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Randolph McCoy


Feudist Randolph McCoy (October 30, 1825-March 28, 1914) was the McCoy family patriarch during the Hatfield-McCoy feud. McCoy, who was often called Randell or ‘‘Old Ranel,’’ was born in Logan County, one of 13 children of Daniel and Margaret McCoy, neighbors of the Hatfields. In 1849, McCoy married his cousin, Sarah McCoy, whose father gave the young couple a small farm on Blackberry Fork of Pond Creek in Pike County, Kentucky. There, they raised 13 children.

In 1878, McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield, a cousin of Anderson ‘‘Devil Anse’’ Hatfield, of stealing a hog. It was the first episode of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud. The case was settled in Floyd Hatfield’s favor when one of McCoy’s own relatives testified against him. From then on McCoy agitated against the Hatfields, going so far as to reject his own daughter, Rose Anna, after she fell in love with Devil Anse’s son, Johnse Hatfield. In 1882, three of McCoy’s sons killed Ellison Hatfield, Devil Anse’s brother, in a drunken brawl at a Pike County election. The Hatfields took revenge by ritually executing the three McCoys. McCoy kept up steady pressure on local and state authorities, finally succeeding in 1887 when his relative, Perry Cline, persuaded the governor of Kentucky to prosecute the Hatfields. In retaliation the Hatfields, on New Year’s morning 1888, attacked and burned the McCoy home, killing two of McCoy’s children and severely beating his wife.

Defeated, McCoy moved to Pikeville. From then on, Cline was the effective leader of the McCoy forces in the feud and Ranel McCoy became an embittered old man, running a ferry in Pikeville and talking to anyone who would listen about his sufferings at the hands of the Hatfields. He died while tending a cook fire at the age of 88. He and Sarah McCoy are buried in the Dils Cemetery in Pikeville.

Written by Altina L. Waller