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The Hatfields and the McCoys

The following article is from the book Uncle John's True Crime: A Classic Collection of Crooks, Cops, and Capers.

The Hatfield clan in 1897.

The facts about one of the most famous feuds in U.S. history.

The Contestants: Neighboring clans living on opposite sides of a stream that marked the border between West Virginia and Kentucky. The Hatfields, headed by Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, lived on the West Virginia side. The McCoys, whose patriarch was Randolph “Ole Ran’l” McCoy, lived on the Kentucky side.

How the Feud Started: There was already animosity between the two clans by 1878. For one thing, during the Civil War, the Hatfields sided with the Confederacy, and the McCoys sided with the Union. But in 1878 Ole Ran’l sued Floyd Hatfield for stealing a hog —a serious offense in a farm-based economy— and McCoy lost. In 1880 relations worsened when McCoy’s daughter Rose Anne became pregnant by Devil Anse’s son Johnse and went across the river to live —unmarried— with the Hatfields.

Then on August 7, 1882, Randolph’s son Tolbert stabbed Devil Anse’s brother Ellison multiple times in a brawl that started during an election day picnic; when Ellison died a few days later, the Hatfields retaliated by tying three of the McCoy brothers to some bushes and executing them.

The feud continued for six more years. It ended after a nighttime raid on the McCoys on January 1, 1888. That night, a group of Hatfields surrounded Ole Ran’l McCoy’s house (he was away) and ordered the occupants to come out and surrender. When no one did they set the house on fire. Ole Ran’l’s daughter Allifair finally ran out and was gunned down; so was her brother Calvin. The house burned to the ground.

And the Winner Is: No one. This last attack was so brutal that officials in both Kentucky and West Virginia finally felt compelled to intervene. One Hatfield who participated in the raid was convicted and hanged for the crime. Several others were sentenced to long prison terms. With most violent offenders behind bars and the rest of the clan members weary of years of killing, the feud petered out.


The article above was reprinted with permission from Uncle John's True Crime: A Classic Collection of Crooks, Cops, and Capers.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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