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TV miniseries draws tourists to Hatfield McCoy Country

For more information about visiting the Hatfield-McCoy area, go here and here

  CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Hatfield McCoy Country website crashed Thursday morning after getting 148,000 hits in about 24 hours.

The site was up and running again shortly, to accommodate tourists who want to learn more about the real Hatfield and McCoy families, said West Virginia University Extension professor and website creator Bill Richardson. The heightened interest in Hatfield McCoy country -- between Lincoln County and Pike County, Ky. -- comes from a miniseries that aired earlier this week on the History Channel.

The three-part, six-hour miniseries tells the story of the Hatfield and McCoy family feud that broke out after the end of the Civil War. Devil Anse Hatfield, played by Kevin Costner, returns home to West Virginia, and his friend, Randall McCoy, played by Bill Paxton, goes home to Kentucky. The two live near the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River, which runs along the border of the two states.

The series ran from Monday to Wednesday. The finale had 14.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched nonsports telecast on ad-supported cable, MSN reported Thursday.

Richardson said the Southern West Virginia area is just starting to see the effect of the miniseries, but he knows the tourism is on its way. Most of the phone calls he's fielded are from Tennessee, the Carolinas, Maryland, Southern Ohio and West Virginia.

Hatfield McCoy Country also has received attention from ABC and NBC national news, and the "CBS Sunday Morning" show and the "Today" show are coming, Richardson said.

Some increased tourism already is evident. Natalie Young, executive director of the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the bus tours for June's Hatfield-McCoy reunion weekend are sold out. Each of the 150 buses will hold 50 people, compared to the 15 people each bus held last year.

"Needless to say, we've been working overtime," Young said.

Richardson said visiting the area helps people better understand the history behind the miniseries. One common misconception people have, he said, is that the families were neighbors. They actually lived 6 hours apart on foot or 4 hours apart on horseback.

"If you want to learn about this story," he said, "you need to come and see the actual sites."

He estimates the anticipated tourism boost will yield hundreds of thousands of dollars in short-term earnings and millions of dollars in the long term.

"We have more tourism assets now than Branson, Mo., and Pigeon Forge started out with," he said.

He said the challenge is to make sure tourists enjoy their time in Southern West Virginia so they'll want to see the rest of the state.

"Fifteen years ago, we didn't have any offerings related to tourism," Richardson said. "We've become a great destination that's going to draw people to the state of West Virginia."

From 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, the History Channel will show the locally produced documentary "America's Greatest Feud: The History of the Hatfields & McCoys," followed by the entire miniseries.

The full miniseries also is available here.

Reach Alison Matas at alison.matas@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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