Source: WV History Film Project
WALLER INTERVIEW, TAKE ONE, CAMERA 224, SOUND ROLL 90
Q: Altina, put yourself back in the basement of
the Logan County courthouse where you must have
spent a fair amount of time and try to recall
something for me? Why are you, why are people so
drawn to the character of Devil Anse Hatfield,
William Anderson Hatfield?
AW: I think Devil Anse Hatfield has become at least a very timeless sort of character and people are drawn to him partly because he seems so heroic and so personally ready to defend his family and his place. At the same time, people are kind of horrified by the violence that they assume that he wanted to engage in and did engage in. It's kind of a love-hate relationship I think that Devil Anse Hatfield has with people. And it's intensified I think by the doubt that people have as to whether he exists. For example when I became interested in the feud and I started talking to students about it, most of them didn't know that he was a real character. He was like a Robin Hood character in a way.
He was someone who, well, he might have existed in past time in some mythology, but that was about the extent of it. No one really knew in what time or place he really lived, but this heroic, strong male defender of family and community, willing to engage in what people thought of as barbaric acts, was something that people want to know the answer to: why did he do this? And that generally gets translated into 'why do mountaineers or hillbillies do these things?' So, I think this mythical character has of course taken different forms and different time periods. JJFF 0242
One of the things when I first started researching the feud was trying to find out what about him fascinated people of the late 19th century, which is probably a little different from what he has come to represent in the 20th century.
Q: We'll get into breaking that down in a little
bit. ... does the real William Anderson Hatfield
represent a West Virginian, a southern West
Virginian, is the real story representative of those
AW: I think it is; I think that Devil Anse represents West Virginians and Appalachians caught in economic and political changes that were of incredible magnitude at that time. And of course they responded differently to them and Devil Anse's response was one response. But I think you could find many others like him. One of the differences, one of the things that makes Devil Anse different is the publicity attached to the feud and the way it eventually came down to us, but the initial ways that he reacted to these changing conditions like other people in the feud, like Perry Cline and Ranel McCoy, I think you can really see the dilemma that Appalachians were caught in in this particular time period.
That's why studying the real feud, rather than the myth, really can teach us a lot about what was going on in West Virginia history at that time.
Q: Tell me what that dilemma was?
AW: The dilemma was that Devil Anse and people in his community were living in a what you might call a traditional or a pre-industrial community, and they were living in the way that most Americans lived almost up until that time. If you compared Devil Anse and his community to most Americans say in 1850 or 1840, you would have seen very little difference -- agriculture life style, small farms, certainly engaged in the market in some ways but in other ways being almost subsistence oriented. That was a traditional way of life. In the Appalachians in the late 1890s, the dilemma was that the world of market capitalism, corporate capitalism intruded because of the coal and the lumber resources in that region. People who lived there saw development taking place and whether they resisted, some resisted development, others welcomed it, but both sides wanted to control it.
I mean, Devil Anse and his friends in many ways were not trying to stop what we would call civilization or progress. Progress was the word of the 19th century. They, in many ways, wanted it to come and welcomed it, but they wanted to have what we would say have a piece of it. They wanted to be part of it; they wanted to prosper with it and the dilemma really came when it became clear that the managers of those corporate forces, economic forces did not want local people to share in it. That's really what the argument came down to ultimately was: who is going to benefit from economic development which really should have, should have been a good thing for everyone.
Q: ... What was William Anderson Hatfield like
as a person?
AW: William Anderson Hatfield, Devil Anse, -- no one really knows where he got his nickname. And I think that tells a lot, that there's arguments today. I uncovered in my research all kinds of different stories, but it seems to me the believable one is that he was known as Devil from the time, say, was a teenager or a child. And it may not be the story that someone said his mother told about him facing up to a catamount in the mountains; that may not true, but I think he probably behaved as a kind of rowdy obstreperous teenage boy, male and we know a lot about the behavior of young men in the sort of backcountry from historians who have done research on backcountry fighting.
So, fighting and kind of physical activity on the part of young men was normal, but he seemed to be very much into showing his prowess in horseback riding and marksmanship. Again, not untypical for young men, but he was very good at it and he was very much recognized in his neighborhood for being good at it and for doing all kinds of challenges to wild animals, to capturing bear cubs. Even as an adult, he liked to capture bear cubs and tame them and do this kind of thing, which he was almost a natural when the Civil War came around, that he would join up very quickly. When he found that he couldn't really -- that he had to do what someone else told him in the Civil War, which I imagine one of the reasons among others that he came home and formed his own guerrilla group, it was almost as though this was just his second nature to do this.
And he was very good at it. And what you see is someone who thinks that he can control his destiny, that he's in charge of it, that he's going to take charge of it, and he's going to shape it, and he's going to be recognized for it. If you look at what happened later and you make that connection that when industrialization started occurring when lumbering and so forth, he was in the forefront of that, of forming his own lumber company, of hiring people, of taking the lead. He was on what I like to say is 'the cutting edge' of economic development in West Virginia, and I think what it came down to in the end when it became clear to him that he was not going to be allowed to have that leading role was when the problems really emerged.
I mean, many other West Virginians saw the handwriting on the wall and sort of stepped back and said, 'Well, I can't do anything about it.' In fact, they were probably right. There wasn't much they could do about it. But he wouldn't do that, and he fought back for his to remain in control of his life and his family and his economic destiny.
Q: I want to explore pieces of that more, but first I want to drop down
WEST VIRGINIA, ROLL 91
WALLER INTERVIEW, ROLL 225 SOUND 91
Q: Altina, before we go on to some of the events
of the feud, describe for me if you will what Devil
Anse Hatfield in the 1880's was like physically?
What kind of a presence did he have?
AW: Devil Anse Hatfield was known throughout his community for not only his personality, but his commanding presence. That's the word I found used in a lot of local reminiscence. But he was quite tall, over six feet tall, with black hair, and a very prominent nose, very presence you might say. This man had presence, and apparently when he strode into a group or into a room, he attracted attention immediately, everyone's attention. When the reporter from New York, T.C. Crawford visited and when the feud became famous and described the family circle, he described Devil Anse sitting in front of the fireplace in the center of the circle surrounded by his sons and his grandchildren with the women of the family. ...
WALLER INTERVIEW, TAKE 3
AW: When .... When T.C. Crawford, who was a reporter from New York visited Devil Anse after the feud became famous, he described the scene in Devil Anse's house which was that Devil Anse was seated in the center of a circle near the fireplace surrounded by his sons and grandsons listening to his every word, while the women of the family stood in the background waiting to serve the food or whatever. This description was very much like the chief of a clan. In some ways, of course, it was a very real description of what, the way Devil Anse commanded attention. In other ways it was T.C. Crawford's idea of what a clan chieftain would look like in talking with his family. But he was very careful note that the sons and the other people in the family did not speak without being spoken to or without speaking very respectfully.
And it seemed to me from my research that Devil Anse was regarded in this way by everyone in the community. There were two ways of looking at it. One was that he was a community leader and a neighbor in a way, and in another way people were afraid of him in the sense that he seemed so powerful. He'd been the leader in the Civil War, for which he was a hero, but at the same time, he had that double-edged attitude toward him on the part of people in the community. Both respect tinged with a little bit of fear you might say.
Although I should qualify that with when I say that because of the stereotypes, people immediately assume that what they're afraid of is that he's going to come and shoot them, which wasn't the case. It's very clear that when Devil Anse had difficulties with his neighbors, the first resolution he tried was by going to court or some other legal solution. So it's not the kind of fear that I'm talking about, at least initially that people were afraid that he was going, if they didn't agree with him, that he would take out his gun because he didn't do that.
Q: What was the position, the context of the
Hatfield family in southern West Virginia?
AW: The Hatfield family had been among the very first settlers who came across the Tug Fork from Kentucky to settle in what was then Virginia, before the Civil War. And because of that, the original members of the family, Valentine Hatfield and Ephraim Hatfield, who was Devil Anse's father, did gain some land. Earlier settlers got better land than later settlers, especially in a place like West Virginia where it is not a lot of land that is farmable that can be cultivated. But they were there from the very beginning, and they had people who were there from the beginning often had the respect and occupied offices. For example, Devil Anse's father was a justice of the peace for most of his life and as such respected as an important member of the community. These families were also very prolific, so there were many, many Hatfields.
And it is important to point out that Hatfield is a name that is very much like Smith in the rest of the country. If you go to that area even today there are literally hundreds and hundreds of Hatfields. At the time it is also true there were many, so one of the problems with sorting the feud out is that there are so many Hatfield families. Some of you may say, 'Well, they were defending their family,' which would be like Smith. But the important thing to remember is this particular branch of the Hatfield family which Devil Anse was a member, was a very respected, well to do family in terms of the way wealth was regarded in West Virginia; not very many people had a lot of land. It was absentee landowners some of them who owned a lot of land, but local families generally didn't.
So they were you might say in the upper echelon of the community occupied offices of respect and trust and were regarded with that kind of respect and trust.
Q: Do the same for Ranel McCoy and his
AW: The McCoy families, and I say families because again there weren't very many McCoys and I think it's important to point out too that the McCoys were on both sides of the river and the Hatfields lived on both sides of the Tug River. Sometimes it's portrayed that the Hatfields were on one side and McCoys were on the other; this entirely false. In fact, Ranel McCoy grew up on West Virginia when it was Virginia side of the river, so he was a neighbor of Devil Anse.
Q: Start that over again .. just call it western
AW: Western Virginia. Ranel McCoy grew up in western Virginia, what was later West Virginia and was a neighbor in Logan County of Devil Anse Hatfield. When he married, he moved across the river to Kentucky to settle on some land that his wife owned, so both these families were originally from West Virginia. Ranel McCoy's family were not as fortunate as the Hatfield family, and there were two things that caused problems for the McCoys, that particular branch of the McCoy family. One was that they originally didn't have access to as good of land as the Hatfields did that came a little later. And secondly, Ranel McCoy's father turned out to be a kind of strange character in the McCoy family. He was unusual in the sense that he appeared not to be very interested in his family which was very unusual.
Most Appalachian families care first and foremost about their family and particularly about being able to leave enough land to their children to be farmers. Most West Virginian fathers assumed that they should try to accumulate land and leave their sons enough land to get a start in life. And for reasons we don't understand, Ranel McCoy did not seem to have that kind of value system, and he was also was known for not being a very good husband, which was very unusual also in West Virginia families. Most families expected the husband to provide, to do their share to be providers, and Daniel McCoy seemed to have the reputation in the community for not doing that.
So, Ranel McCoy's was one of thirteen or fourteen children as most of these families were, and they were left to fend for themselves, which is one reason that Ranel McCoy got the land that he farmed from his wife's family because he didn't get it from his father. And one of the occurrences here which demonstrates the kind of relationship that the McCoys had with the rest of the community was that after 50 years of marriage Ranel McCoy's parents divorced and in the divorce proceeding Ranel's mother left a wonderful deposition of five or six handwritten pages which she didn't write because she couldn't write, but she dictated it, and we do have this wonder description of a marriage gone wrong. So what that tells us is something what an ideal marriage would have been in the Appalachians, and why Daniel McCoy, Ranel McCoy's father, didn't live up to that.
And there was lots of details about what he did wrong. But the point was that Ranel's mother knew that she didn't have to put up with this, and she sued for divorce. She got support, but what this says to us is the reputation in the community that the McCoy family had. They were -- the phrase that I like to use I guess is people were affectionate toward them, but it was kind of an affectionate toleration. ... and just kind of said, 'Oh, well, that's what they do.' In this case the cousin was so unhappy they brought it to court, which is why we know about it. So I guess the difference between the Hatfields and McCoys the Hatfields were very much respected, even feared slightly, pillars of the community. The McCoys were a well to do family in the sense they did have land, they were kind of seen as idiosyncratic and that's not to say people thought too badly of them; they were just seen in that kind of light. In one sense they were -- people probably felt sorry for Ranel and his brothers and sisters because they didn't get from their parents what most West Virginia and all Appalachia children could expect from their parents.
SOUND ROLL 92, WEST VIRGINIA, WALLER INTERVIEW, TAKE 4, ROLL 226
Q: Altina, tell me about the differences between
the Hatfields and the McCoys?
AW: The differences between the Hatfields and the McCoys I think come down to the fact that the Hatfields, especially the branch led by Devil Anse Hatfield, were very much respected members of the community if slightly feared as I said, ... The differences between the Hatfields and the McCoys were that the Hatfields especially the branch led by Devil Anse Hatfield were very much respected as leaders of the community in a political sense and in an economic sense and even somewhat feared -- whereas, the McCoys tended to be more affectionately tolerated as having idiosyncratic behavior which people didn't see as really bad but just something that was again tolerated in the community.
Q: Did in fact these two families come into a
conflict with each other or did the individuals come in
conflict. Give me your assessment of that because the
story that has come down is that two families are
shooting at each other over their fences.
AW: No, I think it was not a conflict between two families. It was a conflict between Devil Anse and Ranel McCoy, and my research suggests that it was Ranel McCoy who was determined to carry this conflict out for a lot of reasons having to do with his family situation and his economic situation. And that Devil Anse in fact although he's come down through mythology as the one perpetuating, most active and perpetuating the conflict, was the one who most tried to avoid it.
Q: If you could answer that again and not refer
to your research but just make a declarative
statement. Wasn't this a feud between two
AW: No, the feud wasn't between. ... The feud was not really between two families. In its initial stages, I think it was between two individuals, but originally it was mostly perpetuated by Ranel McCoy who for many reasons saw the Hatfields as the enemy in the community -- many of those reasons economic. And as far as I can tell, Devil Anse tried for as long as he could to resist the conflict, and ultimately what the conflict was was between outside forces, other forces at the state level and county level of government and Devil Anse Hatfield and his local region.
Q: Describe that further to me. Tell me how a
rather local, small series of incidences, conflicts grew
to become actually a conflict between two states.
AW: The feud did really start as a local conflict and ended up as a conflict between two states and even beyond, even more than that. The conflict seems to me was originally over the rights to land. One of the reasons that feud mythology I think tries to attribute this conflict to something trivial as we've come to see in the stereo types of that Appalachians fight or get involved in trivial issues. And we just accept the fact that 'Oh, yes they are Appalachians; yes. of course they're going to fight over a pig.' But once you look at the story you realize that it was originally a conflict over land and over lumber. And the reasons those two things became so important in this era is that it suddenly became obvious to many people outside the region that the timber was not valuable and the land was now valuable for the coal and iron which lay underneath it.
Land values suddenly appeared to be going up, so that it was a new development that the lands of these people lived on were now going to be valuable, that the timber that they, that the forests that they hunted in were now worth much more. And the original conflict between Ranel McCoy and Devil Anse I think was attributable to the lumber, the demand for lumber from outside the region. Both these individuals tried to make money by selling the timber on their land. And partly because of circumstances that neither of them could control, Ranel McCoy failed at this effort. He didn't have enough land; he didn't have the kind of help; he didn't have the contacts and he failed and he lost his land in a lawsuit over timber which is a very complicated story.
But the upshot of it was that he failed at this enterprise of timbering, whereas Devil Anse Hatfield was the most successful timber entrepreneur in the Tug Valley. And it seems to me that in a lot of ways a lot of the resentment and fear of Devil Anse had to do with that very success. He was admired; many people would like to emulate him. I think Ranel McCoy would have liked to emulate his success, but at the same time that success was really resented and when people like Ranel McCoy looked at Devil Anse's success, they tended to conclude that he had done it in some illegal way, in some way that wasn't consonant with their values, in some immoral way; and this only added to his image as a Devil.
It was a name he already had, but his actions in the timber industry, his aggressiveness and what we might call today his entrepreneurship, didn't look quite as admirable to the people living around him at the time. And I think many people in the Tug Valley felt that way. I think this was not unusual, but Randolph McCoy, who was regarded as this idiosyncratic character who would do things other people wouldn't was the one to speak out and say: "We're doing something wrong. By your success and your exploitation of the timber resources, this is not quite consonant with our values and we resent it." And he said it, where other people didn't; and I think this was the original conflict between Devil Anse Hatfield and Ranel McCoy.
Q: Describe for me in a specific way that Devil
Anse Hatfield was an entrepreneur, if I could prod
you, describing how he seized this 5,000 acres of the
Grapevine and what that really signified and how that
came to resonate through this whole story?
AW: Devil Anse was able to become successful in the timber industry because he acquired land, 5,000 acres of land. And you have to recognize that 5,000 acres of land to be owned by one individual in this valley made him one of the wealthiest people in the valley, other than some absentee owners who claimed large tracts of land. But to live there and own that much land was quite remarkable and Devil Anse didn't start with this amount of land. In fact when he was growing up and his father acquired land for his sons because Devil Anse's father was a typical father who tried to provide for his sons, except he apparently had some bad relationship with his son, Devil Anse, and nobody knows exactly what that was, but he did not leave Devil Anse the land, the amount of land that he left his other sons.
So here was Devil Anse, the son of a fairly well to do family who could expect or should have expected to do better from his father, but he didn't. He was one of the poorest sons of Ephraim Hatfield, but he didn't let that deter him. He was able to start a law suit which is unclear. Its origins unclear of this lawsuit, but he started a law suit with a man named Perry Cline, who was the next door neighbor the Hatfields, and it started as a boundary dispute because Devil Anse did own a few hundred acres that you can document, and he started a boundary dispute.
And he also claimed that Perry Cline, this man had cut timber on his land, on Devil Anse's land. This went to court; for five years it was going back and forth in the court, and eventually Perry Cline settled out of court by deeding over to Devil Anse this 5,000 acres of land apparently to pay the damages that he admitted that he had cut timber illegally. Now this was a common kind of law suit at this time. Timber became valuable so people were cutting each other's timber on each other's land and they were all going to court, so it was not an uncommon kind of land suit. ...
TAKE 5, WALLER INTERVIEW
Q: Altina describe for me how Devil Anse
Hatfield is transformed from a small landowner to a
large one, what significance that has for the
AW: When Devil Anse came home from the Civil War and it was over, his position in the community was one of respect but he did not have a lot of land. He had maybe a hundred, a hundred and fifty acres. That didn't stop Devil Anse as you can imagine from his character. He wanted to go ahead and start timbering, and what he did is start a lawsuit which is unclear and very complicated, cloudy kind of series of events in the court room. He did do it through the court room against his neighbor, Perry Cline for a very large piece of land, 5,000 acres. Five thousand acres of land in West Virginia at this time was a very large amount of land that only the very wealthiest farmers would own so much land, so Devil Anse when he won this lawsuit went overnight from being one of the poorer farmers in the valley to being one of the wealthiest, and the person he won the land won from ...
SOUND ROLL 93, WEST VIRGINIA, WALLER INTERVIEW, TAKE 6, ROLL 227
Q: Continue that thought about from whom
Devil Anse took that 5,000 acres?
AW: The lawsuit in which Devil Anse won the 5,000 was with a neighbor, in fact a next door neighbor as West Virginia neighbors go, Perry Cline whose father actually had been one of the wealthiest people. He had been one of the earliest settlers and had all this land which he left ...
WALLER INTERVIEW, TAKE 7
Q: Tell me about Perry Cline.
AW: Perry Cline was the person from whom Devil Anse won his 5,000 acres in a lawsuit. Perry Cline was the son of a very wealthy family, and he had been left this land as a legacy from his father. It was all the land he owned, and when he was forced to deed it over to Devil Anse this was clearly a turning point in his life. It meant that he had no future in the Tug Valley, so within a very few years he had left the valley after deeding the land over to Devil Anse and it was very clear that he was very bitter about what had happened. He went to Pikeville, the nearest urban place and eventually became a lawyer, a druggist, he tried a variety of businesses and was eventually very successful, but he lost that opportunity to stay in his home community and to be a large landowner and a wealthy, respected member of the community.
And it's very clear that he harbored this bitterness and this hatred of Devil Anse for a very long time. When he got the chance later on to take a part in what had started as a feud between Ranel McCoy and Devil Anse Hatfield, it was Perry Cline in fact who encouraged Ranel McCoy to continue the feud, to pursue the feud even to the highest levels in the state of Kentucky. And I think it's safe to say that without Perry Cline you would not have had this feud and you certainly would not have had it become so famous. He was also behind getting the publicity started about the feud. So, it's very obvious that even though he went to Pikeville and became very successful in these other endeavors that he never forgot what Devil Anse had done to him in a court of law.
Q: The mythology. the myth of the feud is that it
was all over the stealing of a hog.
AW: Feud mythology about the hog stealing event really is mythology. In the first place, stealing was not common in the Tug Valley at all, so it was an unusual event to have anyone accused of stealing anything, much less a hog, which was a very valuable possession. But the key thing to remember here is that when Ranel McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield of stealing his hog, he was also accusing a man who was an employee and close friend of Devil Anse Hatfield, someone who was identified with Devil Anse's timbering business, and Ranel most resented the success of that timbering business.
When he got the chance it seemed to accuse someone who was closely involved in that timbering business, who a the time lived on the Kentucky side of the river, although later he moved back, Ranel jumped to the conclusion that since the Hatfields were thieves anyway, and I'm sure it saw it that way, that the whole group were thieves, they stole timber and they did illegal things, that it was likely that they had stole his hog -- whether the hog was stolen or not I think is -- no one really knows, and I would tend to doubt it because stealing was so rare in this community.
Q: Do you think that the way that the hog issue
was handled is it significant that it went to court, tell
me about it?
AW: The hog dispute is significant in a sense that it shows us that West Virginians and Appalachians did try to resolve their differences in court. They were very legalistic people. They were very much like early New Englanders who are very famous for being legalistic and going to court over what we would call minor issues, boundary lines, and West Virginians seemed to have a lot of that tradition, legalistic tradition. So what Ranel McCoy did when he saw what he thought was his hog in Floyd Hatfield's hog pen was to go to the nearest justice of the peace, which in this kind of community is the local legal officer. He went to the nearest justice of the peace and said, "You have to do something because this man has stolen my hog."
The Justice of the Peace probably thought that the accusation was unwarranted but because these things were handled in court, he got together a jury and he very carefully selected his jury to have six Hatfields and six McCoys, showing that he was aware of the animosity that had gone on previously and again indicating that it was there over the timber issue. And he assembled this jury and the one swing vote on the jury was a man named Selkirk McCoy who was a relative of Ranel McCoy's but he was also an employee of Devil Anse Hatfield's and the timber business. And what the justice of the peace hoped would happen I think was that Selkirk McCoy, having double loyalties, would then tell the truth. Well, what Selkirk McCoy said was: "No, in fact the hog belongs to Floyd Hatfield." And so Ranel lost his case.
Q: Let's jump ahead. Things have quieted down. The relations sort of abated, tensions. Then you have August 1, 1882 or August something, election day in Kentucky, traditionally the gathering, people from all around, time of voting and other activities. And you have ?? McCoy and Ellison Hatfield. Describe the scene and tell me why it is significant. ....
WALLER INTERVIEW, TAKE 8
Q: Why did Tolbert McCoy attack and his
brothers attack Ellison Hatfield?
AW: The most famous incident of the feud perhaps is the election day attack on Ellison Hatfield in August, 1882, which was led by Tolbert McCoy, the son of Ranel. And Tolbert seemed furious. I mean the rage with which he attacked Ellison Hatfield. This was an election day setting in which it was normal to people to gather and even normal for people to be drinking, but it was normal for this kind of violence. And Tolbert initially started a fight with someone else over a small debt. And it was Ellison Hatfield who tried to intervene to stop the violence at which point Tolbert turned on him, enraged and attacked him with a knife and then called his brothers to attack and it was a very bloody scene which later caused Ellison Hatfield's death.
Now, Tolbert's motivation for this attack seems to have come from his long years of living in the McCoy household with his father who had, who was constantly telling stories about how terrible the Hatfield's were, based on his experience in the timber business, based on the hog dispute, which Ranel had lost, and he'd never accepted that, and judging from the way he talked to the rest of the community about how bad the Hatfields were, and in particularly Devil Anse, he must have talked about it a lot more in his household. So Tolbert had to listen to this for a lifetime you'd almost say. So here was young Tolbert, just married, trying to get a start in life who had no land because his land had very little land.
In fact, Tolbert and his brothers had very bleak prospects in terms of their futures, looking at this group of people led by Devil Anse Hatfield who were extremely successful in the timber business who owned a lot of land, who were doing very well, particularly Ellison Hatfield, who had been a Civil War hero, and was admired by all the women, and seemed to be on top of the world. And I think in this situation of being aggravated all these years and blaming the problems on the Hatfield family -- Devil Anse wasn't at this election day dispute, by the way, he was not even there -- but in this case Ellison served as a surrogate almost.
Ellison was his brother involved in the timber business. They were very closely related, so that I think where the rage came, this was not a normal election day brawl; this was the rage that came out was really violent, deadly rage and arose from more than some dispute over a hog. It was very deep-seated going back. So the different economic paths that these two families had taken.
Q: Ellison dies; and then Devil Anse does enter
stage. ... And leads the group that takes the three
McCoy brothers across the river, ties them to pawpaw
bushes, and executes them. Explain for me why now
Devil Anse abandons the legal system and takes
justice into his own hand?
AW: Devil Anse was summoned of course immediately after the death of Ellison and waited actually until -- he saw whether his brother was going to live or die before he made any decisions. But he did take the precaution of taking the McCoy brothers and charged to make sure that they weren't off to Pikeville, which in fact where they were going. The justice of the peace had said they should go to Pikeville, which was in Kentucky. So there were a couple things at work here. One was that Pikeville was in Kentucky for one thing; it was not in West Virginia so Devil Anse did not see it as a place where justice could be accomplished. Secondly in Pikeville, Kentucky, lived his old enemy, Perry Cline, who was a leading lawyer and leading citizen of Pikeville.
It hardly could have inspired confidence in him that those McCoys would actually face some kind of just, legal system there. So ensure what he saw as justice, he took the boys back to the West Virginia side of the river and frankly told them: "If Ellison dies, ...
SOUND ROLL 94, WALLER INTERVIEW, TAKE 9, ROLL 228
Q: ... Tell me why Devil Anse decided to change
tactics and take justice in his own hands and kill the
AW: When Devil Anse had them, the McCoy boys in his charge, after the election day fight, he must have been considering what to do. And one possibility was as many people had suggested was that the boys be taken into Pikeville for trial. And he rejected that I'm sure because he considered Pikeville not a part of the Tug Valley community. Pikeville was located over the mountains; it was an urban area; it was not part of the community, and although Devil Anse had in the hog trial, it had been held in the Kentucky side, still that was the Tug Valley community. But here the problem was if the boys went to Pikeville it was a far away, urban area in which lived his old enemy, Perry Cline. So, it must have been, or he must have thought that would be no justice in Pikeville and we're going to be justice it's going to have to be in his own hands.
And it's clear that some of his family disagreed with him; there was some argument about it. But when his brother died, he did take the three boys back to the Kentucky side on the banks of the river and the pawpaw bushes, and in a kind of ritual execution, had them shot. I'm sure that he thought that he was carrying out justice in a way that wouldn't have been in any other place.
Q: It was a shocking event ... but ironically, it
was not an event that gained national attention; it's
not even an event that started people noticing the
AW: No, although nowadays that event is known as the most shocking, famous event, at the time it received virtually no attention outside the area. There was one paragraph piece in a Lynchburg, Virginia paper about a shooting between the 'Chatfields' and the 'McCloys'. And that's it. It wasn't picked up by any national press; it was completely ignored. So, it looked as though this conflict, this feud would completely die out if nothing else were to happen because most of the people who lived in the region I'm sure were shocked by the violence. They were not used to that kind of violence. But they also recognized that justice had been done in some crude sense because -- remember most of the people in the community had been a the election day. They had seen three McCoys attack an unarmed Ellison Hatfield.
Q: Then how was it that the feud was rejoined
again, six years later, five years later?
AW: After this election day event, there was a period of about five years when very little was happening in terms of feud events. It's very clear that Ranel McCoy continued to talk about the feud and to try to arouse people to do something about it, but no one was listening again as they frequently ignored Ranel McCoy. In the fall of 1886 there was an event which, a fight which resulted in the death of a McCoy which is not even clear that it was related to the original conflict. But Ranel McCoy took that occasion to go to Pikeville and to insist that the Hatfields were up to their dirty tricks again and violent activities. And at this point the person he was talking to, Perry Cline, had the power to do something about it.
Perry Cline had become quite a successful lawyer; he had also been involved in the election campaign of the new governor of Kentucky, Simon Buckner, and had some influence beyond the local region, beyond Pikeville. And he saw this chance. Instead of his usual response to his uncle Ranel McCoy which was: 'Yes, I understand of course the Hatfields are terrible; Uncle Ranel now go home, he said: yes, I'll do something about it this time. I will take it to the attention of the governor.' Which he did. He went to the governor and tried to persuade him that the Hatfields were attacking innocent people on the West Virginia side of the river and to reactivate the indictments which had been found five years earlier in Kentucky against Devil Anse and his followers, about 20 of his followers, but nothing had ever been done about them.
He got the governor to reactivate those indictments and to issue a reward for the Hatfields and to begin extradition proceedings for the Hatfields. Now it's interesting that he chose to try to arrest them and to extradite them on the basis of the crime that had happened five years ago, not the one which Ranel McCoy had just reported Perry Cline because it's clear he couldn't have made that stick, that it didn't really belong in the feud. And it wasn't clear that they were at fault. So, at any rate now Ranel McCoy had some help that was influential help and was going to make the feud famous and bring it to national attention.
Q: Why then did the Hatfields once again make
another striking blow against Ranel McCoy and in
fact attacking his very household January 1,
AW: The Hatfields at first when they heard that Ranel McCoy had been successful in persuading Perry Cline to help him, thought they could easily get out of the situation by simply buying off Perry Cline. Perry Cline had a reputation to be anxious to make money, and they really believed that they could just pay him some money and he'd stop. And Devil Anse sent someone into Pikeville and said, "How about $250?" And Perry Cline said: "Yes, I'll take the $250 and I won't prosecute you." He took the $250, but then he continued in his activities in terms of even raising a posse. He persuaded the governor to allow him to appoint a special deputy, to raise a posse, that posse began making raids across the river into West Virginia in order to try to arrest the Hatfields.
Now remember there's no extradition. The process has not been gone through, so this is illegal kidnaping now; this is not part of the extradition process. And, ironically, the first person they arrest and take back to Pike County and put in jail is Selkirk McCoy is well known as being an employee of Devil Anse and a part of Devil Anse's timber crew, but he's put in jail in Pikeville, the first of eight or nine -- one of them is Devil Anse's brother, Valentine Hatfield. So, this is was pretty serious, and the Hatfields are beginning to be threatened. I mean people are being kidnaped off to Pikeville and thrown in jail, and there must have been a lot of consternation and a lot of anxiety about this. And, there must be have been a lot of conferences in the family and among the timber crew about what to do. Devil Anse's son, Cap Hatfield had an idea, along with Jim Vance.
TAKE 10, WALLER INTERVIEW
Q: What really lies behind the decision of Cap
Hatfield, Jim Vance, and a group to cross the Tug
January 1, 1988 and attack Ranel McCoy's
AW: The attack on Ranel McCoy's house on January 1 is one of the most shocking events of the feud, and two people led that attach, Cap Hatfield, Devil Anse's son, and his old uncle, Jim Vance. There were a total of eight Hatfields that carry out that attack. And I believe that they decided to engage in this kind of activity because they were panicked by the activities of Perry Cline in arresting and crossing the Tug River valley and arresting members of their group. They were frightened and their reasoning was that if they crossed over the river and burned down Ranel McCoy's house and everyone in it they were actually getting rid of all the witnesses in a legalistic sense of who would testify against them, simplistic reasoning, but I think it came out of fear.
What's significant in one way about this is that Devil Anse did not go along. Now some people say he didn't go just because he was ill; that is very difficult to believe -- that if Devil Anse had decided he wanted to do this, he would have been there. So my conclusion is that he was against it, which indicates to me that he was still thinking in more legalistic terms. But the attack itself was horrendous and again demonstrates how much anxiety and fear and rage was involved, especially in the younger people involved in the feud. They attacked the house, they set it on fire. When young Alifair McCoy came running out of the house, she was beaten and killed. When her mother came running out of the house into the snow to save her, she was beaten. So it was a horrible thing.
And as the Hatfields left, one of them said: "Yes, and this will cause more trouble." It was a terrible event. So, almost immediately they realized what a mistake it was and certainly it was the event that caused national publicity, that brought the feud to the attention of a national public, partly as a result of Perry Cline, who seized on this event. Of course, this is almost the kind of thing that he wanted to have to get the publicity going and it's clear that he was, or his close friends were the authors of some of the original articles on the feud, which were published in the papers, that he wrote them, that he sent letters to Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky, and these letters were reprinted in the newspapers. And the gist of a lot of those letters tended to be that these were West Virginians attacking innocent Kentuckians.
And I think that set the tone for a lot of the publicity that came later in the feud. It may have also been the reason that the governor of Kentucky and other Kentuckians were willing to step up their pursuit of the Hatfields. One must realize that most of the feuds that had been reported or violence, or feud violence that had been reported in the national press had been Kentucky feuds, particularly the Rowan County Feud a few years before, and that Kentucky newspapers were very concerned about this image of their state. The governor was very concerned. And looking at this feud right at this point being able to say: 'Look, it's West Virginians who are the culprits and not us,' must have been very tempting to focus attention on this. It also came at the just the precise moment -- it's very interesting -- when railroads were about to be built, when --
WEST VIRGINIA ROLL 95
WALLER INTERVIEW, TAKE 11, ROLL 229 SOUND 95
Q: Lest we forget in the midst of all of these
Winchester related events there's a bit of a romance.
Tell me about Roseanna and Johnson and the reaction
of Devil Anse and ? ?
AW: Perhaps the most famous part of the feud is the romance, the so-called mountain Romeo and Juliet story between Roseanna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield. But I think this story tells us something slightly different that the mythology. Another election day this event occurred. Again on election days were traditionally times for young people to meet each other and Johnse and Roseanna was there and I think from the beginning they didn't see it as a great conflict. In other words, and they liked each other and they went off to the fields to be alone and what I think this says is not so much that they saw it as a stolen romance, but they saw it as something rather normal. And when Roseanna realized that her father wouldn't accept this as a normal part of life, this relationship, in fact Ranel's reaction was almost bizarre in the value system of the mountains.
That is, he refused to allow her to come home after he heard that she had been consorting with Johnse. He was so angry. So what they did was to go to live with Devil Anse Hatfield, who apparently didn't have any problem with it. Although the mythology says that he refused to let them get married, that it was his fault they couldn't actually get married. I think it's pretty clear that it was probably Johnse's fault that they didn't get married. Johnse did not want to get married. And in fact before very long, he was out flirting with other women and even going so far to cheat on Roseanna and that was the real problem. I think that she finally made this decision to leave and even then when she left she was pregnant, she was alone, she was unhappy, she wanted to go back to her family, and any normal Appalachian family would have taken in their daughter.
This was not uncommon and helped her raise her child. But Ranel refused to do it and she had to go live with her aunt and have her baby. And of course the story is that she died of heart break later on. But I think she left when she realized that Johnse would indeed make a bad husband even if she did marry him. So what this story tells us I think is one thing that we don't often think about and that is the independence of women and making independent judgments and in a sense ignoring what they saw as these petty or ridiculous conflicts between men. It also confirms the image of Ranel McCoy as being a kind of oddity in terms of family values and so forth in not taking his daughter in. It also tells us that Devil Anse was not nearly as angry at all the McCoys as we've been led to believe.
Q: Was Roseanna really a tragic character,
Johnse ends up marrying her cousin. She ends up
with a, as a single parent as we would say today, child
living at home and spurned by her father?
AW: Roseanna is certainly tragic. The baby dies, so very young although people don't agree on what age this child died. And she ended up as the kind of maiden aunt who is a fairly typical figure in traditional kinds of communities. Women who don't marry -- they act as nursemaids to various families who are sick and they take care of sick children and they were sort of shunted from one family to the next. And she ended up in fact just before her death living with Perry Cline in Pikeville and helping take care of his family when they were ill.
And it's someone who interviewed a relative of Roseanna's said that the tragedy in Roseanna's life was not the tragedy with Johnse, but the tragedy with her father that she felt rejected by her own family, not so much by Johnse because once she left Johnse he married her cousin and was still carrying on and cheating on her cousin, so it was clear, it must have been very clear that he would not have made a good husband anyway. And if we are to believe the story that was told by her friend, she did, she was more heartbroken over her treatment by her father than Johnse Hatfield.
Q: The few times women into the
Hatfield-McCoy story, the story of Roseanna, the
story of Alifair, and the story of Ranel's wife, they're
victims, they don't seem so much in control of their
own destiny. Which is the true picture of
Appalachian women in this time period?
AW: I believe that there's some truth in both. Certainly women lived in a kind of separate sphere and did the chores. In fact, did a lot of what we would think of as male chores on the farm, doing outdoor tasks and plowing and so forth. And in some sense they were victims but on the other hand within those perimeters, they took a lot of control of their lives. You see what Roseanna did. And I believe making the decision to leave Johnse, not being dumped by him. Nancy McCoy whom Johnse married was very active in selling boot legged liquor and in moonshining. She was out there taking control and doing things to make her life better. She made choices. She married for example Frank Phillips, but when that didn't work out she very quickly left him. So that Ranel McCoy's wife, Sarah, was an active force in persuading Ranel not to pursue the feud on a few times when he was ready to pick up his gun and God knows what would have happened if he had.
But she was the one, according to legend, that controlled him and said, "No, no, you can't do this; you've got to calm down." Devil Anse's wife seemed to be although we know so little about her, seemed to be a kind of Rock of Gibraltor for her family who depended on her. What she actually -- there's one wonderful story about how she and her family were caught in a house when actually I believe it was with a couple of McCoy women who were visiting, and some of the McCoys came around and were trying to frighten the Hatfields in this house and they just charged out of the front door with guns as though they were going to fight back and the McCoy boys ran off. Legend, but again I think it says something about women's role not being simply as passive and victims in this situation.
Q: Let's get back to 1888. The event has
occurred. Tell me about Cline's response and how he
really is in with both feet, he's really a PR machine
that steps up legal proceedings and what that resulted
AW: After the election or the New Years' Day raid and Cline got out the first publicity which essentially say "West Virginia barbarians are attacking innocent Kentuckians," and this opportunity to combine his own personal vendetta against Devil Anse for his lost land came at the appropriate moment when Kentucky, the state of Kentucky was concerned about its own image in the press since most feuds had, that were reported in the national press were feuds that had occurred in Kentucky. And they saw this as an opportunity to clean up their image in a sense, that is accuse West Virginians of being the aggressors here.
So there must have been a lot of why Governor Buckner was so willing to listen to Perry Cline's appeals. It came at the moment when investors of coal companies and railroad companies based in far off places were making decisions about developing the Appalachian region and various regions within Appalachia were actually competing with each other to get these investors to come in. There were certain people especially in the urban areas like Pikeville or Logan who wanted investors to come in and develop that area. And so what the state of Kentucky through its press and its legal action was trying to do was to say: 'we're going to make our region safe for investment. We're going to come down hard on this kind of violence and feuding so that you can come in and invest in our region and it's West Virginians who are -- so they sought to extradite the Hatfields to pursue this line.
I think that the significance of that coincidence can't be ignored, that just a few years ago the Kentucky Legislature had done a geological survey and talked about how rich the coal fields were and how these investors should be invited in. And the Norfolk and Western Railroad made a decision to build the line really right through the Tug Valley where the feud had been taking place.
Q: What was the governor of West Virginia, E.
Willis Wilson's motivation, his response and
AS: At first the governor of West Virginia responded to the request of Kentucky for extradition as though it was another routine kind of process and didn't question it. It started to go through the process, but then he took a more careful look at it, probably partly because one of his closest friends and advisors had grown up in the Tug Valley region, knew all the parties and got the governor's ear and said: 'wait a minute. It's not exactly the way it appears, that Perry Cline has taken this to the governor. He owned land and he's and there was a court suit. There's a lot of animosity; this is a personal kind of thing, and really it was the McCoys who have pursued the feud, not the Hatfields, so you ought to look at this more carefully.'
And the governor I believe was really willing to listen to this point of view, at least investigate the point of view because he had been and would continue to carry on a running battle with the corporate sponsors of economic development, the railroads in particular. E. Willis Wilson had been on an campaign to try to get railroads and coal companies pay their share of the taxes.
WEST VIRGINIA ROLL 96, WALLER INTERVIEW TAKE 12, ROLL 230,
Q: Altina tell me how E. Willis Wilson
responded to this challenge, to this event? Tell me
about his motivation. Include in your response Devil
Anse response to Wilson?
AW: Governor Wilson of West Virginia at first treated the application for extradition fairly routinely, but then through being informed by a close friend of his that there might be more to it, investigated what was going on, and found out that Perry Cline's interest, his economic interest and the real history of the conflict, was willing to see the Hatfields and Devil Anse Hatfield as victims in the way that many West Virginians were victims of corporate forces, railroads and coal companies who were coming into develop their land and not paying proper prices for it, not paying taxes. In other words, exploiting the people, ordinary people of West Virginia. E. Willis Wilson was perhaps one of our last Populists, that is he saw himself as representing ordinary people and not as representing corporate interests. And I think that made him willing to listen to the Hatfield side of the story and to investigate.
And when he investigated, he felt so strongly about it that he refused or delayed it first, but it was clear that he was going to refuse this request for extradition, which was very unusual. And he even took the step of taking it to a federal district court in Louisville, Kentucky, and he went there himself, which was very unprecedented to argue this case. The district court decided that it was in its jurisdiction to handle this case, so really the decision if in favor of anyone was in favor of Kentucky, but as a result it went to the Supreme Court of the United States and was argued there. The Supreme Court decided that it was not relevant how -- the issue was how the Hatfields got to Pikeville jail; was it illegal for them to be kidnaped?
And the Supreme Court decided that it didn't really matter how they got there; they were under arrest in Pikeville and they had to stand trial and West Virginia said that they had been kidnaped and the Supreme court that that didn't matter, which is an interesting decision that West Virginia citizens were not protected. At any rate what this resulted in and one result of this I think is very interesting is that this said that it was all right people to kidnap Hatfields and take them to Kentucky. A whole raft of private detectives from agencies like Baldwin-Felts and Eureka descended upon the Tug Valley, looking for Hatfields, and they didn't have to be directly connected with any feud.
If they looked like a Hatfield, they got taken off to the Kentucky side of the river. Now this created a lot of violence. In fact, much of the violence attributed to what these detectives did, that is trying to capture people, was then in the newspaper reports attributed to Appalachians themselves to prove that they were violent because they were reacting to strangers in their midst this way, when in fact it was an outside influence. And you have to sympathize with Appalachians, many of whom were not involved in the feud. Suddenly they couldn't invite people into their homes any more, which had been their tradition, to be very hospitable. Suddenly they couldn't do that or they ran the risk of being arrested. So this really had a profound effect I think on Appalachian culture, as well as the effect on the way it was reported in the newspapers.
Q: Beginning in Louisville with the parading of
the Hatfields by Cline down the Main Street through
the throng on the way to the courthouse, you have the
beginning of a sequence of stories generated out of
this area, picked up Philadelphia and New York
newspapers, which are then sent around the country,
depicting a type of culture, a type of behavior that's
marked by violence, a type of people that are marked
by illiteracy and backwardness. Explain that to me
and tell me what impact that had on the region?
AW: The story of the feud mythology and its being publicized to the present day is really a very dramatic story. That is, if you look at the way people thought about feuding before all this occurred, or say before the 1880's, when you think of feuding, when Americans before that time thought of feuding, they would think of the Romeo and Juliet story maybe. But mostly they would think of Corsica and the feuding that took place in the European countries, particularly Corsica. That feuding if you focus on it is feuding by aristocratic noble types of people whose conflict is family and personal, but it's also economic and social. So it's upper class kind of genteel kind of feuding and it happens in European countries. Now one of the things that the American publicity did about feuds was change that image so that it's now poorly educated, ignorant, backwoods mountaineers. And this is virtually a revolution and how we image feuding in our minds.
I mean the image in our minds today is this backwoods image; and that changed in the 1880's, the turning point of that image came in the 1880's I think largely with this feud. And to look at both the causes and the results of that are both very interesting for West Virginia history. Now, before this time, feuds could happen anywhere when they were reported in the newspaper. In fact, conflicts in the Mississippi river valley, in the Delta, anywhere in the south they were somewhat limited to the south, but anywhere in the south. When feuds were reported you couldn't tell if they were in Appalachia or anywhere else. You'd have to look on a map to see the name of the place and then you could tell. When the newspapers and Henry Waterson, particularly in the Courier Journal got a hold of this, he started depicting Appalachians as particularly prone to feuding. Now why did he do this?
Because the northern papers were attacking all southerners as violent for one thing. All as being prone to feuding, all as being you know unreasonable, ignorant people and he wants the Waterson and the Courier Journal and all the supporters of the newspapers want to develop the region. They want to stop that from happening. So, they focus on Appalachia and the people who live in Appalachia as a particular group of people who are ignorant, backward, resist progress, and therefore are feudists. And they start talking about this over and over again in the newspapers, and within about ten years I'd say the 1880's, from the beginning of the 1880's to the end, you have almost a complete change in people's image of feuding, so they now think of it as being engaged in by poor, ignorant mountaineers who don't know any better. And this is one way that you can bring about more development.
For instance, all the articles on how ignorant and violent the mountaineers were usually concluded by saying the only way to change them and to make them civilized is to bring in railroads and coal mines and schools and the churches that come with that. As though these people didn't have schools and churches, which they did. But it's interesting that those two things always appear in the same articles about the Hatfield and the McCoy feud and other feuds too. They start out with how ignorant the people are and how prone to violence and they end up with saying is 'well, what they need are the railroads and the coal mines.' So, a lot of the reasons for perpetuating the feud image in the first place are to make it easier for corporate America to expand into the Appalachians.
Q: Also, in the 1880's the image of what a
mountaineer was becomes affected and tainted by the
Hatfields and the McCoys. It becomes twisted from a
stalwart, self-sufficient farmer to a violent hillbilly
AW: I think particularly the Hatfield-McCoy feud is a turning point for the change and image of Appalachians from the stalwart farmer, the defender of family, the noble, our ancestors living in the present day, into a group of people who are drunk most of the time, violent, for no reason. That's the key thing. This is I think the first time that Appalachians have been presented as being violent for no reason. I mean before that violence is reported in the press sometimes in Appalachia but it's always reported in the same way that violence say in Cincinnati is reported, that there was some kind of political disagreement. There was a theft. I mean there's good reasons that everyone would understand.
Now, suddenly we have a group of people who engage in this for no apparent reason. They're somehow genetically or culturally just different, and that's the image that has been perpetuated to this day. And the one that most results I think from the Hatfield-McCoy feud in particular because the success of that feud in gaining the attention of the public, people's fascination with it, inspired all kinds of dime novels. It inspired T.C. Crawford's really first book about the feud called An American Vendetta. That was followed by a lot of fictional accounts that built on the basis of the Hatfield and the McCoy story to perpetuate that image. So it did, it's a turning point of people's image of Appalachia.
Q: Why, a 100 years later, are we still so drawn
to this story?
AW: I think Appalachians and Appalachian culture have been ...
WEST VIRGINIA, ROLL 97, WALLER INTERVIEW, TAKE 12, ROLL 231,
Q: Altina, on a scale of things in the 19th
century, the feud was not that violent, 12 deaths. It's
not that big of a deal really. Really two individuals
having problems with each other in a time when you
have the American west frontier opening up and the
gunfight a the OK corral and the epochal events in the
west. Somehow this small spat between Devil Anse
Hatfield and Ranel McCoy becomes a legend,
AW: The legend of the Hatfield-McCoy feud is a fascinating puzzle in way and we can only begin to guess at the answers, but in the first incidence, it did have the publicity which a lot of the other feuds didn't have. I mean it had a very aggressive adversary, Perry Cline, trying to publicize it and get it into the papers, which were then picked up by the New York papers. So it had a kind of impudence behind it that other feuds didn't have, but then why was it picked up by the reading public. And if you remember this is a middle class northeastern reading public in large that had to be attracted to it, to then go out and buy the newspapers, buy T.C. Crawford's book, buy John Fox's book because it came later on.
And I think a lot of the explanation of that has to do with the changes that were occurring in all of American society, the move to big business, the feeling that families were threatened actually by all this economic development, and we have a lot of information from family historians who study the family that people were fearful that this kind of economic development, industrial development, that America was becoming a world industrial power then, was interfering with family relationships and traditional relationships. And so I think that what the public grasped upon was the family aspect of this, which is really a small part of the feud in very many ways. One way was to look at a family that was so loyal to each other and so dedicated to each other, they would go to what seemed these shocking and radical extremes to defend it.
I mean people were both horrified with what that could produce, the violence and the death, and fascinated with the fact that it existed, that kind of loyalty could still exist. It's a kind of fascination with families that made people grasp the family aspect and the romance I think, part of it, and blow it out of proportion into what the actual feud was about. That is the kind of personal level of middle class people's reaction in the northeast, to say don't have the economic interests in Appalachia that some of the corporate interests whose direct economic interest it was to make Appalachian people look like savages so that they could then be depersonalized and the area could be developed. That's a direct economic interest. By in large the reading public I think had a more indirect and symbolic interest in this, that it just fascinated them to see that family in operation and to see both the good things and the family loyalty and the horrors that it could lead to.
Q: Even at the risk of repeating yourself
slightly, make a strong declarative paragraph
explaining what the feud came to symbolize in the
AW: I think the feud over the years in the American consciousness, what do we think of when we think about the feud. We think about family first. I mean, in our culture, feud without family doesn't make sense. So that family aspect of it is primary. Secondarily I think what comes to mind is that it's blind family loyalty. I read this over and over again in accounts, popular accounts of the blind family loyalty. So people are somehow fascinated with this notion that you can be so loyal for no reason or for no other reason than you want to defend your family, but there's no rationale to it. And why does that fascinate people so much in the late 19th century? And I think it's because they feel as though you can't be that way, you families are threatened; they are falling apart.
Now whether that's true or not is another question, but we do know from the research of the time that people felt that way. They were really worried about family aspects, and so coming at that time, this publicity about these families and their loyalty and their blind loyalty, really seemed to touch a nerve at people. So they both hated Devil Anse and were repelled by him for his violence in relation to family, but they were admiring and saying -- in fact the phrase that's used often is that they were too passionate about their family affairs for modern civilization. In other words, it's admirable, but it can't exist in a modern society. And it think that sums it up.
Q: With respect to the context of the late 19th
century and the peculiar American concerns, the feud
really did leap to a world-wide stage, it becomes
really one of those handful of American stories that
has been told in many, many countries. Why do you
think that? What is universal about the feud?
AW: I think that in some ways that you have to remember that the feud is distorted of course into this conflict, kind of universal conflict between -- I'm not sure it's basically families -- but between individuals and between family interests that you see that people are so drawn to in Romeo and Juliet and in the other famous feuds of Corsica, that it falls in that category but its particularly American cast is this lower class, ignorant aspect to it. And in that sense I think foreigners perceive that as particularly American and there's a kind of crudeness to it that seemed particularly associated with the feuding that would be regarded more as upper class in other places.
Q: This is a question that has been on everybody
I think connected with this show's mind from the
beginning and that is: is there really a good reason to
pay attention to the feud? What does it tell us about
West Virginia's history?
AW: It seems to me that the feud is extremely important for West Virginia history. The feud occurred and was publicized at a moment in West Virginia's history when it was being transformed from an older kind of society, a more traditional kind of society, and being drawn into the rest of America into the world industrial kind of order. And it's not that the feud caused that, but the feud was a result of that process and illustrates so much about the transition that West Virginians had to make in order to be a part of the progress of America toward being a world power, and it tells us the responses of West Virginians, the various responses from Devil Anse's response, response of West Virginians who wanted to be an equal partner in that progress, who wanted to benefit equally.
It tells us about those like Perry Cline who were crushed and lost in the process. It tells us about women and their resistance to the process of being drawn into this. So by understanding the feud, not the mythology, by understanding the feud itself, we understand a lot about how the outside economic order impacted West Virginia and West Virginians' response to that and how they dealt with it -- and either were successful with dealing with it or for the most part, failing to deal with it. The feud then goes on tell us so much about how West Virginia and how the Appalachians have been perceived by the rest of America since that point in time -- that the Appalachians have occupied a very special place in American history and that is a place where Americans have certain kinds of images of a different sort of people, a people who don't really fit in.
And that has defined how West Virginia is able to operate as a political unit within the United States. It's defined how its treated in terms of taxes, in terms of fitting into the industrial order, in terms of corporate America, that mythology has continued until the present day to shape the rest of America's attitudes toward Appalachia.
Q: We began by talking about an individual --
sum up what happened to the two key individuals,
Ranel McCoy and lastly Devil Anse Hatfield. What
became of them?
AW: Ranel McCoy after the attack on his house, he and his family went to live in Pikeville, first staying with Perry Cline in his house. And they remained in Pikeville for the rest of their lives. They didn't go back to their homeland, the Blackberry Fort. And Ranel continued to behave as he had always behaved; that is, Perry Cline got him a job as a, on the ferry, running the ferry over the river, and so he ferried people back and forth and told them about all of his experiences with the Hatfields and particularly the midnight raid on his house. And he loved to talk about those events and to continue to talk about how terrible the Hatfields were. He was poor. ...
ROOM TONE FOR WALLER