How did William Anderson Hatfield get the name "Devil Anse"?

While various stories account for the origins of the colorful nickname, Devil's Anse, the only common thread is that William Hatfield was not a nice man. He was the patriarch of the Hatfield clan during the infamous Hatfield–McCoy feud.

It was rumored that Hatfield earned the nickname during the Civil War because he was a pretty tough character. Devil's Anse is also said to have been given to distinguish him from his cousin, Anderson Preacher Anse Hatfield. Some have heard that his mother gave him the nickname because when he was a boy, he was devilish and played rough and could "run like the devil". It has been stated by many, that William Hatfield was "6 feet of the devil and 180 pounds of hell" and that he was "so fierce and strong that he could take on the devil himself".

Recently, letters that Alexander Messer wrote from prison were given to the West Virginia State Archives. Messer allegedly helped execute three McCoy brothers in 1882. Archivists have put photos of the letters online, as well as transcripts, to allow for easier reading.

Updated on Tuesday, August 21 2012 at 02:45AM EDT