Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900 / Edition 1

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
While Waller's study is invaluable for Americanists, she has written an engaging work that, quite simply, is an enjoyable read.

Publishers Weekly

In her remarkably detailed analysis, Waller explains what legend does not.

Georgann Eubanks, Washington Monthly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The now legendary Hatfield-McCoy feud has served as America's answer to Romeo and Juliet for over a century. In this insightful work, Waller, a history professor at SUNY-Plattsburgh, debunks assumptions that a blighted romance or strong family ties were central to the hostilities. She convincingly argues that the feud operated on several levels: as a clash between an emerging national industrial culture, whose proponents, for reasons of self-aggrandizement, allied themselves with the McCoys, and the autonomous and local mountain culture that the Hatfields embodied; between the south and the north; and between the states of Kentucky and West Virginia. In the process, Waller demonstrates how and why Hatfield-McCoy myths arose and how stereotypes of the feud ``consigned the mountaineers to the unreal world of savagery . . . and industrialization . . . could proceed much more smoothly.'' Demographic data unfold dramatically, and, utilizing eclectic sources, she illuminates both the era and the complex cast of characters involved in the 12-year feud (her portrait of leader ``Devil Anse'' Hatfield is particularly sensitive). A pictorial essay adds another dimension to an already rich piece of scholarship. While Waller's study is invaluable for Americanists, she has written an engaging work that, quite simply, is an enjoyable read. (June)
Library Journal
In this revisionist study, Waller establishes the familiar social morphology of post-Civil War Appalachia, a traditional precapitalist world on the threshold of penetration by Eastern mining, railroad, and timber companies. Chronicling a far more intricate picture of social change than previous studies, she describes the clash of religion, politics, family, community, and frontier law against which the bloody, 12-year feud was played out. Her observations are fresh and often demythologizing: the law-abiding character of the mountaineers, their predestinarian religion, the impact of national forces on a cohesive, autonomous preindustrial society. The work of an enlightened and skeptical intelligence. Milton Cantor, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807842164
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/1988
  • Series: The Fred W. Morrison Series in Southern Studies
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 332
  • Sales rank: 820,144
  • Product dimensions: 5.89 (w) x 9.03 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Altina L. Waller, professor emerita of history at the University of Connecticut, is author of Reverend Beecher and Mrs. Tilton: Sex and Class in Victorian America.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: The Feud 1
Part 1 The Feud as Community Conflict
1. Prologue: The Death of Asa Harmon McCoy 17
2. The Devil in West Virginia 34
3. The Devil Challenged 53
4. Family, Justice, and Violence in the Tug Valley 77
Two Worlds in Conflict: A Pictorial Essay 105
Part 2 The Politics of Feuding
5. Interim, 1882-1888 139
6. The Feud Recast 158
7. The Battle for Grapevine Creek 182
8. On Trial 206
9. Epilogue: The Devil Transformed 235
Appendixes 251
Notes 261
Bibliography 293
Index 305
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