Monday, January 21, 2008

New Thing #302: Famly Feud

Since the beginning of this project, I have intended to spend a day researching a section of history I know nothing about. I had little restrictions. It just had to be a topic that, if brought up in conversation, i previously could not have said much about. On Sunday, I caught part of a documentary on the History channel called "Hillbilly: The Real Story." Hosted by Billy Ray Cyrus, it was an epic journey through the history of Appalachia, complete with stories about snake handlers, mining turf wars and, something that's always intrigued me, the Hatfield-McCoy family feud. It didn't have much on the feud, so today I watched the rest of the documentary and then I researched the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
The documentary made me think the feud began over mining territory; I somehow thought it started because a Capulet from one family married a Montague from the other (which I realize might mean that the feud was already in place). I was sort of right; a Hatfield did want to marry a McCoy, but the families already hated each other (though silently and bitterly).
The Hatfields were affluent Confederates who owned land on one side of the Tug Fork tributary, and the less-moneyed McCoys, a Union family, lived on the other. The marriage between the families was definitely a point of contention, but the tipping point came when a pig belonging to a McCoy wandered over to the Hatfield side and the Hatfields automatically claimed it was theirs and tried to keep it. A court battle ensued, the McCoys lost, and the lawyer was murdered. This was the beginning of 30 years of fighting, bloodshed, kidnapping, shooting, hangings and general brutality and 130 years of an open feud (the killing stopped in 1903, but in 2003 modern descendants signed an official truce). Now I'm super wary of where I leave my recycling and how far my doormat protrudes into the hall, lest my neighbors get a little riled up about it.


Bet said...

Hey, I watched the hillbilly documentary, too! I guess that's because I live in the Appalachians. Just thought I'd chime in because my sister married into the McCoys - yes, the real McCoys. In fact, her husband's great-aunt was interviewed in the show.

Hope you caught the bit on the Matewan massacre, one of the more fascinating pieces of American history.

Mo Laikowski said...

where i went to college in north carolina there was a hattfield & a mccoy and they both were on the clogging team. there were no battles that i know of, but i spied on both of them just in case they decided to let the fists fly.