Hatfields and McCoys to be featured on National Geographic

By Amelia Orwick

The Hatfield and McCoy families of Kentucky and West Virginia will be stealing the show in an upcoming episode of National Geographic’s “Diggers.”

The two families are known for their feud, characterized by murder and betrayal, during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

For the episode, the “Diggers” team recruited the help of the Office of State Archaeology and Kentucky Archaeological Survey (KAS) to validate its findings.

KAS is a joint undertaking of the UK department of anthropology and the Kentucky Heritage Council, the State Historic Preservation Office.

Dr. Kim McBride, UK adjuct faculty member and co-director of KAS, was able to confirm that artifacts uncovered by the “Diggers” team in rural Hardy, Ky. are from the famous final showdown between the Hatfields and McCoys on New Year’s Day of 1888.

Deed research shows that the home of Randall and Sarah McCoy stood on the site from about 1853 until the day it was burned down in the ultimate attack.

Visits to the site have increased dramatically since the airing of a History Channel miniseries last May that featured the family feud.

“It’s just an interesting phenomenon in itself, why there’s so much interest,” McBride said.

Among the “Diggers” team findings were nails, bullets, burned wood and glass.

In addition to examining the artifacts, McBride and KAS were asked to verify that the location was indeed a mid-19th century domestic site, and to record the site with the Office of State
Archaeology, which will assist in future preservation.

“Recording the site and aiding in preservation is very important,” McBride said. “We want to encourage the idea that this is an important part of history and deserving of future protection.”

According to McBride, when “Diggers” first aired, there was concern within the archaeological community that the team didn’t properly follow guidelines.

After several archaeological societies met with the National Geographic team, an agreement was made to make some changes to the show, including involving more local archaeologists.

“The final thought is still out on how the new show will meet the archaeological societies’ expectations,” McBride said. “They’ve shared a rough cut, and I was pleased that it focused on the historical significance of the event.”

It is expected that the site will attract even more attention as a result of the upcoming “Diggers” episode.

“It is tremendously gratifying to find these items connected to the feud,” property owners Bob and Rita Scott and Richard and Wanda Scott Goodman said in a National Geographic press release. “We expect visitors from all over the world to come and see these important artifacts.”

McBride believes that the attention will be beneficial to citizens of Hardy and the surrounding area.

“It gives folks of the region a chance to expand their heritage tourism efforts,” she said. “I think that’s a positive thing.”

McBride will be featured in action in the episode premier on the National Geographic Channel on Jan. 29 at 10 p.m.

While it will not please all, the approach that NatGeo are taking reflects an increased desire by those of us in the detecting community to work with local archaeologists in discovering, uncovering and documenting the history. It’s another reason that we should revisit finding compromise on issues such as opening some public lands to licensed detector users who agree to certain guidelines and reporting protocols.