March 31, 2004 -- A wooded hillside overlooking the Tug Valleyhas gone from being a gruesome murder scene to a tourist attractionthat draws people from around the world.
It was here that three young brothers were gunned down by agroup of men set on revenge for the stabbing death of one of theirown kin.
This tiny spot in the Appalachians would have been forgottenlong ago had the combatants not been named Hatfield and McCoy. Butbecause these are the nation's most notorious feuding families, thescattered places where they fought and died are being preserved inthe interest of history — and commerce.
Congress has appropriated nearly $500,000 to build walkways toaccommodate foot traffic and make some of the bloodiest feud sitesmore tourist-friendly. Local leaders are hoping for a sizablereturn in tourism dollars for a struggling mountain economy.
Kevin Gilliam, a Pikeville architect working to restore some ofthe feuding grounds, said he has been amazed by the level ofinterest in the feud from outside Kentucky, even outside the UnitedStates.
"People already come from all over to visit these places," hesaid. "From Canada, from Japan. It's unreal the people who areshowing up."
Fight over a Pig
The feud between the McCoys of Kentucky and the Hatfields ofWest Virginia — believed to have stemmed from a dispute over a pig— brought national attention to the region. A court battle overtimber rights escalated the tension in the early 1870s. By 1888, atleast 12 lives were lost as a result of the feud that receivedwidespread publicity in national newspapers and magazines at thetime.
Already, the Dils Cemetery in Pikeville — where patriarchRandolph McCoy, his wife, Sara, and daughter Roseanna are buried — has been landscaped and stairs have been added to allow easy accessfor visitors. Improvements are now under way or soon will be at six otherlandmarks connected to the infamous feud. Some, like the cabin sitewhere a trial was held to settle the pig dispute, are overgrownwith vegetation after years of neglect.
Gilliam said he expects a replica of that cabin to be built andopen to tourists by next year.
Along with the congressional appropriation, the Pike CountyFiscal Court has contributed $25,000 for the feud project, and theKentucky Transportation Cabinet $100,000.
Tourism officials have added historical markers withexplanations of the landmarks at seven sites. One is the placewhere three McCoys — Tolbert, Pharmer and Randolph McCoy Jr. — weretied to pawpaw trees and shot to death in 1882 by an unofficialposse organized by Devil Anse Hatfield, patriarch of the Hatfieldfamily.
The McCoy boys were wanted for killing Ellison Hatfield in anElection Day fight on Aug. 7, 1882.
Feud Fuels Local Economy
Pike County Tourism Commission chief Phyllis Hunt said promotingthe feud sites is good for the local economy. She said she expectsvisitation to skyrocket once all the improvements are completed.
"We have visitors throughout the year who come to see the feudsites," she said. "We give them directions and a map, and they'realways so excited to see where it actually happened."
Visitors flood the feud sites during the annual Hillbilly DaysFestival each April and the Hatfield-McCoy Reunion Festival eachJune in Pikeville.
Betty Howard, who traces her ancestry to both the Hatfields andMcCoys, said people from outside the region often are moreinterested in the feud than are local residents.
Some in the Tug Valley would rather forget what they see as anugly chapter in the history of the region, Howard said. That, shesaid, is why is has taken so many years to open the feud sites totourists. Howard said people should be proud of their heritage, and theHatfield-McCoy feud, though many wish it had never happened, is apart of that heritage.
"Some people may want the history of the feud to go away,"Howard said. "But it's not going away."
If You Go…
PIKEVILLE-PIKE COUNTY TOURISM: Visit www.tourpikecounty.com orcall (800) 844-7453. HILLBILLY DAYS FESTIVAL: April 15-17, downtown Pikeville, Ky. HATFIELD-McCOY REUNION FESTIVAL: June 10-13, downtown Pikeville,Ky. HATFIELD-McCOY FEUD SITES: Look for roadside markers for theserural sites. Dils Cemetery, where Randolph and Sara McCoy are buried, alongwith daughter Roseanna and son Sam. Location: Chloe Road inPikeville. Place where Ellison Mounts was hanged. He was convicted ofmurder for a raid on McCoy home in which two people were killed.Location: Kentucky Avenue in Pikeville. Site of hog trial, which escalated the feud between thefamilies. Location: Route 319 in McCarr, Ky. Site of the murder of Asa Harman McCoy, the first person killedin the feud. He was a Union Army veteran and brother of RandolphMcCoy. Location: Route 1056 in Blackberry, Ky. Old courthouse and jail, where murder trials were held andwhere combatants were incarcerated. Location: Main Street inPikeville.
Site of grave of baby daughter of Roseanna McCoy and JohnseHatfield. They were lovers from the feuding families. Location:Route 292 in Burnwell, Ky. Site of "PawPaw Incident," where three McCoy boys were tiedto trees and shot. Location: Route 1056 at Buskirk, Ky.