Thursday, January 3, 2013

They Gave Their Lives for Tourism, UPDATE!

This is a follow-up to my blog post of August 27, 2012 -

It is amazing how a series of obscure local events, that happened in the back woods of West Virginia 125 years ago, can still capture public imagination.  The Hatfield and McCoy feud does just that.  A recent TV mini-series starring Kevin Costner has added even more fuel to the feud fire.  Recent archaeological work has pin pointed an important battle site of the fight and plans are already moving forward to capitalize on the tourist potential of that piece of ground. 

These two re-blogged articles tell the story.

Associated Press.  By Bruce Schreiner
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Hatfield clan New Year's attack on Randolph McCoy's cabin marked a turning point in America's most famous feud -- the homestead was set ablaze, and two McCoys were gunned down. Hatfield family members and supporters were soon thrown in jail.
Artifacts recently unearthed appear to pinpoint the location of the 1888 ambush in the woods of Pike County in eastern Kentucky. Excavators found bullets believed to have been fired by the McCoys in self-defense, along with fragments of windows and ceramic from the family's cabin.
"This is one of the most famous conflicts in American history, and we've got bullets fired from one of the key battles. It doesn't get any better than that," said Bill Richardson, a West Virginia University extension professor who was part of the recent discovery.
The property is owned by Bob Scott, a Hatfield descendant who has suspected for years that the hilly land was the site of the brutal attack. He grew up listening to stories from his parents and grandparents about the 19th-century feud.
"My father told me years ago that someday this well would talk," Scott said, referring to the well on the site where Randolph McCoy's daughter Alafair died while trying to flee the attackers.
Now backed by the discovery, Scott plans to capitalize on the historic 70-acre site near the West Virginia line. The options include a housing development featuring horseback and ATV trails, he said.
Scott's home is about 75 yards from where the cabin stood. The McCoys moved to nearby Pikeville after the homestead was burned.

The Hatfields pose for a family portrait in 1897

The artifacts were found last year during filming of a National Geographic Channel show.
The bullets were discovered burrowed several inches into a hillside overlooking where the McCoy cabin stood, Richardson said. Three different calibers of bullets, including shotgun pellets, were uncovered.
The ammunition, found in an area about 30 feet wide, was traced to the same time period as the 1888 battle, Richardson said.
"The front of the cabin faces almost directly at the spot where these bullets were," Richardson said. "We know from the oral histories that they were shooting out the front of the cabin and from the upper windows. So they're exactly in the spot where they should be."
Also found during the initial search was a piece of charred wood with a nail traced to the McCoy cabin's time period, he said.
Later, an archaeological team led by Kim McBride, co-director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, confirmed the location of the McCoy cabin. They found tiny pieces of window glass and ceramics traced to the same period, along with more nails and charred wood.
She would like to return to the site for more excavation work, which could take three to five weeks.
There were other clues connecting the property to the McCoys. The deed to the property was traced back to Randolph McCoy, she said.
"It was kind of a coming together of all the pieces of evidence," McBride said.
The discoveries come amid a surge of interest in the feud that spanned much of the last half of the 19th century. The fighting claimed at least a dozen lives by 1888 and catapulted both families into the American vernacular, becoming shorthand to describe bitter rivalries.
The History Channel aired a three-night miniseries about the feud that set basic cable viewing records. The drama starred Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton as the patriarchs -- William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield in West Virginia and Randolph "Ole Ran'l" McCoy in Kentucky.
The New Year's attack was one of the bloodiest episodes in the feud.
"It was a turning point," Richardson said. "The feud had lasted 23 years up until this battle. And then 20 days later it's virtually over."
Now, descendants of both families live peacefully among each other in the Appalachian region. And officials in both states see the potential to reap a financial windfall because of the public's fascination.
Attendance was up last June at a three-day Hatfield and McCoy festival held in Matewan and Williamson in West Virginia and in Pike County in Kentucky. The event featured tours, re-enactments, book signings, arts and crafts, and a marathon run. Descendants showed their allegiance by wearing ribbons -- red for Hatfields, blue for McCoys.
Many believe the feud was rooted in the Civil War, but the bitterness was perpetuated by disputes over timber rights and even a pig.
Historical markers describe other pivotal events in the feud, including the spot where three McCoys -- all sons of Randolph McCoy -- were tied to pawpaw trees and shot to death by an unofficial posse organized by Devil Anse Hatfield. He was avenging the death of his brother Elliston at the hands of the McCoys.
Scott counts descendants from both families as friends.
"It's very unique to stand here on New Year's Eve and realize what happened," he said. "It's sad that that occurred, but that was a way of life."
Although the artifacts were uncovered a few months ago, the discoveries weren't announced until Monday. The new National Geographic Channel series, called "Diggers," premieres Tuesday. The episode detailing the McCoy homestead discovery airs on Jan. 29.

Site of Hatfield-McCoy Feud Draws Tourists

By Roger Alford, ABC News
A wooded hillside overlooking the Tug Valley has gone from being a gruesome murder scene to a tourist attraction that draws people from around the world.
It was here that three young brothers were gunned down by a group of men set on revenge for the stabbing death of one of their own kin.
This tiny spot in the Appalachians would have been forgotten long ago had the combatants not been named Hatfield and McCoy. But because these are the nation's most notorious feuding families, the scattered places where they fought and died are being preserved in the interest of history — and commerce.
Congress has appropriated nearly $500,000 to build walkways to accommodate foot traffic and make some of the bloodiest feud sites more tourist-friendly. Local leaders are hoping for a sizable return in tourism dollars for a struggling mountain economy.
Kevin Gilliam, a Pikeville architect working to restore some of the feuding grounds, said he has been amazed by the level of interest in the feud from outside Kentucky, even outside the United States.
"People already come from all over to visit these places," he said. "From Canada, from Japan. It's unreal the people who are showing up."
A reconstructed cabin marks one of the key sites of the Hatfield/McCoy Feud.
Fight over a Pig
The feud between the McCoys of Kentucky and the Hatfields of West Virginia — believed to have stemmed from a dispute over a pig — brought national attention to the region. A court battle over timber rights escalated the tension in the early 1870s. By 1888, at least 12 lives were lost as a result of the feud that received widespread publicity in national newspapers and magazines at the time.
Already, the Dils Cemetery in Pikeville — where patriarch Randolph McCoy, his wife, Sara, and daughter Roseanna are buried — has been landscaped and stairs have been added to allow easy access for visitors. Improvements are now under way or soon will be at six other landmarks connected to the infamous feud. Some, like the cabin site where a trial was held to settle the pig dispute, are overgrown with vegetation after years of neglect.
Gilliam said he expects a replica of that cabin to be built and open to tourists by next year.
Along with the congressional appropriation, the Pike County Fiscal Court has contributed $25,000 for the feud project, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet $100,000.
Tourism officials have added historical markers with explanations of the landmarks at seven sites. One is the place where three McCoys — Tolbert, Pharmer and Randolph McCoy Jr. — were tied to pawpaw trees and shot to death in 1882 by an unofficial posse organized by Devil Anse Hatfield, patriarch of the Hatfield family.
The McCoy boys were wanted for killing Ellison Hatfield in an Election Day fight on Aug. 7, 1882.
Feud Fuels Local Economy
Pike County Tourism Commission chief Phyllis Hunt said promoting the feud sites is good for the local economy. She said she expects visitation to skyrocket once all the improvements are completed.
"We have visitors throughout the year who come to see the feud sites," she said. "We give them directions and a map, and they're always so excited to see where it actually happened."
Visitors flood the feud sites during the annual Hillbilly Days Festival each April and the Hatfield-McCoy Reunion Festival each June in Pikeville.
Betty Howard, who traces her ancestry to both the Hatfields and McCoys, said people from outside the region often are more interested in the feud than are local residents.
Some in the Tug Valley would rather forget what they see as an ugly chapter in the history of the region, Howard said. That, she said, is why is has taken so many years to open the feud sites to tourists. Howard said people should be proud of their heritage, and the Hatfield-McCoy feud, though many wish it had never happened, is a part of that heritage.
"Some people may want the history of the feud to go away," Howard said. "But it's not going away."
If You Go…
PIKEVILLE-PIKE COUNTY TOURISM: Visit or call (800) 844-7453. HILLBILLY DAYS FESTIVAL: April 15-17, downtown Pikeville, Ky. HATFIELD-McCOY REUNION FESTIVAL: June 10-13, downtown Pikeville, Ky. HATFIELD-McCOY FEUD SITES: Look for roadside markers for these rural sites. Dils Cemetery, where Randolph and Sara McCoy are buried, along with daughter Roseanna and son Sam. Location: Chloe Road in Pikeville. Place where Ellison Mounts was hanged. He was convicted of murder for a raid on McCoy home in which two people were killed. Location: Kentucky Avenue in Pikeville. Site of hog trial, which escalated the feud between the families. Location: Route 319 in McCarr, Ky. Site of the murder of Asa Harman McCoy, the first person killed in the feud. He was a Union Army veteran and brother of Randolph McCoy. Location: Route 1056 in Blackberry, Ky. Old courthouse and jail, where murder trials were held and where combatants were incarcerated. Location: Main Street in Pikeville.
Site of grave of baby daughter of Roseanna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield. They were lovers from the feuding families. Location: Route 292 in Burnwell, Ky. Site of "PawPaw Incident," where three McCoy boys were tied to trees and shot. Location: Route 1056 at Buskirk, Ky.


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