Road Trips & Recipes: The Hatfield and McCoy Feud, Historic Sites and Driving Tour

The Hatfield and McCoy Feud

By Kathy Witt, Tribune News Service

(TNS) “The famous Hatfield-McCoy feud that has terrorized the law-abiding citizens in Eastern Kentucky has broken out afresh and another wholesale slaughter is looked for at any moment.”

The 1889 story in New York City’s The Sun, under the headline, “East Kentucky in Terror,” chronicled one of the world’s most famous grudges, one that resulted in more than a dozen deaths of members of the Hatfield and McCoy families. The feud, which had its roots in the American Civil War, lasted for generations, keeping the country in its thrall for decades.

This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the feud between the two warring clans in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, specifically the Tug River Valley, which divides Kentucky and West Virginia.

Descendants of the Hatfields, whose patriarch was William “Devil Anse” Hatfield, and the McCoys, led by Randolph “Old Ranel” McCoy, signed a truce, proclaiming in part that the families “do hereby and formally declare an official end to all hostilities, implied, inferred and real, between the families, now and forevermore.”

Play: The self-guided Hatfields and McCoys Historic Feud Driving Tour takes visitors to key sites connected to the 30-year feud. First stop: the Pikeville-Pike County, Kentucky Visitors Center,, to pick up the brochure with step-by-step directions through Pike County’s winding mountain roads. A CD or USB is available for purchase ($20 each) and sets the stage for full-on feud immersion with narration, music, and jaunty ballads.

The driving tour covers three main geographic areas of Hatfield-McCoy feud activity: Pikeville city, the Blackberry area of Pike County, and across the Tug River in West Virginia in a town called Sarah Ann. Depending on pace and interest, the full tour can take four to six hours, but it can also be broken up into shorter visits. Tour sites are open during daylight hours.

Pay your respects at the gravesites of Hatfield and McCoy kinfolk, including Devil Anse and Randolph McCoy. Stop by the site of Randolph McCoy’s Homeplace and Well in the Blackberry Creek area and the mournful grounds of the pawpaw trees, where in 1882 the Hatfields shot and killed three of Randolph’s sons — Tolbert, Pharmer, and Randolph, Jr. — in retaliation for them stabbing and killing Ellison Hatfield.

In Pikeville, enter the halls of justice at the Historic Pike County Courthouse, the site of the Hatfield trials for the murders of the McCoy brothers and the subsequent murder of Alifair McCoy, their sister, among other crimes. See the hanging site of Ellison Hatfield “Cotton Top” Mounts. The 1890 hanging brought crowds out to the gallows in their Sunday best to watch the Hatfield who confessed to and was convicted of Alifair’s murder swing by the neck.

Nearby, the Big Sandy Heritage Center Museum houses the world’s largest collection of historical Hatfield and McCoy artifacts, including the rope bed that belonged to Asa Harmon McCoy, who was killed by a Confederate group led by Devil Anse, and an original photo of Roseanna McCoy, who had a secret love affair with Johnse Hatfield. Also see life-size figures of Devil Anse and Old Ranel, plus newspaper clippings, portraits of the families, and other memorabilia.

Spend some time in Pikeville’s historic downtown district to stroll lamppost-lined streets and browse independently owned shops like Two Chicks & Company for apparel, gift items, and home decor and the mom-and-pop collective, the Shoppes at 225.

Along the way meet the Hatfield and McCoy Bears, Moonshine Bear, Banjo Bear, and a whole sleuth of bears — all part of Pikeville’s Bear Affair, a community arts program starring University of Pikeville’s sports mascot. The whimsical 4- and 5-foot-tall bears each have a story to tell and are fun and colorful photo ops.

Stay: Stay within walking distance of downtown shops, restaurants and many of the Bear Affair bears at the Hampton Inn Pikeville. It has all the amenities the brand is known for — free parking, Wi-Fi and hot breakfast, indoor pool, and fitness center — plus a cozy fireplace in the lobby.

Eat: Sup where Old Ranel once slept. Chirico’s Ristorante occupies the former McCoy House, where Randolph, his wife Sarah (also known as Sally), and their family settled when their Pike County home was burned by the Hatfields during the night of Jan. 1, 1888.

Dine on authentic Italian dishes — everything from an Italian sampler starter featuring hand-rolled meatballs and scratch-made Italian sausage to the traditional frankwich house specialty. Part sandwich, part pizza, this layered and lidded Chirico’s original is stacked with ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, and zesty cheeses, baked in a brick oven, and finished with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Specialty frankwiches include Philly steak, Italian sub, and buffalo chicken flavors.

Place your order, then head up to the second floor, ascending the same staircase Randolph and Sarah walked up each night while living here from 1888 until their respective deaths. According to Tony Tackett, executive director of the Pikeville-Pike County Tourism Commission, Old Ranel selected the site for its proximity to Dils Cemetery, where he had buried Sarah and their daughter, Roseanna. He could step out onto his second-floor balcony and, at that time, see across town to the cemetery.

Treat: Pick up a picnic of sandwiches, salads, fresh fruit, and fresh-made cake from Mona’s Restaurant in Pikeville and head to Bob Amos Park atop the Pikeville Cut-Through. Enjoy sweeping vistas of the valley far below, the result of 18,000,000 cubic yards of earth (including a four-lane highway, a railroad, and a river through the mountain) having been moved, and at a cost of nearly $80 million. Begun in 1973 and completed in 1987, the Pikeville Cut-Through Project was the largest engineering feat in the United States and second in the world only to the Panama Canal — and it is a spectacular spot for whiling away an afternoon drinking in that view.

The Tug Fork Tasting Room, part of the Dueling Barrels Distillery and Brewery complex — home of small-batch spirits and craft brews — is expected to reopen in downtown Pikeville at the end of July. It is part of a block-long complex that also includes Pearce Restaurant and the Dueling Barrels Gift Store.

Read: In addition to T-shirts and souvenirs, the gift shop at the Pikeville-Pike County Visitor Center has dozens of books relating to the famous feud. For good background information, Tackett recommends “The Feud, The Hatfields & McCoys: The True Story” by Dean King, which has been updated since the 2012 “Hatfields & McCoys” miniseries starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton aired. ISI

For more information about planning a trip to Pikeville, Kentucky, and the Hatfield and McCoy feud sites, visit

Recipe: McCoy’s Italian Meat Loaf

This recipe, a McCoy family favorite, is from the cookbook “Cooking with the Real McCoys,” with recipes by the family and friends of Margie Annett and the McCoys. The book is available for $15 at the gift shop at the Pikeville-Pike County Visitor Center.


2 pounds of ground beef

1/2 cup milk

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 diced onion

1 diced green pepper

1 cup Quaker oats

1 24-ounce jar of spaghetti sauce

2 teaspoons Italian seasonings

3/4 pound sliced mozzarella cheese


Combine ground beef, milk, egg, onion, green pepper, oats, Italian seasoning, and half of the spaghetti sauce. Mix well. Put half of the mixture in a baking dish. Add cheese on top of this layer. Add the remaining ground beef mixture on top of the cheese. Pour the remaining spaghetti sauce over top. Bake in a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour.

(Author and travel and lifestyle writer Kathy Witt feels you should never get to the end of your bucket list; there’s just too much to see and do in the world. Contact her at [email protected], @KathyWitt.)

©2023 Kathy Witt. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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