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Feuds, Appalachian Mountain


FEUDS, APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN. Descendants of American pioneers populate the Appalachian Mountains. The mountainous regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia are isolated, and, in 1860, their civilization was that of the earliest western frontier. The region especially lacked well-established law and order. Although courts and law enforcement agencies did exist, the topography of the country and the sparse population made enforcing the law difficult. Likewise, the people of the mountains distrusted the courts as institutions of justice.

Bitter disputes arose between mountaineers, even over the most trivial matters; however, livestock, women, politics, and thievery were the most common sources of strife. Straying livestock, the "wronging" of a woman, or the killing of a dog, could set friend against friend, family against family, and one part of a neighborhood against the other. Nevertheless, perhaps the greatest single cause for dispute was the division of sentiment over the Civil War. During this period, armed bands of regulators tried to intimidate people on both sides of the national issue, and attempts to disperse the raiding vandals created bad blood. Most famous of the mountain feuds were those of Hatfield-McCoy (1880–1887), Martin-Tolliver (1874–1887), French-Eversole (1885–1894), and Hargis-Callahan-Cockrell (1899–1903). These mountain wars killed many people. The bloodiest fighting generally took place in the county seat towns on court days, but there were also many killings resulting from ambush.


Inscoe, John C., and Gordon B. McKinney. The Heart of Confederate Appalachia: Western North Carolina in the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Rice, Otis K. The Hatfields and the McCoys. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1978; 1982.

Waller, Altina L. Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860–1900. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.

T. D.Clark/a. e.

See alsoAppalachia ; Kentucky ; North Carolina ; Tennessee ; Violence ; Virginia ; West Virginia .

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