In October 2015 the City of Pikeville and the Pikeville City Commission began a community based volunteer project to rehabilitate the 1874 York House and preserve the history of the Dils/York family and their influence in Eastern Kentucky during the late 1800’s. The Dils/York House sits on Main Street in the Historic District of downtown and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The house has deep historical roots to the famous Hatfield McCoy Feud and was owned by attorney James York who married Colonel John Dils daughter and then became the attorney that represented both families during the feud. History tells us that discussions to end the feud were held by James York and Randal McCoy in the front parlor of the York House.
The Hatfields and McCoys. Mere mention of their names stirs up visions of a lawless family feud. It evokes gun-toting vigilantes hell-bent on defending their kinfolk, igniting bitter grudges that would span generations. Yet many people familiar with these surnames may know little about the faded history of these two families and the legends they inspired. Who were the Hatfields and McCoys, and what was the source of this vicious and violent clash between the families?
During the most heated years of the feud, each family was ruled by a well-known patriarch. William Anderson Hatfield, known as “Devil Anse,” had the appearance of a backwoods, rough-hewn mountain dweller. By the 1870s Devil Anse was an increasingly successful timber merchant who employed dozens of men, including some McCoys. On the other side of the feud stood Randolph “Old Ranel” McCoy. Though not as prosperous as Devil Anse, Randolph owned some land and livestock. Both families lived along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River, which snaked along the boundary between Kentucky and West Virginia, and both families had complex kinship and social networks. Family loyalty was often determined not only by blood but by employment and proximity.
The families even intermarried and sometimes switched family loyalties, even once the feud had started.
The first event in the decades-long feud was the 1865 murder of Randolph’s brother, Asa Harmon McCoy, by the Logan Wildcats, a local militia group that counted Devil Anse and other Hatfields among its members. Many people—even members of his own family—regarded Asa Harmon, who had served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, as a traitor. While some have surmised that his murder set the stage for the feud, most historians now see this incident as a standalone event.