McCoy brothers’ grave sites given proper recognition in Catlettsburg

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CATLETTSBURG, Ky. (KT) – Another connection to the Hatfield and McCoy feud can now be found in a northeastern Kentucky cemetery, 90 miles from the Pikeville area where the battles took place.


While the majority of the family’s battle happened in Pike County, the bodies of James and Floyd McCoy of the McCoy clan are buried on a hill in the Catlettsburg Cemetery. The brothers married women from Catlettsburg, which is why that was their final resting place.


Last Friday morning, a project led by Ashland-Boyd Tourism and the state of Kentucky Historical Society unveiled new grave markers for both men and a historical sign with each side of the sign telling the stories of James and Floyd.


Several gathered at the cemetery to celebrate an unusual part of Boyd County history that, perhaps to the surprise of many, included the Hatfield and McCoy feud. The two-side historical sign tells their stories in great detail.


The sign for James reads: “Here lies James H. McCoy. Oldest son of Randall and Sarah. Last Living McCoy feudist before passing away in 1929. He was a peacemaker in the feud and tried to talk Frank Phillips out of killing Jim Vance & Bill Dempsey. In 1928 James & Tennis Hatfield, youngest son of Devil Anse, met in Pikeville, KY, and called a formal truce between families.”


The flip side of the sign tells the story of Floyd: "Here lies Floyd McCoy. Son of Randall and Sarah. Had dinner with his brothers Tolbert, Farmer & Randolph Jr. after their arrest for stabbing & shooting Ellison Hatfield in 1882. The next day Floyd witnessed his brothers being captured by Wall Hatfield and taken to W.V. Wall said if Ellison died, McCoy's brothers would be killed."


Sue Dowdy of the Ashland Tourism department put the wheels in motion for the recognition and raised the funds for the historical marker.


“Great things are worth waiting and working hard on researching,” she said. “Although some people knew the McCoy brothers were buried in the Catlettsburg Cemetery, their graves had never been marked properly and recognized. The famous Hatfield-McCoy feud was a terrible piece of history for eastern Kentucky. When the truce between the families occurred, much history and folklore began on stories behind told.”


Clifford Gene New from Pikeville is a Hatfield and McCoy descendant. He said before this project, all that was present at the Catlettsburg grave sites were small, barely visible markers. Now the two have respectful grave markers.


"We've worked hard on it," New said. "It's exciting. A few years ago, I met Sue Dowdy at Ashland Tourism and we talked about maybe getting a marker for them. A couple of years had passed and she had contacted me and said she got the money for the sign."


Several attended the ceremony, in including William Keith Hatfield, a Hatfield family descendant, who came from Oklahoma for Friday's event. 


"I have the greatest of respect for big Jim McCoy, James McCoy. He was a devout Christian. He attended the church that was pastored by one of my great uncles preacher Anse Hatfield down in Blackberry,” William Hatfield said while making remarks at the ceremony. “He and his wife Melissa were married by preacher Anse. The Hatfields loved Big Jim. They loved Aunt Sally as they called Sara. Hatfields and McCoys lived together for a long time and got along great. A lot of them were very good friends and a lot of them mourned deeply even when the shooting was going on.


Dowdy said the history remains popular and the grave sites could be a tourist destination.


“Hundreds of ancestors remain in our area and interest in the feud is high,” she said. “The prep or markings of the Graves will bring many visitors to our area.”

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