Which war was it? Could it
have been the Civil War?
No, because the Civil War was about
slavery, states' rights and succession, among other issues. This
war, depending on which story you believe, was either about land
rights or politics. Or a stolen pig. Personally, I'd like to believe
it was about a stolen pig, because it makes for a better story.
The press at the time made it a much bigger story than it really
was, as they glamorized and promoted this war even though other wars
were much worse. In reality, though, the real reason for the war
remains unclear to this day.
Could this have been the War of 1812?
No, because that war was between the United States and Great
Then how about the Hundred Years' War?
Again, the answer is no, because that war was from 1337 to 1453
which, if you're keeping score at home, actually lasted 116 years.
This war began in 1878 on the border of Kentucky and West
Virginia, along the Tug Fork River. It wasn't technically a war,
because it was between two families instead of two countries. It
lasted 12 years and cost at least 12 men and children their lives.
So what was the name of this war?
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This war began when Randolph McCoy accused Floyd Hatfield of
stealing one of his pigs. We're talking about the war, or feud,
between the Hatfields and the McCoys! The judge, by the way, ruled
that Hatfield was innocent.
Was the infamous Hatfield and McCoy feud really over a pig?
Nobody knows for sure, but pigs were a valuable commodity back
then in the Kentucky- West Virginia region. There was already bad
blood between the two families as a result of some relatives
fighting on different sides of the Civil War. Plus, there was a
dispute over which family owned the rights to the valuable
timberland in the area.
One possible explanation for this long-running feud, although it
is just speculation, could be the fact that dozens of McCoy family
members going back at least four generations have had a rare,
inherited disease that causes high blood pressure, tumors and
sometimes leads to violent behavior. Known as the von Hippel-Lindau
disease, it also causes severe headaches and an abnormal amount of
adrenaline and hormones, which may have contributed to the feud.
It even caused some of the McCoy family members to be rejected
for health insurance if they revealed their true identity as McCoys,
and the disease was often fatal.
They should teach this kind of stuff in history class.
Paul Niemann's column is syndicated
to more than 70 newspapers. He is the author of the "Invention
Mysteries" series of books. He can be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2008