When one thinks of the Hatfields and the McCoys, they no doubt think of a bloody grudge, unrelenting violence, unforgiveness and vengeance. After all, the Hatfield and McCoy feud is perhaps the world’s most infamous feud, and is a pop culture staple that is found in everything from movies, to television shows, artwork, as well as a huge assortment of books. The Hatfield and McCoy feud is so ingrained in American culture that one name is rarely said without the other, with the figure of speech “feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys” being used across the nation, and in many parts of the world.
With all of the sensationalism found within feud lore; the gunfights, the forbidden Hatfield-McCoy love affair, law men and outlaws, and everything in between, it is no wonder that this story has garnered the attention of so many, and has had the lasting appeal that it has. With all of this considered, it is easy to lose sight of the greatest feud story told, a story of forgiveness.
Since the signing of the peace treaty in Pikeville back in 2003, Hatfield and McCoy descendants have gone to great lengths to use the infamy of the feud to bring a new message to the world, a message of conflict resolution and forgiveness. In fact, this message of forgiveness was recognized by the John Templeton Foundation as being one of “Ten Great Moments in Forgiveness History”, alongside notable acts such as Holocaust survivor Corrie Boom shaking the hand of a guard that held her captive in a prison camp, Pope John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca, and Jesus Christ forgiving roman guards as they were in the process of executing him on the cross.
While the Hatfield & McCoy descendants may disagree on some of the details of the feud, they are passionate about bringing their message of reconciliation to the world. Each year, at Hatfield McCoy Heritage Days in Pikeville, Kentucky, Hatfield and McCoy descendants travel to Pikeville to take part in a variety of events, from a pig roast at the Pikeville Farmer’s Market, to a Hatfield McCoy theatre production, storytelling events and more. Hatfield & McCoy Heritage Days culminates in a special service at the McCoy Well in Hardy, Kentucky, the site where the Hatfields attacked and burned down the McCoy cabin on New Years Eve, 1888. This attack resulted in the death of two of Randolph McCoy’s children, a daughter and a son, as well as leaving his wife permanently injured. This special service focuses on memorializing the past, and reiterating the message of peace and forgiveness.
So, when telling the story of the Hatfields and the McCoys, remember, the story does not end in the execution of Ellison “Cottontop” Mounts, nor does it end with a climactic battle. The story of the feuding Hatfields and McCoys ends with a treaty, a handshake, and a newly forged kinship between both families. Where one story of vengeance and unforgiveness ends, a new story of forgiveness and brotherhood begins. Hatfield McCoy Heritage Days will be held in Pikeville, KY September 21 – September 23, 2018.
Peace Treaty Signing Media
Hatfield McCoy Gallery