The Devil's Tale
by Joe Roxby
Should anyone ask the average American traveling along I-77 between Bluefield and Beckley about their thoughts of the mountain country of southern West Virginia, the first thing they will mention is the Hatfield-McCoy feud. I have often wondered how many motorists driving along the West Virginia Turnpike thought they would see mountain feudists engaging in combat in the mountains along the highway or at the rest stops. If we were to complete the cartoonish preconception many outlanders have, the combatants would be wearing dirty coveralls, beat-up, black Quaker hats, and no shoes. They also would also be carrying single-shot, black powder rifles, and would only cease firing when lust for their young, female cousins or the ever present whiskey jug got the better of them. The problem is that it is not true. That previous description probably fits Dave John and the outdoor Bullseye shooters at the Lewis Wetzel Rifle and Pistol Club better than it does the good folk of southern West Virginia.
Of the many family feuds that have populated American Folklore, few have captured the public’s imagination like the story of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Myths and stereotypes have grown up around that event and it has become hard to distinguish fact from fiction. Like most legends, when we peel away the layers of misinformation, the truth of the event is quite fascinating on its own merits. For example, not every member of the Hatfield and McCoy clans participated in the feud. Large factions within both clans wanted nothing to do with the mindless killing. They were related by several marriages. Romance did not stop the fighting among the key actors; it exacerbated it. It was not a Saxon versus Celt affair of ancient standing or a continuation of the Civil War. The members of both families were largely of Confederate loyalty in that conflict. The fight did not go on for generations. It lasted for about eight to ten years at its zenith. Neither family was dirt-poor. Both owned a great deal of land and were identified with the local gentry on their respective sides of the river. The truth is the feud and its continuation was a product of an odd set of political, geographic, and cultural circumstances.
The man at the epicenter of the Hatfield-McCoy feud was William Anderson Hatfield. Early in life he was given the nickname Anse as a shortened version of his middle name. He later had Devil added to it. There are two possible explanations of how he acquired the name. The most likely one was it that it was given to him by the McCoys during the feud, who viewed him as the devil incarnate. Another was he may have gotten it much earlier for his willingness to take risks. In eastern frontier parlance such a man was known as a daredevil. Worth noting, it was that eastern frontier frame of reference that would have a great deal of influence on the way people of Hatfield’s time and place would react to events.
Shortly before the close of the eastern Indian Wars in 1794, Ephram and Anne Hatfield settled on the Kentucky side of the valley of the Tug Fork River. One of their sons, Vance Hatfield, moved to the Virginia side of the river and was the leader of the clan in Virginia Families were large, often numbering a dozen or more, and within two generations the Hatfields became the largest clan in the area. Travel was very difficult in the area and the hill folk become isolated and tended to have little to do with the world outside. As a result of their social and geographical separation, their way of life and their customs were unchanged for many years. Contemporaries of the Hatfields and McCoys, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison or even Doc Holliday, would have found their ways and attitudes a bit odd, but Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton or Lewis Wetzel would have been very much at home among them.
It was during this period of isolation that Anse Hatfield was born, on September 9, 1839. He grew up a farmer and life was little different than it had been when his family first arrived in the valley. As the United States began to industrialize in the early 1800s, progress seemed to pass by the valley of the Tug.
Events would pull the mountain folk out of their isolation. Just as Hatfield reached his majority the Civil War was started. Shortly before departing for that conflict, he married Levicy Chafin. He served as a private and later an officer. By 1863 it was clear to him that the Confederacy was losing the civil war. He deserted regular service that year and returned home. Hatfield was worried that if his service was discovered he might forfeit his large land holdings. West Virginia had just been granted statehood and declared for the Union. Hatfield did re-enter Southern service by organizing a group of irregulars called the Logan County Wildcats. Their principal aim was to protect their own property from Union raiders of the same stripe. Serving along side the extended Hatfield family in this unit were considerable numbers of the McCoy clan.
Anse Hatfield settled down after the Civil War and tried to resume a normal life as much as possible. The first hint of the unpleasantness to come between the Hatfield and McCoy families occurred in 1865. Splitting with the rest of his family loyalties, Harmon McCoy enlisted as a Union soldier. He was wounded in the leg and returned home to recuperate. Once home he realized the temper of the Tug Valley and decided to hide in a cave while he healed. A slave who brought him provisions was tracked and McCoy was killed by unknown assassins. The first rumor that circulated was that Devil Anse Hatfield was responsible for the killing. Hatfield went to great lengths to prove that he had nothing to do with it, as he too, was convalescing from an illness at the same time. When the confusion about the killer cleared the most likely suspect to emerge was Hatfield’s cousin Jim Vance. Vance was universally known as disagreeable sort with a most vindictive nature. As most in the area were Southern in sympathy, the killing did not attract much attention.
The next bone of contention between the families came about over an argument about hog ownership. It was not the primary cause of the unpleasantness to come, but it did help raise the temperature. As in the earlier times of the eastern Indian Wars, in that time and place farmers would let their hogs roam free. (That is the basis of our present day expression “hog wild.”) These hogs were of the lean razorback variety and they would gain weight in the fall eating wild nuts and other forage. They had the added benefit of making a meal of any pesky rattlesnake that they might find about the farm. Animal ownership was denoted by a set of marks or slashes cut into the ears. During the late fall the hogs were corralled and then further fattened before butchering. Accusations of hog theft occurred a couple of times between 1863 and 1872 and finally came to a head in 1878. Randall McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield of hog theft and signed a criminal complaint to press his case in court. When the appointed court date came large numbers of both families showed up well armed to see that proper justice was done. Reverend Anderson Hatfield, a cousin to Devil Anse, was the local Justice of the Peace who presided over the case. He was held in high regard by both families, and by his own good reputation and force of character, was able to forestall any violence. The twelve jurors for the case consisted of six members of each family. The most crucial testimony in the case was offered by Bill Staton, a McCoy relative. Under oath he swore that the hog did in fact belong to Floyd Hatfield. His testimony was so convincing that one of the McCoy jurors broke the deadlock and voted in favor of the Hatfields.
By any sensible standards, any further ill will should have ceased. When the case was over the some of McCoy clan still felt slighted. At this point their animosity was directed not at the Hatfields but at Bill Staton, the relative who had testified against them. Staton made it a point to keep to the West Virginia side of the river and avoid the McCoys. One Sam McCoy made it clear he intended to repay Staton. Those bad feelings came to a head one day when Bill Staton was in the woods hunting not far from his home and saw Sam and his brother Paris McCoy. Given the fact that they previously expressed their bad intentions, they were armed, and were near his home, he decided to strike first. Staton fired from a hasty ambush and wounded Paris, but was hit himself. Sam McCoy was able to close with Staton and kill him. The McCoy brothers made their way back across the river and left Staton where he lay. Sam McCoy was eventually indicted tried for the murder. He was tried in front of a Hatfield judge and mostly Hatfield jury, and to the surprise of most, found not guilty by reason of self-defense. Once again, any ill feelings between the families should have ceased at that point.
The year of 1880 was the real starting point of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. For Devil Anse Hatfield it would bring him fame, shame, and sorrow and dominate his life. Until his death he would always live in the shadow of it.
When it was time for the spring elections in Pike County, many of the West Virginia Hatfield clan made their way across the river to visit their Kentucky kin. As there were warrants out in Pike County for various misdemeanor offenses for many members of the Hatfield family, they made it a point when they went to Kentucky to always travel in large well-armed groups. Being a formidable bunch, few county officials had the bottom to cross them.
Politics in the Tug Fork Valley in the 1880s was a wild affair. Having spoken to various elected officials over the years, including one former West Virginia governor and a state supreme-court justice, this author is forced to conclude that to this present day it politics is still a strange business in that locale. Some of the old jokes about the area are “vote early and vote often” and “those who sell their votes are honest men. Once they have taken a candidate’s money or liquor, they will never renege on a deal.”
These electoral affairs were an all day party highlighted by plenty of good food and liquor. A good fistfight or two might be considered a better part of the entertainment as long as it did not lead to gunplay. Trouble was to come this day not with the weapons of war but those of love. Sometime around midday Devil Anse and his family arrived at the party. Among those with him were his sons Johnse and Cap. Soon afterward Roseanne McCoy, daughter of Randall McCoy, made her appearance. Johnse was young and handsome man, and Roseanne was a very pretty young girl. It was only natural that these two might be drawn to each other. As the festivities went on, the young couple wandered off from the party and did not come back until after dark. When they did return, Roseanne found that her parents had gone home without her. Afraid to go home she stayed the night at Devil Anse’s house. As the part of the mountain code of hospitality she was allowed to stay. Quite similar to that of the Pathan hill tribes half a world away, that code required that anyone coming to your home peacefully and unarmed seeking food and shelter must be granted hospitality. More clearly than everyone else, Devil Anse recognized this romance as a real problem. This was just the sort of thing that had the potential to cause a war between the Hatfield and McCoys. After some time the McCoy girl was persuaded by her sisters to return to her family. She did so but stayed with another relative, not her father. Not content to leave the affair, Johnse continued to cross the river to visit Roseanna. Fed up with the treatment of his daughter, who was by this time pregnant, Randall McCoy organized a group to capture him and turn him over to the Pike County sheriff where there were several indictments against him.
Roseanna quickly made her way to Devil Anse’s home and advised him of the situation. Anse quickly got together a well-armed party and rescued his son before they were able to cross the river. Not much for gratitude, Roseanna was soon afterward abandoned by Johnse. As if to turn insult to injury, he turned his attentions to two of her cousins and soon married one of them. Perhaps the most tragic figure in the drama, Roseanne became estranged among her own kin. Her child died. She died a few years later at a very young age, a broken woman. The ill-fated romance raised the temperature between the families and left plenty of hard feelings, but still no open warfare.
The flashpoint of the conflict was reached on August 7, 1882. Again Anse and his extended family wandered across the Tug to enjoy the election-day festivities with their Kentucky kin. As the festivities continued and the effects of the demon rum wore on, an argument erupted between Elias “Bad Lias” Hatfield and Pharmer, Tolbert, and Randall McCoy junior. These three were the sons of clan chief Randall McCoy. Coming out of a drunken slumber, Ellison Hatfield also became a part of the dispute. The fight escalated in a heartbeat and Ellison grabbed a rock to defend himself. Tolbert McCoy pulled a knife and slashed away at Ellison Hatfield’s torso. Coming to the aid of his brother, Pharmer McCoy pulled a pistol and shot Hatfield in the back. The gun was wrestled from him by Lias Harfield and the McCoy brothers then fled. A short time later they were captured by a group of locals. For their safety the prisoners, the group intended to take the McCoys to the Pike County jail.
Ellison Hatfield was taken back across the river to a friend’s house. While there he made what was essentially a dying declaration to Devil Anse about what happened and who his assailants were. Armed with this information Anse got together a large posse of Hatfield relatives to try and capture the murderous McCoys before they got to the safe confines of the Pike County jail. The group that was taking the McCoys unwisely delayed their journey and were captured by the Hatfield group. The Hatfields relieved them of their prisoners at gunpoint and then crossed the Tug River with their captives. The three McCoy brothers were confined in an old log cabin schoolhouse under a heavy guard. The Hatfields then waited for word of Ellison Hatfield’s condition. News came that he would not live much longer. The Hatfield jailors taunted the McCoys that they too would die if their victim did. A day later, when word came that Ellison Hatfield had died, revenge came swiftly. The three McCoys were taken back across the Tug River to the Kentucky shore, bound to trees, and killed execution style. Each of the slain men were believed to have received at least 50 bullets.
For their part the Hatfields considered the matter closed. Their slain relative was avenged and they were content to stop the shooting. As might be expected, Randall McCoy had an entirely different view of things. His three sons had been kidnapped from lawful authority and been murdered by a mob. He now burned for revenge and would have it one way or another.
Shortly after the killings a Grand Jury met in Pike County to make inquiry on the murders. Indictments were returned for several men including Devil Anse Hatfield, and his sons Cap and Johnse. Serving them and actually arresting the Hatfields was quite another matter. The Hatfields pretty much kept to their side of the river and the West Virginia governor refused to extradite them. Probably more than anything else, the fact that each side had political sanctuary on their respective sides of the river prolonged the bloodletting. Sometime later an attempt was made on Randall McCoy’s life. Two of his relatives rode into an ambush that was set for him and his son, and one of them was wounded.
Many have accused Devil Anse Hatfield of being another factor that helped prolong the feud. Best evidence indicates that is not true, and in fact after the initial killings he tried to restrain things. Those probably most responsible for stoking the fires of vengeance on the Hatfield side were his cousin Jim Vance and his son Cap Hatfield.
Cap’s given name was the same as his father’s Robert Anderson Hatfield. After the war his father was often called Cap, short for captain and the son was referred to as little cap, which was later shortened to Cap. The McCoys would refer to him as “Bad Cap” and not without good reason. Events would prove that Cap was the deadliest gunman on either side of the feud. He was an excellent shot, quick on the trigger, and probably would have matched up quite well in a head to head contest with any of the deadlier denizens of the Wild West of the 1880s. Probably his most saving grace was that he married a remarkable woman who in time civilized him. He and his wife Nancy were probably two of the most interesting personalities that came out of the conflict.
Cap Hatfield also participated in one of the more amusing incidents that were tangent to the feud. His brother Johnse married Nancy McCoy, cousin to the ill-fated Roseanna. She turned out to be a domineering woman and much given to gossip, as was her sister, Mary Daniels. When a couple of attempted raids failed, the Hatfields were sure that this duo was passing information about the family along to the McCoys. One evening armed men led by Cap and Wallace Hatfield broke into the Daniels family home and held them at gunpoint. The mother and daughter were held down and flogged with a cow’s tail, and given the admonition to be more circumspect in their speech. The raiders departed without any further violence.
While there was no killing at the scene, that act would lead to the next casualty of the feud. Jeff McCoy took great insult at the way his sister and niece had been treated. Fired with a desire with revenge, he led an assault on Cap Hatfield’s home. The house was shot up but Cap was not home at the time. McCoy was to find he had crossed lances with a truly dangerous man. Furious that his home was assaulted, Cap Hatfield hunted him down and killed him.
The year 1888 would bring the family feud to its bloody zenith. Many of the Hatfield’s had long tired of living in the hills to avoid capture by the McCoys or Kentucky authorities. A council of war was held and several of the Hatfields that were under indictment decided that best way to settle their legal troubles was to eliminate the principal witnesses. To his credit, Devil Anse counseled against it. More farsighted than his kinsmen, he probably realized that such an action might erode the political support that they enjoyed and helped them maintain their freedom. He correctly sensed that avenging a killing was one thing, but cold-blooded, first-degree murder, was quite another. Still, opinions of the hotheads of the clan, Jim Vance and Cap Hatfield, prevailed and they planned an assault on the McCoy farm on January 1st, 1888. Devil Anse pled illness and did not go along.
The raid was led by Jim Vance. Cap, Johnse, Bob, and Elliot Hatfield along with Tom Chambers, Ellison Mounts, Charles Gillespe and Doc Ellis, comprised the rest of the raiders. Under the light of a full moon, in the crisp cold air of a mountain winter night, the assassins tethered their mounts in the woods and surrounded the McCoy cabin. The house was built in a style made popular from the days of the eastern Indian Wars with a kitchen-living room on one side and the bedrooms on the other, with a roofed porch between the two called a dog or turkey trot. The plan was for the raiders to call to the McCoys to surrender. If they did not, the house was to be set afire and those coming out were to be shot down. No shots were to be fired until Vance gave the signal. The original plan unraveled from the start. No sooner than Vance had called for those inside to surrender, Johnse fired a shot and shooting became general. Surprising the attackers, a brisk fire was returned almost immediately. Calvin McCoy ran from window to window, spraying buckshot and bullets in every direction as fast as he could fire them. His father Randall quickly added to the volume. As was their plan, the attackers resorted to fire. The house caught fire and soon filled with smoke. The McCoys inside were faced with a devil’s choice. Alifair McCoy ran from the house and was cut down by Cap Hatfield. Hearing her dying moans, her mother Sarah McCoy rushed to her side. She was clubbed down and left unconscious beside her daughter. Calvin McCoy made break from the inferno toward an out-building and was shot to doll rags by several men outside who anticipated his move. His self-sacrifice enabled his father Randall to get into the woods. Now facing the prospect of an armed and enraged enemy in the dark, the Hatfield party returned home. The subsequent results of the botched and ill-advised raid would soon prove almost as disastrous to them as it was to their intended targets.
As Devil Anse had correctly surmised, the raid made the Hatfields unpopular even among their own supporters. Killing an armed male adversary everybody understood, but quite clearly the unspoken but well understood code duello of the hills had been violated with the murder of unarmed women non-combatants.
Within a week or so a large, vendetta-minded band of McCoy regulators soon made their appearance on the West Virginia side of the river. Whether by luck or design, they came across two of their most prized targets. Coming toward them on the trail was Jim Vance, Cap Hatfield, and a female relative. The girl spotted the party and shouted a warning and the two men got behind cover. They were quickly surrounded and Jim Vance went down with a stomach wound. Realizing it was a death sentence, Vance told Cap to try to get away without him. Cap shot his way out of the ambush, but there was no reprieve for his comrade. Taking no chances the McCoys cautiously approached the venomous Vance like a rabid dog. He was quickly disarmed and dispatched with great satisfaction.
On January 19th, bands of Hatfields and McCoys met in approximately equal numbers at a place called Grapevine Creek. When the smoke cleared Bud McCoy was wounded and Bill Dempsey, a Hatfield supporter was killed. As the year progressed the McCoy partisans continued to make forays into West Virginia. Several more Hatfield supporters were taken into custody and placed in the Pike County jail. Legal troubles for the Hatfields began to mount as well. A Pike County grand jury returned murder indictments for the raiders. The Hatfield family fortunes now hung by a single thread. That thread was the fact that the West Virginia governor would not agree to extradition. Responding to political pressure and attempting to break the deadlock, the governor of Kentucky posted a $2700 reward for the capture of those indicted. Perhaps the private sector could accomplish what the public one could not. Now the Hatfields would not only have to fear the McCoys, but also every stranger they might come across.
The reward money had its intended effect. In spite of the obvious danger, money-hungry private detectives combed the valley looking for the wanted men. In the next nine months several Hatfield supporters were placed in the Pike County jail. Among them were Tom Chambers, Ellison Mounts, and Charles Gillespe, all of who had participated in the New Year’s raid.
Devil Anse became greatly worried by the state of his family affairs. He sold his large land holdings in the Tug Valley for substantially less than they were worth and moved almost 40 miles to a more distant part of Logan County. His new farm was located in a lonely hollow off the Guyandotte River Valley. There he could be rightly suspicious of any stranger who might appear, as was no reason for interlopers to be there. In case he should be invaded, he built a log blockhouse with walls two feet thick that was well supplied with food and ammunition as his last redoubt. Fearing capture, his sons Cap and Johnse temporarily fled to the west and lived under assumed names for some time.
The actions of the feud did not escape the notice of the rest of the world. Initially, regional papers from Wheeling and Huntington, West Virginia picked up the story of the New Year’s Raid. Sometime afterward reporters from Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and eventually New York also began to comb the Tug Fork Valley. Even though there were several other notable feuds going on in Kentucky at the time, as well as Klansmen and other outlaw gangs terrorizing the countryside, the Hatfield-McCoy feud story began to fascinate readers and it took on a life of its own. The yellow journalism and sensationalized reporting of the era made the story a national event and eventually a part of American Folklore.
Devil Anse faced other troubles as well. A revenge-minded arsonist burned his barn and destroyed a large amount of corn stored there. Of greater concern, a short time later word reached him that a federal indictment had been issued for him for moonshining. This was a serious problem. Friendly county officials would protect him from state charges, however he had no such friends in the federal system. A few days later a nervous federal officer made his way to Hatfield’s house. Contrary to expectations, Hatfield received him kindly and accepted service of the papers. He made known to the federal judge of the danger he would be in by appearing at a trial in Charleston. The judge responded by issuing an order that no state official or private detective could bother him until he had returned to Logan County. He also let Hatfield have his own private armed guards accompany him on the trip and in court. The trial lasted one day and Hatfield was found not guilty.
A few years later, William Baldwin, co-founder of the infamous Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, also tried to get evidence of moonshining on Anse Hatfield. He pretended to be a traveler and actually stayed at Hatfield’s house for a night. The next morning Hatfield called to him by his proper name, fed him, and escorted him out of the valley with a warning not to come back. Years later author Otis Rice would offer this wry observation. “ The Hatfields, despite their enmity, might have some respect for the McCoys, for the detectives they had none.”
By 1890 the feud was over. Both families tired of the violence and wanted to settle down and enjoy wealth they were acquiring from the sale of timber and mineral rights. By then, nearly all who had participated in the New Year’s raid were locked up. Several of them were sentenced to long prison terms and as if to punctuate it one of the raiders, Ellison Mounts, was hanged. Even Anse’s son Johnse eventually went to prison. Only Cap Hatfield escaped punishment. Five years later Cap finally wound up in the Logan County lockup after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter, in yet another election-day gunfight.
After 1890 a sea of change took place throughout southern West Virginia and in the Hatfield family as well. The mines and railroads were coming to the area. With them came large numbers of strange new neighbors consisting mostly of southern Blacks and eastern Europeans. Not long afterwards a new wave of labor troubles hit the area. Notably, it was the newcomers who took on the ways of the locals. The scale of killing and violence that would accompany the coal strikes would make the Hatfield-McCoy feud look like society matrons disagreeing over tea.
As that new era dawned, the Hatfields donned responsibility. Like John Wesley Hardin, Cap Hatfield briefly studied law and hung out his shingle. Unlike Hardin, Cap really did go straight. His daughter and son both joined him in the law practice, and his younger brothers Tennis and Joe became deputies and later sheriffs of Logan County. Completing their transition to respectability, in 1912 their cousin, Dr. Henry Hatfield, was elected governor of West Virginia.
Years later Cap Hatfield’s wife Nancy would offer her remembrances of the feud.
“It was a horrible nightmare to me. Sometimes, for months, Cap never spent a night at our house. He and Devil Anse, with others, slept in the nearby woods to guard our homes against surprise attack…Was I afraid? For years, night and day, I lived in fear.
Afraid for my safety, and for the safety of my loved ones. Constant fear is a terrible emotion. It takes a heavy toll, mentally and physically.” She also offered some interesting thoughts on her husband as well. “When we were married Cap was not a very good risk as a husband. The feud had been going on for a year and he was its most deadly killer. Kentucky had a price on his head. But we were young and he was handsom,e and I was deeply in love with him. Besides, he was the best shot on the border, and I was confident that he could take care of himself--- and he did.” (1)
Like most men approaching the edge of eternity, Anse Hatfield began to consider the hereafter. In September of 1911 he was baptized and by all accounts lived the remainder of his live a peaceful man devoted to his religion. As if to test his newfound faith, three weeks after his conversion, his sons Troy and Elias, then both Logan County deputies, were killed in a shootout with a saloon keeper. Devil Anse Hatfield ended his days on January 26th, 1921, about 8 months before his equally famous relative Sid Hatfield. Five thousand mourners were said to have passed his casket. Today a marble life-sized statue stands over his grave.
1)Howard B. Lee, My Appalachia, McClain Printing, Parsons, WV, 1971 p. 63-64
1)Howard, B. Lee, My Appalachia, McClain Printing, Parsons, WV, 1971
2)Howard B. Lee, Bloodletting in Appalachia, McClain Printing, Parsons, WV 1969
3) Otis K. Rice, The Hatfields and the McCoys, University Press of Kentucky,
Lexington, KY, 1978
A Short Sidebar: An Almost Feud
Quite interesting, but unknown to many, the Hatfield clan almost participated in another feud in the mid 1920s. This dust-up was not with another family but was an internal affair.
From about 1907 through the early 1920s, Don Chafin ruled Logan County like a czar. He held several county offices including two terms as sheriff and his rule was so complete that no one held virtually any government job or operated any illegal enterprise without his personal approval. Curiously, one of the ways he got elected as sheriff was to promise to rid the county of the hated Baldwin-Felts mine guards, which he did. He promptly replaced them with his own relatives and supporters that he appointed as special constables and deputies. Records show they eventually numbered several hundred. The plight of the miners that elected him was no better. They had just replaced one set of muscle and triggermen for another. Chafin became so powerful that he even levied tribute from the mine operators on every ton of coal mined in the area. To keep out anything from the outside world that might undermine his influence, his deputies and watched every stranger that entered Logan County. Union Organizers, Wobblies, Republicans, Federal Revenue agents and other such undesirables were shown the road. If they did not leave they were thrown in jail. On Chafin’s orders several were shot “trying to escape.”
Chafin’s moment of glory came during the miners march on Logan County in 1921 (See Precision Shooting June 2007) He organized a huge force of mine guards and militia that backed the regular US Army troops and West Virginia State Police that were sent in to quell the rebellion. One of the refrains sung by the marching miners was “We’ll hang Don Chafin from a sour apple tree.”
Chafin’s troubles started sometime around 1923 when one of his deputies, Ten Hatfield, was arrested by the Federal Government for moonshining. Under questioning he revealed that his partners was Don Chafin. It was a logical arrangement as the Hatfields and Chafins were cousins, and Hatfield votes were a keystone in Chafin’s empire. When it became known that the Feds were going to prosecute Chafin, it was pretty much accepted that Ten Hatfield would probably not see his trial date alive. Dark rumors of a new feud circulated the hills and hollows.
Ten Hatfield was the youngest son of Devil Anse. As Devil Anse was dead, the leadership of the clan had passed to his son Cap. Taking matters into his own hands one Sunday morning, Cap donned his Colt and Winchester, saddled up his mule, and rode over to Chafin’s house in Logan. In a confrontation between the present czar and the lord-high executioner of an earlier era, it was made clear that Ten Hatfield must stay healthy or Chafin would personally answer for it. Before Cap departed town he rode by the jail and issued all Chafin’s deputies present the same warning. Apparently Chafin took Cap at his word as both men served terms for moonshining. Later, Ten challenged the Chafin political machine and prevailed when he was elected sheriff in 1924. The Hatfields simply took over Chafin’s empire intact and ran it until the ax came down and the whole mine-guard system was abolished in the 1930s.