Are you watching the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries? The television series starring Kevin Costner as William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Bill Paxton as Randolph “Old Ranel” McCoy is sparking renewed interest in this legendery story of a violent family rivalry.
The Hatfields, lead by William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, lived on the West Virgina side of the Tug Fork branch of the Big Sandy River. The McCoys, lead by Randolph “Old Ranel” McCoy, dwelled on the Kentucky side. The feud began during the Civil War and actively continued until the 1890s. In the 1900s the violence ended, but tension remained.
In the Ohio Historical Society’s quilt collection is a patriotic “Victory” quilt made in 1943 by sisters-in-law America Hatfield McCoy and Rhoda McCoy in Kentucky. The quilt honors the military service of members of both families in the Civil War and of both their sons World War II.
Stiched in the upper left star are the words “DEVIL ANSE / Cpt. Anderson / HATFIELD / Logan Wildats [sic] / 1863.” In the upper right star is stitched “Pvt Harmon McCoy / UNION ARMY / 1863.” The lower left-hand star has the embroidered words “PVT / Woodrow McCoy / SON OF / America Hatfield McCoy / ’43.” The lower right-hand star is stitched “Pvt / CHARLES D. HATFIELD / SON OF / Toland McCoy Hatfield / 1943.” The white boxes have the names “Asa McCoy” and “Willie Hatfield” stitched in them. These embroidered names were originally written in pencil by Rhoda McCoy and then women of both families stitched in the names.
The quilt was donated to the Ohio Historical Society by Jean Bell Thomas. She came in contact with the two families during the course of her work collecting and transcribing Appalachian ballads. She founded the American Folk Song Society in 1931. The Society began sponsoring an annual music festival near Ashland, Kentucky. A group of Hatfields and McCoys performed on stage together at the American Folk Song Festival. One of the quilters, Rhoda McCoy, was in the group and reported to say “When singin’ comes in, fightin’ goes out.”
Thomas wrote an article titled “How Music Ended a Famous Feud, War Ballads of Today in the Mountains of Kentucky” published in the February 1944 issue of The Etude music magazine. A portion of the lyrics from a ballad about the end of the feud are recorded:
I’ve been down to the quiltin’, folks,
A Victory quilt, they say;
‘Twas down at Granny Pridemore’s house,
That lives o’er Brushy Way
And Bud McCoy’s wife, Rhoda,
Melissy Hatfield helpin’ her
Put service stars on our quilt,
For to stand for both their sons.
Their boys j’ined the same battalion
From old grudge they are set free;
They’ve forgot Devil Anse, the Hatfield leader
Killed Harmon McCoy back in sixty-three.