Hustonville Police Chief Fred McCoy was born and raised on Blackberry Creek in Pike County.
It was at his parents’ country store where farmers would gather around the stove, drinking coffee every morning, discussing the newspaper.
When a picture ran of the statue of Devil Anse Hatfield erected at his gravesite, McCoy recalls a farmer commenting on what a big monument it was.
“And another farmer said, ‘Yeah. A monument to murder.’ That stuck with me,” McCoy says. It also has stuck with him that most, if not all he says of the accounts of the Hatfield and McCoy feud seem to be told from the Hatfield perspective, which is why he and wife Shelia decided to write their own book.
“I’m a descendent of both the McCoys and Hatfields,” McCoy says. His great-grandmother, Nancy Hatfield, was a niece of Devil Anse Hatfield and she married Asa McCoy, nephew of Randall McCoy. It was Nancy Hatfield’s father, Preacher Anse Hatfield, who presided as a justice of the peace over the infamous pig trial brought on by a fight between the two families over ownership of a hog.
“Really, I’ve kind of been working on the idea for this book for 40 years ...” McCoy says. “Over the years, the McCoys have come up on the short end of the stick during this feud thing.” He points out that Randall McCoy lost seven kids due to violence surrounding the feud, including a grandchild. “Five were brutally murdered. Devil Anse — his name was befitting. He definitely was the devil.”
McCoy says all the places of birth, death, murder and crime involved in the feud have become historical markers, but the event is not exactly revered where he’s from.
“We’d be in school, joking, ‘I’m a Hatfield, you’re a McCoy,’ and play-fighting, but even our teachers would tell us not to do that, not to talk about it ...”
He says his family said the same — the feud is something you do not talk about nor comment on.
However, McCoy says Devil Anse Hatfield was no stranger to talking about the feud — especially with the media. “He talked to reporters all the time, but the McCoys never did. So everything that was recorded in that way seemed to side with the Hatfields.”
As a member of the family, McCoy says, “Our problems were never with the Kentucky Hatfields or McCoys. The problem was with the West Virginia Hatfields, which is where Devil Anse lived. There’s been so many myths about the feud over the years, and no one has set it straight. We were told never to discuss the feud, so we never brought it up ...”
But McCoy says he couldn’t keep it to himself any longer after he saw the History Channel’s three-part series aired in May.
“It portrayed Randall McCoy as a drunk who cursed God and lost his religion,” he says. “That never happened. He was one of the most religious people.”
As for research, McCoy says, “I don’t have to ask anyone — I grew up in the life. I was born and raised a mile from where the feud took place. I’ve read several books, seen different shows, and I have no clue where they’re getting their stories.”
McCoy included a section on myths about the feud and dispels many of them with facts, he says. “This will show you how certain things really happened and why other things don’t make sense.”
McCoy says several pictures from his private family collection are used in the book that have never before been made public. Also, McCoy made sure to use coordinates when detailing various sites so those who want to use GPS can easily find them.
He feels his background as a police officer for 36 years and a special investigator for several, helped him keep the right attitude to research the book.
“Between court records, historical society documents, things like that — there’s enough documentation and records out there that prove everything in this book. It’s out there, but no one has ever printed anything that favored the McCoys over the years.”
McCoy says if he used stories passed down from his family that don’t have documentation to back them up, he tells his readers so in the book.
The book really began, he says, as an attempt to gather all the family history into one place for future generations of the family to read.