As a McCoy, I have been asked many times in my life about my famous surname – and about the Hatfields. While I understood the connotations of the phrase “Hatfield-McCoy,” like most people, I knew little about the actual history of the feud. I was 35 years old before I knew that I was related to the “feudin” clan. Until 1999, I had never met a Hatfield.
Beginning in 1997, my desire to learn more about my family history allowed me to take part in events I never could have imagined. My discovery of a piece of paper inserted in the genealogy section of an old book my grandfather owned started me on an adventurous journey that changed my life. When I met a third cousin for the first time in an online genealogy forum, it set into motion a series of events that sparked a resurgence of interest in the Hatfields and McCoys.
In 2000, descendants of the feuding Hatfield and McCoy families came together for a joint family reunion in Pikeville, Kentucky and Williamson and Matewan, West Virginia. More than a century after the feud had concluded, it was the first reunion of the two families ever attempted on a national level. The story of the unlikely “Reunion of the Millennium” caught the collective attention of the national and international press.
In the years that followed the first reunion, the Hatfields and McCoys continued to make history. In 2003, the families gathered for the historic Hatfield-McCoy truce signing, broadcast live on national television. Five years later in 2008, the families celebrated the anniversary of the truce by signing commemorative shotguns that were given to the governors of Kentucky and West Virginia and President George W. Bush. In 2014, members of both families teamed with the University of Kentucky and the National Geographic Channel for an archaeological dig at the site of the McCoy homestead in Hardy, Kentucky.
My desire to learn more about my family history allowed me to take part in events I never could have imagined. Just two short years after discovering my heritage, I was proud to be part of Hatfield-McCoy events that became defining moments in my life. Over the course of the past 15 years, I have been privileged to witness history in the making. REUNION is the story of my own reconciliation with history and a chronicle of the achievements of the Hatfield and McCoy families in the modern era. It is my hope that my story will inspire others to begin journeys of their own. History is waiting to be discovered and new chapters are ready to be written. In 2000, reuniting with a common heritage allowed the Hatfields and McCoys to make – and remake – history. I hope you enjoy my book.