- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

PIKEVILLE (AP) More than a century after the last shots were fired in America's most storied family feud, the Hatfields and McCoys went before a judge yesterday to try to resolve a dispute over access to a graveyard.
"Relatives have an unquestionable right to visit the graves," said Della Justice, an attorney representing McCoy descendants who sued Hatfield descendants for the right to visit the small cemetery on an Appalachian hillside in eastern Kentucky.
The graveyard holds the remains of six McCoys, including three who were tied to papaw trees and executed by the Hatfields in 1882.
McCoy descendants claim they have not been able to visit the cemetery in more than three years because it is on land owned by a Hatfield heir and the driveway leading to the graves has been marked "No Trespassing."
Circuit Judge Charles E. Lowe Jr. did not immediately issue a ruling.
The feud between the McCoys of Kentucky and the Hatfields of West Virginia is believed to have begun in the 1870s over a stolen pig and escalated over timber rights. By 1888, at least 12 persons had died as a result of the shooting war. The violence ended by 1900 and the two families have held joint reunions.
Ron McCoy of Durham, N.C., said the cemetery is too important historically to remain closed to the public. He and a cousin, Bo McCoy of Waycross, Ga., filed the suit against the Vances.
John Vance, a Hatfield descendant, had posted the "no trespassing" signs. The judge granted an injunction earlier this year giving temporary access until the court could decide the issue.
Ron and Bo McCoy, organizers of the annual Hatfield-McCoy Reunion Festival in Pikeville, want the cemetery to be part of a tour that would highlight points of interest related to the feud. Economic-development officials in Pikeville hope the feud sites and cemeteries will draw tourists to the mountain communities.
Larry Webster, an attorney for the Vances, said the cemetery has not had a burial in 114 years. He contends the McCoys lost the right to visit the cemetery when they abandoned it, and he accused the family of trying to capitalize on its tourist potential.
"These people are trying to charge people admission to visit my client's property," he said. "It's mountain land, as steep as a mule's face."


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