Phillips steps up raids; Bad Jim Vance killed
By 01/25/2001 00:00:00
Ellis County Press
Continuing with our account of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, we learned the Hatfield faction retaliated against McCoy-sponsored raids into West Virginia by burning the cabin of Ranel McCoy in the night. Two of Ranel's 16 children were killed as they tried to flee the burning cabin.
The news of the burning of the McCoy cabin and the killing of two McCoy children created a widespread sensation. The incident was recounted by major newspapers across the nation, and reporters rushed to the West Virginia-Kentucky border, hoping to get first-hand information concerning the feud.
The aftermath of the killings intensified the feud and brought about a series of responses.
Ranel's wife Sarah almost died from her beating and took weeks to recover. Ol' Ranel spent long stretches of time by her bedside, and together they grieved over the loss of two more of their children. Now a total of six had now been lost to the feud.
It is believed, as Sarah regained her health, she encouraged Ranel to take further revenge on the Hatfields. She is reported to have told him from her sick bed: 'Go and do what you have to do now.'
Kentucky lawman Frank Phillips increased his raids into West Virginia and managed to engage Bad Jim Vance and Cap Hatfield in a skirmish. Vance was killed in the battle, and before Cap Hatfield got away, Phillips bragged to Cap he planned to kill many more Hatfields.
Devil Anse Hatfield decided to move further into West Virginia and establish a family 'fort' for safety.
Numerous family members joined him at the fort, but one exception was Nancy McCoy, the wife of Johnse Hatfield. Nancy returned to Kentucky, where she became involved in a torrid affair with Frank Phillips, the boastful Hatfield nemesis.
One member of the Hatfield faction accused of participating in the slaughter at McCoy's cabin was Ellison Mounts, known to area residents as 'Cottontop.'
His mother's husband was Daniel Mounts, a member of a prominent area family, but everyone suspected 'Cotton-top' was the product of a romantic dalliance between two cousins, Harriet Hatfield and Ellison Hatfield.
As is sometimes the case of the offspring of cousins, Cottontop was considered slow of thought and easily influenced. Whether or not he suffered a deficiency, there was little doubt he sought approval from his peers, and perhaps that lead him into trouble.