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Hatfields, McCoys find road map to peace

Famous feuding families say if they can do it, anyone can

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PIKEVILLE, Ky. — A pen and ink sealed the end of Appalachia's most infamous bloody feud instead of a shotgun and bullets.

Descendants of the Hatfield and McCoy families gathered Saturday in Pikeville to sign the truce, making a largely symbolic and official end to a feud that had claimed at least a dozen lives from the two mountain families.

"We ask by God's grace and love that we be forever remembered as those that bound together the hearts of two families to form a family of freedom in America," says the truce, signed by more than 60 descendants.

Reo Hatfield of Waynesboro, Va., came up with the idea as a proclamation of peace.

The broader message it sends to the world, he said, is that when national security is at risk, Americans put their differences aside and stand united. If these two feuding families can come together, anyone can, he said.

"We're not saying you don't have to fight because sometimes you do have to fight," Hatfield said. "But you don't have to fight forever."

The more than a century of feuding between the McCoys of Kentucky and Hatfields of West Virginia is believed to have its origins in a dispute over a pig. A court battle over timber rights escalated the tension in the 1870s, and by 1888, as many as a dozen lives were lost.

Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton and West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise also signed proclamations declaring June 14 Hatfield and McCoy Reconciliation Day.

Ron McCoy, a founder of Hatfield-McCoy Festival, now in its fourth year, said the families haven't decided what to do with the signed proclamations.

"The Hatfields and McCoys symbolize violence and feuding and fighting," he said, "but by signing this, hopefully people will realize that's not the final chapter."