JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
A relatively unknown site related to the Hatfield McCoy feud is being reclaimed from Mother Nature in hopes of becoming part of the phenomenon that began with a series on the History Channel.
The site, located in Pike County, Ky., is the cemetery that houses the graves of Frank and Nancy Phillips. It had become overgrown and was in accessible. District Five Magistrate Hilman Dotson said some community members have been working for weeks to clear the site.
“We started right after Father’s Day,” Dotson said. “With the help of some inmates from the Pike County Detention Center, we have the cemetery cleared, and have installed some steps so folks can get to the graves.”
Dotson said the cemetery, which contains five graves, is now accessible by car, but that he hopes to have some work done to the road to make it easier to drive to it.
Frank Phillips has been portrayed as a rather dark figure in the story of the Hatfields and McCoys. But, the facts are that in 1888, Wall Hatfield and eight others were arrested by a posse led by Frank Phillips and brought to Kentucky to stand trial for the murder of Alifair McCoy. Alifair had been killed during the New Years Massacre, shot after exiting the burning house.
Because of issues of due process and illegal extradition, the United States Supreme Court became involved. The Supreme Court ruled 7–2 in favor of Kentucky, holding that, even if a fugitive is returned from the asylum state illegally instead of through lawful extradition procedure, no federal law prevents him from being tried. Eventually, the men were indeed tried in Kentucky, and all were found guilty. Seven received life imprisonment, while the eighth, Ellison “Cottontop” Mounts, was executed by hanging. Thousands attended the hanging in Pikeville.
Magistrate Dotson said he hopes to have the cemetery put on the Register of Historic Places for its relevance to the feud. Since the miniseries aired tourism has exploded in Pike and Mingo Counties, including a tour of various feud sites.
Chris Coleman owns and operates a barber shop in Phelps, and he sees the opportunity the attention to the feud as the beginning of a new era in tourism in the area. He recently addressed the Pike County Fiscal Court about the cemetery.
“While we have this attention, we need to take advantage of it,” Coleman said. “We can use this as a spring board. We have a lot of offer, rafting, ATV trails, the Breaks Interstate Park, there are attractions from Logan to Pikeville.”
Dotson said he hopes the Pike County Tourism, Convention and Visitor’s Bureau will help get the site on the National Register.