Hatfield & McCoy Feud Descendants Tell Their Story

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.

Devil Anse Hatfield Cemetery
Ron McCoy facing Devil Anse Hatfield’s grave (candid 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 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.

Hatfield McCoy Heritage Days Homecoming 2019

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.

Hatfield McCoy Heritage Days Homcoming 2019 Rack Card

Below is an early schedule of events. This schedule is likely to change, yet much of it may stay the same:

Friday

7 pm – Main Street Live! Feat. Roger Lee Charles and a Mile to Nowhere.
7 pm – “The Bullet” Race.
7:30 pm – Sally McCoy Play at the App A Feud story from Sally McCoy’s perspective.

Saturday

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.

Sunday

7 a.m. “The ( Son of a ) Gun” Half Marathon.

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.

Secure Your Lodging Today

Hotels & Motels

Buy Moonshine Made From McCoy Well Water of Feud Fame

Distilled by Pike County’s Pauley Hollow Distillery, Fuel of the Feud moonshine is made from water drawn from the McCoy well, which is located on the property where, on New Years Eve, 1888, the Hatfields attacked the McCoy homeplace, burning it to the ground. This product will become available in July, 2019, and is one of many projects planned that involves the McCoy Well property.

McCoy Well owner, and Hatfield descendant Bob Scott, along with his wife Rita, worked tirelessly over the course of the past few years, to make this product a reality.

“This product not only tastes great, but it also gives locals and visitors an opportunity to own an artifact from Hatfield McCoy Feud Country,” said Scott, who is also a Pike County Tourism CVB board member. “This is more than a drink, this is a keepsake for those who love the history, and it is something that further enhances Pike County’s tourism offerings.”

“Products are more meaningful to our visitors when they have a story attached to them,” said Jay Shepherd, Pike County Tourism CVB Marketing Director. “This is a product with a story. A Hatfield designed it using water from Randolph McCoy’s well, and a Pike County distillery distilled it.”

“Moonshine has long been part of the heritage of Appalachia and the Hatfields and McCoys,” said Ron McCoy, direct descendant of Randolph McCoy. “Like so many aspects of feud history, moonshine has its negative connotations. However, using the water from the McCoy well is a truly unique way to produce an authentic product distilled by a local business, one that promotes the unity between the families and is respectful of our mutual heritage.”     

“Keeping with the tradition of the feud, Fuel of the Feud is made from a mashbill of West Virginia corn and Kentucky rye along with malted barley and cane sugar,” said Josh Martin, owner of Pauley Hollow Distillery. “It is distilled in a copper pot still in small batches. This 100 proof moonshine has an initial sweet corn flavor with a spicy rye finish.”

Pauley Hollow Distillery’s Fuel of the Feud will be available this July, and can be purchased in Liquor stores across Kentucky.

For more details on Fuel of the Feud, visit www.FueloftheFeud.com.

Fuel of the Feud Gallery

Hatfield McCoy Feud Driving Tour

Thousands of people from all around the world have visited Pike County, Kentucky to immerse themselves into some of America’s richest historical locales. Pike County is home to most of the significant Hatfield and McCoy feud sites, and as a result of the recent spike in the feud’s popularity, Pikeville/Pike County offers a self-guided tour of these interesting historic locales.

The Hatfield and McCoy Driving Tour is a self-guided tour that includes all historic sites, both in Kentucky and West Virginia, of the feud. Visitors are provided a Hatfield and McCoy Driving Tour brochure for free, which features step-by-step instructions for finding each feud site that is open to the public. An optional Hatfield and McCoy Driving Tour CD is available for purchase below. Both items can be found in our visitors’ center store, located in the Hampton Inn on 831 Hambley Blvd, Pikeville. The audio CD serves as a tour guide for the feud sites, and offers professional voice talent and music, which spices up the already wonderful tour.

Hatfield Handgun Surfaces, but is it Legit?

On April 12, 2019, Leslie Rivers paid a visit to the Big Sandy Heritage Center with a very special item from Hatfield-McCoy feud lore, a Deringer-styled handgun that may or may not have been, at one point, owned by “Devil” Anse Hatfield, and his son “Cap” Hatfield. William Keith Hatfield, great-grandson of Devil Anse was also invited to this special event to attempt to authenticate the weapon. Big Sandy Heritage Center curator Everett Johnson and local historian/museum board member Reed Potter was also present, as well as a host of media, to determine if the gun is in fact Hatfield related.

In the video above, provided by PikeTV, William and Leslie give us some history behind the gun and the process of authenticating historical items. Did Devil Anse pass this gun onto Cap, who then gifted it to a close family friend, Dr. Dana Moore? Check out the video above and decide for yourself.

Hatfields and McCoys Feud Tour

Thousands of people from all around the world have visited Pike County, Kentucky to immerse themselves into some of America’s richest historical locales. Pike County is home to most of the significant Hatfield and McCoy feud sites, and as a result of the recent spike in the feud’s popularity, Pikeville/Pike County offers a self-guided tour of these interesting historic locales.

The Hatfield and McCoy Driving Tour is a self-guided tour that includes all historic sites, both in Kentucky and West Virginia, of the feud. Visitors are provided a Hatfield and McCoy Driving Tour brochure for free, which features step-by-step instructions for finding each feud site that is open to the public. An optional Hatfield and McCoy Driving Tour CD is available for purchase below. Both items can be found in our visitors’ center store, located in the Hampton Inn on 831 Hambley Blvd, Pikeville. The audio CD serves as a tour guide for the feud sites, and offers professional voice talent and music, which spices up the already wonderful tour.

Hatfields & McCoys: Remembering “Cotton Top”

Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts was hanged in Pikeville, Kentucky on February 18, 1890. Cotton Top was one of the last people to be hanged in Pike County, and many believe his hanging was the final incident of the infamous Hatfields & McCoys feud.

In my 8 years as Marketing Director of Pike County Tourism CVB, I have had the privilege of speaking with descendants, historians and feud experts on the lesser known tales of the feud. Some painted Cotton Top as a victim, an innocent boy with a mental condition that prevented him from truly realizing the horror that he caused. Others characterized Cotton as a vicious man, who was a loose cannon, eager to earn his place among his Hatfield kin. Each story was told with such a fever that one would think the storyteller knew Cotton personally.

So, in remembering Cotton Top, I feel it would be best to let a descendant of the Hatfields share his perspective on who Cotton was, and how the family, from his perspective, views this complex character from feud lore. So I reached out to William Keith Hatfield, descendant of Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, who has spent many years tracing his family’s lineage and studying the intricacies of the feud story.

The Site of Cotton Top Mount’s hanging is open to visitors, and features an historic marker detailing the circumstances around Cotton Top’s hanging.

The Real “Cotton Top” Mounts

1. Who was the real Cotton Top, as compared to how he is portrayed in stories and media? Was he a ruthless man? Was he consumed with proving that he belongs as a “true Hatfield”?

He was a man full of pain and the desire to belong. He was never fully accepted by the Hatfields. He was the butt of jokes and rough horseplay. He was rather slow and developmentally challenged. He was not so much ruthless, as he was just unaware. In his desire to belong and to be accepted, he would do bad things for the Hatfields, either at their direction, or, if he thought it would bring him their favor. He never really considered the people he hurt or the pain he might cause others.

2. Are there any elements to the story of Cotton Top that is not widely known?

(Concerning the 1888 New Year’s Night Massacre) Cotton Top was made fun of for the way he tried to disguise his voice as he called out to the McCoy cabin inhabitants. The Hatfield’s laughter was incongruent with the grim business of what they were about to do. Cotton Top was teased about this and mocked by the others using disguised voices long after the raid. Also, Cotton Top was the most easily recognized that night. Alifair knew who he was by his hair right away.

3. How does the Hatfields remember Cotton Top? 

A poor addled boy, a victim of pain and illegitimacy.

4. Was Cotton Top’s execution necessary to end the feud?

No. It did cause the McCoys to urge Randall to give it up. The Hatfield move to Sarah Ann, the pressing problem of caring for Aunt Sally, the lack of funds to continue the bounty hunter incursions, and the lack of enthusiasm from the law in pursuing Ran’ls vendetta, all would have ended it without the hanging.

With so many questions, what if’s and strong opinions, we may never know the full story of Cotton Top. But it is important that we never forget the price of unforgiveness, the ramifications of a vendetta gone too far, and the victims such things leave in its wake. On February 18, 1890, yet another life was claimed by the feud, and it serves as a reminder that anything, left unchecked, can spiral out of control.

William Keith Hatfield

William Keith Hatfield is the pastor of Charity Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he has served for thirty-six years. After he moved Charity from its traditional building into a nine-apartment project, it now ministers to many broken and poor people. William and his wife, Sharon, have six children and thirteen grandchildren.