HARDY, Ky. — “This entire experience has absolutely blew me away and has exceeded all of my greatest expectations,” stated WVU Extension Professor and Hatfield and McCoy Historian, Bill Richardson, while speaking with the Williamson Daily News concerning a recent archeology dig that yielded world-class artifacts linked to one of the families involved in the famous Hatfield and McCoy feud.
“The way this all came about was that during my efforts to promote the Tug Valley area and our local tourism, I began thinking about the possibility of metal detecting to see if we could find any artifacts linked to the feud,” Richardson explained. “I found out about a new show being produced by the National Geographic Channel titled “Diggers”, and was able to team up with them to have the preliminary digs performed for no charge and received the added bonus of free nationwide exposure that will give our local tourism another shot in the arm.”
“Honestly, when all this started I thought it was a long shot and we wouldn’t find anything. Not only did we find something, the items we recovered turned out to be world-class artifacts that were from Randolph McCoy’s cabin that was burned down on Jan. 1, 1888. These are the first ever archeological artifacts from the Hatfield and McCoy feud.”
Richardson said the items discovered include pieces of the burned cabin, parts of a ceramic wash basin and of a cooking stove, along with pieces of a window pane which was an exciting find because glass is one of the easiest items to date. The icing on the cake, however, was actual bullets believed to have been fired by the McCoy family the morning of that fateful New Year’s battle in 1888 that claimed the lives of some family members and destroyed their home.
“Shortly before dawn on Jan. 1, 1888, the Hatfield’s surrounded the McCoy cabin with the intent of killing all the McCoy family members inside. They got into a gun battle and then set the cabin on fire. The bullets we found appear to have been fired by the McCoy clan in the direction of the attacking Hatfield’s. These bullets have been buried in the ground for 125 years,” stated Richardson.
He went on to explain that 3 different calibers of bullets were found 4-6 inches underground and were spread out over an area of about 30 feet wide by 20 feet high.
“This is the first ever science that has ever been done on the feud,” remarked the historian. “Before this, most of what we knew about the feud was from oral histories, wildly exaggerated newspaper accounts and a few court transcripts. Many of the facts of the story have been under debate for years. But now, for the first time ever, we have actual cold, hard evidence on which to base our understanding of these events. This is an amazing find and I’m so excited about it. The hardest part was keeping it a secret for the last three months (the Digger’s visited and completed their discoveries in Oct.) and I’m so happy to finally be able to share this news with the world,” said Richardson.
In a press release from the National Geographic Channel dated for New Year’s Eve, the producers for the “Diggers” series say that newly discovered artifacts at Patriarch Randall McCoy’s home in rural Hardy, Ky., uncovered clues about the infamous Hatfield and McCoy 1888 showdown.
The producers state that the discoveries found by George “Kg” Wyant and Tim “Ringy” Saylor, the Diggers hosts who are amateur scientists, vocational metal detector enthusiasts and history buffs, were authenticated and confirmed by Kim McBride, who serves as co-director of the Kentucky Archeological Survey which is jointly administered by the University of Kentucky Dept. of Anthropology and the Kentucky Heritage Council.
The hosts of “Diggers” conferred with the private landowners of the site of the Randal McCoy home place, Bob and Rita Scott and Wanda Scott Goodman, and worked alongside “Diggers” staff archaeologist Kate Culpepper and Richardson. They pinpointed the location of the home and discovered the remains of charred wooden boards along with other specific items from the home.
After they found the wood and the artifacts, Wyant and Saylor followed protocol agreed on with the archeology community at the start of the show’s production and called in McBride to verify the find. The team screened shovel test units and recorded the site with the Kentucky Office of State Archeology, to ensure that the site was protected and the find was legitimate.
“This is an incredible discovery behind America’s greatest family feud,” said McBride. “After spending 2 days excavating at the site, we were pleased to find a number of original artifacts from the actual structure, such as window glass and both wrought and machine-cut nails, and we were able to trace the lineage of the property back to Randall and Sarah McCoy. As an archeologist, I was very excited to find real evidence to back theories that have abounded for ages.”
Speaking for himself and his co-host, Saylor added that, “This is the coolest discovery an amateur metal detector like me and KG could ask for, with amazing significance for our country’s history. The McCoy homestead could turn up more details about that fateful, early morning in 1888, and provided evidence of how the family lived and died. I feel like we’ve hit the jackpot!”
“These items are the ‘Real McCoys’!!”
Be sure to tune in to the “Diggers” feud discovery special episode scheduled to air on Tuesday, Jan. 29th, at 10 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel. If you would like additional information regarding this archeological dig, you may visit their website at www.natgeotv.com/diggers. You may also contact Richardson at 304-235-0370.