Big Sandy Heritage Museum Lecture Series – The Hatfields & The McCoys

As a part of this year’s Hatfield McCoy Heritage Days, local history buff Reed Potter hosted an interactive lecture series at the Big Sandy Heritage Museum on the Hatfields and the McCoys. A wide variety of topics concerning the history of the feud was discussed with an interactive dialogue with the visitors.

The Big Sandy Heritage Museum is open each Thursday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and features artifacts from the feud, exhibits on Appalachian culture, and much more. The museum is located behind the historic Pike County courthouse in the Judicial Building on 172 Division St., Pikeville, Kentucky. For more information, call (606) 766-1025.

Lecture Series – The Hatfields & The McCoys Video

Colonel Dils Marker Reveal

Friday September 22, 2017, join us at the historic York House Mansion located on 243 Main St. Pikeville, Kentucky for the revealing of the Colonel John Dils historic marker.

Andrew Patrick, on behalf of Kentucky Historical Society, along with historian, Nancy Forsyth, will be unveiling the new historical marker for Colonel John Dils in the lawn of the York House Mansion at 4p.m.

Nancy Forsyth Reception

A reception for Nancy Forsyth will be at 5:00 p.m. at the Garfield House, 178 College St, Pikeville, Kentucky. Nancy Forsyth has been a driving force in preserving local history, and was instrumental in securing the Dils marker, as well as a vast majority of the historic markers found in Pike County, Kentucky.

About Colonel John Dils

“Colonel John Dils, Jr. was born September 15, 1818 in Parkersburg, Wood County, West Virginia. He was the son of John Dils, Senior. In 1836 John Dils, Jr. came to Piketon, Kentucky (changed to Pikeville, ca. 1848-50)

On November 6 1842, John Dils, Jr., married Ann Ratliff, daughter of General William Ratliff of Revolutionary in Pike County. They built their first home on Main Street the following year he went into the mercantile business with R.D. Callihan and John N. Richardson, known as the firm of John Dils, Jr. & Co. He built a successful riverboat trade, he was a merchant, steamboat owner, farmer, one of the founders of the Methodist Church in and one of the founders of the college in Pikeville . He was also very actively involved in the Hatfield-McCoy Feud on the McCoy side, which may have been the result of several raids made during the war by Devil Anse Hatfield and his kin and associates on several stores and warehouses owned by the Colonel and some of his business partners. The frame Italianate house was standing in 1864 when Colonel and Mrs. John Dils deeded this house to their daughter Mrs. J.M. (Augusta) York. It features a slate mansard roof with metal crenulations, a two story polygonal bay, and overhanging eaves with brackets. The yard and setting have been kept intact by a stone wall on the Main Street façade.

In October of 1861, while a private citizen in Pikeville, he was arrested by order of Colonel John S. Williams, who commanded the Confederate forces then encamped around Pikeville. He was sent to Richmond, Virginia, as a prisoner of war. After his release he undertook to raise a regiment of Federal soldiers for the protection of Eastern Kentucky. The first day of recruitment raised about two hundred men and thus began the regiment known as the 39th Kentucky Mounted Infantry.

Late in 1863, Colonel Dils ran into trouble as commanding officer of the 39th. Accusations of fraud and abuse led to his dismissal from the service on December 10, 1863.

After his dismissal from the 39th, it is believed that the Colonel continued serving the Union as a partisan leader or bushwhacker. In this capacity he may have been joined by such desperate men as Alf Killen and Joel Long. Some believe that the Colonel was relieved of duty as a result of a Confederate conspiracy. I think that gives too much credit where it may not be warranted.

In early November of 1864, he was captured by Bill Smith and his band of cavalry. Since Dils survived the war, it is assumed that he was able to bargain for his freedom a second time. I wonder what he had to do to secure his liberty. There are even rumors that the Colonel made a special mission of harassing certain Confederate sympathizers in the area who were connected with the James and Younger boys.

Again, any information about Colonel Dils and his actions after his dismissal is derived from rumor and speculation.

There are two very common views of him in his native Pike County, Kentucky: he was either a great hero or the worst sort of scoundrel. New information about the man will soon be released and we can get a better insight into who he was and why he did what he chose to do.”

Click here to view the York House Rehabilitation Project’s facebook page.