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.