February 18, 1890: Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts Hanged in Kentucky

The Story of a Mountain Feud, Munsey's Magazine Volume 24

On February 18, 1890, Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts was hanged in Pikeville, Kentucky, for his role in the Hatfield-McCoy Feud. It was the only legal execution of the feud.

Mounts was believed to be the illegitimate son of Ellison Hatfield—the brother of Hatfield family patriarch, “Devil”Anse. In 1882, Mounts’ father was killed by three of Randolph McCoy’s sons. The Hatfields retaliated for Ellison’s murder by tying the three McCoy boys to pawpaw bushes and executing them.

It’s believed that Mounts was involved in the worst atrocity of the feud, which occurred on New Year’s Day 1888. That evening, Devil Anse’s uncle Jim Vance led a group of Hatfield men to Randolph McCoy’s cabin, set fire to it, killed two of McCoy’s grown children, and left McCoy’s wife for dead.

Mounts, four of Devil Anse’s sons, and others were indicted for their role in the cabin raid. Ellison Mounts, though, was the only one hanged for his crimes. His execution brought an end to most of the violence, though for many years numerous murders would be attributed to the blood feud between the Hatfields and McCoys.