One of my favorite television destinations, The History Channel, recently aired an outstanding and wildly successful miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys. Apparently viewers tuned in to this miniseries as though they were being paid to do so. I’m really not surprised, though. For one thing, it was a History Channel production – everything they touch is pure gold. For another thing, the Hatfields and McCoys are a fascinating part of our country’s history – especially in this neck of the woods.
In Kentucky, we grew up hearing about the Hatfields & McCoys so much that, for the better part of my childhood, I thought they were family.
If you’re a history buff like I am or simply interested in this very colorful part of history, a trip to beautiful Pike County, Kentucky might be right up your alley. Visiting the place where it all played out can help you visualize this 19th century conflict between the rival Kentucky and West Virginia families. Each historical site features a marker telling tragic stories from the infamous feud, serving as a reminder of how dangerous sheer unadulterated hatred can be!
Many tourists each year travel to eastern Kentucky to see the areas and historic relics that remain from the days of the feud. Improvements to various feud sites have been completed, and historical markers commemorate many key locales. Research by local historians has been compiled in an audio compact disc called the “Hatfield & McCoy Feud Driving Tour.” The CD provides a self-guided driving tour of the restored feud sites. It includes maps and pictures as well as the audio CD.
You can order the CD by visiting www.tourpikecounty.com or by calling 800-844-7453.
Hillbilly Days Festival
You might also wish to attend the annual Hillbilly Days festival in Pikeville, Ky., which each April draws thousands of visitors to the area of the feud for a weekend of regional entertainment, food, contests and celebrations. You can get more information on the festival at www.hillbillydays.com.
The Dils Cemetery is located at the mouth of Chloe Creek and the By-Pass Road in Pikeville, Kentucky. Historians are always fascinated by cemeteries – and Dils Cemetery is an especially interesting one. This Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud Historic District. Buried in the cemetery are: Randolph McCoy, the head of the McCoy clan, his wife, Sarah, their daughter, Roseanna (who ran away with Johnse Hatfield), their son, Sam and his wife, Martha.
But there’s even more historical significance: The cemetery is the first known cemetery in Eastern Kentucky to be integrated. Col. Dils let his freed slaves and their descendants be buried in the cemetery.
About the Hatfield & McCoys
The feud involved two families of the Kentucky and West Virginia mountains along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River. The bitter conflict stemmed from many causes, but the origins have been traced to divided loyalties during the Civil War and even a Romeo-Juliet romance between members of the rival clans.
The McCoys, who lived in Pike County, Ky., mostly sided with the Union during the Civil War, while the Hatfields, from neighboring Mingo County, W.Va., were aligned with the Confederates. The first real violence in the feud was the 1865 slaying of returning Union soldier Asa Harmon McCoy, generally believed to have been committed by members of the Hatfield family.
Between 1880 and 1891, the feud claimed a dozen members of the two families, becoming headline news around the country and compelling the governors of both Kentucky and West Virginia to call up their state militias to restore order. The governor of West Virginia once even threatened to have his militia invade Kentucky. KentuckyÃ¢â?¬â?¢s governor responded by sending his chief military aide to Pike County to investigate the situation. Besides a dozen who died, at least 10 persons were wounded in that decade.
The feud has entered the American vocabulary as a metaphor for any parties to a bitter rivalry. More than a century later, the story of the feud has become a modern symbol for the perils of family honor, justice and vengeance. Over the years, the feud has been the subject of several film portrayals, and this week separate feature-film and miniseries productions are debuting on U.S. movie and TV screens.
Pike County’s history is very intriguing and the Hatfields and McCoys have a lot to do with it. Click the link to learn more.
Books About the Hatfields & McCoys:
For more information about travel in Kentucky, visit www.kentuckytourism.com.