The feud took place in West Virginia and Kentucky, where Cleveland resident Mary Huff was born, and was recently depicted in a ratings-heavy, three-part miniseries aired by The History Channel.
Growing up, Huff’s grandmother called her a “real McCoy,” but Huff thought she was simply using a popular expression.
It wasn’t until after she was married and visiting her family’s cemetery that she found out the phrase had another meaning.
Huff’s husband asked why there were so many McCoys buried in the family cemetery.
“Mom said to Jim, my husband … ‘Well, didn’t Mary tell you she was a real McCoy?’ I said, ‘What do you mean, Mom?’ And she said, ‘You’re a real McCoy from the Hatfield and McCoys,” Huff said. “Jim got a big kick out of it.”
One of Huff’s family members had a McCoy Bible that was kept in a trunk.
“We don’t know what happened to it,” Huff said.
The family member who had owned the Bible and those who would have gotten the trunk have all died.
Huff said she would have liked to be able to look at it, but was never able.
Huff has not done a lot of history on her connection to the well-known feud.
The only information she has about her connection to the feud came from her grandmother, Mary (McCoy) Medley.
Later, someone who heard she was a descendent of the McCoys brought her a 1989 newspaper from Williamson, W.Va., that had a special section commemorating the history of the feud.
Her grandmother’s story about the feud’s beginning differs slightly from the version that was popularized by a movie about the families involved.
Huff said her grandmother told her that each family had a branding method for marking their pigs, such as cutting a niche in its ear.
“One day the Hatfield’s invited the McCoys to dinner, and as they are enjoying dinner the pig on the table had the McCoys name on it. So, the Hatfields are feeding the McCoys their own pig. And, Grandma said that’s how it took off,” Huff said.
The issue was taken to court.
According to the History.com website, the court was tried by a Hatfield, and McCoys did not agree with the outcome of the trial. Later a key witness in the trial, Bill Stanton, who had married a Hatfield, was killed during an argument with Sam and Paris McCoy. From that point, the families kept finding reasons to hate each other and kill members of the other side.
Huff said her grandmother had spoken with authors working on books about the feud.
“We moved here from Kentucky about 47 years ago,” Huff said.
Huff’s mother is 91 and still lives in Kentucky.
Yet, even here Huff has met others with connections to these famous families.
Huff met a man who said he was a descendent of the Hatfields.
“He said, ‘I know I’m a Hatfield. The Hatfields and McCoys buried the hatchet years ago,” Huff recounted.
According to History.com, the feud began to fade after the 1889 trial, which sentenced eight Hatfields (or Hatfield sympathizers) to life in prison and sentenced one to death.