If you’re fascinated by the bloody Hatfield-McCoy feud, the late 19th- century conflict between rival Kentucky and West Virginia families, a visit to Pike County, Ky. will help satisfy your curiosity.
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.
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 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 murder 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 more than 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. Kentucky’s governor responded by sending his chief military aide to Pike County to investigate the situation. Besides nearly 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.