Sunday, June 10, 2012

Feudists on Trial

Feudists On Trial marker in Pikeville, KY on campus of Pikeville CollegePike County, KY
Marker Number: 1913

Marker Text: Hanging site of Ellison Mounts, Feb. 18, 1890. Seven other Hatfield supporters indicted for murder of Alifair McCoy were sentenced to life in prison. By the time of his trial, Mounts had confessed. He was also found guilty, but the jury recommended the death penalty. Pike County sheriff carried out sentence. This was one of the last episodes in Hatfield-McCoy feud.

Location: On Kentucky Avenue within the Pikeville College campus, Pikeville, KY. Erected by the Kentucky Historical Society, Kentucky Department of Highways in 1992.

  Today's marker is the last directly related to the events of the feud.  I have two additional historical markers about the lives of the two main family leaders after the violence ended for the Hatfield-McCoy Feud.  I know of about two additional markers related to the feud I never had the chance to photograph.  As often happens when you are marker hunting you get close but make a wrong turn.  A marker in Pikeville escaped my camera when later I realized I was only about two blocks away from it. 

Feudists On Trial marker on campus of Pikeville College, Pike Co. Kentucky

Marker is on Pikeville College campus and is looking south on Kentucky Avenue. Click any photo to enlarge.

  The trial began in 1889 with eight of the Hatfields and their supporters sentenced to life in prison. Ellison Mounts, who was believed to be the son of Ellison Hatfield, was sentenced to death. Nicknamed “Cottontop”, Ellison Mounts was known to be mentally challenged, and many viewed him as a scapegoat even though he had confessed his guilt.

  Many people living in Logan County, WV and Pike County, KY as well as Ellison Mounts did not believe the Hatfield clan would permit Ellison to die on the gallows. The general feeling in the region was focused on how the Hatfield's would mount a rescue of Ellison.

  Ellison Mounts execution was originally scheduled for December 3, 1889, but under Kentucky law, Mounts had thirty days to file a petition for a rehearing, no petition was filed. Kentucky Governor Buckner set the hanging for February 18, 1890.

  Sheriff Maynard had suspicions about Ellison Mounts and what the Hatfield clan might do to help him make his escape. On February 17 Mounts expressed a desire to view the scaffold on which he was about to hang. The sheriff denied the request suspecting it was only an attempt to gain this escape.

  Ellison Mounts hanging was the first in Pikeville in over forty years and attracted an estimated four to eight thousand people. Two days before the execution, spectators arrived in droves. February 18, 1890 was an unusually warm day for a February.

  A few minutes before noon Sheriff Maynard came to the jail to read the death warrant to Ellison Mounts. After a prayer by Dr. J.W. Glover, a physician and pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, twenty-four guards led Mounts to a waiting wagon. Ellison was seated on a coffin beside Dr. Glover. The guards lead him through the town to the waiting scaffold at the site of this marker. According to another account, the name of the pastor was Rev. Price, so I am not sure which is correct. These type of accounts is what makes it difficult to feel you have come to understand the story of the feud.

Feudists On Trial marker on campus of Pikeville College, Pike Co. Kentucky  At this time Kentucky law forbid public hangings and Pike County authorities erected a fence around the scaffold, but they build the scaffold at the base of a hill so spectators only needed to stand on the surrounding hills to obtain a clear view of the execution. Many feud historians believe Pike County wanted to make an impression on the parties involved in the feud.

  When Ellison has been positioned on the scaffold, he was asked if he had any final words. Ellison simply stated he was ready to die and he hoped his friends would be good men and women and meet him in heaven. His last words as the black cap was pulled over his head were, “They made me do it! The Hatfields made me do it!”

  The execution of Ellison Mounts quickly tempered the thirst to seek any further vengeance by both sides.  Acts of violence attributed to the feud decreased immediately after the hanging, although the hatred lingered for years. Among the numerous participants of the Hatfield-McCoy conflict, Mounts was the only person legally executed in the entire duration of the feud. Both Randolph McCoy and Devil Anse Hatfield attempted to recede into relative obscurity.


  1. A sad tale of hatred and despair. Two foolish old men causing misery for their kin.

  2. why is it everywhere you read sites Ellison Mounts is buried in Pikeville Ky ??? I may have overlooked this proof somewhere? Ihave read on chronicling america newspapers from that era.. and several say friends of the family were allowed Ellison back and stated they were going to bury him in the mt. of virginia?? I could find no solid proof he was buried in Pikeville..Where is it printed in that time 1890 that he was buried there?? While reading over his life there are so many questions all different anwsers...