Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Site of Killing of Asa Harmon McCoy

Killing Of Asa Harmon McCoy marker in Pike County, KYPike County, KY
Marker Number: 2068

Marker Text: Asa Harmon McCoy, a Union soldier, was shot in 1865 by the Logan Wildcats. The Wildcats were led by Confederate "Devil Anse" Hatfield. Jim Vance was the suspected leader in the murder, although there was never a conviction. This was the first incident between the two families. Presented by Pikeville-Pike County Tourism.

Location: Entrance to Blackberry School, just off KY 1056, near Ransom, KY. Erected by the Kentucky Historical Society, Kentucky Department of Highways in 2001.

Killing Of Asa Harmon McCoy marker near Blackberry School

The bridge on the right of the marker connects, KY Road 1056 and the Blackberry School and Fire Department on this side of the creek.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  I have collected several photos of historical markers related to the Hatfield-McCoy families and the world's famous feud which struck the imaginations of the nation outside of Appalachia. The Hatfield-McCoy feud began in the mountainous Tug River valley. The Tug River separates West Virginia from Kentucky and separated most of the Hatfield and McCoy clans. William Anderson Hatfield was the recognized leader of the Hatfield's and went by the nickname of “Devil Anse”. The leader of the McCoy's was Randolph McCoy, or known as Ole Ran'l.

  Many legends and misconceptions about the Hatfield-McCoy Feud has been told over the years. Most of the misunderstandings about the conflicts between these two families were promoted by the newspapers starting in 1887 when reports on the feud were printed. The newspapers portrayed the Hatfield’s as violent backwoods hillbillies who roamed the mountains stirring up violence. The newspapers sensational coverage fueled a series of stories and legends shaping Americas imagination for these two families. What began as a local story had now become a national legend.

  Since the History Channel is currently running a film documentary on the Hatfield-McCoy Feud I decided to post some of my markers about the sites of the famous feud.

Killing Of Asa Harmon McCoy marker KY Highway 1056 in background  The differences and the conflicts between the two families most likely had their roots during and following the U.S. Civil War. The war created tensions and conflicts among many families, particularly families in the border states. Today's marker about the killing of Asa Harmon McCoy related to his serving the Union army in an area where many served the Confederate army or were Confederate sympathizers increasing tensions between the families.

  The first killing between the two families began a few months before the ending of the Civil War. Devil Anse Hatfield, a southern sympathizer, helped form the Logan Wildcats to patrol the Tug Valley. The Logan Wildcats was the unofficial name of Company D 36th Virginia Infantry of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The company was created at Logan Courthouse on June 3, 1861, and consisted of about 85 men.

  Finally, on Jan. 7, 1865, the feud claimed its first victim. Asa Harmon McCoy, a Union army veteran and younger brother of Randolph McCoy, had defied his family's loyalties by joining Northern forces as a private for 12 months. Harmon broke his leg and was mustered out of service on December 24, 1864.

Killing Of Asa Harmon McCoy marker KY Highway 1056  Harmon returned home to a chilly welcome and a chilly warning from Devil Anse's ruthless uncle, Jim Vance. Vance told Harmon to expect a visit from Devil Anse's Wildcats. Harmon hid out in a nearby cave on Blue Spring Creek. His black slave, Pete, carried provisions to him. The Logan Wildcats, most of them West Virginians, traced Pete through the snow to the cave. There they found Harmon and shot him. His service in the Union army was considered an act of betrayal by the southern sympathizers. No suspects were brought to trial.

  Later, some believed “Devil Anse” Hatfield was responsible for killing Asa Harmon McCoy, but after finding the Wildcats' leader had been confined to his bed, the guilt turned squarely on Jim Vance. According to some accounts, "Wheeler" Wilson was the real gunman. But in an area where Harmon's military service was considered an act of disloyalty, even those in his own family believed he brought his murder on himself.

  While some have surmised that his murder set the stage for the feud, most historians now see this incident as a stand-alone event.  The event has entered American folklore as a metaphor for bitterly feuding rival parties in general.


  1. Very timely postings, considering all the interest generated by the History Channel's presentation. Your photos and discussion are very helpful in getting a ground-level view of these places. Thanks very much for doing this.

    Some recent articles downplay the Asa Harmon McCoy incident and instead consider the economic differences and jealousies between Devil Anse and Randolph McCoy to have been more of a factor. I wonder what local opinion is of that theory.

    1. Thanks for your comments. The economic differences between the two families were most likely an important factor in fueling the feud. Many factors such as the Civil War attitudes, economics, family loyalities, etc. contributed, making it difficult to determine the roots of the feud. Asa Harmon McCoy's killing was just the beginning of a continously growing conflict between the families.

  2. I have just recently found out that my GGuncle was Dyke Garrett who served with Devil Anse in the Logan Wildcats.
    He became the minister for the unit,and a lifelong friend of Hatfield.He was a circuit riding preacher after the war,and baptised Devil Anse 11 years before his death.
    Ain't history so cool.

    1. Yes, history is cool, which is why I love to stop and read the historical markers. Thanks for your comments, it was interesting to hear about Dyke Garrett.

  3. I have the fireplace mantel and fire grate pieces from the house that Asa Harmon McCoy last warmed his body prior to being killed by the Hatfields. located in Downtown Matewan WV www.hatfieldmccoyinn.com

  4. What I'm curious is about WHY Asa Harmon McCoy joined the Union? Did he not share the same views as his family and others living in that area?

    1. The above story is NOT accurate about Asa Harmon McCoy!!! Asa joined the Union and so did most all his family AND more than 90% of Hatfields. The betrayers were Asa's brother and Devil Anse Hatfield because they were the ones that sided with the confederates. Devil Anse and Ole Randolf murdered a very close friend of Asa Harmon. Asa married into the wealthy Cline family which most fought for the Union as well. Devil Anses father and family left Blackberry Creek Ky and moved Beech Creek West Virginia prior to the feud but 90% plus of his Hatfield cousins, uncles and etc.. stayed in Kentucky and fought for the Union...

    2. This story is accurate. As the gg granddaughter of Preacher Anse Hatfield and current resident of Blackberry I know a little bit about the feud and these people. Asa was killed because everyone considered him a "switch coat". At this time, nearly every Hatfield and McCoy was a confederate.

  5. Thank you, both of you. History fascinates me.