Once upon a time (and by once upon a time, I mean 1863) there were two families who lived on opposite sides of the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River. The Hatfields lived on the West Virginia side and the McCoys lived on the Kentucky side. The Hatfields and the McCoys hated each other enough to become one of the most famous feuds in the US.
The Hatfields were the more affluent family. They owned and operated a timber business. The McCoys were the other family. The Feud was a Big Honkin’ Deal, lasted a Long Honkin’ Time, and is complicated. In addition to the Hatfields and McCoys, The Feud includes Romance, Murder, and Execution.
Most of the feud (let’s face it, the families were never BFFs) began during the Civil War. The majority of both families fought on the Confederacy side—which you might have thought would have brought the families closer together. You’d be wrong. Note “the majority.” Asa McCoy did the unthinkable and joined the Union side. Asa went and got himself murdered (this was the first time Murder made a guest appearance) by a group of ex-Confederate dudes called the Logan Wildcats, but the blame (for a while at least) fell on “Devil” Anse Hatfield. This caused a bit of a tiff (understatement of the day).
Thirteen years later (1878 if you’re keeping track), a hog was the cause of dispute. Floyd Hatfield actually had the hog, but Randolph McCoy said it was his. After a court ruling in favor of the Hatfields, the McCoys killed Bill Staton (a relative of both families who testified in favor of the Hatfields). This did nothing to calm things down.
Johnse Hatfield went and fell in love with Roseanna McCoy. The families tried to explain that this was a bad idea, but Romance wasn’t listening. Roseanna went off to live with the Hatfields (ooooh). At some point Roseanna went home to McCoy-land, but Romance stayed involved and Johnse Hatfield was arrested by the McCoys on bootlegging charges (which was pretty much the hobby of the entire population at that point).
Romance intervened once again (it was a busy time for Romance) and Roseanna hopped a horse at midnight and galloped off to tell the Hatfields. The Hatfields frowned upon the abduction of their family member and immediately mounted up to rescue Johnse. Shortly thereafter, Johnse abandoned Roseanna (who was pregnant—oohhh) and married her cousin, Nancy McCoy. You can see where this might upset lots of people for all sorts of reasons. Romance threw up her hands and went off to bother other people.
Once Romance was off the scene, Murder took up residence.
In 1882, three of Roseanna’s younger brothers killed Ellison Hatfield by fighting with him when he (Ellison) was drunk. This included stabbing him 26 times and shooting him. You can see how this might end up with him (Ellison) being dead. The McCoy boys were arrested but then were kidnapped by the Hatfields who preferred their own particular brand of justice. This ended with the brothers being dead. Murder was having a marvelous time and bought tickets to the next act.
The Hatfields were (clearly) convinced that their revenge was appropriate, but the McCoys seemed to feel otherwise. When the Hatfields eluded arrest, things got a little ugly. Land feud, political feud, blah, blah. Murder yawned and turned up the volume.
In 1988, several members of the Hatfield family surrounded the McCoy cabin, opened fire on the sleeping family, and burned the house down. Murder called it the New Year’s Night Massacre and bought more popcorn—the large size.
Murder was justified in the purchase because more than a dozen members of the two families were killed over the next decade or so. Eventually, the Supreme Court got involved in one of the cases dating back the New Year’s Night Massacre which is interesting if you care about things like that.
Murder masqueraded as Execution for a while and remained happy as pretty much everyone got involved in one way or another.
Eventually, Murder got bored and moved on, and the Hatfields and McCoys grew through to modern generations who prefer to use the feud to make money with events like a tug-of-war over the Tug Fork rather than let’s-make-war.
Quick, name another family feud that made history.