Local News

April 19, 2014


Coahulla junior, grandmother, piece together historic ancestry

There’s Clark Hatfield in school with friends and teachers. A confident Coahulla Creek High School junior excited to talk about his football team and his aspirations in marine biology.

Then there’s Clark Hatfield with his gushing grandmother Loretta Coker. That Clark gets a little shy and red in the face as Coker talks about how “everyone just loves her grandbaby Clark” and how he’s “just such a gentleman.”

“She’s crazy,” Clark said with a laugh and a shake of his head. “Nah, she’s cool.”

Up until recently, Clark didn’t know his ancestors were part of the historic Hatfield-McCoy feud — members of the Hatfield family and the McCoy family fought a bitter militia war with each other in West Virginia and Kentucky from 1863-1891. By his own confession, Clark has become “somewhat of a local celebrity” because of his ties to that history.

The reason for the original feud has been left to speculation, but it was tied into land disputes, according to historians. Another cause, some historians speculate, is the Hatfield family fought on the Union side of the Civil War, while the McCoys fought on the Confederate side. The feud has became part of Appalachian history and has been the subject of numerous movies and books.

The Hatfield family was led by William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield who Coker described as “6 feet of devil and a 180 pounds of hell,” known for his violence against the McCoys, including several revenge killings.

“I heard about the Hatfield-McCoy feud when I was little,” Clark said, “I know I could possibly be related to them. But it wasn’t until ... my grandmother, who is a great historian, traced the family — me, my dad and my grandpa — back. And my grandpa is the sixth cousin of Devil Anse. That makes dad the seventh and I’m the eighth.”

Coker said she had a hunch Clark was related to Devil Anse, but didn’t know until she “began to piece it all together,” partly through historic records and partly through the website Ancestry.com.

“I was tickled to learn he was a real Hatfield,” she said.

So is Clark anything like the rough and dangerous Devil Anse?

He says “nah.”

His grandmother?

“Well, he does have a temper,” Coker said with a laugh. “But everyone likes Clark. He’s a very nice gentleman.”

“I don’t really show my temper,” Clark said. “Plus, she’s got a temper, too. Nah, my grandmother is very loving and fixes us food all the time. She’s nice and sweet.”

One of Clark’s teachers, Elvis Sánchez, said he latched onto Clark’s heritage when he learned about it, tying it to education.

“I think as teachers, we want to make history come alive for our students because it’s hard to relate to it sometimes,” he said. “Me and Clark got to exploring it. It’s really interesting. It’s an important piece of Appalachian history. And he’s a living piece of it.”

It’s “really cool” to be a Hatfield namesake, Clark said, and the reputation it brings with other students. Coker agrees.

“But Clark is — well, he is a very nice guy and I’m proud of how he has grown up,” she said.

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