‘Hatfields & McCoys’: Real historical ties to Churches of Christ?
The television miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys” premiered recently on the History channel.
The first installment prompted several viewers to e-mail The Christian Chronicle. This query from Bob West, a member of the Ellisville Church of Christ in Missouri, was typical:
In the first episode, it showed the Hatfields and McCoys worshiping in a church building and singing a cappella. As they exited the building, the camera focused on the sign above the door: “Tug Fork church of Christ.”
Do you know if the Hatfields and McCoys were actually brothers in the church?
I didn’t know, so I contacted Doug Foster, professor of church history and director of the Center for Restoration Studies at Abilene Christian University in Texas. Foster didn’t have any firsthand knowledge but contacted the Disciples of Christ Historical Society in Nashville, Tenn., which collects historical information on all three branches of the Stone-Campbell Movement.
Associate archivist Elaine Philpott with the historical society provided this background:
I have done a little investigative work on the Hatfields and McCoys and haven’t found a link to an actually Church of Christ congregation. I found in one reference that both families tended to be primitive or hard shell Baptists.
Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, the patriarch of the family, was baptized by a Christian Church/Church of Christ itinerate minister in the area by the name of W. Dyke Garrett. This was later in his life, and a couple of his sons were baptized at the same time.
I checked our congregational files for all the little towns in that area in Kentucky and West Virginia but didn’t come up with one. One thing I read that said when Devil Anse was asked about his faith, he allegedly said, “I belong to no church unless you say I belong to the one great Church of the World.”
In Hatfields & McCoys … Devil Anse Hatfield (Kevin Costner), the head of the legendary clan, is baptized in a river. It looks like a warm, sunny day, and Devil Anse appears to be slipping peacefully into warm waters.
But it was, in fact, a cold early November morning in a stream in the Snagov Forest an hour north of Bucharest, Romania.
“It was pretty cold when they baptized me,” says Costner, for whom this project is the first foray into made-for-TV movies. “It was really cold.”