In 2001-2002, I wrote a series of popular stories for the Logan Banner that merged aspects of well-known Hatfield-McCoy books written by Otis Rice and Altina Waller in the 1980s. I had previously enjoyed Rice’s narrative and Waller’s analysis; I did not conduct any new research. Even though I believed the definitive Hatfield-McCoy Feud book remained unwritten, my purpose in writing these stories was not a step toward writing a book; my purpose in writing these stories was to revisit the narrative with some analysis for Banner readers. My hope was that readers would see what I saw: first, fascinating history (or folk story) for its own sake; second, the power of history to create a popular type of tourism.
I was fortunate during this time to meet Jean Hatfield. Jean, born in 1936, operated a Hatfield family museum at Sarah Ann, WV. Jean was not a native of West Virginia but had lived her entire adult life locally and had personally known several of Anderson Hatfield’s children. I really appreciated her desire to promote regional history. She “got it.” She inspired me. Anytime that I drove up Route 44, I stopped to visit Jean at the museum. She was always welcoming. Knowing her reminded me that every Hatfield (and McCoy) descendant is a source of information–-and that for the most part they have yet to tell the story in their own words. Three notable exceptions include The McCoys: Their Story by Truda Williams McCoy (1976), The Tale of the Devil (2003) by Coleman Hatfield and Bob Spence, and The Hatfield and McCoy Feud After Kevin Costner: Rescuing History (2013) by Thomas Dotson.
What follows is Part 3 of my interview with Jean, which occurred on August 7, 2001:
What kind of shape is the [Hatfield] cemetery in?
Pretty rough right now because Henry’s been gone two years and he was sick two years before so he didn’t get to take care of it the way he normally did. It’s pretty well growed up. The main part of the cemetery, the family part, is pretty good. It’s just where the hill’s growed up.
There are unmarked graves in there.
There’s a bunch in there. Well, the main part of the cemetery is just the Hatfield people. And there’s a lot of graves up there, neighborhood people that couldn’t afford to buy grave plots and things like that. They just let them be buried up in there. So they’re not all Hatfields. I think all of the Hatfields now are marked up there, because we put Aunt Rosie’s up last fall and she was the last one in the family not to be marked. And we got that done. But there’s a lot of neighborhood people up in there and a lot of friends that Tennis and Joe made and they died off and they wanted to be buried close to the family.
What about Devil Anse’s politics?
Well, Henry’s father [Tennis] changed. Grandpa [Devil Anse] was a Democrat. The way I can understand it, the Democrat Party was so closed they wouldn’t let Tennis in when he wanted to run for sheriff so he ran for sheriff on the Republican ticket and won. Surprised the heck out of them, I imagine. And then Joe carried on as a Republican. But my husband was a Republican until he died. Me, I vote for both sides. Depends on the person that’s running. You know how politics is. Once you’re out of favor then you live a pretty rough life. And that happened in the family, too. Kind of wild back in those days. Even back 30-40 years ago, it was wild. I think we’re about to get civilized.
I don’t know. If they don’t get a handle on these drugs there’s not going to be much hope. We’ve got problems here with the drugs. I just wish they could get them settled so people could get back to normal. When we built our house up there… We went on vacation we left the house wide open. Nobody bothered anything. Neighbor went in and let my little dogs run for a while, fed ‘em, put ‘em back in the house. Never even thought of locking the door. But you wouldn’t do that now. I think there’s been like five break-ins up here in the last couple of weeks. I think you can probably trace it right back to drugs. People trying to get stuff to sell for drugs. Which is pitiful.
What about Dyke Garrett?
Uncle Dyke? He was with the family most of the time, off and on. He done the burying and the marrying. Of course, the picture back there shows him baptizing Grandpa. He was a circuit preacher. He traveled everywhere.
Do you have a favorite character in the story? Anyone you feel attached to?
Well, all of them.
Even on the McCoy side?
Well, I think Roseanne is my favorite on the McCoy side, of course. And I think Grandma. Because think of what she went through. How many nights did she set up worrying about those reckless boys of hers? And every picture you see of them together, they look like love. Their body language shows it. They care for each other. And I think he took a lot of her advice and things like that. And if he was half the man that the people he helped and things like that, I think he must have been a pretty great person, too. There’s one of the pictures there… There was a Chafins boy that they just took in and raised. He didn’t have no family. Evidently his mother and father died when he was young and they took him in and raised him. They done several people that way. If they didn’t have a job, he’d work them, timbering and things like that so they could have a little bit of money along. That’s another thing about Altina Waller’s book I liked because she told the people who worked for him. There was a lot of McCoys who worked for him, too.
Have you read John Ed Pearce’s book about feuds in eastern Kentucky? I think he was unfair to Devil Anse.
Well, maybe he had ties to the McCoys or something.
I think Cap and Uncle Jim Vance are the two who…
They were the instigators.
Devil Anse, he really didn’t…
He wasn’t in the major things. If you notice, all the incidents that happen, he wasn’t there. But Uncle Jim and Cap were. So I think they kind of pushed it and Frank Phillips pushed it on the other side. Frank Phillips was the type of man who would kill you for fifty cents bounty. He was a bounty hunter. Back at that time, five dollars was a big bounty. They had a five-hundred-dollar bounty on Grandpa and Johnse’s head back in 1887. Usually like Jesse James and them, theirs didn’t go over one hundred dollars.
Was that in Kentucky?
Uh huh, right.
I’m hoping someone will link all of these historical sites together…
Well, that’s what they’re trying to do out in Pikeville but Logan County is not interested in it. There’s no driving force behind it, more or less. I was reading in the paper where the county commission was talking about taking over the cemetery, but it won’t do no good unless they clean it up and fix it so people can get up there. There’s a lot of people who can’t walk up the hill. And we need a road and a bridge up through there so people can get up there.
I was told the Cap Hatfield cemetery is not supposed to be visited. Is that true?
I don’t know. Neighborhood people go up in there so I really don’t know.
How would you describe his ‘set’ of the family?
They were more private people. They didn’t mix with the public like… Well now, Henry’s father [Tennis] was always in the public so I think it just come naturally for his children to be that way, too.