Appalachia, Cap Hatfield, civil war, Devil Anse Hatfield, Hatfield-McCoy Feud, history, Howard B. Lee, Island Creek, Kentucky, Logan, Logan County, Nancy E. Hatfield, Pikeville, Randolph McCoy, Tennis Hatfield, West Virginia
Howard B. Lee, former Attorney General of West Virginia, provided this account of Nancy Hatfield (widow of Cap) in the early 1970s:
“Mrs. Hatfield, your husband and his father bore the same given names: ‘William Anderson’. How did they get the nicknames of ‘Cap’ and ‘Devil Anse’?”
“It is very simple,” she replied. “Early in life Devil Anse’s name was shortened to ‘Anse.’ During and after the Civil War he was called ‘Captain Anse’. The son, because he had the same name as his father, was called ‘Little Cap’. As the boy grew larger, the word ‘Little’ was dropped. Also, because of their fierceness in feud combats, the McCoys called the father ‘Devil Anse’ and the son ‘Bad Cap’. The newspapers took up the names and they stuck. Devil Anse liked and cultivated the title; but eventually the word ‘Bad’ was dropped from Cap’s nickname.
“Was I afraid? For years, day and night, I lived in fear. Afraid for my own safety, and for the safety of my loved ones. Constant fear is a terrible emotion. It takes a heavy toll, mentally and physically.
“I now think that my most anxious moments, as well as my greatest thrill, came years after the feud was over. In 1922, Tennis Hatfield and another deputy sheriff went over to Pikeville, Kentucky, to return a prisoner wanted in Logan County. While there, Tennis visited the aged Randolph McCoy1, surviving leader of his clan during the feud. (Tennis was born long after the feud was over.) The old man was delighted to see Devil Anse’s youngest son’, and Tennis spent the night with him.
“The next morning, Randolph told Tennis that he was going home with him. ‘I want to see Cap,’ he said, ‘and tell him how glad I am that I didn’t kill him. I am sorry Devil Anse is gone. I would like to see him, too.’ Tennis was worried. He didn’t know how Cap would receive his old enemy. So he left Randolph in Logan while he acme up to our place to consult Cap.
“Cap listened to Tennis’ story, and said: ‘Does he come in peace?’ ‘Yes,’ said Tennis. ‘He comes in peace.’ ‘Does he come unarmed?’ ‘Yes, he comes unarmed.’ ‘Then I shall be happy to greet him in the same way. Bring him up for supper and he shall spend the night with us.
“My anxious moments were just before these two strong-willed men met. I knew how they had hated each other, that each had tried to kill the other, more than once, that each had killed relatives and friends of the other, and I was afraid of what they might do when they stood face to face.
“My thrill came when I saw them clasp hands, and heard each one tell the other how happy he was to see him. They talked far into the night, and bother were up early the next morning, eager to continue their talks. Tennis came about one o’clock to drive Randolph back to his Kentucky home. Cap watched them until they passed out of sight up the creek, and then remarked, ‘You know, I always did like that cantankerous old cuss.’
“Cap and Randolph never saw each other again.”
1Should be Jim McCoy, son of Randolph.
Source: West Virginia Women (Richwood, WV: Jim Comstock, 1974), p. 152-153