Marker Text: The death in 1882 of Ellison Hatfield, brother of "Devil Anse", from wounds he received in an election-day fight in Pike County, Kentucky, with three sons of Randolph McCoy, and their subsequent killing by the Hatfields, triggered America's most famous family feud. The feud continued six years across the Tug River and brought death to an untold number of Hatfields, McCoys, and their kinsmen.
Location: WV Route 49 (Railroad Avenue), at junction with Laurel Street in Matewan, WV. Erected by the West Virginia Department of Archives and History in 1970.
Dutch Hatfield stated that he knew only one thing for sure about the feud: If someone says he knows the true story of the battle, he doesn't. No one knows the truth, he says. Nor will it ever be known. The truth was buried with the people who fought and died in this rugged mountain terrain during the years of the feud. From interview with Dutch Hatfield, Newtown, WV, the grandson of Ellison Hatfield.
Historical markers related to the Hatfield-McCoy Feud are located in both West Virginia and Kentucky. This marker located in Matewan, WV indicates the feud began with the death of Ellison Hatfield in 1882 following the election-day fight across the Tug River into Kentucky and the subsequent Paw Paw Tree incident in Kentucky. There are markers in Kentucky on both the Election-day fight and Paw Paw Tree incident.
Yesterday's marker from Kentucky about the Killing of Asa Harmon McCoy indicated the start of the feud with this incident. I don't claim any expertise on the history of the feud. Based on what I have read and the stories I heard while living in this area a few years ago. A person's viewpoint on the feud greatly depends on many things, such as, which side of the river one lives, whose family one identifies, and how much a person's view was influenced by media reports of the time. I am not sure anyone could give an exact point where the feud began.
Looking east on WV Route 49 with part of the downtown section of Matewan, WV in the background.
Dutch Hatfield knows for certain that his grandfather, Ellison, lies buried on a hillside cemetery near his home. From the cemetery, Dutch can look up and down Mate Creek hollow and see land that the Hatfields once owned. Hatfields still live in the hollow, but much of the land is now owned by coal companies.
Most reports agree that Ellison was murdered across the Tug River in Pike County, Kentucky, where Hatfield Branch joins Blackberry Creek. The murder occurred following an election day brawl. Three McCoy brothers - Tolbert, Pharmer and Randolph Jr. were charged with the death.
Dutch Hatfield stated from here the facts get confusing. he has always heard his grandfather suffered 17 stab wounds to his body. His cousin, Emma Hatfield (daughter of Ellison's brother, Smith Hatfield), said she always heard Ellison was cut 47 times. While, V. C. Jones, the author of what some call the most accurate account of the feud, said that Ellison was stabbed 27 times and shot once in the back.
The conflicts between the Hatfields and the McCoys probably pre-dated Ellison's shooting by seven or eight years going back to 1873 when Floyd Hatfield, Ellison's cousin, and Randolph "Rand'l" McCoy, father of the three accused in Ellison's death, fought over who owned a semi-wild razorback hog. Floyd Hatfield and Randolph McCoy each claimed ownership before a magistrate in Kentucky. The magistrate was a Hatfield - "Preacher Anse" Hatfield to be precise. The preacher was a cousin to "Devil Anse."
The Hatfield and McCoy Feud created within the nation’s consciousness the distorted perception of the hillbilly. Those outside of Appalachia saw its residents as gun toting, uneducated, barefoot, overall wearing country hicks. What we too often fail to recognize is these were real people who suffered real tragedy. Hatfield and McCoy story is truly tragic. Men and women were killed and lives were forever changed as a result of this feud.