At the cranky crossroads: McCoy St. and Hatfield St.
Forever linked, the Hatfield and McCoy clans were the most notorious bad neighbors in U.S. history.

Hatfield-McCoy Feudin' Trail

There's a reason why most travel guides don't promote the Hatfield-McCoy Feudin' Trail: it's away from everything else, and it's in a part of America that can be challenging to visit even in nice weather. The topography may help to explain the feud. When it's a pain just to get from Point A to Point B, people become cranky.

Hatfield-McCoy Park.

This is a part of the country that's popular for driving off-road motorcycles and ATVs (There's even an official Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail), which suggests the terrain. Our trip -- on a sunny summer day -- included unplanned encounters with boulders in the road, a highway lane collapsed into a river, and a burned-out tractor-trailer lying on its side on a curve.

Various members of the Hatfield or McCoy clans were killed off from 1863 to 1890, although the feud didn't officially end until 1924. "Devil Anse" Hatfield had 13 children, Randolph McCoy had 16, and when you add in cousins and other relations there were more than enough bodies to wage a miniature war. A pig was involved at one point, as was an illicit Hatfield-McCoy love baby, but the fighting was mostly over turf and timber. The governors of both Kentucky and West Virginia were eventually drawn into the fray, as was the U.S. Supreme Court.

Devil Anse Hatfield and Randolph McCoy are buried 55 miles apart, at each end of the serpentine Hatfield-McCoy Feudin' Trail. In-between are the spots where people were hanged, shot, stabbed, beaten, and burned; most are flagged with helpful historical markers. Graves are an important part of the Trail, but the dead are buried on high hilltops in this region, probably to keep them from floating away during floods. Following in the footsteps of the Hatfields and McCoys will make you appreciate cemeteries that are flat.

"The Hatfields and McCoys were in and out of court all the time; they even summoned governors," said Polly Hopkins, director of the Hatfield-McCoy Museum. "Other people had feuds, too. But they just killed each other."

Hatfield-McCoy Feudin' Trail: Points of Interest

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September 22, 2017

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