The Hatfield-McCoy Family Feud of Kentucky, USA Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Hatfield-McCoy Family Feud of Kentucky, USA

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The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys has become a familiar story throughout many parts of the Western world. For nearly fifty years, the feud1 ran through the courts and across the fields of Kentucky.

In the Beginning

People have speculated upon the origin of the feud since it began. However, the most common story relates to a pig found between the land of the two families. Neither side would admit that it may have been the other family's pig. Whatever the cause, the situation spiralled out of control and sparked off the bitter and violent feud.

As it turns out, Mr Hatfield and Mr McCoy really didn't seem to like each other in the first place. They seemed intent on turning even the smallest incident into a fight, and every fight into a killing.

For example, in 1880, a young Hatfield boy, Jonse, began to court a young McCoy girl, Roseanna. While Mr Hatfield seemed happy to accept this union, Mr McCoy could not2. The McCoy family sought to put an end to the relationship by kidnapping Jonse, stating an intent to imprison him (though a secluded execution seemed more likely). Desperate to save her love, Roseanna rode out to alert the Hatfields of the situation. Mr Hatfield promptly gathered a mob from amongst family members and friends, then set out and reclaimed Jonse from McCoy hands. Alas, the relationship of the two young lovers did not survive.

In the Courts

Many disagreements and fights between the two families began to turn up in court, but usually only over the killings. For years, various events of this sort built up - with more disputes and arguments leading to theft, killings and various actions in court, where one family sued the other for some wrongdoing or other. Every new confrontation compounded the violence and distrust between the two families.

When everything was said and done, though, the Hatfields came out victorious (in the courtroom at least). Both families survived the feud, though many individual members died on both sides. Mr Hatfield found religion and started a logging company. Mr McCoy operated his own ferry until the age of 90, before dying in an accident involving a fire.

1A prolonged fight between two parties, often families.2Some of those who dispute the role of the pig in the Hatfield-McCoy feud cite this relationship as an alternate cause.

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