Guest blogger Kathy Witt shares her latest road trip adventure with us.
“The famous Hatfield-McCoy feud that has terrorized the law-abiding citizens in Eastern Kentucky has broken out afresh and another wholesale slaughter is looked for at any moment.”
The 1889 story in New York City’s The Sun, under the headline, “East Kentucky in Terror,” chronicled one of the world’s most famous grudges, one that began with a hog and ended with a body count of more than a dozen dead Hatfields and McCoys.
The feud, which had its roots in the American Civil War, lasted for generations, keeping the country in its thrall for decades.
This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the feud between these two warring clans that lived, died, murdered and maimed in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, specifically the Tug River Valley, which divides Kentucky and West Virginia.
Descendants of the Hatfields, whose patriarch was William “Devil Anse” Hatfield, and the McCoys, led by Randolph “Old Ranel” McCoy, signed a truce, proclaiming in part that the families “do hereby and formally declare an official end to all hostilities, implied, inferred and real, between the families, now and forevermore.”
The self-guided Hatfields and McCoys Historic Feud Driving Tour takes visitors to key sites connected to the 30-year feud. First stop: the Pikeville-Pike County, Kentucky Visitors Center, www.tourpikecounty.com, to pick up the brochure with step-by-step directions through Pike County’s winding mountain roads. An audio CD or USB is available for purchase ($20/each) and sets the stage for full-on feud immersion with narration, music and jaunty ballads.
The driving tour covers three main geographic areas of Hatfield-McCoy feud activity: Pikeville city, the Blackberry area of Pike County and across the Tug River in West Virginia in a town called Sarah Ann. Depending on pace and interest, the full tour can take four to six hours, but it can also be broken up into shorter visits. Tour sites are open during daylight hours.
Pay your respects at the gravesites of Hatfield and McCoy kinfolk caught in the clash’s crossfire, including Devil Anse and Randolph McCoy. Stop by the site of Randolph McCoy’s Homeplace and Well in the Blackberry Creek area and the mournful grounds of the Pawpaw trees, where in 1882 more than 50 bullets were pumped into the bodies of Randolph’s sons—Tolbert, Pharmer and Randolph, Jr.—in retaliation for the stabbing death of Ellison Hatfield.
In Pikeville, enter the halls of justice at the Historic Pike County Courthouse, site of the Hatfield trials for the murders of the McCoy brothers and the subsequent murder of Alifair McCoy, their sister, among other crimes. See the Hanging Site of Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts. The 1890 hanging brought crowds out to the gallows in their Sunday best to watch the Hatfield who confessed to and was convicted of Alifair’s murder swing by the neck.
Nearby, the Big Sandy Heritage Center Museum houses the world’s largest collection of historical Hatfield and McCoy artifacts, including the rope bed that belonged to Asa Harmon McCoy, whose accused murderer was Devil Anse, and an original photo of Roseanna McCoy, who had a secret love affair with Johnse Hatfield. Also see life-size figures of Devil Anse and Old Ranel, plus newspaper clippings, portraits of the families and other memorabilia.
Spend some time in Pikeville’s historic downtown district to stroll lamppost-lined streets and browse independently owned shops like Two Chicks & Company for apparel, gift items and home décor and the mom-and-pop collective, the Shoppes at 225.
Along the way meet the Hatfield and McCoy Bears, Moonshine Bear, Banjo Bear and a whole sleuth of bears—all part of Pikeville’s Bear Affair, a community arts program starring University of Pikeville’s sports mascot. The whimsical four- and five-foot tall bears each have a story to tell and are fun and colorful photo ops.
Stay in walking distance of downtown shops, restaurants and many of the Bear Affair bears at the Hampton Inn Pikeville. It has all the amenities the brand is known for—free parking, Wi-Fi and hot breakfast, indoor pool and fitness center—plus a cozy fireplace in the lobby.
Sup where Old Ranel once slept. Chirico’s Ristorante occupies the former McCoy House—where Randolph, his wife Sarah (also known as Sally) and their family settled when their Pike County Homeplace was burned by the Hatfields during the New Year’s Day Raid of 1888.
Dine on authentic Italian dishes—everything from an Italian sampler starter featuring hand-rolled meatballs and scratch-made Italian sausage to the traditional Frankwich house specialty. Part sandwich, part pizza, this layered and lidded Chirico’s original is stacked with ham, pepperoni, mozzarella and zesty cheeses, baked in a brick oven and finished with lettuce, tomato and mayo. Specialty frankwiches include Philly steak, Italian sub and Buffalo chicken flavors.
Place your order then head up to the second floor, ascending the same staircase Randolph and Sarah walked up each night while living here from 1888 until their respective deaths.
According to Tony Tackett, executive director of the Pikeville-Pike County Tourism Commission, Old Ranel selected the site for its proximity to Dils Cemetery where he had buried Sarah and their daughter, Roseanna. He could step out onto his second-floor balcony and, at that time, see across town to the cemetery.
McCoy’s Italian Meat LoafThis recipe, a McCoy family favorite, is from the cookbook, Cooking with the Real McCoys, with recipes by the family and friends of Margie Annett and the McCoys. The book is available for $15 at the gift shop at the Pikeville-Pike County Visitor Center. Ingredients
- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 egg, slightly, beaten
- 1 diced onion
- 1 diced green pepper
- 1 cup Quaker oats
- 1 24-oz jar Prego spaghetti sauce
- 2 tsp Italian seasonings
- 3/4 lb. sliced mozzarella cheese
Combine ground beef, milk, egg, onion, green pepper, oats, Italian seasoning and half of the spaghetti sauce.
Mix well. Put half of the mixture in baking dish. Add cheese on top of this layer. Add remaining ground beef mixture on top of cheese.
Pour remaining spaghetti sauce over top.
Bake in 350-degree oven for 1 hour.
Kathy Witt Writer/Author SATW Society of American Travel Writers│Authors Guild Author of Cincinnati Scavenger; Secret Cincinnati: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful & Obscure; The Secret of the Belles; Atlanta, Georgia: A Photographic Portrait Arriving Spring 2024: Perfect Day Kentucky: Daily Itineraries for the Discerning Traveler
Kathy is a syndicated travel/cruise columnist for Tribune News Service and freelance writer for a variety of print magazines, blogs and other online outlets. Copywriter and storyteller who’s created written content for Ricardo Beverly Hills, LiteGear Bags and other travel/lifestyle brands; Bardstown “The Bourbon Capital of the World” KY, Harrodsburg KY and other destinations. Author of five books, including Secret Cincinnati. Graduate of Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College with TMP (tourism marketing professional) designation. Recipient of numerous writing awards, including Mark Twain Travel Writing Awards and Lily Scholarships.KathyWitt.com│www.facebook.com/SecretCincinnatiNKY www.LinkedIn.com/in/KathyWitt│www.Instagram.com/Kathy.Witt