The Hatfield-McCoy feud, the entertaining subject of comic strips,
popular songs, movies, and television, has long been a part of
American folklore and legend. Ironically, the extraordinary
endurance of the myth that has grown up around the Hatfields and
McCoys has obscured the consideration of the feud as a serious
historical event. In this study, Altina Waller tells the real story
of the Hatfields and McCoys and the Tug Valley of West Virginia and
Kentucky, placing the feud in the context of community and regional
change in the era of industrialization.
Waller argues that the legendary feud was not an outgrowth of an
inherently violent mountain culture but rather one manifestation of
a contest for social and economic control between local people and
outside industrial capitalists -- the Hatfields were defending
community autonomy while the McCoys were allied with the forces of
industrial capitalism. Profiling the colorful feudists "Devil Anse"
Hatfield, "Old Ranel" McCoy, "Bad" Frank Phillips, and the
ill-fated lovers Roseanna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield, Waller
illustrates how Appalachians both shaped and responded to the new
economic and social order.