Speaking of mountain feuds
Patsy Lawson | Jul 3, 2012, 1:58 p.m.
My article this month will take a detour from stories about senior living to focus instead on the History Channel’s recent airing of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud. For the last couple of weeks I have found myself on the program agendas of several assisted living facilities in the Nashville area because I am a descendant of two mountain feuds, the Hatfield-McCoy and the Greene-Jones. Few people have heard about the latter, and everyone seems to know something about the former.
Like many people I watched the three rather long History Channel episodes. The series was filled with violence and, in my viewpoint, did a poor job of telling the story, and it shed little light on the causes leading to the feud. My comments can be seen at http://stories-by-patsy.blogspot.com. However, in this article I have chosen to focus on my great Uncle, Link (Lincoln) Greene, a main player in the Greene-Jones feud.
The Greene-Jones Feud (1880’s) occurred in the mountains of Hancock County in upper East Tennessee. It was a brutal feud killing of 70 people and led to Marshall Law rule in the county for seven years. Uncle Link was one of the main characters in this feud. According to our family stories Uncle Link was ‘odd’ which meant he ‘acted funny’ in many business and social situations. He was considered violent, mean, and quite strange. One story describes him making his own coffin for later use and showing off how well he looked in it when visitors came by.
There were many other ‘Uncle Link’ stories. One involved him asking relatives to chain him up during the full moon so he would not kill anyone. Another involved him dressing like Jesus and having a group of ‘disciples.’ Still another focused on him refusing to talk to some of his children for 20 years. During the 1929 depression Uncle Link was the only person to get his money out of the Sneedville Bank because he got word that banks were failing and immediately arrived at the bank with shotgun in hand and demanded his money. It was handed over. As a child I often was ‘entertained’ with Uncle Link stories during family visits. I was convinced that I was lucky to have never known him.
In 2007 Vanderbilt published the article, “Tumors May Have Fueled Hatfield McCoy Feud” (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/magazines/vanderbilt-magazine) which speculated about the presence of adrenal tumors that can cause erratic behaviors similar to some of the behaviors of the McCoy family members. According to the article this ‘theory’ came from other family members who also had these tumors. While nothing has been confirmed about this theory, it does open the door to consideration and thought. Being a psychology professor who accepts that many mental disorders and behaviors have links to brain and body dysfunctions, I believe there could be merit to this idea. However, during Uncle Link’s time and the time of the Greene-Jones feud the only explanation given for violent people was that they were ‘born mean’ and they acted ‘quare.’ Mama just said, ”People like Uncle Link wuz jest born that way”.
We have come a long way since the Hatfield-McCoy feud and Uncle Link. Today many people understand the link between neurological disorders and chemical imbalances to behavior. We also know a lot about community and social factors which can contribute to violent behavior in people. While we will probably never know all the factors behind those infamous feuds, we now have a better understanding of the possible causes. I only wish that Kevin Costner’s rendering of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud had spent more time with the possible causes of the violence rather than just focusing on the violence. In my opinion the only purpose for showing violence is to help us better understand it and learn how to prevent or stop it.
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