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Howard B. Lee, former Attorney General of West Virginia, provided this account of Nancy Hatfield (widow of Cap) in the early 1970s:
Our next stop was at the home of Nancy Elizabeth, the same home where I visited with her and Cap during my campaign. For nearly three hours I asked questions and listened to that remarkable woman recount many of her experiences as the wife of America’s most celebrated feudist.
Nancy Elizabeth’s home also held a number of guns, pistols, and other relics of the feud days. But the most interesting item was Cap’s bullet-proof, steel breastplate, designed to cover the entire front half of his body from his beck to his lower abdomen.
“Mrs. Hatfield,” I said, “judging from the three bullet marks on it, this breastplate was a great protection to Cap; but what was to prevent an enemy from shooting him in the back?” Her eyes flashed as she replied: “Mr. Lee, Cap Hatfield never turned his back on an enemy or a friend.”
“I have read two stories, Mrs. Hatfield, each purporting to give the true cause of the feud: One book stated that it was the result of a dispute between a McCoy and a Hatfield over the ownership of a hog. Another book said that it grew out of the seduction of a McCoy girl by Johnson Hatfield, oldest son of Devil Anse. Is either one of these stories true?”
“No, neither story is true,” she replied. “The McCoys lived on the Kentucky side of Tug River, and the Hatfields lived on the West Virginia side. Hogs don’t swim rivers. I never heard the girl story until I read it in a book, written long after the feud was over. Both stories are pure fiction.”
“The truth is,” she continued, “in the fall of 1882, in an election-day fight between Ellison Hatfield, a younger brother of Devil Anse, and three McCoy brothers, Ellison was shot and knifed. He died two days later. In retaliation, Devil Anse and his clan captured and shot the three McCoy brothers. It was these four senseless killings that started the feud.”
In answer to my inquiry, Nancy Elizabeth said: “Yes, there had been ‘bad blood’ between the two families since the Civil War. In that struggle the Hatfields were ‘rebels’,–loyal to their State, Virginia. Devil Anse organized and was the captain of a company of Confederate sympathizers called the ‘Logan Wildcats’. They were recruited for local defense; but they left the county long enough to take part in the battle of Scary, fought along the banks of the Kanawha River, a few miles below Charleston.
“The McCoys, and their mountain neighbors, were pro-Union; and to protect their region against invasion by ‘Virginia rebels’, they organized a military company called ‘Home Guards’. There were occasional border clashes between the two forces, with casualties on both sides. The war ended only seventeen years before the feud began, and the bitterness still existed in the minds of the older generation, and they passed it on to their children. It was the old sectional and political hatreds that sparked the fight between Ellison Hatfield and the McCoy brothers.”
Nancy Elizabeth declined to estimate the number killed on either side of the feud.
“It was a horrible nightmare to me,” she said. “Sometimes, for months, Cap never spent a night in our house. He and Devil Anse, with others, slept in the nearby woods to guard our homes against surprise attacks. At times, too, we women and our children slept in hidden shelters in the forests.
“But these assaults were not one-sided affairs. The Hatfields crossed the Tug and killed McCoys. It was a savage war of extermination, regardless of age or sex. Finally, to get our children to a safer locality, we Hatfields left Tug River, crossed the mountains, and settled here on Island Creek, a tributary of the Guyandotte River.
“No, there was no formal truce ending hostilities. After a decade or more of fighting and killing, both sides grew tired and quit. The McCoys stayed in Kentucky and the Hatfields kept to West Virginia. The feud was really over a long time before either side realized it.
“Yes, Kentucky offered a large reward for the capture of Devil Anse and Cap. The governor of West Virginia refused to extradite them because, said he, ‘their trials in Kentucky would be nothing more than legalized lynchings’. It was then that Kentucky’s governor offered the reward for their capture–‘dead or alive’. Three attempts were made by reward seekers to capture them.
“Dan Cunningham, a Charleston detective, with two Cincinnati detectives, made the first attempt. They came through Kentucky, and crossed Tug River in the night; but the Hatfields soon captured them. A justice of the peace sentenced them to 90 days in Logan County jail for disturbing hte peace. When released, they were told to follow the Guyandotte River to Huntington, a distance of 60 miles, and ‘not to come back’.
“Next, a man named Phillips led two raids from Kentucky into Hatfield territory. In the first, he captured ‘Cottontop’ Mounts, a relative and supporter of the Hatfields, and took him to Pikeville, Kentucky, where he was hanged. But the second foray met with disaster at the ‘Battle of the Grapevine’. Phillips, and some of his followers escaped into Kentucky, but some where buried where they fell.
“This was the last attempt of the reward seekers. However, Kentucky never withdrew the reward offer, and that is why Devil Anse and Cap were always alarmed and on the alert.”
Source: West Virginia Women (Richwood, WV: Jim Comstock, 1974), p. 151-152
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Appalachian Heritage Day occurred on August 25, 2019 in Logan, WV. The event featured authors, scholars, guest speakers, information tables, a genealogy workshop, a writers’ workshop, numerous old-time and bluegrass music workshops, and an all-day concert. Special thanks to the Logan County Commission, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, the Hatfield-McCoy CVB, and the Southern Coalition for the Arts for sponsoring the event. For more information, follow this link to the event website: https://appalachianheritageday.weebly.com/
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Laura C. Hinchman was born on March 22, 1919 to Walter and Anna Brooke (McVey) Hinchman at Mallory in Logan County, WV. She was an educator for over fifty years and was very active in civic affairs. For more information about her background, see her obituary at this location: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/140834185/laura-caryl-hinchman
The following interview of Ms. Hinchman was conducted on July 16, 1984. In this part of the interview, she discusses her ancestry, community history, timbering, and coal mining.
Miss Hinchman, how did your family first come to this area?
Well, when West Virginia was being settled, people who were willing to come here were given land grants by governors of Virginia over different periods of years. This property was given by the governor of the commonwealth of Virginia at that time, Governor Nicholson. It was given in 1815 to my great grandfather, Dr. Ulysses Hinchman, who was a member of the legislature. He had land holdings in Wyoming County, and he laid out the town of Oceana. He is recorded in a lot of the books of the history of Wyoming and Logan Counties. According to the West Virginia Blue Book, that is how Man got its name. At first it was called Buffalo City. Then they decided to change the name. They thought Hinchman was too long and there was already a place called Hinch, so they named it Man in honor of my great grandfather. Now, that’s according to the West Virginia Blue Book.
Do you remember what your grandparents were like?
Now, both my grandfather and grandmother Hinchman died before I was born, so I don’t remember either of them. At that time, this was all timber land. My grandfather Hinchman, whose name was Lorenzo Dow Hinchman, was a timberman. We have a lot of records here in the house where he kept books of how much he paid the men and how much he sold, and all that. After this was cleared, then, of course, it became farmland. Now, they had no way of getting the logs that were cut to a market. So down there just below Woodrow’s, and this happened several places, they built what was called splash dams. They made a dam and dammed the water up and filled it with logs. Then there would be a great big lot of excitement. Everybody would gather and they would tear the dam lose and let the logs float down to the Guyan River. There were men who went with them, I suppose on rafts, and rafted the logs together, and floated them down the Guyan River to the Guyandotte. Now, my mother’s father, who came from Raleigh County, was Uncle Vic McVey. Of course, I remember him well, he lived here with us until he died at the age of ninety-four. He was one of the men who followed floating those logs down the river, and then they would walk back from Huntington. They had places that they stayed on their way back. I don’t know how many days it took.
Now, my grandmother Hinchman was a Chambers, which is also one of the early settler families in this area. She was a schoolteacher. At that time, it was possible to teach school when you got through the eighth grade, you were given a certificate. All first teachers in the one room schools here were just graduates of the eight grade, because the high school at Man was not built until 1919 or 1920, and that’s all they had. Now some people taught after they finished the eighth grade, and then went on when it was possible. I have a cousin Lake Claypool–that’s another old family in this area for which Claypool is named–that she taught after she finished the eighth grade then she went on to Man and finished high school and then went to Morris Harvey. But all the older teachers were just eighth grade. There was a one room school down here at Claypool. There was a one room school up at Vance’s. There were several one room schools on Buffalo Creek. There was a one room school up–what’s that creek up Bruno called–Elk Creek. My grandmother was a teacher, but as I say, both died before I was ever born. Now then, this place was called Cyclone. This is where Cyclone was. My grandmother Hinchman kept the Cyclone Post Office here for forty years. After she passed away, my mother–she was a McVey–and she married my father, Walter Hinchman, in 1910, and came here. I had Aunt Rosa Hinchman, who had never married at that time, who helped her keep the post office. The mail was carried on horseback from Huntington and the West, came that way, and from Oceana, from that direction they carried it. The postmasters met here, and they ate dinner here every day. My mother–ever who all was here, and at that time, you never knew who might be there for dinner… But when this house was built, this part wasn’t part of it. The kitchen and the dining room were in separate buildings. Now, of course, in the south they had slaves and all, but I do recall their talking about on black man, by the name of Sam. I don’t remember much about him but that’s the only black person that they ever had here, you know, on the farm.
I do remember my granddad McVey quite well, and my great-grandfather came to Raleigh County with General Beckley and settled there. Then my mother’s grandfather was a Confederate soldier in the Civil War. His name was Zirkle, which is the German word for circle. He ran away from home during the Civil War and joined the Confederate Army. After the war he came here and settled. He also lived with us until he was in his nineties. But my mothers’ mother, my grandmother McVey, died when my mother was only, maybe two years old, so I never knew any of my real grandparents except, you know, my granddad McVey.
Were you born here, at this house?
I was born here on March 22, 1919. My father passed away in February of 1920 when I was eleven months old. There were three of us Hinchman children: Woodrow, Paul, and I was the youngest, of course. I don’t remember my father, but Woodrow does. Then my mother married Pete Toler when I was twenty-three months old, a year after my father died. I remember his as my real father because he reared me. He worked this farm and I remember the first time I called him Daddy, now I don’t know how old I was.
There was a mine at Davin that was first called Forkner, and it was changed to the name of Davin after Hollow A. Davin, a prominent man in Logan who probably owned the mine, and that started in 1923. Then the post office was taken up the creek and then we had a post office at Davin. Then my dad ran a coal cutting machine. Men took those jobs by contract and they were paid for the number of cars that they cut. They could work as many hours as they wanted. The men who loaded the coal–they may have loaded themselves, I don’t know–they loaded the coal into wooden cars. Now, in order to get credit of the coal car that they had loaded they had a–what was it called? Well, it was a little round piece of metal with a number on it that they hung on that coal car. The coal was hauled out of the mine by mule or ponies. There was a tipple and everything there at Davin. Then the Clean Eagle mine went in later, I don’t remember when, but my dad worked there, and he also worked at Mallory. But when we were children, we never saw our dad until the weekend because he went to work before daylight, before we ever thought of getting up and he never came in until after we had gone to bed. That sort of thing kept up with miners until John L. Lewis, you see, organized the union.
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