How it Began

The Murder of Asa Harmon McCoy

The Civil War was different for the people living in Pike County. The fabric of our society was ripped apart and there was a complete break down of civil authority. Everyone was forced to take the law into their own hands for survival. Men on both sides formed home guards to protect their families and their property.

Asa Harmon McCoy had come home on furlough from the Union Army to visit his wife and kids for Christmas. His family warns him not to come back because there is trouble with the Hatfields.  In spite of the danger, he comes anyway.  He encounters and is threatened by the Southern Home Guard led by Devil Anse Hatfield soon after arriving home.  Days later he is found murdered in the hills nearby.  Jim Vance and Devil Anse Hatfield are accused of his murder.  No one is ever indicted for his murder.  

(The Rope bed that belonged to Asa Harmon McCoy is on display at our museum.) 

The Romance Between Roseanna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield.

Roseanna McCoy (daughter of Randolph McCoy) and Johnse Hatfield's (son of Devil Anse Hatfield) love story is one of heartbreak and betrayal. Against her father's wishes, Roseanna fell hopelessly in love with Johnse and carried out a secret affair.  Roseanna’s brother Tobert McCoy who was a deputy sheriff captures Johnse Hatfield on outstanding warrants for his arrest.  Devil Anse quickly forms a gang to overtake the lawman at gun point freeing Johnse.  

(The original photo of Roseanna McCoy can only be found at our museum.)

The Hog Trial

Randolph McCoy loses one of his hogs and accuses Floyd Hatfield as being the culprit. The dispute is taken to the local Justice of the Peace to be settled. Most believe that the matter was decided in favor of Floyd Hatfield, infuriating Randolph McCoy.

On the Brink

Ky’s Governor Fights Back

Simon B. Buckner assumes office as Governor of Kentucky. He immediately appoints Frank Phillips as his special deputy to receive the WV Hatfield prisoners  at the urging of State Rep Perry Cline. He issues rewards for the capture of the Hatfield gang members involved in the murders of the McCoy boys at the pawpaw tree. Phillips and other Pike county deputies ride into WV and capture several members of the gang.

The New Years Day Massacre

In retaliation for Frank Phillips and his deputies capturing some of the Hatfield gang members in WV, the Hatfield gang go to the McCoy home and burn it down. They shoot and kill Randolph’s unarmed crippled daughter Alifair and son Calvin McCoy. Johnse Hatfield brutally beats Sara McCoy and shoots her in the head grazing her skull. Randolph runs out of the house and shoots Johnse in the shoulder. Randolph, his injured wife Sara, and the other family members move to Pikeville for safety.

(The burnt piece of cabin in the picture above and other artifacts can be found at our museum.) 

On The Brink

West Virginia's Governor orders 60 troops to the border. He then asks for the Kentucky Governor to release the West Virginian prisoners but Buckner refuses. The Kentucky's Governor forms a militia and musters in 54 Men to guard Pikeville as the two states prepared to go to war. journalist all across America pick up on the story as many fear the two state will usher in a new civil war.

How it Ended

The Trials

The Hatfield Trials over the murder of the McCoy family members are held in Pikeville in 1888. Out of the eight that were charged seven were found guilty. Six were given life sentences.  Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts gives full confession on his part in the murders of the paw paw bushes and to shooting the only woman in the feud is sentenced to death by hanging.

The Hanging

Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts is hanged on February 20th, 1890 in Pikeville Kentucky for his crimes. The KY Militia guard the town and can be seen in the photo above.

(The original photograph is on display at our museum.)


James York, attorney for the McCoys, convinces Randolph McCoy to drop his pursuit of Devil Anse Hatfield and the other members of the gang who hadn't been captured. In return, West Virginia stops pursuing members of the posse that killed the West Virginian deputy and Jim Vance. 

(Exhibits from James York can be found at the museum.)