Dear Family Researcher,
While it is possible that your mother's family was involved in the
feud (by marriage, perhaps), the name of the original families were
Hatfield and McCoy, not Martin and Coy. The Martins and the Coys is
the names given to the song that discusses this feud, and later also
featured as the rival side in many popular culture creations.
Ted Werems and Al Cameron, 1936 - The Martins and the Coys
The two families lived on the Appalachia, along the Tug-Fork River.
Wikipedia tells us that "[t]he Hatfields lived on the West Virginia
side of Tug Fork, and the McCoys lived on the Kentucky side." (SOURCE:
Wikipedia, "Hatfield-McCoy feud"
The feud took place during the second half of the 19th century (not so
long ago as you imagined in your original question). "[B]oth families
were part of the first wave of pioneers to settle the Tug Valley. Both
were involved in manufacturing and selling illegal whiskey. The
Hatfields were led by William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield
(1839?1921). The McCoys were led by Randolph "Ran'l" McCoy
(1825?1914). Both family leaders outlived the feud." (SOURCE:
Wikipedia, "Hatfield-McCoy feud"
"Though it wouldn't have been readily apparent from their crude log
cabin homes deep in heavily forested mountain territory, both men were
prosperous farmers." (SOURCE: About.com, "The Reunion They Said Would
Never Happen June 9-11, 2000",
"The origins of the feud are unknown, but the first recorded instance
of violence occurred after a dispute about some razorback hogs. The
matter was taken to court, and the McCoys lost." (SOURCE: Wikipedia,
"Trouble already existed between these two families prior to the
incident with the hog, however. Some people attribute the beginning
of the feud to animosities which developed during the American Civil
War. Others say that competition between the families in the timber
market sparked the hostilities. Whatever the origin, the peak of the
hostilities came when three of Randel McCoy's sons, Bud, Tolbert, and
Pharmer McCoy, fatally wounded Ellison Hatfield after he insulted
Tolbert on election day in 1882. Devil Anse Hatfield retaliated for
the killing of his brother by executing the three without a trial."
(SOURCE: About.com, "The Reunion They Said Would Never Happen June
9-11, 2000", <http://genealogy.about.com/library/weekly/aa043000a.htm>)
"Between 1878 and 1891, the feud claimed more than a dozen members of
these families". (SOURCE: Wikipedia, "Hatfield-McCoy feud"
" In 1887 the feud was revived by a lawyer named Perry Cline, a
distant cousin of Randolph McCoy, who used his influence to have the
five year old murder indictments against the Hatfields reissued and to
start the extradition process to bring them to Kentucky for trial.
When people got frustrated with the slowness of the legal system, a
raid into Hatfield territory was organized and several Hatfield
supporters were captured and brought back to Kentucky. The news of
this successful raid inflamed the Hatfields and resulted in an attempt
by them to eliminate Randel McCoy on January 1, 1888. This tragically
resulted in the death of two more of his children and the burning of
his home. " (SOURCE: About.com, "The Reunion They Said Would Never
Happen June 9-11, 2000",
"Violence escalated and became headline news. The governors of both
Kentucky and West Virginia called up the National Guard to restore
order. Eight Hatfields were kidnapped and brought to Kentucky to stand
trial for the murder of a female member of the McCoy clan, Alifair.
She had been shot after exiting a burning building that had been set
aflame by a group of Hatfields. Because of issues of due process and
illegal extradition, even the US Supreme Court was involved.
Eventually, the eight men were tried in Kentucky, and all eight were
found guilty. Seven received life imprisonment, and the eighth was
given a public hanging execution (even though it was prohibited by
law), probably as a warning to end the violence. (Thousands of
spectators attended.) The families finally agreed to disagree in
1891." (SOURCE: Wikipedia, "Hatfield-McCoy feud"
The Feud in Popular Culture
The song was not the only attribute to this "clan war" in popular
culture. The feud became, in fact, during the late 19th century, "a
curiosity, proverb, and even joke." (SOURCE: Wikipedia,
It is featuerd in Mark Twain's book "The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn", as a feud between the Grangerford and Shepherdson families
fits; and in O Henry's "Squaring The Circle", another very similar
family feud, between the Harknesses and the Folwells (set in the
Cumberland Mountains), appears.
Famousely, there is also the song, featuring Woody Guthrie. For
example, here, in a description of a piece from wartime Britain: "It's
based on the infamous , which had already become standard fodder for
popular songs and shows - well-known even on the other side of the
Atlantic. In this version, narrated by Burl Ives, the Martins and the
Coys are two coon-hunting, moonshining, blood-feuding families from an
isolated Appalachian holler. But when the war comes, Ben Martin and
Alec Coy (Woody Guthrie), the two remaining family scions, are sent
across the ocean to fight the fascists together. Of course, they make
up and become best friends as Ben falls in love with Sary Coy.
Meanwhile, Ben's irrascible Uncle Boone, now left on his own, falls in
love with Sary's widowed mother, Dellie, who takes him in for the
duration of the war while they work the Victory Farms together."
(SOURCE: CD Review: "Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Sonny
Terry, Lily May Ledford and more.../ The Martins and the Coys" (from
The Lomax Collection - Rounder, 2000 ), Ballad Tree.com,
The 1936 song is also featured in Disney's Make Mine Music (1946).
IMDB writes "In the original movie release, the first segment was "The
Martins And The Coys". This was a fictionalized telling of the famous
Hatfield and McCoy feud. When the movie was first shown on television
this segment was included. When the movie was released on video and
DVD, this segment was eliminated since Disney felt that it was too
violent or current audiences since it showed guns and people being
shot." (SOURCE: IMDB, Trivia for Make Mine Music (1946),
It is also a theme in the movie:
Comin' Round the Mountain (1951) ("Wacky Abbott & Costello comedy
spoof of backwoods feuds.")
The Big Cartoon Forum mentions the following films:
Merlin the Magic Mouse "Feud with a Dude" (1968) (cartoon: "the
families of Hatfield and McCoy fight over stealing each other's
"Also on the Porky short from 1939 "Naughty Neighbors" it had the
McCoys fighting another family called the Martins."
Musical Mountaineers (Betty Boop; Fleischer Studios, 1939): After
running out of gas in hillbilly country, Betty Boop seeks help from
the locals (the Peters, who are feuding with the Hatfields), but ends
up being held at gunpoint. She proves her identity as a dancer by
putting on a demonstration; the hillbillies join in with their genuine
bluegrass stylings. Won over, the rustics give Betty a jug of good ol'
sour mash to fuel her car.
The Feudin' Hillbillies (Mighty Mouse; Terrytoons, 1948): It's the
Catfields and the McCoys, Mighty Mouse style, with hillbilly mice vs.
Comin' Round The Mountain (Screen Songs; Famous Studios, 1949): A
group of hillbilly cats (the "Catfields") and dogs are fighting in a
nonstop feud. One day, the local rooster tells the arguing groups that
the new schoolmarm is coming to town, and that they should behave
themselves if they want to win her favor. After encouraging the
theater audiences to sing "She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain," the
scene returns to the site of the feud. The new schoolmarm arrives, and
she's a skunk! The shocked adversaries send her out with their guns
Hillbilly Hare (Merrie Melodies; Warner Bros., 1950): Bugs heads up to
the Ozarks, where he becomes involved in a mountain man feud. This
time, it's the Martins (twin brothers Curt and Pumpkinhead) who are
fighting the "Coys." They wonder if Bugs is a Coy, and the rabbit
replies that his friends think he's very coy.
The Real McGoys (Mister Magoo; UPA Productions, 1961): Waldo and
Prezley visit the Blue Rich Mountains and end up in the middle of a
feud of the Martins and the McGoys.
There's No Feud Like an Old Feud (Snuffy Smith and Barney Google;
Famous Studios, 1964): Louise and Snuffy recall that they first met...
during their fathers' 20-year-long feud.
Feud for Thought (Time Squad; Cartoon Network Studios, 2002): After
Larry stands up to Tuddrussel thanks to a program called "Bustin' the
Barrier" by Thor Robertson, the two neighbors who always fought, the
McCoys and the Hatfields, get a visit. But the McCoys aren't sticking
up for them. With a little help from Larry's special program, the two
families start to -- get along?! For the sake of the mission,
Tuddrussel and Otto must get them fighting.
(SOURCE: The Big Cartoon Forum, Hatfields/McCoys,
Also in more recent versions of popular culture, one could find
reference to this feud. "Many cartoon characters, from Bugs Bunny to
Ren and Stimpy, have exploited the apocryphal feud." (SOURCE:
Wikipedia, "Hatfield-McCoy feud"
Except for the popular culture reference to the Martins (which is
probably artistic choice to change the original name, just like "Coy"
in stead of McCoy), there are other references to Martins in
connections with this - or other feuds in Kentucky.
"My grandmother told us the same story about her Martin family feuding
with the McCoys. The only thing I know about Theodore is his birthdate
(1869), he had a sister Laura, a younger brother (name unknown), and
that they were from the hills of Kentucky."
Martin McCoy fued
However, it seems that most of the references to the "Martins" are
because of the popular culture usage of the name.
There was also a "minor" feud in Kentucky (unrelated, so it seems, to
the Hatfield McCoy feud), in which a family named Matrin was directly
"In Rowan County, Kentucky, in 1884, there was an election quarrel
between two members of the Martin and Toliver families. The Logans
sided with the Martins and the Youngs with the Tolivers. The
Logan-Martin faction elected their candidate for sheriff by a margin
of twelve votes. Then there was an affray in which one Logan was
killed and three were wounded." (SOURCE: Jeffrey C. Weaver, New River
Notes, Chapter XV, The Blood Feud,
See more in this thread
Rootweb: [KY-FEUDS] Fueds
Rowan County Feud
Decendants of the Families Today
"On June 16, 2003, descendants of the Hatfield and McCoy families
signed a truce in Pikeville, Kentucky. This was more of a publicity
event than anything else as, in reality, the feud had ended more than
a century earlier." (SOURCE: Wikipedia, "Hatfield-McCoy feud"
Hatfield McCoy Reunion Festival
BlueRidgeCountry, Timeline of the fued
Hatfield Family History
Hatfield Family Origins
McCoy family site, also with references to the Hatfields.
The Blankenship-McCoy Marriages during the Hatfield-McCoy Blood Feud
Kentucky Historical Marker Database : places related to the feud
Hatfield, McCoy Feud Sites Draw Tourists
Appalachian Power: Hatfield and McCoy Feud
Ron McCoy, "The Hatfields - McCoys: History of the Great Vendatta"
The Hatfield-McCoy Feud
Normal Lugar, "Hatfield-McCoy Feud - Roseanna: Juliet of the
Mountains", Blue Ridge Country,
"Devil" Anse Hatfield and the Hatfield-McCoy Feud
List of further books and articles about the feud in the West Virginia
Otis K. Rice, _Hatfields and the McCoys_ ( University Press of Kentucky, 1982)
Willard Mounts, Beatrice Brandhorst (Editors) _The Rugged Southern
Appalachia: Hatfield-McCoy Feud : Biographical and Historical_
(Ginwill Pub. Co, 1997)
Coleman, Dr Hatfield, ROBERT Y. SPENCE _The Tale of the Devil: The
Biography of Devil Anse Hatfield_ (Woodland, 2003)
Altina L. Waller, _Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in
Appalachia, 1860-1900_ University of North Carolina Press, 1988
Ann Rinaldi, _The Coffin Quilt: The Feud between the Hatfields and the
McCoys_ (Gulliver Books Paperbacks, 2001)
John Ed Pearce, _Days of Darkness: The Feuds of Eastern Kentucky_ (
University Press of Kentucky, 1994)
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