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 2 of my interview with Jean, which occurred on August 7, 2001:
What year was your husband born in?
He was born in ‘25. Grandpa died in 1921. He didn’t remember him but he remembered his grandmother. Grandma died in ’28.
Where did Devil Anse’s house sit here?
It’s up above the cemetery. There’s a ranch-style house there now. There’s a concrete bridge going over there. And a big bottom. And where the ranch style house is, that’s where the old homeplace was.
Is it still in family hands?
No. It’s been out of the family for I guess fifty years or more.
Now, Devil Anse having that many kids, do the grand-kids mingle pretty well?
They’re scattered. We really need to get back to the tradition of having a family reunion where they could all come in. But they’re scattered all over the country. Some in Florida, some in Ohio.
Are there other pictures like this that other branches of the family have?
I would say they all have some. There’s always pictures hidden back in attics and things like that. You never know. There’s one… Bob Hatfield from Cincinnati, he has an extensive family also. He’s through Anderson Hatfield. Preacher Anderson.
Do you know any stories about Anse and bear?
He was a bear hunter. And he killed a momma bear and brought the baby cubs home and raised them. They had them for years. A male and a female. Their names was Billy and Fanny. And Grandma would have to go out and run them out of the well house because they was out there slurping all of the cream off of the milk. They were down-to-earth people. They planted their gardens and things like that.
What about Don Chafin?
He was distant relation to the Hatfields. Grandma was a Chafin so he would have come in on her side. Maybe cousins. There’s a picture over there of Grandpa and him together.
The pictures of Johnse that I’ve seen, I don’t think he’s the best looking of the boys.
Well, I don’t either. Some of the pictures doesn’t do him justice either. This is the one that I like of him. It’s a little bit better. As he got older, he didn’t age very well. But then he had about five wives, too. That has a tendency to age you a bit.
If you have just one wife and she’s no good that can be enough.
I was lucky in that respect. We had 47 good years together. Now that top picture there is Joe and Cap and one of the deputies. His name was Lilly.
Devil Anse’s home burned, right? Did they lose a lot of things in it?
Uh huh. It had a lot of things in it. Somebody said Tennis had stored a lot of guns and ammunition and things like that in it. People were afraid to go by there for a week afterwards because the shots was going off. I would say it was something else because at that time there was no fire departments or anything. It probably just burned out.
Did you ever hear what year it was built?
1889. That’s a replica of it there. It was a seven-room two-story. Cap’s was built on the same pattern.
Did your husband read a lot about the feud?
Mostly, but he disagreed with a lot of it. The Altina Waller book, he liked that. It was a good one. They interviewed him on the History Channel. She never interviewed anyone. She went with public record on everything. And I think a lot of it was Perry Cline pushed a lot of it. Grandpa had sued him because he got on Grandpa’s land and timbered it. Grandpa won 5000 acres of land off of him. After that, all the warrants and the bounty hunters started looking for Grandpa and the boys. Grandpa decided all of a sudden that he was just going to sell him the land and get rid of it and when he did that everything just stopped. She thought in the book too that Perry Cline was the one really instigating the Hatfields and the McCoys and he was taking money off both sides of the family for things. He would buddy up to one side and then do something for someone and they’d pay him and then he would go to the other one and do the same thing.
Did you say you had something of his?
No. Frank Phillips. A pocket knife. We got it through one of our friends way back there. And he didn’t want it because he said it was too grisly. And it is rusty but you know the blade is razor sharp. And it has to be way over 100 years old.
Didn’t he marry Nancy McCoy?
She was Johnse’s first wife. She left Johnse for Frank Phillips. Well now, Asa Harmon McCoy was her father. And he was the one… Grandpa wounded him in the Civil War. And when they all come back from the Civil War he was found dead in the Hatfield territory and they blamed the Hatfields for the killing. But I think years later on they found out that one of his own people had killed him and just throwed him in the Hatfield territory. But now it was his daughter that married Johnse and from what I can understand she made Johnse live pretty rough, which he probably deserved for treating Roseanne the way he did. But now, I talked to Aunt Betty and Aunt Rosie both about Roseanne and they were living at the house with her and they loved her. They said she was a beautiful person. She had coal-black hair, she had a good turn. She was just a nice person. And I think they kind of got mad at Johnse because he was running around and chasing women and things like that.
Now, I’ve heard that Devil Anse wouldn’t allow them to be married.
He wouldn’t. But years later he said he wished he had’ve because Roseanne saved Johnse’s life a couple of times there. That is true. And he did say that he wished he had let them marry. But back at that time there was so much hatred going on between the families. Her father, as far as I know, never spoke to her again. Just because she did take up with Johnse.
What about the shirt that Ellison wore when he was stabbed?
As far as I know, it’s in a museum in New Orleans. There’s a picture there. Uncle Joe had it and he sold it to one of his sister’s grandsons and he passed away and his wife has it. I heard that it was on display in a museum. Henry tried to buy it back after his cousin died but we never did get an answer back from them. I would still like to have it back. Actually, it belonged to Henry’s father and he left it in storage at Uncle Joe’s and Uncle Joe sold it. It should have come down to Henry or Jack. But that’s life.