I recently watched the 6-hour miniseries of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s that appeared on The History Channel back in 2012. Loved the history and had heard of the feud, but this explained why there was a feud to some degree.
Both Hatfield and McCoy were friends to begin with, but with Devil Anse Hatfield going AWOL during the Civil War causing animosity with Randolph McCoy over this and blossoming into an all out war between the two families and blood shed before all was said and done. There was miscommunication, grievances, hurt feelings, and foolish acts, mostly led by the quick tempered Jim Vance, uncle to Devil Anse Hatfield. Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Tom Berenger, Mare Wingingham, and Powers Booth, as well as many others gave beautiful performances in this true story of two warring families back in the 19th century.
The sins of the fathers and their feud causes hatred, distrust, animosity in the majority of family members and wrecks havoc in both families drawing out a long feud and battle with substantial loss of life on both sides and the destruction of homes and properties. What started the fight? Well some say it was when Devil Anse went AWOL and Randolph McCoy I believe felt he betrayed him or left him. Although I believe McCoy finally left before the war was over also. Then there was a dispute over logging rights of the Hatfield’s and a pig that Randolph McCoy felt one of the Hatfield’s stole and McCoy sued them over 1 pig and from there the problems between them grew.
Hatfield’s son Johnsie and McCoy’s daughter Roseanna fell in love, but their union was forbidden by both fathers and both were told if they went through with marrying that they were not welcome in their homes anymore and McCoy totally shunned his daughter because she became pregnant and he acted like he never knew her. Johnsie and Roseanna felt this may have repaired the feud and what may have been a way to forgive and forget and draw these families together, but only created a deeper wedge between them and created more angst and bitterness.
I know that being pregnant and unmarried back in that day was a disgrace. If only her father had forgiven her and chose to help her – what a difference that may have made. And why is it the woman is always blamed for becoming pregnant, even in today’s society – there were two people involved, but the woman is always shamed. And then the wrath of Devil Anse with his son to the point of taking him fishing and Johnsie’s mother worrying about him coming back alive for fear of her husband killing him because he felt his son had betrayed their family. In some ways these two men destroyed their own families with their hatred and shame. What could have been used for teaching their children and guiding them only created a hatred within their children and fear of the other family – truly tragic!
Both spoke of a belief in God with differences and McCoy was always quoting scripture (in this movie), but neither was living by the scripture. As humans, we can all be guilty of judging another for their sin, but we are not to judge others, especially if we are sinning ourselves (Matthew 7:5). As was the case between these two families – they were constantly pointing out what the other was doing wrong, but never seeing what they were doing wrong. There is no one sin that is worse than another in God’s eyes and I believe neither one of them had any business in judging the other with the condition their hearts were in.
At the end of the movie Devil Anse attends a revival meeting and gives his life to Christ and was baptized. And I understand that the two families have since held reunions and have put to bed the feud that entangled both their families for many years.
The thing that strikes me the most about this movie as I watched it was how bitterness and hatred in both these men grew like a cancer and spread through their hearts, the hearts of their family members, and to their friends who were close to them. Their hatred stirred up conflict among anyone close to them, where if they had only sought love, it would have covered them all and peace could have prevailed. (Proverbs 10:12)
A lesson can be learned from this movie – it is best to settle grievances before they get out of control and they cause the poison of bitterness to take root. Some verses that come to mind are Amos 5:7 “There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground.” We are commanded to get rid of our bitterness or grievances – Ephesians 4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
If you love history and have seen this movie or wish to watch it – please feel free to share your thoughts.