I was introduced to the Hatfield-McCoy feud when I first received a copy of The Tale of the Devil, written by Dr. Coleman C. Hatfield. Recently, I was given a copy of The Feuding Hatfields & McCoys, another book written by Dr. Coleman C. Hatfield. Both books were given to me by Donald Tomblin, the father of a good friend and long time mentor, attorney William D Tomblin. The Tomblins are from, and still own, land in Logan County, West Virginia.
My immediate family lore traces my great grandfather from somewhere in West Virginia, but other than those family rumors, I had no knowledge of the feud, the families or what life was like in the mountains in the late 19th century and early 20th century. I found The Feuding Hatfields & McCoys a very interesting read, and a rich saga of two all American families.
Dr. Hatfield's vivid style of writing and the generous use of pictures throughout the book brings home the various personalities involved, their natural intelligence, their backgrounds, and their love of family, friends, and the land where they lived. My mind's eye can still picture Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield using the skills he developed while bear hunting, to track a murderer, moving slowly through the woods turning over the leaves to see where they had been cut with a shoe nail. Following the trail of leaves, tobacco split and other barely distinguishable signs through the woods back to an old log house, Devil Anse found the murderer's recently worn and bloody clothes hidden under some floor boards.
The feud is a tale of tragedy that developed among a couple of ordinary, sometimes close, but always hard working, loyal, fiercely independent, and for the most part, honest families. Both families appear to be sometimes the victims of circumstances and sometimes the victims of outsiders seeking to use other people's misfortune to further their own power, greed, and fame. Dr. Hatfield's books and storytelling style will be missed.