Our Old Kentucky
To the country’s most famous feud happened
right in the front parlor of the still existing 1876 Historic York House
The York House tells the History of Hatfield McCoy Feud
Narrated by Reed Potter, Local Historian from Pikeville, Kentucky
Colonel John Dils Jr. was a wealthy local entrepreneur who founded and led the Kentucky Mounted Infantry Union Army 39th regiment during the Civil War.
1874 in Pikeville, Kentucky Colonel John Dils purchased the York House property on Main Street which was one block down from his home. On June 20, 1876 he deeded the property to his oldest daughter Augusta Dils York shortly after she married attorney James York. The York House was designed by Augusta and built thereafter.
From 1863-1891 the famous Hatfield- McCoy Feud was taking place in Kentucky and West Virginia. The York family lived in the York House at the height of the feud which connects the history of the house to the famous feud and its resolution.
The home was important to the feud in that James York was living next door to Perry Cline. Both James York and Perry Cline were attorneys involved deeply in the legal proceedings involving the Hatfield-McCoy Feud. Perry Cline had earlier in life giving his own guardianship to Colonel Dils. Colonel John Dils was the father-in-law of James York and guardian of Perry Cline.
Perry Cline had become deeply involved after the Hatfield’s had shot and killed his nephew, Jeff McCoy. He also was the state representative and used his influence to convince newly elected Kentucky Governor S.M. Buckner to issue rewards for the capture and arrest of the Hatfield gang. The warrants resulted in arrests and the prisoners were brought to Pikeville.
Devil Anse Hatfield hired James York as attorney to represent the captured men. Devil Anse then uses his considerable political influence to get West Virginia Governor Wilson involved in the arrests. Governor Wilson files a motion of hiatus corpus to have the prisoners released and returned to West Virginia because they have been arrested improperly. Devil Anse and his men retaliated against the McCoy’s because of the arrests and burned the McCoy’s cabin down on January 1, 1888.
The fire and attack resulted in a total loss of the McCoy home, as well as the death of two of McCoy’s children and the extremely brutal beating of the mother Sara McCoy. Rosanna McCoy, Randolph and Sara McCoy’s daughter, had already been living next door at Perry Cline’s house and working as the Cline’s family nanny. The surviving family moved immediately into Perry Cline’s house which was next door to James York. The Cline’s home is where the McCoy’s first lived in Pikeville and where Sara was cared for after she was seriously injured in the cabin attack.
The McCoy’s bought the house next door to Perry Cline and lived there the rest of Sara’s life. Today, the Historic York House, the McCoy home and Perry Cline’s home still remain side-by-side as part of the history of the feud.
As the feud goes on the defense for the Hatfield’s is not going well, they not only lose the hearing on a motion from the Governor of West Virginia to release the prisoners; but they also lose the appeal at the US Court of Appeals in Louisville. The Hatfield’s appeal to the US Supreme Court and they lose there as well.
At this point Devil Anse changes tactics; he decides to no longer use James York as his attorney and hires Perry Cline to be his representative for his captured men for the Pikeville trials.
This is actually a very smart move, because he knows that Perry Cline is the State Representative at this time and in addition to being an attorney and has connections in Frankfort. Anse Hatfield asks Cline to try to get the Governor of Kentucky to remove the rewards for the arrests of himself and the rest of his men. Perry Cline changes sides and takes on the Hatfield’s as his clients.
Perry Cline insists he is friends of both sides, the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s. He takes Devil Anse money and goes to work for the Hatfield’s. When he does this, the McCoy’s who are living right next door, go to James York (who has now been released by the Hatfield’s) and the McCoy’s hire James York to be their attorney.
It is at this point that James York works on behalf of the McCoy’s to help come to some kind of resolution to the feud. Randolph McCoy, according to the York’s descendant, Mrs. Joan Johnson says that Randolph comes to meet often, nearly on a daily basis, in the front parlor of the York House. This is where they figure out how they are going to settle the feud.
Ending the feud at this time is not so simple, as the McCoy sons, who had ridden with Bad Frank and a posse into West Virginia to arrest the Hatfield gang, now all have warrants for their arrests in West Virginia. So the Hatfield’s used their government connections and now have Perry Cline turn the tables and they do the same thing to McCoy’s that the McCoy’s were first doing to the Hatfield’s using legal indictments and warrants against them.
James York and Randolph McCoy meet and they decide on a compromise. The McCoy’s will back down on their pursuit of the
“still at large” Hatfield gang members. James York had to explain the situation, the McCoy’s can continue pursuing Hatfield’s legally and pressuring the law in Kentucky and to go after Devil Anse Hatfield and his gang, but the Hatfield’s can also do the same thing in West Virginia.
Randolph McCoy would have had to be willing to give up his sons Jim, Sam and other friends that had been riding with this posse going into West Virginia. Eventually they’re going to get captured too and risk being tried in West Virginia. The indictments were not only for kidnapping, but also for murder and if this continued the McCoy sons would be hung in West Virginia.
This was not an easy negotiation to convince Randolph to back off, but James York was able convince him to do so. Then the agreement was made that everybody would back down and the Hatfield’s moved to Logan, West Virginia. The McCoy’s, having already moved to Pikeville, would stay away from the Hatfield’s. All these negotiations took place in the front parlor of the historic York House.
James York represented the McCoy’s thru all of the feud trials for several years and had worked out the arrangement that put an end to the country’s most famous feud right in the front parlor of the still existing Historic York house.
In order for the visual history of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud and for the York House to continue again, the York must be preserved and be a place of historical significance in downtown Pikeville, Kentucky.
~Please help her to live again