The Hatfield-McCoy feud (1878–1891) is an account of American lore that has become a metaphor for bitterly feuding rival parties in general. It has been described as an Appalachian Capulet-Montague rivalry, involving two warring families of the West Virginia-Kentucky backcountry along the Tug Fork River, off the Big Sandy River. However, unlike the fictional Romeo and Juliet, the Hatfields and McCoys were violently real.
The Hatfields (Tan Color) lived on the West Virginia side of the Tug Fork, and the McCoys (Red Color) lived on the Kentucky side. Both families were part of the first wave of pioneers to settle the Tug Valley. Both were involved in the manufacture and sale of moonshine. Both apparently were involved in pro-Confederate guerrilla activity during the American Civil War. The Hatfields were led by William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield (1839–1921). The McCoys were led by Randolph "Ole Ran'l" McCoy (1825–1914). Both family leaders outlived the feud.
Both families lived in the Appalachian mountains and are considered "hillbillies"; however, they had both acquired much land and respectability. The Hatfields were more affluent than the McCoys and were very well politically-connected, but both families owned a good amount of property. The McCoys, with a Scots-Irish heritage, were, and are, a very proud family.
As legends go, the first recorded instance of violence in the feud occurred after an 1878 dispute about the ownership of a hog: Floyd Hatfield had it, and Randolph McCoy said it was his. But in truth, the dispute was over land or property lines and the ownership of that land. The pig was only in the fight because one family believed that since the pig was on their land, that meant it was theirs; the other side objected. The matter was taken to court, and the McCoys lost because of the testimony of Bill Staton, a relative of both families. In June 1880, Staton was killed by two McCoy brothers, Sam and Paris, who were later acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.
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