Anytime the descendants of the Hatfields and McCoy get together, it is always a momentous occasion. This year’s “Hatfield McCoy Heritage Days,” held Sept. 24-26, 2015 in Pikeville, KY was no exception. Despite moderate turnout from days of rain that forced the cancellation of many scheduled events, the Festival, sponsored by the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Pikeville City Tourism (www.visitpikeville.com) and Pike County Tourism (www.tourpikecounty.com) was the site of another historic benchmark in Feud history. On Sept. 26, 2015, hundreds of spectators witnessed the firing of the last shots of the Feud, some 150 years after it started.
The shootout began innocently enough, with the families gathering for a joint fundraising dinner on Friday, September 25. Tony Tackett, Jay Shepherd and Lenna Goff of Pike County Tourism worked with the Pikeville Hampton Inn and the Pikeville Hilton Garden Inn to ensure the night went off without a hitch. Pastor William K Hatfield, great grandson of “Devil Anse,” offered prayers for those in attendance and later, Margie Annett, a McCoy descendant long affiliated with reunion events in Pike County, emceed a feud-trivia game to stump the families.
Dr. Kim McBride, lead archaeologist from the University of Kentucky, spoke about the historic finds from the recent 2014 dig at the former McCoy homestead in Hardy, KY. Then, Bob Scott, owner of the property, announced plans to rebuild the McCoy cabin on its former site. Bob, with help from Bobbi Smith of “Old Kentucky Logs” (www.oldkentuckylogs.com) unveiled a model of the cabin based on drawings by Edward McCoy, great-great-great grandson of Randolph McCoy. Bobbi and Walt Smith of “Old Kentucky Logs” generously offered to supply the logs for the rebuilding of the cabin. Plan are for the reconstruction to commence sometime in early 2016. Judy Hatfield, a great-great-great granddaughter of “Devil Anse” Hatfield also announced the formation of a “Hatfield-McCoy Foundation,” a non-profit organization organized to ensure the creation of additional feud-related historical preservation projects.
The charitable highlight of the evening was the outreach by the families to support Grace Community Fellowship Kitchen (www.facebook.com/gracefellowshipkitchen). With generous contributions from attendees as well as a silent auction of donated items, the Hatfield and McCoy families raised $750 to support the local community center in Pikeville. (http://williamsondailynews.com/news/1
The altruism demonstrated by the families on Friday night set the stage for a memorable tribute to our shared history the next day, in a manner befitting its legacy. On Saturday, Sept. 26, I had the honor of firing the last shots of the Feud alongside my friend, William K. Hatfield of Tulsa, OK. For the first time in more than a century, descendants of the family patriarchs would be firing weapons together, but for a greater unity of purpose.
Unlike the Hatfield-McCoy Softball showdown and other events scheduled for the weekend, the Hatfield-McCoy Demolition Derby in Pikeville was set to go, rain or shine. Billy and I were asked to kick off the derby and to mark the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Feud with the firing of commemorative rifles produced by Jim Combs of Wellington LTD in association with American Legacy Firearms (www.americanlegacyfirearms.com/products/hatfield-mccoy-rifle). As Shane Siegfried, general manager of American Legacy counted us down, I aimed my rifle just over the crest of the hill that holds Dils Cemetery, final resting place of two generations of my family. As I pulled the trigger of the .44 Henry, I did so in memory of Randolph McCoy, my great-great-great grandfather. It wasn’t a 21 gun salute, but I fired in his honor, none the less.