stay the same:
8 a.m. – “The Cuss” Race .
9 a.m. — 2 p.m. – Pikeville Farmer’s Market For craft vendor space and non-political information booths only, call Bridget Michelle Tackett at (606) 794-3033. Music will begin at 9:30 a.m., and will last until 2 p.m., featuring local talent.
Noon – Pig Roast with the Hatfields and McCoys (Pikeville Farmer’s Market).
3 p.m. – Blood Song Play Historic Pike County Courthouse on Main Street, admission $10 cash at the door. Featuring Hatfield-McCoy descendants telling their story.
6 p.m. – Dinner with Descendants, Dueling Barrels Brewery & Distillery ($20/person).
2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. – Sally McCoy Play at the App A Feud story from Sally McCoy’s perspective.
10 a.m. – Hatfield & McCoy Feud Memorial Service: McCoy Homeplace and Well Site at Hardy for church service – 10 a.m. Church service conducted by William Hatfield, Ron McCoy, and Reo Hatfield.
Event details subject to change.
Ruff, Tuff Race Series
The Ruff Tuff Race Series Registration is now OPEN!! 3 days, 3 different events, 3 medals, 2 finisher’s shirt (1 for completing The CUSS & 1 for completing all 3 events), a ton of fun, laughs, great/priceless photos and experiences. Come join your friends and family in this Annual event.
The Whole Series will be $75
September 20th @ 7pm THE BULLET ($25)
September 21st @ 8am THE CUSS ($40)
September 22nd @ 7am THE (Son of a) GUN Half Marathon ($40)
All monies raised are put back into the event so the more people registering the BIGGER this can be!
Many more events will be added as the date approaches.