Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Hatfields and McCoys Help Pinpoint Key Battle Site in Feud

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Hatfields and McCoys Help Pinpoint Key Battle Site in Feud

Article excerpt

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Hatfield and McCoy descendants came armed - with digging tools. Side by side, they worked together to help archaeologists unearth artifacts from one of the bloodiest sites in America's most famous feud. The leader of the dig says they have pinpointed the place where Randolph McCoy's home was set ablaze in the woods of eastern Kentucky during a murderous New Year's attack by the Hatfield clan.

Two McCoys were gunned down in the 1888 ambush on Randolph McCoy's homestead. It marked a turning point in their cross-border war waged in Kentucky and West Virginia, led by family patriarchs William Anderson "Devil Anse Hatfield and Randolph "Ole Ran'l McCoy.

The 10-day excavation focused on a back corner of the homestead. Archaeologists and volunteers - including descendants from the two families - uncovered charred timber, shell casings, nails, a pulley and fragments of glass and ceramics.

Eddie McCoy had made earlier pilgrimages there, but he said sifting through his ancestral soil was especially poignant.

"When I was digging through the mud and big chunks of burned wood started coming out, it just made it so real, he said this week. "I had to actually pause for a moment. I just could not believe I was being able to literally dig into my family's past.

A 2012 dig had given excavators some understanding of the McCoy homestead.

The team decided the actual site wasn't quite where they thought it was, said Kim McBride, co-director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey. She led the archaeological teams on both digs.

"We had some suspicions that we weren't quite in the right place at the first dig, McBride said. "With more work, we were able to confirm that suspicion. We think the house sat a little bit further back.

The back corner of the homestead was the area least disturbed by development, McBride said.

"Having this little area of materials from the original house in its burned state was very significant, she said.

In a region slammed by a slumping coal industry, better identifying the McCoy homestead could help lure visitors.

The property is owned by Hatfield descendant Bob Scott, who would like to build a replica cabin on the same spot. …

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