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Discoveries from famous feud in spotlight

Jan. 01, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

New Year's Day has been tied to the Hatfields and McCoys feud since 1888 -- the year of the New's Year's Day showdown between the families and massacre at the home of Randall McCoy.

In the 125th anniversary year of the event, the new National Geographic show, "Diggers," will present new discoveries at the McCoy home detailing the McCoy homestead discovery at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29.

The "Diggers" series premieres at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1.

The Jan. 29 episode was shot at the home of Randall McCoy, the patriarch of the famed McCoy family, and the site of the deadly 1888 New Year's Day showdown between the Hatfields and the McCoys, and 125-year-old artifacts from that feud have been uncovered in rural Kentucky.

The discovery was made by the "Diggers" team shooting an episode of the National Geographic Channel series and confirmed by Kim McBride, co-director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey (jointly administered by the University of Kentucky Department of Anthropology and the Kentucky Heritage Council).

This site, located on private property in rural Hardy, Ky., had long been speculated to be the McCoys' land and the site of the final family feud. Remains of the cabin where the family lived and artifacts from the site where the most famous feud in American history went down, however, had never been uncovered until now.

"Diggers" hosts, amateur scientists, vocational metal detector enthusiasts and history buffs George "KG" Wyant and Tim "Ringy" Saylor first discovered what they thought were clear signs that finally proved the McCoy home was on the property and that this was the site of the final Hatfield-McCoy standoff, which helped to end at least a decade of family fighting.

Conferring with the private landowners and working with "Diggers" staff archaeologist Kate Culpepper and local historian Bill Richardson, the team pinpointed the location of the home and discovered charred wooden board remains, as well as specific items from the home, including possible parts from a stove, nails and a plow blade fragment.

After they found the burned wood and artifacts, Wyant and Saylor followed protocol agreed on with the archaeology community at the start of the series production and called in McBride to verify the find. The team screened shovel test units and recorded the site with the Kentucky Office of State Archaeology to ensure that the site was protected and the find was legitimate.

"This is an incredible discovery behind America's greatest family feud," McBride said. "After spending two days excavating at the site, we were pleased to find a number of original artifacts from the actual structure, such as window glass and both wrought and machine-cut nails, and we were able to trace the lineage of the property right back to Randall McCoy and his wife Sarah McCoy. As archaeologists, we are very excited to find real evidence to back theories that have abounded for decades."

Added Saylor, "This is the coolest discovery an amateur metal detector like me and KG could ask for, with amazing significance for our country's history. The McCoy homestead could turn up more details about that fateful night in 1888, and provide evidence of how the family lived and died. I feel like we hit the jackpot!"

Richardson, a West Virginia University Extension professor, called the finds amazing.

"These appear to be actual bullets fired at the Hatfields by the McCoys in defense of their home. Nothing like this has ever been found before."

In the "Diggers" series, Saylor and Wyant scour the country for lost pieces of American history -- from Civil War buckles to family heirloom rings and silver coins.

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