Johnse Hatfield

By 1896 Johnse Hatfield had been working in the state of Washington—hiding out from recovery agents and road detectives who were seeking the hefty reward that remained on his head from old Hatfield and McCoy Feud charges. Even though sixteen years had passed since the feud officially began—with the murder of Ellison Hatfield, the brother of Devil Anse by three McCoy boys in 1882, and the subsequent reciprocal killing of the three McCoys by the Hatfields—the enmities between the families still continued and warrants in Kentucky existed.

He had long worked as a logger in Logan County, but working as a lumberjack in Washington meant honing knew skills in the dense, tall forests of the Pacific Northwest.

During this period, Randolph “Ran’l” McCoy, patriarch of the McCoy family, had heard rumors in Pike County, Kentucky, that Johnse had left West Virginia and headed westward. The information likely came from the lips of Johnse’s resentful former wife, Nancy McCoy Hatfield, who was now living with Bad Frank Phillips, the deputized gunslinger from Kentucky, and archenemy of the Hatfield clan.

Ran’l soon bankrolled a dangerous posse, helmed by detective Dan “Cunning” Cunningham, to track Johnse across the American frontier. Living as a fugitive in the timber camps along the Spokane River, Johnse dodged detection from Cunningham and his party and eventually traveled as far as British Columbia to avoid capture.

—Excerpt from a new F. Keith Davis story. © Copyright 2013