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Bad blood endured for decades

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JOHNathan CAPPS
Ellis County Press
Last in a Series

After the hanging of Ellison ‘Cotton-top' Mounts, the intensity of the feud diminished. Acts of violence became rare, but the bad feelings endured for decades.

Over the years, Cap Hatfield was involved in some scrapes with McCoy sympathizers, but it is generally believed he took these actions on his own initiative.

Frank Phillips, the zealous Kentucky ‘lawman' who undertook to exterminated the Hatfields, was killed in a brawl while in Virginia. The person who killed him was a stranger with no apparent connection to the Hatfield family.

Devil Anse Hatfield, the family patriarch, publicly proclaimed he had grown weary of the feud. He lived out his years peacefully and accepted baptism before he died in 1921.

As the feud diminished, the industrious, gentle people of the Tug Valley turned their attention more and more to commerce. The timber industry became bigger than ever, but coal would be king.

Some area land owners prospered from the mining boom, but all too many sold their interest to big companies for remarkably low prices. Mining did provide employment, and even today many people of the area have had a connection with the coal industry. One positive outcome of the feud is stirring national attention concerning extradition proceedings.

Kentucky and West Virginia had come right to the brink of state-sponsored military action because of an inadequate extradition policy. As a resultm, new laws were finally enacted to facilitate extradition proceedings, and many of these concepts were adopted nationwide.

Today, descendants of the Hatfields and McCoy factions regularly gather in bi-partisan accord to celebrate the history of the feud.

As previously mentioned, Charles Hatfield, publisher of the Ellis County Press, is a descendent of the Tug Valley Hatfield family. Hatfield takes pride in the connection, and often refers to his feuding ancestors with a grain of wry exaggerated humor. 

'There are stories passed down through the generations concerning the true genesis of the feud,' Hatfield said. 'One version not commonly known involves an event that occurred when many local men had gone away to fight during The War Between The States.

'Family legend has it one or more McCoy men forced themselves on a Hatfield woman while her husband was away fighting. When the Hatfields found out about the event, it was kept quiet to protect the woman, as was the custom in that time.'

If the this story is accurate, it is understandable how hard feelings between the families persisted for years.

Writers comment: If anything will start the Hatfield-McCoy feud again, this ought to do it.

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