In 1970, the play Hatfields and McCoys joined Honey in the Rock as part of the regular summer offering at the Grandview State Park amphitheater near Beckley. It was Honey in the Rock producer Norman L. Fagan’s idea to produce a historical show about the famous feud between the West Virginia Hatfields and the Kentucky McCoys. When Ewel Cornett replaced Fagan as producer, Cornett put the idea into effect.
Cornett and songwriter Billy Edd Wheeler, a West Virginia native, began researching the project. Their research took them into the mountainous counties of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. They talked to family members of the two clans, including members of the original Hatfield family and dozens of close descendants of both families.
Generally following Virgil Carrington Jones’s book The Hatfields and the McCoys (University of North Carolina Press, 1948), and depending on their own personal research, Wheeler penned the play and lyrics and Cornett wrote the music. The show opened on June 20, 1970, West Virginia’s birthday. On opening night, Willis Hatfield, a son of the Hatfield patriarch Devil Anse Hatfield, and a granddaughter of McCoy leader Rand’l McCoy embraced before a sold-out audience.
The feud musical then joined Honey in the Rock, and the historical plays still run in repertory at Grandview. The producing company is Theatre West Virginia.
This Article was written by Ewel Cornett