America's Biggest Feud Hatfields and McCoys Part 3

About the history of America's biggest feud between the Hatfield and the McCoys in the southern United States

AMERICA'S BIGGEST FEUD

One day in 1873 Randolph McCoy, returning from nearby Stringtown, was stopped by the cabin of his brother-in-law, Floyd Hatfield, a man who in later years took little part in the feud. The two stood near the pigsty talking. Suddenly McCoy roared: "Floyd, that ain't yo' hog! Hit's mine!"

There was a sharp exchange of words before McCoy departed, heading for the cabin of Anderson "Parson Anse" Hatfield, Devil Anse's cousin, a Baptist minister who lived a short distance away in Raccoon Hollow. Parson Anse was the nearest thing to a judge in the neighborhood.

The day Floyd Hatfield was tried on McCoy's charge of hog stealing was an occasion for the gathering of both clans. Mountaineers streamed down from the hills, long-barreled rifles hanging from the crooks of their arms. Slowly they assembled at Preacher Anse's cabin and stood waiting for the "judge" to start proceedings. Among those with the Hatfields were the Chafins, Mahons, Vances, Ferrells, and Statons, while the McCoys had on their side the Sowards, Normans, Stuarts, Colemans, Gateses, and Rutherfords.

Testimony seemed superfluous that day. Witness after witness sat in the cane-bottomed chair in front of the judge and testified solely as his clan adherence dictated. A jury of 12, six from each side, was impaneled, and it appeared there would be no verdict until Selkirk McCoy, married to a Hatfield, failed to concur with the others of his name. He said both men had their rights, but that it seemed to him possession was the important factor and that there was no evidence to prove that Floyd did not own the hog. Years of accumulating hatred followed this simple court procedure down in Raccoon Hollow, but the only demonstration of violence came when Randolph McCoy called Bill Staton, one of the Hatfield witnesses, a liar and hurled a rock at him.

Inside the mountain cabins, as the months passed, talk continued to pit clan against clan. One day Bill Staton and his brother, John, were poling a flat-bottomed boat up Tug Fork. Suddenly around a curve in the stream appeared another such craft, drifting rapidly downstream. In it were two McCoy brothers, Floyd and Calvin. As if previously planned, the boats moved toward opposite banks, and soon, from cover, firing began and kept up until nightfall.

Neither side could claim a victory, but the most relentless feudist seemed to be Bill Staton. He had fury in his eyes; but so had the McCoys, and perhaps their rage was better directed. A short while later Bill was waylaid, struck down with a club, and brutally beaten.

The powerful Staton was a revengeful man. He now turned loose all his hatred against the McCoys and let it be known they would never be safe as long as he was alive. The McCoy answer was prompt and sharp. Staton's body, almost decapitated by a close gunshot, was found in the mountains at a spot where the leafy earth had been torn by the boots of angry men.

Search for the killer focused upon Randolph's nephews, Paris and Sam McCoy, who were missing from their home. In a few days Paris showed up, limping from a wound in the hip that he said Staton had inflicted before he was killed by Sam at close quarters. Sam appeared next. The two brothers were brought to trial, but a verdict of justified killing in self-defense resulted from their sworn testimony that Staton had fired at them first.

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