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In late 1800s, Randall McCoy and his kin engaged in a bitter and deadly dispute with another Appalachian family in the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud.
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Born in 1825, Randall McCoy began his bitter feud with the Hatfields in 1878 when he accused Floyd Hatfield of stealing one of his hogs. In 1882, three of McCoy's sons killed a Hatfield in a fight, and they, in turn, were shot to death by some Hatfields in revenge. Randall McCoy nearly died in 1888 when a group of Hatfields attacked his home. In all, he lost five of his children in the feud. McCoy died in 1914.
Randolph "Randall" McCoy grew up in the Tug River Valley, which marked the boundary between Kentucky and West Virginia. He was born on the Kentucky side of the valley, one of 13 children. There he learned to hunt and farm, two main ways people living in this part of Appalachia supported themselves. McCoy grew up in poverty. His father, Daniel, had little interest in work, so his mother, Margaret, had to struggle to care for, feed and clothe the family.
In 1849, McCoy married his first cousin, Sarah "Sally" McCoy. Sally inherited land from her father a few years after they married. They settled on this 300-acre spread in Pike County, Kentucky, where they had 16 children together.
During the Civil War, McCoy served as a soldier for the Confederacy. He may have even been a part of the same local militia as his later nemesis, William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield. While most of the McCoys supported the Confederacy, his brother Asa Harmon McCoy fought for the Union side. When Asa returned home, he hid out in a cave for a time. But he could not avoid his Confederate neighbors forever. In 1865, he was shot and killed by someone who objected to his Union sympathies. It is believed by some that either Devil Anse Hatfield or his fellow Confederate leader Jim Vance murdered Asa.
Initially, some considered Asa Harmon McCoy's death as one of the causes of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Others have ruled it out, saying that the McCoys were staunch Confederate supporters, too. They probably did not take kindly to Asa's Union activities. The bad blood between the two families did not develop until much later.
In 1878, Randall McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield, a cousin of Devil Anse, of stealing one of his hogs. He took Floyd to court in Kentucky, seeking to recover his lost animal. The McCoys and the Hatfields were both large families in the area, and the local authority brought together a jury that equally represented both sides—made up of six Hatfields and six McCoys.
Despite these good efforts, the trial ended up creating tensions between the two families. One of McCoy's cousins, Bill Staton, testified in support of Hatfield, a move that was seen as a betrayal. Another family member, Selkirk McCoy, who served as a juror in the case, also sided with the Hatfields. The jury ruled in Floyd Hatfield's favor. This verdict did not sit well with McCoy and other members of his family.
This verdict probably only fed already fraught relations between the Hatfields and the McCoys, at least in Randall McCoy's mind. He reportedly loathed Devil Anse Hatfield, who had won a court battle against McCoy's friend and relative-by-marriage Perry Cline the previous year.
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