Most People Don't Know About North Carolina's Own Hatfield And McCoy Dispute
It never gained quite the notoriety of neighboring West Virginia’s Hatfield and McCoy wars, but North Carolina’s own Hatfield and McCoy land dispute left some very deep scars between our state and Georgia for many years in the early 19th century.
Although West Virginia's famous Hatfield and McCoy land battle took place some sixty years after the Walton Wars in North Carolina and Georgia, the two had some striking similarities.
What began as no one wanting a piece of land called the Orphan Strip that came to rest somewhere between the North Carolina / Georgia boundaries, ended in a full-fledged war between the two states for possession of the Orphan Strip.
Following the American Revolution, the Orphan Strip was first governed by South Carolina, but it was ceded in 1787 to the federal government. The government proceeded to give the land to the Cherokee, who gave it back in 1797.
For a while it was no-man's land in the Orphan Strip, until the feds demanded the states cede certain land claims back to the government. This is when the war began. Georgia agreed to cede Alabama and Mississippi in exchange for the Orphan Strip and some other tracts of land. The swap was made official in 1802 with the Act of Cession. But here's the problem: the Act didn't clarify who was to
govern the land. More importantly, it didn't define the state boundary line between North Carolina and Georgia and where the Orphan Tract fell in relation.
Pretty soon, Georgia established Walton County, located right in the middle of the Orphan Tract. The North Carolinians, by this time, believed the Orphan Tract fell within their state boundaries and the battle for territory ensued.
Some historians claim the Walton Wars didn't actually include any real battles. While others claim there were two big battles, including the McGaha Branch battle that took place in North Carolina near the Wilson Bridge area on Greenville Highway (pictured) approximately one mile south of Brevard.
In contrast to the Hatfield and McCoy dispute in West Virginia which reportedly claimed 60 lives over some fifty years, the Walton Wars were settled much quicker.
It turns out many of the residents of Walton County were loyal to North Carolina and refused to pay taxes to Georgia. In December of 1804, things had progressed beyond control and a North Carolina constable named John Havner was killed. The North Carolinians quickly put together a militia and arrested some ten Walton County officials.
Subsequently, the Walton County government collapsed. But it took two more years for the two states to agree on a joint commission to establish the real boundary between the states. In the end, the commission decided the Orphan Strip fell within the boundary of North Carolina.
However, Georgia refused to accept the commission's finding and hired their own surveyor to analyze the border situation.
The independent surveyor concluded the commission's findings were correct and that the Orphan Strip was, indeed, inside the North Carolina border. That surveyor, named Andrew Ellicott, is the person who laid the cornerstone of the boundary which is now called Ellicott's Rock seen in the photo above with a chiseled NC traced in red chalk.
You can find it today on the east side of the Chattooga River on the boundaries of North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina.
There are rumors, of course, that the old Hatfield and McCoy dispute was actually over a pig. Whether you believe it was over a pig or land, it remains one of the bloodiest family disputes in America. We’re glad North Carolina’s own Hatfield and McCoy dispute, called the Walton Wars, was settled relatively quickly before it escalated any further out of control.
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