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Romance prevailed despite conflict

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Ellis County Press
Continuing with our account of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, we learned that the feud leaders, Devil Anse Hatfield and Randolph McCoy, became increasingly bitter as they brooded over numerous old grievances and as new offenses occurred.

As previously mentioned, the daughter of Old Ranel McCoy took up with a Hatfield boy. The eventual consequences of that courtship caused a marked increase in the bitterness of Old Ranel toward the Hatfields.

Shakespeare taught us in Romeo and Juliet how the longings of two lovers can be stronger than any animosities existing between their respective families. At a high point of the McCoy-Hatfield feud, we find two such star-crossed lovers, Roseanna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield. 

In 1880, Roseanna left her Kentucky home against her family's will to live with Johnse in the Hatfield cabin in West Virginia. Johnse had a reputation for actively courting the girls; and Roseanna's father, Old Ranel McCoy, took the news of her departure with much distress. 

Supposedly Devil Anse later told a reporter Johnse and Roseanna were married, but most accounts state otherwise. In fact, most family historians claim Devil Anse refused to let them marry, which possibly brought a lasting frustration into the lover's heated affair. 

Roseanna returned to Kentucky the following year to live with an aunt, but Johnse continued to see her despite the risks. As we previously learned from an account by Devil Anse, Johnse was captured on the Kentucky side by the McCoys and had to be rescued by his family after Roseanna made a wild ride into West Virginia for help. It is likely her efforts saved Johnse's life.

Roseanna, now expecting a child, moved back to the cabin of her father.

Again, accounts vary. Some historians indicate she miscarried her baby after catching the measles, while others claim the infant lived several months.

But the elusive emotion of love that once burned intensely inside the lovers cooled. In May of that same year, Johnse married Nancy McCoy. 

Obviously, there was a great tragic sadness involving Roseanna, and her bitterness - and that of her father - persisted.

At this point, the feud began to feed upon itself. Each action brought retaliation by the other side, over and over until the original causes became unclear.

Throughout the Tug River area, people talked of little else. And men well accustomed to the hunting of animals devoted more and more time to the hunting of men.

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