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Kentucky Storytellers: History

Most know it simply as “The Feud.”

The legendary Hatfield and McCoy Feud’s decades of violence spilled across generations in the hills of both eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.

Perhaps no one knows the story more intimately than Pike County’s Bob Scott, who owns the property that once belonged to Randal McCoy and is a direct descendant of both families, though his lineage falls more heavily on the Hatfield side.

Scott’s property includes the original McCoy family well site where on January 1, 1888, in an event that became known as the New Year’s Massacre, a group of Hatfields surrounded and attacked the McCoy cabin as the family slept.

“The well still stands where Alifair McCoy ran for water,” Scott said. “She was shot and killed. It was pretty much the climax of the end of this feud.”

The source of the hostilities, which raged from 1863 to 1891 and claimed the lives of more than a dozen family members on both sides, is debated by historians, though many point to the families’ differing allegiances during the Civil War and, later, a seminal event in 1878 when Randal McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield of stealing one of his pigs.

Today, tour groups routinely visit Scott’s farm to visit the well and trace the footsteps of one of the bloodiest chapters in Kentucky’s history. Water from the well is also now the source of Scott’s new business venture, Fuel of the Feud Moonshine, produced by the Pauley Hollow Distillery.

“It’s made from the same water that [the McCoys] drank from, washed dishes from and made moonshine from,” he said.

Sharing the story of the feud is important to Scott, who believes it’s a key part of Kentucky’s history, one that people know about far and wide.

Once, on a cruise to Istanbul, Scott struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler who had never heard of Kentucky basketball or horse racing, but knew all about the Hatfield and McCoy feud.

“What we’re trying to do in Pike County now, through events like the Hatfield McCoy Heritage Days Homecoming, is promote peace, harmony and love,” Scott said. “There’s no feuding going on here anymore.”

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace

Nestled near Hodgenville, on the land where America’s future 16th president was born, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park lets visitors retrace the earliest days of one of the country’s most revered leaders. A symbolic cabin, meant to evoke the one-room cabin in which Lincoln was born in 1809, is enshrined on the site in a neoclassical Memorial Building made from Connecticut granite and Tennessee marble with columns inspired from ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The 56 stairs leading up to the building represent Lincoln’s 56 years of life, and the 16 windows represent the numerical order of his presidency. Visitors can take a short stroll from the memorial to view the property’s still visible Sinking Spring, likely a key reason the Lincolns selected the hillside as the location for their cabin.

nps.gov/abli

Hatfields & McCoys Feud Tour

Visitors interested in tracing the path of America’s most notorious feud will find many spots of interest in Pike County, including the McCoy homeplace, the Hatfield Hog Trial Cabin and the Hatfield-McCoy Monument. A driving tour is available through the Pike County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

tourpikecounty.com

Old Fort Harrod State Park

In Harrodsburg, Old Fort Harrod State Park features a full-scale replica of the fort built there by James Harrod in 1774. Modest wood cabins and blockhouses are outfitted with furnishings and tools of the era to offer visitors a sense of what an early settlement village would have been like. Costumed interpreters frequently lead demonstrations on skills such as blacksmithing, broom- and soap-making and other key pioneer skills. The park also includes a nearby Mansion Museum located in a Federalist-style, early-1800s-era home on the property. Inside, visitors can view a collection that includes Native American objects, Civil War-era artifacts, antique firearms and more.

parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/fort-harrod

My Old Kentucky Home

In Bardstown, guests can tour Federal Hill, the historic mansion that inspired Stephen Foster’s classic melody “My Old Kentucky Home,” which has served as the state song of Kentucky since 1928. First published in 1853, the song references vignettes seen during one of Foster’s visits to the Bardstown plantation, now the site of My Old Kentucky Home State Park and the long-running, popular outdoor summer musical “The Steven Foster Story.” Tours of the home offer a glimpse into antebellum life in the South, and the musical tells the story of Foster himself, who also penned American musical classics including “Oh! Susanna,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Old Folks at Home (Swanee River),” “Camptown Races” and many more.

parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/old-ky-home

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