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 4 of my interview with Jean, which occurred on August 7, 2001:
What kind of house did Johnse have?
Probably just a frame house.
I don’t know much about what he did for a living.
I really don’t know either. There’s not that much on him. Maybe he just spent his time chasing ladies. I don’t even know what type of work he did. But he had to work. He worked for his father, for one thing. But now there’s some of his grandchildren still living. But I’m like you, he’s not as good looking as most of the other boys were. But then when you’re like eighteen years old, everybody’s good looking at eighteen.
I wonder what Devil Anse thought about people taking his photo?
There was just always somebody wanting to take his picture. Now this is by Life magazine. They done a story.
I love the one in his hat.
That’s a very rare one. And the one with the long rifle. Because most of the time in the pictures you see him with his little shotgun. But that has the long rifle. I think that’s the muzzle-loading type.
Not nearly as many photos of Randolph McCoy.
This one here, when we did the McCoy monument, they didn’t have any pictures. We had gathered up quite a few of the McCoys and we made a collage picture and that one was in it. That’s the one mostly you see of him is that one. But I have a couple here somewhere when he was younger but it’s not a very clear copy. But he looks very sad and very old and very sick in that one. But he was like thirteen years older than Grandpa, though.
Did your husband hold any grudges?
Was he raised to?
Oh no. He says on the History Channel tape that he went to school with McCoys and he never did have any animosity towards any of them. In fact, our postmaster down here, she was a McCoy before she married. And she and I get along real good.
So not all of Devil Anse’s brothers were involved in the feud…
Well now, like Wall Hatfield, he wasn’t concerned in it nowhere and they took him before a jury and found him guilty of murder, which he didn’t do. And he died in the pen just not long after he got in because he just couldn’t handle penitentiary life. And he’s buried down under that highway. The highway went over the graves of the prisoners that were buried there. Isn’t that terrible? That’s what the family said. Uncle Allen Hatfield from Beech Creek was one of his children. That’s where that come from.
Where did they bury Ellison Mounts?
I think he’s buried over at Hatfield Cemetery at Matewan. That’s where Grandma and Grandpa’s mother and father is buried. Ephraim. He was buried there.
Are they marked?
Yeah. I think they have a small marker is all. Devil Anse’s father was Big Eph Hatfield and she was Nancy Vance. That’s where Uncle Jim come in at. That was her brother. So that would have been Grandpa’s uncle. He loved Grandpa so well, he would kill for him, that was all there was to it. And Grandpa didn’t have to tell him. He went out on his own and done it. I think that had a lot to do with it. In all that I read, Grandpa’s personality just didn’t seem like he was that type of a person.
Did they ever talk about him doing things like singing or whittling?
He was a joker. Like my mother-in-law said, Tennis had give her a new diamond ring. And she was out helping Grandpa milk the cow and she was showing him her pretty ring and he said, “I’d just soon have a pewter button.” He was always joking with people and things like that. Now my mother-in-law was a very scary person. And if he’d a been a mean person she wouldn’t have stayed around him. But her and Tennis lived with them until they had two children. He couldn’t have been very threatening.
Who had the home when it burned?
Tennis. He inherited it from his momma. It burned after she passed. That was on the land that he inherited. All of the children got a certain amount of land.
Did Devil Anse sell out in Mingo County?
Yeah. Cline got it. He just let him have it all and he moved over here.
Who owned the old property where the cemetery is in Mingo County?
That’s part of the other estate, I’d say, Ephraim. That would be part of his. Delorme and up in that area was where they were all at mostly. Delorme, Red Jacket. I don’t know a whole lot about Mingo County. And we lost one of our good little relatives over there: Dutch Hatfield. He used to be chief of police of Matewan and he knew everybody. And him and Henry was really close together and they passed within a year of each other. But he was pretty well up on all of the relatives and who was whose child and all of that.
Why was Cap’s family not buried with the other Hatfields?
Cap and Grandpa and the boys, seems like there was a rift there all the time. He was at Grandpa’s funeral but they hadn’t had much dealings from what I can understand. So when he died he just wanted to be buried on his own land. They started their own little cemetery down there. They may have had some people die before that and buried them there.
Where is Johnse buried?
Johnse is buried up here.
Any of his wives buried with him?
That’s sad that he had so many wives and none are buried with him.
Yeah. That’s a lesson to those men. Better find one and be loyal to them.
I hope someone can figure out how to make this tourism work here.
If you happen to see them down at the Chamber of Commerce, you ask ‘em about a road up here. See if we can get it changed some way. Because if they’re going to use this for tourism they’re going to need to be able to locate it. This is 44. 18 miles from the boulevard to the top of the mountain—that’s as far as 44 goes. And they’re advertising it through the rest stop areas. And Sarah Ann’s not even on the map. Stirrat is.
They don’t have it together in the county seat either.
No. I think it’s one group pulling against another group and if they don’t get together nothing gets done.
Have you ever seen that play in Beckley?
No. I’ve had people say it’s good. I don’t like to stay overnight away from home. I’m a home body.
Jean died in 2011. I miss seeing her when I drive up Route 44.