|(I do not own this picture and am unsure who does, but all rights reserved for the original owner of this picture)|
Now for the story itself. It seems that each time a depiction is made, another take on the story is told. Which is the truth? Well, truth can be such an illusive thing. And everyone, apparently, has their version of it. While much of what you saw was based in fact, some poetic license was taken, of course, to help move the story along and make it all fit more neatly. One such license with the truth was that it was Jim Vance who assaulted Sarah McCoy on New Year's Day in the back of the head with the butt of his gun. The movie showed bad Jim Vance doing the dasterdly deed. That worked out well because by that time, none of us liked his character anyway and would not have expected any different from him. Truth is, however, to my understanding, it was Johnsy, not Jim Vance, who assaulted Mrs. McCoy...the woman who, at one time, he wanted to be his mother-in-law. I thought of that as Sarah's character lay there on the ground near her dead daughter Alafair.
Also, Johnsy was made out to be a young man caught in the middle of a blood feud and kept from his one true love, Roseanna, who, according to the movie, he loved right up to the end. Not much reality there either, although the star-crossed lover theme does play well to audiences. Truth is, Johnsy married Nancy McCoy, Roseanna's cousin and that liason wasn't any easier to maintain than would his original McCoy liason would have been. It was still a Hatfield McCoy liason. And not the first, nor, I suspect, would it be the last.
Still, with all the poetic license and non-authentic setting, it was a decent tale of an interesting, but grim, part of Appalachian history. Some who I spoke to thought the characters and action too horrible. I agree with that assessment, except, living here and having heard of the feud from older relatives long now gone, I would say that if anything, the depictions on the mini-series did not show the extent of the violence or the heinous acts that were perpetrated.
One of the stories that connects my own personal family with the infamous Hatfield clan is that of the murder of my great great grandfather, Bill France, (or William Francis) as he was also known. Grandpa Bill was Justice of the Peace in Pike County, Kentucky, and a Union man, some say a Colonel (although I can find no proof of that) and some call him "Captn" which he may very well have been, and some say he was just a Union sympathizer. At any rate, the fact that he was either neutral in the conflict between the states (as the state of Kentucky chose to be) or that he was Union (as many in Kentucky were) does not surprise me. Although I identify myself as being southern (we are below the Mason Dixon Line), not all my relatives fought for the Confederate cause. Like many in border states, I have ancestors that were on both sides of the conflict.
Devil Anse Hatfield was a member of a band of "confederates" known as the Logan wildcats. These may have been part of the "home guard" but also had a reputation of being rogues and bushwhackers. And bushwhacking is what you would call what Devil Anse did to my grandfather at his cabin one night. This was before the killing of Asa McCoy, who was also a Union soldier. Asa and my grandfather no doubt knew each other as did my grandfather and Ol'Rannal McCoy, even though Rannal was also a Confederate. Some say he even was along or knew about the raid of Devil Anse on my grandfather. Some say Ol'Rannal was against the killing the of my grandfather and held animosity for his death against Devil Anse same as he did the later killing of his brother, Asa McCoy. There's no one left around who knows for sure, just stories that have been passed down. But the fact of the matter is that whether Randolph McCoy agreed with it or not, Devil Anse killed my great, great grandfather, supposedly because he was Union. At any rate, suffice it to say, that although the war ended on a certain date in the history books, for many families, such as those in border states like ours, the war never ended until the soldiers died. This was true in the case of the Hatfields and many other southern sympathizers who never forgave a family for choosing an opposite side in the war between the states.
My father was from Peter Creek, Phelps Kentucky. His name was Joe Francis (France) Jr. His father was Joe Francis Sr. His grandfather was William R. "Bud" Francis, and his great grandfather was William Francis or "Bill France" as he was also known. This is the man that Devil Anse hunted down while he was in his own home and shot him dead...because he was a Union man.
William Francis, aka, "Bill France"
Justice of the Peace, Pike County Kentucky
Union Army Sympathizer
Killed by Devil Anse Hatfield
(my great, great grandfather)
But lest you believe there to be any animosity or bad blood between me and mine and any Hatfield, let me point out, one of my cousin's (I have 51 first cousins on my mom's side alone) is married to a Hatfield from West Virginia. Yes...a decendant of "the" Hatfields. Couldn't love her or her husband's family any more. There are no good surnames or bad surnames. There are only people and their choices. The individual must answer for his or her own actions and I am not here to sit in judgment of any man's choices, past or present. Let God be the Judge. I am just sharing the story that my relatives passed down as it pertains to the recent resurgence of interest in the Hatfield and McCoy families.
I think a historian I heard recently said it best...the two families who reportedly hated each other so much, in their quest for revenge, forever entwined themselves and their family names for immortality. And it's true. You can't speak the word Hatfield without automatically thinking McCoy. This is true worldwide.
I think what the feud taught me is that violence only begats violence-and nothing good ever came from senseless hatred and violence - not even a mini-series. Until next time, take care. -Gen.