Uncategorized Patrick Mead on 05 Nov 2012 09:04 pm
Ellison Mounts was sentenced to hang. Fears that the Hatfields would come to his rescue were unfounded. Mounts was a quiet prisoner who didn’t disrupt the jail as most men would in his situation. The only trouble he gave his jailers was when he stopped eating and refused to engage in worship services provided him by the sheriff. Sheriff Maynard was certain it was a ruse and that either the Hatfields were coming to rescue him or he was feigning insanity in order to escape the gallows. His own deputies tried to talk Maynard into getting a doctor and a judge to examine Mounts but Maynard refused.
The date was set. February 19th 1890. The day before the hanging, Frank Phillips came to town and got mad, stinking drunk. Leaving the bars behind him, he roamed the streets with a revolver in each hand raving to any and all that he had single handedly destroyed the Hatfield and now he was going to run Pikeville. Sheriff Maynard and a group of deputies tried to subdue him but were in turn attacked by Bud McCoy and Phillips’ friends. It took the timely arrival of twenty five militia men to separate the combatants and calm things down.
Ellison Mounts was read the death warrant and placed in a wagon to be carted to the place of his execution. Kentucky law prohibited public hangings but the local authorities got around that by placing the gallows at the bottom of a depression. By erecting a fence around the gallows they could claim that they had followed the law but any and all could come and sit on the hills that surrounded the gallows and get a ringside seat. And they did. Ellison Mounts was executed as the law demanded and people got their thrill at seeing a Hatfield die.
Newspapers weren’t about to let things die down, though. They printed rumors that Frank Phillips had been hunted down and killed, that the governor of West Virginia had agreed to capture all Hatfields and turn them over to the governor of Kentucky, that the Hatfields were coming to burn down Pikeville, and on and on. None of the rumors were true but they sold a lot of papers.
Charles Gillespie escaped from the Pike County jail and stayed in West Virginia outside the reach of Sheriff Maynard and the Kentuckians. Dave Stratton – who had helped Frank Phillips hunt and kill Jim Vance – was found mortally wounded from a severe beating, probably administered by an axe – blade and handle. It was assumed a Hatfield had caught him and killed him for revenge. At least… that was what everyone thought…
A “detective” known as Kentucky Bill Napier swore out warrants against the usual suspects – Devil Anse, Cap, Johnse, etc. – and set out to hunt them down only to be recalled when it was found that no one had killed Dave Stratton. He had merely become drunk and fallen under the wheels of a train.
While this was going on, Devil Anse Hatfield and his opposite, Randolph McCoy, were strangely silent. It is now believed that Devil Anse had told his people that the feud had to stop and that most McCoys felt the same way. Randolph wasn’t mentally stable enough to participate in this discussion, but other high ups in the clans had had enough. The new governor of West Virginia made a gesture of peace toward his opposite in Kentucky by withdrawing the rewards he had previously issued for the capture and delivery of the McCoys to a West Virginia cell. Many who wanted to keep the feud alive for their own power hungry or blood thirsty reasons had other problems – Lee Ferguson was arrested for fraud when he stole pension money from Civil War vets, Bud McCoy was killed by two of his own relatives after a drunken brawl, etc.
Just over a year after the death of Ellison Mounts, a letter appeared in the Wayne County News, a local paper in West Virginia, that was signed ‘Cap Vance.’ In it he wrote that he didn’t want to keep the feud alive and that while he had lived his life as a man of arms, he wanted to live the rest of his life in peace. Newspapers picked up on this letter and either welcomed it or ridiculed it as suited them best. One paper went so far as to say “If Hatfield and his friends had been left alone in peace by the Kentuckians, it is safe to say that the public would have heard the last of the hostilities long ago.” Other papers picked up that theme and blamed the McCoys for keeping the feud going far longer than it ever should have gone. The paper from Wheeling said the Hatfields had long wanted to live as good citizens and never harmed anyone who hadn’t tried to harm them first. While that might have been a slight overstatement, most historians now agree that the wildness of the McCoys and their lack of control over their sons kept the feud going for far too long. The McCoys were now painted as the aggressors and that is where the judgment of history lies at this time. But things can change…
And change things did. Cap Hatfield became infirm due to his old wounds. He joined the Methodist church and lived quietly while the world changed around him. Pikeville got a telephone in 1892 and the railroad came to eastern Kentucky as well, parts of it built in West Virginia as the border shifted back and forth by the Tug River. It was hoped that the work and goods and new world brought by the telephone and the railroad would end the feud as people sought to better their lives rather than end the lives of their ancient enemies. And that is just about what happened.
In 1896, it was election day in Matewan, West Virginia. Cap Hatfield and his 14yr old stepson arrived in town. Cap immediately checked his weapons with the mayor and went unarmed into town for the day. He had an enemy in Matewan, John Rutherford, the son of the mayor but Cap successfully avoided him until the end of the day. As Cap and his stepson stopped at a country store on their way home, John Rutherford and a group of his friends arrived, out of their minds with drink. Who shot first is a matter that will never be settled. What we know is that John Rutherford and his brother in law, Henderson Chambers, were shot down. Cap’s gun was empty and as another Rutherford came after him, Cap’s stepson shot him down. Cap and the boy went on the run but were captured by detectives and delivered to the sheriff of the newly formed Mingo County three days later. Both stood trial for murder in April of 1897. Both were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and given a year each – Cap in jail and his stepson in the West Virginia Reform School. Cap escaped from jail a few months later and the authorities decided it just wasn’t worth their trouble to find him and return him to jail.
Johnse Hatfield was caught while visiting friends in Kentucky. He was charged with a variety of offenses including killing the McCoy boys in 1882 and attacking the McCoy compound on New Year’s Day in 1888. This angered the Hatfields who thought that bygones were bygones and that arresting each other over the feud was a thing better left in the past. They had no power to sway the Kentucky authorities, but one Hatfield decided he couldn’t leave it there. He was Elias Hatfield, the 18yr old son of Devil Anse Hatfield.
One day, the man who arrested Johnse, Humphrey Ellis, took the train into Mingo County. While there, Elias Hatfield spotted him. Ellis saw Elias and stepped into a coach to get his revolver. When he came out, Elias Hatfield shot him dead. Elias was given a very light sentence, angering the McCoys, as witnesses said he was firing out of fear of his life.
Johnse Hatfield was in prison and headed for the gallows when fate intervened. The Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, William Thorne, was touring the prison where Johnse was being held when a large black prisoner attacked him with a homemade knife. Johnse jumped on the attacker and rode him down, disarming him and saving the lieutenant governor’s life.
And Cap? Yes, he was still technically an escaped prisoner but nobody cared. He studied law via correspondence and for six months at a log cabin school in Tennessee and passed the bar exam, becoming an attorney. He trained his daughter and son in the law (law degrees were acquired by clerking for someone with a degree or studying law under someone with a degree. It usually took less than a year from start to finish). His daughter was the first female attorney in southern West Virginia. He decided he didn’t like the tedium of practicing law so, old and infirm as he was, he became a deputy sheriff. Seriously. Only in America.
Devil Anse Hatfield was studying the Bible with a local minister, William Garrett, a former Logan Wildcat militiaman. He was immersed in baptism on September 23rd 1911. His neighbors testified of the great change they had seen come over Anse and how he had changed from the feud years. Even when two of his sons were killed as they served as train guards, he did not call for vengeance. Instead, he asked that the Pikeville authorities remove the old charges against his sons as a sign of good faith and in honor of their lives and service to the railroad based there. The authorities went to Randolph McCoy and asked if he would agree to such a gesture and the old clan leader staunchly refused to do so. Devil Anse Hatfield even offered him ten thousand dollars (close to a quarter of a million in today’s currency) if he would reconsider, but McCoy would not.
Ironically, while Devil Anse Hatfield served as a church deacon and his closest relatives turned nearly pacifist in their new lives, war broke out all around them as mine owners, miners, and detectives shot each other and committed atrocities upon innocents that far exceeded anything down during the days of the feud. Some of the Hatfields found themselves on opposite sides of the new wars. Sheriff Chafin (Logan County) was a Hatfield who supported the rich mine owners while Sid Hatfield (“Two Gun”) supported the miners. When the Baldwin-Felts detectives came in on the side of the mine owners, Hatfields found themselves shooting at Hatfields on the streets of Matewan. At the end of the shootout known as the Matewan massacre, nine men were dead. Sid Hatfield was charged with murder – along with twenty other men – but all were found not guilty. Later, Sid would be shot down on the courthouse steps of Welch, West Virginia.
Devil Anse and his compound took no part in the wars around them. Instead, they emphasized religion, education, and industry. Eventually, Henry Drury Hatfield not only got his medical degree, he worked his way up through the legislature and became governor of West Virginia in 1913. His progressive republican administration is still considered one of the most forward thinking, socially responsible, and effective administrations in West Virginia history.
Randolph McCoy never let any of the old hatred die. He even drove off many of his own family who tired of him never being able to speak of anything other than the injustices life had forced upon him. He was bitter and lonely when he finally died in March 1914 of burns suffered when he – drunk – fell into an open fire at a nephew’s home. Sarah McCoy lived a few more years and died, a sad, lonely woman. Very few came to either funeral and their deaths merited nothing more than a line or two in a couple newspapers.
When Devil Anse died in January 1921 of pneumonia, it couldn’t have been more different. Even the New York Times printed his obituary and recapped how the feuding clan leader became a prosperous farmer, an industrious businessman, and a respected, peaceful citizen in his later years. He had refused to even speak of the feud for the last fifteen years of his life. His funeral was the largest in West Virginia history at the time, with thousands of people coming to Logan County by special trains. Many who came and cried were McCoys who had learned to love the old man. A life sized Italian marble statue of Anse Hatfield still stands over his grave. Anse’s wife, Levicy, died in 1929 and was buried with much pomp beside her famous husband.
Johnse was pardoned after saving the lieutenant governor. In 1930 he died while riding a horse. An autopsy said an old bullet wound caused his death but others said it was merely a heart attack. Randolph McCoy’s son, Jim, served as sheriff of Pike County and was known for his honesty and kindness. He died aged 80 in 1929, the same year as Devil Anse’s wife. Before he died, an encounter occurred that bears repeating.
Tennis Hatfield, Devil Anse’s youngest son, was sitting on the porch of a friend’s home in Pikeville when he saw an old man walking down the street. His friend told him that that was Uncle Jim McCoy. Tennis was serving as sheriff of Logan County but had never met his counterpart – in law enforcement and in the feud – before. Tennis Hatfield, without a word, got up and walked down the street. When he caught up with Jim McCoy, he identified himself and asked if Jim would shake his hand. With tears, Jim McCoy did so.
That is considered the official end of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.