June 14, 2003

Hatfield, McCoy Descendants Ink Truce

A pen and ink sealed the end of Appalachia's most infamous bloody feud instead of a shotgun and bullets.

Descendants of the Hatfield and McCoy families gathered Saturday morning in Pikeville to sign the truce, making a largely symbolic and official end to the feud that claimed at least a dozen lives.

Signed by more than 60 descendants during the fourth Hatfield-McCoy Festival, the truce was touted as a proclamation of peace, saying "We ask by God's grace and love that we be forever remembered as those that bound together the hearts of two families to form a family of freedom in America."

Waynesboro, Va., resident Reo Hatfield came up with the idea and said he wanted to show that if the two families can come together, anyone could. He had said he wanted to send a broader message to the world that when national security is at risk, Americans put their differences aside and stand united.

"We're not saying you don't have to fight because sometimes you do have to fight," he said. "But you don't have to fight forever."

Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton and West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise also signed proclamations declaring June 14 Hatfield and McCoy Reconciliation Day.

The more than a century of feuding between the McCoys of Kentucky and Hatfields of West Virginia is believed to have its origins in a dispute over a pig. A court battle over timber rights escalated the tension in the 1870s. By 1888, as many as a dozen lives were lost.

Ron McCoy, one of the festival's founders, said plans aren't in place yet as to what to do with the three signed proclamations.

"The Hatfields and McCoys symbolize violence and feuding and fighting, but by signing this, hopefully people will realize that's not the final chapter," he said.