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82 - Hatfields & McCoys New Years Massacre

Ep. 82

Hatfield/McCoy Feud &

New Years Day


This here episode marks the last episode of a very tumultuous year. At Least we gave you the super upbeat story of the Dozier School For Boys for your Christmas listening. This week we are going out with a bang! You may think you know the story, you probably know the names, you didn't know that Moody's wife is directly related to both families, and lastly you probably want us to get to the point. So here it is…. This week we celebrate the new year by talking about none other than the Hatfields and the McCoys...and the new years day massacre.

The patriarchs of each family during the majority of the feud were William Anderson Hatfield and Randolph McCoy.

Hatfield was born September 9, 1839, in western Virginia (now Logan, West Virginia), the son of Ephraim and Nancy (Vance) Hatfield. His nickname "Devil Anse" has a variety of supposed origins: it was given to him by his mother; by Randolph McCoy; earned from his bravery during battle in the American Civil War; or as contrast to his good-tempered cousin, Anderson "Preacher Anse" Hatfield.

A Southern sympathizer, Hatfield enlisted in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. He was commissioned a First Lieutenant of Cavalry in the Virginia State Line in 1862, a group made to protect the territory along the Kentucky-Virginia border where resident loyalties to the North and South were mixed. The Virginia State Line eventually disbanded in 1863 and Hatfield enlisted as a private in the newly formed 45th Battalion Virginia Infantry, before being appointed first lieutenant and later captain of Company B. His unit spent most of its time patrolling the border area against bushwhackers sympathetic to the Union as well as engaging in guerrilla warfare against Union soldiers. Devil Anse himself has been connected to battles and killings of several Union fighters, including trackers Ax and Fleming Hurley in 1863.

Devil Anse and his uncle Jim Vance later formed a Confederate guerrilla fighting unit called the "Logan Wildcats." One of the group's victims was Union General Bill France; killed in revenge for losing one of their members to France's unit.[ In 1865, he was suspected of having been involved in the murder of his rival Asa Harmon McCoy, who had fought for the Union Army and was waylaid by The Wildcats on his return home. Hatfield had been home ill at the time of the killing, which was probably committed at the instigation of his uncle, Jim Vance. This may have sparked the beginning of the notorious feud between the two families that claimed many lives on both sides.

Devil Anse was the patriarch leader during the Hatfield-McCoy feud. His family and Randolph McCoy's fought in one of the bloodiest and most well-known feuds in American history. He was instrumental during the execution of McCoy boys Tolbert, Pharmer and Bud, as well as being present during the Battle of Grapevine Creek before most of his sons and friends were arrested for the murder of the McCoys.

Hatfield was baptized on September 23, 1911 in Island Creek by William Dyke "Uncle Dyke" Garrett and converted to Christianity (he had maintained a largely agnostic or anti-institutional view of religion prior to this conversion). He went on to found a Church of Christ congregation in West Virginia. He was an uncle of the eventual Governor of West Virginia, and United States Senator, Henry D. Hatfield.

Randolph "Randall"(or sometimes Ol’ Ran’ll) McCoy grew up in the Tug River Valley, which marked the boundary between Kentucky and West Virginia. He was born on the Kentucky side of the valley, one of 13 children. There he learned to hunt and farm, two main ways people living in this part of Appalachia supported themselves. McCoy grew up in poverty. His father, Daniel, had little interest in work, so his mother, Margaret, had to struggle to care for, feed and clothe the family.

In 1849, McCoy married his first cousin, Sarah "Sally" McCoy. Sally inherited land from her father a few years after they married. They settled on this 300-acre spread in Pike County, Kentucky, where they had 16 children together.

During the Civil War, McCoy served as a soldier for the Confederacy. He may have even been a part of the same local militia as his later nemesis, William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield.

The Family trees of these men are huge. There are many descendants around to this day. This also made keeping track of some of the issues tricky. Lots of people involved. First cousin marriage. Romeo and juliet type relationships between the families...crazy shit.

The Hatfield–McCoy feud, also described by journalists as the Hatfield–McCoy war, involved two rural American families of the West Virginia–Kentucky area along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River in the years 1863–1891. The McCoy family lived mostly on the Kentucky side of the Tug Fork; the Hatfields lived mostly on the West Virginia side. The majority of the Hatfields, although living in Mingo County (then part of Logan County) fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War; most McCoys also fought for the Confederates, with the exception of Asa Harmon McCoy, who fought for the Union.

The Hatfields were more affluent than the McCoys and were well-connected politically. Anse's timbering 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 farm. Both families had also been involved in the manufacturing and selling of illegal moonshine, a popular commodity at the time. The first event in the decades-long feud was the 1865 murder of Randolph’s brother, Asa Harmon McCoy, by the Logan Wildcats, a local militia group that counted Devil Anse and other Hatfields among its members. Many people—even members of his own family—regarded Asa Harmon, who had served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, as a traitor. At the time of his capture, he was recovering from a gunshot wound to the chest. During the early months of the Civil War, Asa joined a company of the Pike County Home Guards, under the command of Uriah Runyon, and it is thought he sustained the wound while serving in this unit. Asa's Company E was mustered out on December 24, 1864, in Ashland. He was killed near his home on January 7, 1865, just thirteen days after leaving the Union Army. A group of Confederate guerillas took credit for the killing and his wife's pension application states that he was "killed by Rebels". There are no existing records pertaining to his death and no warrants were issued in connection with the murder. McCoy family tradition points to James "Jim" Vance, an uncle of Anse and a member of a West Virginia Militia group, as the culprit.

Relations between the two families continued to sour over the next decade before flaring again over a seemingly small matter: a dispute over a single hog. In 1878 Randolph McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield, a cousin of Devil Anse, of stealing one of his pigs, a valuable commodity in the poor region. Floyd Hatfields’s trial took place in McCoy territory but was presided over by a cousin of Devil Anse. It hinged on the testimony of star witness Bill Staton, a McCoy relative married to a Hatfield. Staton testified in Floyd Hatfield’s favor, and the McCoys were infuriated when Floyd was cleared of the charges against him. Two years later, Staton was violently killed in a fracas with Sam and Paris McCoy, nephews of Randolph. Sam stood trial for the murder but was acquitted for self-defense reasons.

Within months of Staton’s murder, a heated affair of a different sort was set ablaze. At a local election day gathering in 1880, Johnse Hatfield, the 18-year-old son of Devil Anse, encountered Roseanna McCoy, Randolph’s daughter. According to accounts, Johnse and Roseanna hit it off, disappearing together for hours. Supposedly fearing retaliation from her family for mingling with the Hatfields, Roseanna stayed at the Hatfield residence for a period of time, drawing the ire of the McCoys.

Although they certainly shared a romance, it rapidly became clear that Johnse was not about to settle down with Roseanna. Several months later he abandoned the pregnant Roseanna and quickly moved on. In May 1881 he married Nancy McCoy, Roseanna’s cousin. According to the romanticized legend, Roseanna was heartbroken by these events and never recovered emotionally.

The real turning point in the feud, according to most historical accounts, occurred on another local election day in August 1882. Three of Randolph McCoy’s sons ended up in a violent dispute with two brothers of Devil Anse. The fight soon snowballed into chaos as one of the McCoy brothers stabbed Ellison Hatfield multiple times and then shot him in the back. Authorities soon apprehended the McCoys, but the Hatfields interceded, spiriting the men to Hatfield territory. After receiving word that Ellison had died, they bound the McCoys to some pawpaw bushes. Within minutes, they fired more than 50 shots, killing all three brothers.

Though the Hatfields might have felt their revenge was warranted, the law felt otherwise, quickly returning indictments against 20 men, including Devil Anse and his sons. Despite the charges, the Hatfields eluded arrest, leaving the McCoys boiling with anger about the murders and outraged that the Hatfields walked free. Their cause was taken up by Perry Cline, an attorney who was married to Martha McCoy, the widow of Randolph’s brother Asa Harmon. Years earlier Cline had lost a lawsuit against Devil Anse over the deed for thousands of acres of land, and many historians believe this left him looking for his own form of revenge. Using his political connections, Cline had the charges against the Hatfields reinstated. He announced rewards for the arrest of the Hatfields, including Devil Anse.

The media started to report on the feud in 1887. In their accounts, the Hatfields were often portrayed as violent backwoods hillbillies who roamed the mountains stirring up violence. The sensationalist coverage planted the seed for the rivalry to become cemented in the American imagination. What had been a local story was becoming a national legend.

The Hatfields may or may not have been paying attention to these stories, but they were certainly paying attention to the bounty on their heads. In an effort to end the commotion once and for all, a group of the Hatfields and their supporters hatched a plan to attack Randolph McCoy and his family. This attack would become known as the New Year's Day Massacre.

Ever on the offensive, the Hatfields staged a sneak attack on the McCoy homestad. On New Year's Day 1888, they set fire to the McCoy home in what was eventually dubbed the New Year's Night Massacre. According to some accounts, the fire was set while the family was still in the house, asleep, as a means of forcing Randolph McCoy to come outside where a Hatfield ambush awaited him. As the flames grew, the Hatfields opened fire on the house.

McCoy did come out, but managed to escape into the woods along with some children, who suffered frostbite. Other members of the McCoy clan weren't so lucky. Two of his children were killed during the blaze, and his wife was beaten so badly she was permanently disabled. With his house burning, Randolph and his remaining family members were able to escape to the woods; his children, unprepared for the elements, suffered frostbite. The remaining McCoys moved to Pikeville to escape the West Virginia raiding parties.

During the 1888 New Year's Night Massacre, the Hatfields set fire to the McCoy homestead in hopes of flushing the family out in the open. During the mayhem, Randolph McCoy's wife, Sarah, was so badly beaten her skull was crushed. His son Calvin and daughter Alifair were killed in the crossfire

Sarah McCoy had never participated in the violence of the feud, so beating her almost to death served no purpose other than sending a message. And send a message it did – to the local authorities. Sarah McCoy's gruesome beating, and the murder of her children, brought about the murder trial that judicially ended the feud between the warring families.

This incident led to the last great skirmish of the feud as tensions were at an all time high! After the murders and the burning of the house there was an outcry for the Hatfields to be brought to justice. This led to the battle of grapevine creek. On January 19 Devil Anse and a large party of his supporters faced off with Frank Phillips and his men in a large gun battle which entered local lore and the legend of the feud as the Battle of Grapevine Creek. Despite involving a large number of men, and despite being the single biggest engagement of the entire feud only two were killed in the battle, though a deputy who supported the Hatfields was executed by Phillips after the battle. Following the engagement Phillips withdrew to Kentucky, having succeeded in rounding up nine members of the Hatfield clan. Once there he learned that another Governor, E. Willis Wilson of West Virginia, had entered the fray, and at least to all appearances on the side of the Hatfields. Wilson demanded that the illegally taken prisoners be returned to West Virginia.

Wilson expressed outrage to both governor Buckner and to the federal government, sued the government of Kentucky for the illegal arrest of the nine prisoners being held there, and demanded reparations for the raids into his state. He also ordered the West Virginia Guard to mobilize and move units to the border with Kentucky to prevent further incursions into the state. In response, Buckner dispatched units of Kentucky’s guard to the border area as protection against retaliatory raids by either West Virginia troops or supporters of the Hatfields. Only two decades after the end of the Civil War the military assets of two states were facing each other over their shared border, as a result of the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Among the nine men taken to Kentucky to stand trial for the murder of Alifair McCoy and others was Valentine Hatfield, known as Wall and a man with some connections in the government of West Virginia. Through his ministrations, Governor Wilson demanded the return of the prisoners by arguing that they had been denied due process and had been illegally extradited by Kentucky. Kentucky argued that the prisoners were in custody, under indictment, and that the state had no obligation to release them to West Virginia or any other entity, regardless of the circumstances of their arrest. In April the case was appealed by Governor Wilson to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Court issued no finding regarding the legality or illegality of the arrest, but agreed with Kentucky in their argument that no federal law existed which would prohibit the prisoners from being tried for the crimes committed in Kentucky, regardless of the nature of events which resulted with them being in custody. The finding was 7-2 in favor of Kentucky. With the nine men in custody pending trial the feud was effectively over, at least as pertains to violence against the other family. But several questions over the feud itself and the many participants arose in the aftermath of the arrests. Devil Anse was not among the prisoners, and neither West Virginia nor Kentucky authorities sought his arrest, despite his physical location being well known. Nor was Cap Hatfield in custody. One of the prisoners taken to Kentucky for trial was Valentine Hatfield, and at his trial he was convicted of involvement in the murders of the McCoy children and sentenced to life in prison. Wall Hatfield may not have been involved in the attack for which he was charged, in 2014 his great-grandson, an Episcopal priest, told the Bluefield (West Virginia) Daily Telegraph that family lore was that Wall surrendered voluntarily and that he hadn’t been guilty of the crime for which he had been charged. He also recounted a story of another relative visiting the Kentucky State Prison to review the records of his great-grandfather and learning of a different cause of death than that recorded by most historians.


According to most accounts of the feud, once he was convicted Wall communicated with his brothers, asking for their assistance in getting him out of jail, but they refused over fears of being arrested. Wall died in prison under circumstances which remain officially unknown. According to his great-grandson, an official of the Kentucky prison system reviewed the records at the request of a relative of the Hatfields, and reported to her that he was placed in a cellblock alongside several convicted members of the McCoy clan, who killed Wall Hatfield in prison. The cause of death and the location of his grave were never released officially to the Hatfield family, who still question the nature of his role in the feud.

According to the accounts of several historians regarding the feud, Kentucky Special Officer Frank Phillips captured a deputy named Bill Dempsey who had been supporting the Hatfields, and executed him on the spot, an act of outright murder, though he was not held accountable for the crime. Other accounts have Phillips similarly executing Uncle Jim Vance rather than taking him into custody. Phillips referred to himself as “Bad Frank”, and claimed to have ridden at one time with the James-Younger Gang. Whether or not true, he did name one of his sons Jesse James Phillips, and he was indicted at various times in several jurisdictions.


Going back to Perry Cline, Whether Perry Cline instigated the feud, using Randolph McCoy and his family as a red flag to enrage Devil Anse, has been debated by many over the years. The story of Anse using the courts to deprive Cline of a significant section of valuable land has been cited as the motive for Cline to try to damage the Hatfield clan. Some writers and historians have laid the blame for the feud at the feet of Perry Cline, using his many instances of arousing the anger of the McCoy’s against the Hatfields as evidence that he manipulated the feud, and inflamed it during its several periods of near-dormancy. But other aspects of Cline’s character and his achievements in Pike County call this judgment into question in many ways.

There is little doubt that the McCoy family and their supporters suffered more deaths and the destruction of property over the course of the feud, and Randolph McCoy’s frustrations were elevated by his failures to obtain justice in the courts. Cline may have just been using his influence and political connections to help the McCoy family. Cline was well respected in Pike County and its environs; he started the first school for black children in the county and was elected to the state legislature, where he exhibited significant political skills. The theory that Cline incited the feud to get back at Devil Anse also falls flat when it is considered that Anse’s business remained intact and profitable in the feud’s aftermath, and if anything his influence in Logan County was enhanced.

One of the motivating factors for the Hatfield attack on Randolph McCoy’s home was the bounty placed on the heads of several members of the clan, including a $500 bounty on Devil Anse, the recognized leader of the Hatfield’s and their supporters. Anse has gone down in history as the undisputed leader of the West Virginia Hatfield clan, despite the fact that he was not arrested and was never tried for any of the multitude of violent crimes he supposedly directed. While some have ascribed his eluding prosecution to his political connections in West Virginia, it has been noted that his brother Wall held similar connections, which did not preclude him from being tried, convicted, and imprisoned in Kentucky, where he died.

Anse was never, except when attempting to outmaneuver Frank Phillips and his posse of vigilantes, on the run; his whereabouts were well-known to both members of the Hatfield clan and the McCoy faction attempting to bring him to justice. Court records also demonstrate that Anse was prone to using the courts, both in Logan County and in Pike County, to resolve differences, as indicated by the incident with the stolen hog. Nor was he present during the attack on the McCoy home. He was part of the murder of the three McCoy brothers following the murder of his own brother, an incident which much of the Tug Valley found to be justified. If he was in fact the leader of the Hatfield clan, as most accounts claim, he nonetheless escaped legal retribution, and attempts to exact justice upon him ended with the trial of the Hatfield’s in Kentucky.

Cap Hatfield was the second son of Devil Anse, a man known to have a violent streak and a quarrelsome nature throughout the Tug River region. Cap was the type of man who preferred fighting to discussion and believed that vengeance was a duty of the offended. Cap was one of many of the feud’s participants of which there are conflicting accounts, some say he was arrested by Frank Phillips on the same day that the latter killed Uncle Jim Vance, others recount that he escaped Phillips on that day. At one point he was in the Logan County (later Mingo County) Jail, from which he reportedly escaped and eluded justice, probably with the help of his father. Cap was never brought to justice.


During the trial which led to the sentencing of Ellison Mounts to death, eyewitness testimony from Randolph McCoy was that it was Cap Hatfield who had killed Alifair McCoy, testimony which conflicted with the confession offered by Mounts. As Cap frequently sided with his mentor, Jim Vance, who consistently recommended violent solutions to perceived slights, it seems likely that he was present during the attack, probably leading it along with his uncle. Cap escaped the feud and the pursuit of the vigilantes and vanished. In 1930, he died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, one of the last survivors of the feud. His death was described in the New York Times as being the result of a brain ailment.

James Vance was well-known in both Logan and Pike Counties, referred to as Crazy Jim Vance by the McCoy family and as Uncle Jim Vance to the Hatfield clan. The McCoys liked to point out that his father, Abner Vance, had been hanged and had never been married to Jim’s mother. A guerrilla fighter in Logan and Pike Counties during the Civil War, Vance was widely believed to have been the killer of Asa Harmon McCoy in 1865. Vance was accused by the McCoy’s of being the leader of the assault on the McCoy home during the New Year’s attack, and there was testimony that it was he who had severely beaten Sarah McCoy with a rifle butt as she attempted to reach her wounded daughter.

Vance has been portrayed down the years as a psychopathic killer, one of the leading proponents of the violence which marked the feud. Following his death and the disappearance of Cap Hatfield, the violence of the feud subsided, despite Devil Anse, the presumed leader of the Hatfield clan, remaining at large. Some historians believe that Cap Hatfield witnessed the execution of the wounded Jim Vance at the hands of Frank Phillips, which led to Cap’s decision to flee the region. Despite his criminal history, Vance at one point served as a constable, though many of the Hatfield’s did so in Logan County, despite being considered outlaws in Pike County, so Vance’s service with the law cannot be a consideration when evaluating his true character.

Throughout the twentieth century, the Hatfield and McCoy feud grew in legend. It became sensationalized in newspapers and magazines, fictionalized in periodicals and film, satirized in vaudeville, and trivialized in cartoons and comics. Portions of the feud were presented as romantic drama, as in the film Roseanna McCoy, released in 1949, which approached the feud from the perspective of star-crossed lovers of the Romeo and Juliet type. Mark Twain was one of the first to use the feud as a basis for one of his tales, describing the feud between the Grangerfords and the Sheperdsons in his novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Even Betty Boop appeared in the cartoon with a feud as a backdrop.

On June 14, 2003, in Pikeville, Kentucky, the McCoy cousins partnered with Reo Hatfield of Waynesboro, Virginia, to declare an official truce between the families. Reo Hatfield said that he wanted to show that if the two families could reach an accord, others could also. He had said that he wanted to send a broader message to the world that when national security is at risk, Americans put their differences aside and stand united: "We're not saying you don't have to fight because sometimes you do have to fight," he said. "But you don't have to fight forever." Signed by more than sixty descendants during the fourth Hatfield–McCoy Festival, the truce was touted as a proclamation of peace, saying "We ask by God's grace and love that we be forever remembered as those that bound together the hearts of two families to form a family of freedom in America." Governor Paul E. Patton of Kentucky and Governor Bob Wise of West Virginia signed proclamations declaring June 14 Hatfield and McCoy Reconciliation Day. Ron McCoy, one of the festival's founders, said it is unknown where the three signed proclamations will be exhibited and that "the Hatfields and McCoys symbolize violence and feuding and fighting, but by signing this, hopefully people will realize that's not the final chapter.

the Hatfield and McCoy Reunion Festival and Marathon are held annually in June on a three-day weekend. The events take place in Pikeville, Kentucky, Matewan, West Virginia, and Williamson, West Virginia. The festival commemorates the famed feud and includes a marathon and half-marathon (the motto is "no feudin', just runnin'"), in addition to an ATV ride in all three towns. There is also a tug-of-war across the Tug Fork tributary near which the feuding families lived, a live re-enactment of scenes from their most famous fight, a motorcycle ride, live entertainment, Hatfield–McCoy landmark tours, a cornbread contest, pancake breakfast, arts, crafts, and dancing. Launched in 2000, the festival typically attracts thousands with more than 300 runners taking part in the races.

Statue honoring Randolph McCoy at the McCoy Homeplace in Hardy, KY

In August 2015 members of both families helped archeologists dig for ruins at a site where they believe Randolph McCoy's house was burned

In September 2018, a wooden statue, standing over 8 feet tall, was erected in honor of Randolph McCoy at the McCoy homeplace in Hardy, Kentucky. Carved by chainsaw carver Travis Williams and donated to the property, this statue had been commissioned by McCoy property owner and Hatfield descendant Bob Scott. The statue was unveiled during Hatfield-McCoy Heritage Days in Pike County, Kentucky, an event that occurs every September that brings Hatfield and McCoy descendants back to Pike County to celebrate the long-standing peace between the families. The McCoy homeplace, like many others associated with the feud, is open to tourists year-round

Top horror movies set in kentucky...there is only 4 apparently…

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