The Hatfield-McCoy Feud (Part Three: The Death of Ellison Hatfield and the Aftermath)

Eddison Hatfield

Written by Joanna Adams Sergent


On August 5, 1882, on an election day in Kentucky, a deadly mix of contempt and alcohol came together. Before now, there had been raids, kidnappings, and lawsuits that caused the families to despise each other, however, this day, the violence had reached its tipping point. Three McCoy brothers (Tolbert, Phamer (Pharmer), and Bud) got into a drunken argument and brawl with Ellison Hatfield and another brother, who were both the brothers of Anse.

One view is that the McCoy brothers were angry about the treatment of their sister, Roseanna, by the Hatfield family. Ellison was stabbed 26 times, some in the back, and was killed by a gunshot while he was laying on the ground. Some historians say that Elison lived for a very short time after this incident.

The sign that marks the spot of the Election Fight

The McCoy brothers were arrested by Hatfield Constables and were taken to Pikeville, Kentucky for trial. Anse arranged a large group of followers and force-ably took their McCoy prisoners before they reached Pikeville. Tolbert, Phamer (Pharmer), and Bud were taken by force to West Virginia and there killed by the Hatfields as vigilante justice. Each man was tied to pawpaw trees and was shot several times. A total of 50 shots were fired at the men and they are described as being “bullet-riddled”.

The spot where the McCoy Brothers died

Approximately 20 men, including Anse were indicted for the murders even though most people of the area considered the revenge to be warranted. All of the men eluded arrest and capture. This lead to the McCoys taking their own vigilante justice.

Perry Cline

Perry Cline

The McCoy family sought justice through Perry Cline who was married to Martha McCoy, who was the widow of Asa McCoy. It is believed through Cline’s influence, and political connections, to have the charges of murder of Tolbert, Phamer (Pharmer), and Bud, reinstated and have warrants placed for their capture. for the arrest of Devil Anse, Jim Vance, and others of the Hatfield clan, hoping to attract bounty hunters to the region to apprehend the fugitives in West Virginia and bring them back to Kentucky for trial.

Perry Cline is a very controversial character among historians and both families. He is often seen as the linchpin that caused the feud to escalate. The question becomes was he seeking justice for himself or for the McCoys. The possible motive could have been many years before the Election Day Brawl, Perry Cline had lost a lawsuit against Anse.

The lawsuit was over a deed to 5,000 acres of land and timber rights. He is either demonized or canonized for his actions in the feud depending on whose side that you take in the dispute. Later in life, Cline was responsible for the first African American School in Pike County, Kentucky. And being a very skilled politician became a Kentucky State Representative.

However, it is widely agreed that the portrayal of Perry Cline in Kevin Costner’s Hatfield and McCoys miniseries is not accurate. There was no love interest between Roseanne McCoy and himself because Cline was married at the time.

1886 Fred Wolford and Tom Wallace

Tom Wallace

Jeff McCoy killed Fred Wolford, who was a mail carrier. The reasons for this murder are currently unknown as well as his connection to the feud. Acting Constable Cap Hatfield and his friend Tom Wallace were acting upon a warrant to arrest Jeff McCoy for this murder. Both men shot Jeff while he was trying to escape on the banks of the Tug Fork River. Tom Wallace was found dead in the spring of 1887.

Websites used in the Video and in the research of the article.

All the Dirty Details About the Hatfield-McCoy Feud of the Late Nineteenth Century

Hatfield–McCoy feud

The Untold Truth Of The Hatfield-McCoy Feud

The Bloody Feud of the Hatfields and McCoys

What’s the Real Story Behind the Hatfield-McCoy Feud?

5 Things Hatfields and McCoys Still Feud Over

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When we forget our past and who we are as a people, then we become who “they” say we are. ~~ David Sergent

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