While researching some of the ancestors this weekend from my husband’s Harless line (his grandmother was a Harless), I was caught off guard to discover a connection to the McCoys of the infamous Hatfield-McCoy Feud — which was just recently depicted in an excellent History Channel miniseries. My husband’s Harlesses lived in Pike County, Kentucky — home to the McCoys.
The first Harless ancestors to migrate across the country to California in the early 1850s were Leonard Jackson Harless, my husband’s great-great-grandfather, and his father Miles (Myles) Washington Harless (1826-1891). I learned last year that Miles was born in Pike County, Kentucky on Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River at the mouth of Harless Creek, and that Miles’s father Joseph Harless (1788-1836) died at Harless Creek. At the time of this discovery, I even located Harless Creek on Google Maps…mentally filing the location away as a future hopeful vacation stop.
But, I never bothered to look up the county in which Harless Creek resides. Until last night.
Since I find almost nothing about the history of Harless Creek (just a lot of 2010 news and video from the bad floods), I decided to try to read up on the history of Pike County. A quick search brought up the Pike County tourism site as one of the first hits. I decided to click on it, because I assumed it would mention at least a little bit about the county history. And there it was, right on their home page — an article about “Hatfield McCoy Feud Sites”.
While, thanks to the History Channel miniseries and Wikipedia, I knew that the McCoys were from the eastern Kentucky border, I had not paid attention to the county name. Yet, sure enough, the McCoys lived in Pike County, Kentucky, and did most of their fighting along the Tug Fork tributary of the Big Sandy River (remember, Harless Creek is also a tributary of the Big Sandy River). The county seat of Pikeville — where the Hatfields were frequently held in custody and tried — is only 13 miles northwest of Harless Creek.
I immediately got excited, wondering if perhaps my husband’s Harless ancestors might have known the McCoys. But, while the Hatfield-McCoy Feud took place after the Civil War (1863-1891), Miles Washington Harless had emigrated to Missouri by 1850 according the 1850 Us Census. So it’s possible that Miles and his siblings might have known the patriarch of the feuding McCoys (Randolph McCoy, 1825-1914), but our Harless ancestors were no longer in Pike County when the feud erupted in 1863.
Still, it is a really cool connection to discover! And it bumps Pike County much higher up on our vacation wishlist now, since we’d get to visit ancestral lands and historical feud spots. Besides, Jeff and I fell in love with Kentucky while vacationing in the Appalachians in 2010.