In a Careless Moment Devil Anse Allowed It to Be Taken

FAMOUS WEST VIRGINIA OUTLAWS.

In a Careless Moment Devil Anse Allowed It to Be Taken. — The Hatfields Wrecked the Photographer’s Establishment.

When the famous feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families, which cost many lives in the mountain country of West Virginia and Kentucky, was declared at an end in April, 1897, the families of old Randolph McCoy and the descendants of old Deacon Ellison Hatfield, led by the notorious Devil Anse, gathered on the banks of the Big Sandy river to sanction the wedding of Mary McCoy and young Aaron Hatfield. There are rumors now that this peace protocol is over and talk of a fresh outbreak. Whether there is any ground for the belief that the feud is to be reopened it is hard to tell, for fighting, not talking, is what both families engage in when the ill-feeling comes to the top and there are scores to be settled.

Four times the Hatfields and the McCoys gathered to declare off the feud that has been passed down through three generations, and three times out of the four blood was shed before the negotiations were concluded. Moonshine whisky, which both families make and drink in large quantities, has been responsible mainly for the breaking of these compacts; and if the families go at each other again it will probably be because of the bad effects of the product of the illicit distilleries in the West Virginia mountains. It is almost incredible that such a feud could start up again and continue with the same freedom that it did twenty years ago, but it is possible, for the authorities of that state are as powerless to stop it today as they were years ago, when Parish and Sam McCoy shot and killed young Bill Stayton from ambush, thereby shedding the first blood of the feud.

The picture that accompanies this story is particularly interesting for two reasons. First, it is the only group picture ever taken of the Hatfields and the only picture ever taken of any of the leaders of that family with their consent. Secondly, having been taken in times of peace, it illustrates the caution with which these outlays are observing the truce. There are four revolvers and four rifles in sight. How many small weapons there are in concealment it is impossible to tell, but the reader can be pretty certain that Mrs. Devil Anse and Mrs. Cap, in the background, and the two youngsters in the foreground, are well prepared for emergencies as their relatives. It was only a short time after this picture was taken that one of these youngsters tried to murder a deputy sheriff who had cornered his father, Cap Hatfield, who was a fugitive from justice, having escaped from jail at Williamson. The youngster came pretty near succeeding in his purpose.

After Cap Hatfield escaped from jail in July, 1897, he made for Devil Anse’s old home on Tug river, near the mouth of Peter Creek, where he was joined by the others who are shown in the picture. Some fifteen miles away, at a small settlement, a photographer had set up an establishment, and he drove out to the Tug river cabin to get a picture of the Hatfields. The Hatfields received him decently enough, but refused to allow him to take a picture at first. Cap was particularly vehement in his objections, but Devil Anse was good natured about the matter. He knew that he and Cap and other members of the family had had cameras snapped at them during visits to West Virginia towns time and again, and he finally got the whole crowd together and told the photographer to fire away.

The result was the picture here shown. The photographer took the plate away, promising to send back a set of the pictures. The next day Cap Hatfield was in an ugly mood. He cursed Devil Anse, himself, and everybody else for sitting for a photograph, particularly at a time when officers were on his track, and, armed to the teeth, he set out for the settlement to do things to the photographer and his outfit. Now, of all the Hatfields, Cap is the most reckless and murderous. He, more than any other member of the family, with the possible exception of Ellison Mounts, is responsible for the killing and maltreating of women in the feud now supposed to be closed, and he is a scoundrel without morals or mercy. Killing is his pleasure, and there is no doubt in the world that he would have murdered that photographer if he’d ever caught him.

But Devil Anse looked out for that. With Elias, Tray and Joe he headed Cap off, and sent him back to the cabin. All Hatfields have a way of doing what Devil Anse tells them to do, and,  even the bloodthirsty Cap is subservient to him. The old man told Cap that he’d see that none of the pictures were printed, and with his three younger sons he set out to keep his word.

The photographer declared on his solemn oath that he had sent the plate away to be developed. He was lying with he said it, and it was a good thing for him that it was Devil Anse and not Cap that he tried to fool. Anse and his boys found the plate and destroyed it. Then, as a lesson to the photographer, they smashed his camera and wrecked his entire establishment. Then they went back to the cabin on Tug river.

But, the photographer had struck off a proof before Devil Anse arrived. He toned this proof and made the picture shown here. It fell into the hands of the McCoys and one of htem gave it to a traveling man who went through that region a short time ago. The cabin which is the background of the picture is deserted now and was practically deserted then. It was being used when the picture was taken as a hiding place for the fugitive Cap. It is over the fireplace in this cabin that the following, done in gaudy colors, has hung for years:

Under this motto some wag wrote some years ago:

“Leastwise, not this side of hell.”

Lima News (Lima, Ohio) Feb 8, 1899

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5 Responses to “In a Careless Moment Devil Anse Allowed It to Be Taken”

  1. dawn rohe Says:

    I grew up on the story of hatfields and mccoys. I saw the tv series and i really enjoyed it. Cant wait until the dvd in july. Cap is my favorite.

  2. kelceefarra Says:

    Devil Anse was my great-great-great{etc} grandfather.

  3. Allan Says:

    This is not a true timeline.
    Cap “broke” jail in July but the photo was taken in the dead of winter. My great grand father Andrew Chafin was Devil Anse’s “Messenger” in those days. We have a recording dated 1972 of him detailing how Cap got out of jail. Anse gave Andrew an envelope and 2 horses with specific instructions of where to go and whom to give the envelope to – the Sheriff. after Cap was “LET OUT of JAIL”, they rode to WV and hid out for 2 days before heading back to Beech Creek.

    Read the book “The Messenger” by Claude Chafin. It contains facts only with no embellishments. If Andrew didn’t say it, it was not printed.

    Pardon me, but I’m tired of hearing these false stories.

    • oldnews Says:

      Thank you for taking the time to state the facts as you know them. The book sounds like it would be an interesting read!

      No offense taken; this newspaper article was from 1899.

  4. Allan Says:

    No offense taken. I’ve seen this story more than once and do not think it originated here. But I feel compelled to correct the record.

    I will be posting my great grand fathers audio of these stories along with the transcribed version on https://www.facebook.com/groups/hatfieldmmcoy/ soon along with the state archives of KY and WV.

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