Coal camp Christmas memories

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight Williamson, Logan County MagistrateChristmastime brings back many memories for me. The smell of a fresh cut pine tree standing in the living room and the crackling of a fire built to keep us warm while sleigh riding off the schoolhouse hill at Verdunville is what comes to mind as I wander back to the days when I was considered a “Porch Sitter.” The “Porch Sitters” were numerous coal camp kids of varying ages who claimed the concrete porch of the No. 16 Island Creek company store as their domain—both in daytime when it was open, and at night when it was not. All the world may be a stage, as Shakespeare once declared, but our world was basically the coal camp community of Mud Fork, and our stage was the company store porch.

It was on that porch that (through daylight hours) “great minds” went to work each day deciding what mischief could be arranged for the evening. During breaks between games, a small coke, a bag of chips and a moon pie usually accompanied the normal “Porch Sitter,” as we re-energized ourselves for another sporting event—be it basketball with a homemade back board and rim near the store; baseball at what we titled “Stickweed Stadium,” or football, usually beside Verdunville Grade School. Yes, it was tackle football, and no, there were no helmets, pads or any other protective gear. Most definitely, it was very competitive, fun and dangerous.

Over the years, the “Porch Sitters” grew up, but not before they concluded some interesting times. In their past was the antics of Halloween such as the blocking of roads with huge fires, running from the State Police afterwards, and throwing balloons filled with water from a small cliff near the road onto the windshields of passing automobiles. The sounds of gunfire often accompanied all of the above, but the adrenalin rush came with the heart pounding in the chest as the hills seemed to envelope the escaping “Porch Sitters” in their dark-of-night getaways. One of the guys still swears to this day that he did not know the elderly woman was in the toilet when he turned it over during that one particular Halloween evening. And I believe him. After all, he did admit to putting fresh dog manure in a paper bag, setting it afire, and then placing it on a neighbor’s porch. After knocking on the family’s door, he would scamper to a hiding place and watch and laugh as a man would open the door and instinctively start stomping the bag.

I believe that wintertime was harsher during those formative years, as the various creeks would freeze over and remain that way for days; as did the Guyandotte River. When it snowed, the roads that pierced through the coal camps were never plowed. As a result, an old car hood would serve as a sleigh after it was connected to the back of a vehicle that usually had chains on the tires. The driver then would travel up and down the snowy roads pulling kids perched on the hood. An occasional accident would add a bloody Christmas color to the snow.

Mail order catalogs were the thing of the day. My mother and others usually relied on Montgomery-Ward, Sears or J.C. Penny catalogs to purchase mostly clothes that would arrive by mail to the tiny post office that stood near the company store. Most other Christmas presents were either purchased at the company store or sometimes in the town of Logan. There simply was no such thing known as a “shopping mall.” The Trailways Bus Lines provided regular bus service to and from the town and to most parts of the county. The bus terminal was located in the area where Wendy’s in Logan now operates.

Snowmen were comprised in most yards and snowball battles were part of the wintry days, but as day turned into night, both boys and girls headed toward a flickering fire seen upon the ice-glazed hill that led to the school that today still serves the community. Hours upon hours were spent riding sleds off the hill and around a sharp curve at the bottom that was difficult to maneuver. Since nobody had a watch, time was never a factor. We came and went as we pleased, always entering our homes with frostbitten feet that were warmed by standing on top of a gas floor furnace that was usually located in the center of the home. The smell of burning rubber from our boots would result from standing on the furnace; a furnace, which over the years had left many scars on small children who playfully would fall onto them while running through the house. The furnaces had been put into nearly all the coal camp houses once gas lines reached the area. Prior to that, each home had a fire place. Outside toilets also were the norm, until water lines were expanded to the region. I’m not sure, but that entire infrastructure likely happened in either the 1940’s or ‘50’s.

Snow filtered sunlight combined with smoke from nearby slate dumps gave an eerie daylight experience to the coal camps. Dust from an Island Creek company mine tipple was a daily experience that in the summertime left women sweeping their porches daily. In the winter, a black faced coal miner could easily be spotted through the spitting snow showers as he walked up the alley from work, his dinner bucket in hand.

Long walks up the railroad tracks at nighttime were routine for the adventurous “Porch Sitters.” Occasionally, a vehicle would stop and the driver, who had made a wrong turn somewhere, would ask for directions to Logan. Our answer was always the same: “You can’t get there from here.” We enjoyed the blank look on the driver’s face when he drove off mumbling to himself.

Most of the time, we had no real destination when we traversed the railroad tracks, oftentimes seeing who could walk on a rail for the longest distance without falling off. There was, however, one spot along the way that we always stopped to rest and to gander at a dimly lighted cinder-block building that stood across the creek from the tracks. Occasionally, when a patron would stagger out of the only entrance to the location and was headed to the toilet out back, the sound of music could be heard from a jukebox inside the smoke filled beer-joint that was simply called “John’s.” The closer it got to Christmas, the more the music seemed to be played each night, and one particular song was repeated time after time—“Blue Christmas.” Sitting on the railroad tracks for long periods of time, we imagined being behind the ominous walls that shielded two billiard tables, a jukebox, a pinball machine, a bar, and an unusual man, named “John.”

There was always a mystery to the place called “John’s.” To the “Porch Sitters,” it was an environment that was forbidden ground. We had heard many stories about the place and sometimes witnessed men fighting on the unpaved parking lot. Yes, we desired that intriguing environment.

Years later, we would cross over the divide and leave the shadows for a dose of reality behind the cinder blocked walls that held many mysteries, including as to why “Blue Christmas” was played so much. But, that is a story best left for another day.

Dreamers that we were, the “Porch Sitters” were content at the time. There might not be a BB gun wrapped neatly under a Christmas tree for any of us. And, it was not likely that anyone would receive a new bicycle. Ah, but the sweet smell of mother’s homemade gingerbread cookies made up for everything after a long evening in the snow.

Besides, we didn’t need a lot. After all, we had our friends and family—as well as our company store porch that even had a telephone booth.

Have a joyful Christmas with your family and friends.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with the author’s permission.

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1927 Man High School Yearbook

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1927 Man High School Yearbook *Images courtesy of Paula Solar.

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Fires change course of Logan’s history

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight Williamson, Logan County MagistrateFires have always taken their tolls on historical sites in Logan County, including two Logan County courthouses. However, two significant fires of interest which some people will remember occurred at very historical sites: the Aracoma Hotel in November of 2010, and the Chafin Building (formerly known as the Guyan Valley Bank) also in November, but in the year of 1962. While most people remember the loss of the Aracoma Hotel, the local younger generation probably is unaware of the significance of the fire in 1962, which burned what was the first bank ever in Logan County. For others, the following account may bring back some pleasant memories prior to the fire: a fire that led in 1965 to the opening of the current banking institution that is Logan Bank and Trust.

The “Old Stone Bank” building, as it was referred to by the locals, took up the entire block on Jefferson Street across from the Logan courthouse. Built from stone that was brought from a rock quarry that existed at Stratton Hollow in Logan, the bank opened for business in 1905 even before the coal fields had begun to relinquish its “black gold” that eventually would make the southern coal fields the richest coal producing area in the world. John Cary Alderson is credited with the bank’s creation after first opening the bank in a one room 18 by 20 wooden structure in 1900 on Stratton Street across from the courthouse.

Alderson’s bank was highly responsible for the development of Logan County and was a two-story building with a basement. Some years later, law offices, a drugstore and a barber shop were also opened there. Unfortunately, the Great Depression caused the bank to fail and it closed in 1931. The Miners and Merchants Bank of Man (organized in 1921), the First National Bank of Logan, which opened in 1906, as well as the Bank of Logan and Trust Company, all went out of business as result of the troubling economic times.

Even though legendary Logan sheriff Don Chafin had lost considerable monies he had invested as a stockholder in the Guyan Valley Bank, (referred to as the Old Stone Bank) he would become owner of the property sometime later and the building was remodeled with several offices and businesses being opened. Chafin had his own office on the second floor where he was once arrested for illegal possession of liquor during a political battle with his nemesis, Tennis and Joe Hatfield, two sons of Devil Anse.

Chafin left the political battlefield of Logan for Huntington where he set up residence and lived the remaining days of his life. The building’s name was changed to the Chafin Building, and Chafin’s heirs owned it when the tragic fire struck A Logan Banner report November 5, 1962 described it this way:

“A disastrous early morning fire stunned residents of Logan today as they watched the heart of the downtown business section go up in flames, causing damages expected to exceed a million dollars. The raging fire, believed to have started in the Patti-Dot factory shoe outlet, engulfed the entire Chafin building, which housed 14 business establishments and offices in addition to the Joan Apartments.

The building, one of the largest in the city, was completely destroyed along with inventory of the various businesses and offices and the furnishings of the apartments. Virtually nothing was saved, according to Fire Chief Fred Thompson.”

Thompson said an investigation was to be launched in an effort to determine the cause of the fire, described as “the worst in the city’s history.” The fire chief said a night dispatcher for a local taxi cab service reported that he heard an explosion in the vicinity of the Patti-Dot Store and rushed to the scene to find the front of the building engulfed in flames. The fire quickly spread and knocked out telephone service throughout the area, according to The Banner report, which said that the only casualties were firemen Drury Peyton and Carlos Marcum. Peyton suffered an arm injury and was admitted to a local hospital; while Marcum sustained injuries when he fell down a flight of steps.

Investigators were said to be probing a report from the night dispatcher at the cab stand, who was said to be checking the oil in his cab at the time of the explosion, when he saw a car speed away from the scene of the fire shortly before the blaze was discovered.

The fire left six families homeless and destroyed nearly all their possessions, according to Chief Thompson, who said that fortunately no one was seriously injured. The business establishments completely destroyed included the Kopy Kat, Shoe Box, Johnson’s Men’s Shop, Thrifty Shop, Guyan Barber Shop, the vacant Western Life Restaurant, Patti-Dot Factory Outlet and Mayday’s. Of these businesses, at least three—Kopy Kat, Thrifty Shop and Mayday’s—later opened at other locations in the town.

Also destroyed were the law offices of attorneys Glenn Dial Ellis and Paul Bottome, the United States Marine Corps and Air Force Recruiting Offices, and the Stylette Beauty Shop. Ellis later opened his office at his home at 535 Main Street between what was the Moose Lodge and the Guyandotte Apartments. Bottome also relocated his offices.

The gutted building, according to assessor’s records, was jointly owned by Don Chafin Real Estate (the Don Chafin heirs) and Mrs. Nettie McCormick and the Thalheimer heirs.

The important building, which had served the town and county so well for 57 years prior to the fire, undoubtedly had been the home of many well kept secrets over the years. It was at this location— when it was the Guyan Valley Bank—that banker Harry Robertson worked alongside the woman who would become his lover, and later be brutally murdered—Mamie Thurman. It was also on the steps of the old bank in 1932 that Clarence Stephenson, convicted killer of the young woman, was seen the night of her disappearance awaiting the mistress to come from the Holland Building on Stratton Street. Stephenson testified at his own trial that he had been instructed by his landlord and boss, Harry Robertson, to wait there to see if Mrs. Thurman came from the building. According to Stephenson, Mamie did not exit the building that evening.

The historical Pioneer and Aracoma Hotels also were mentioned in the murder trial of Stephenson, who was also seen walking on Cole Street between the two hotels the same night of Thurman’s disappearance. Mamie Thurman, in testimony presented during the trial, was said to have last been seen walking on Dingess Street beside of another historical building, which was then the Midelburg Theatre. Today, that structure still stands as a vacant brick dinosaur of the past.

Most of the buildings in Logan, either vacant or with tenants, were build many years ago. And each structure has its own history, but none quiet like the Aracoma Hotel and the Old Guyan Valley Bank building

They were true historical treasures.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with the author’s permission.

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Coal Company Scrip

Scrip – Coal Miners Money

Logan County Coal Corporation scrip, Lundale, WVIn the early days of coal mining, the miner became indebted to the company for everything from food and housing to the tools necessary to perform his job. He could draw scrip as an advance against his wages.

The Company built houses which were rented to their employees and general merchandise stores which sold everything the miner needed. As many of the coal camps were inaccessible except for the railroads, miners and their families had no choice but to use the Company Store and many times the miner had nothing left after paying rent and buying groceries and supplies.

Paper scrip was first used by the Coal Companies. Meta scrip was issued after a determination was made that the paper scrip was not durable. Many companies had an identification punch in the scrip to help the store clerk identify it as their own. Each Company had their own scrip and accepted no other.

Cola Company scrip was also accepted at local schools for lunches, theatres, churches and saloons. Other local merchants would accept the scrip also, but taking a 20% discount.

The best working areas in the mines were often given to the miner drawing the most scrip against his wages.  Refusing to draw scrip as pay for working in the mines, often meant early discharge.

All that remains of most of these coal camps are these token and memories of those who survived it.

*The above text is from a brochure received with a scrip purchased.

*Logan, WV History and Nostalgia is a non-profit website and is not supported by paid ads or donations.


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The Creation of Logan County

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight Williamson, Logan County MagistrateWhen you are talking about the history of Logan County, West Virginia, in reality you may also be speaking of the history of Cabell County and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

So, when one is describing the events prior to 1823, such as the first white settlers in the Guyandotte Valley, or the burning of Princess Aracoma’s village on “the islands,” you are speaking of a time before Logan County was created and many years prior to West Virginia becoming a state. Either way, it is all considered “local” history.

Readers may be surprised to know that Logan County was created in 1823 from Cabell mainly because of the great distances that had to be traveled by citizens who just wanted to vote in various elections. Elections were at the time held at the county courthouses, which meant that residents living in what is now Logan, Mingo and Wyoming counties were forced to travel over 100 miles to Cabell County for the purpose of voting. Long before any real roads existed, this was an awesome task.

When Cabell county was established it was one of the largest counties in the state, extending from the Ohio river on the north to the Flat Top mountains in the south, and from the Big Sandy and Tug rivers on the west. The county also included the right hand fork of the Cole river.

Since all eligible voters of that time period were required to cast a ballot or face sizable taxes levied upon them, long distances were endured by voters to avoid the taxes. Voting was more than a privilege back then and was even considered a sacred duty. To enforce the act of voting, the county sheriff was required to lay before the grand jury a list of the land owners of the county and to provide the county clerk with a list of the poll books, a copy of which was then provided to the grand jury. Persons who did not vote were penalized.

Perhaps this is why in 1820 William Dingess, who was the first “permanent white settler” near what is now the town of Logan, was elected as one of the members of the General Assembly from Cabell county and commenced at once to create a new county. He was re-elected in 1821-22 and in 1823, he had the proud satisfaction of seeing the act creating the new county of Logan passed by the General Assembly.

The first county circuit court was held at the home of Dingess within the present limits of Logan, which was then called the town of Aracoma, May 7th of 1824. The first county court was also held at the Dingess home and was composed of William Toney, William Hinchman, John B. Clark, John Ferrell, James B. Christian, James Shannon, John Cook, Griffin Stollings and Anthony Lawson. William Toney was named sheriff and the first election ever in Logan was conducted at the Dingess residence also in 1824, according to a 1937 account published in The Logan Banner.

Dingess, known as a relentless Indian fighter throughout the Guyandotte Valley, purchased 300 acres, which included the present site of the Logan courthouse and extended across the river to what is today Deskins Addition. He built his home at the courthouse site in 1799.

As new settlers from the Carolinas and Virginia began to pour into the valley, a need for a trading post was beginning to be felt, and Anthony Lawson, with previous experience as a storekeeper at Oceana, set up Logan county’s first store near today’s courthouse site.

Early trade on the Guyandotte between the settlers who were building their homes in the fertile river bottoms and Lawson’s trading post was done by “bartering,” which was simply the process of trading goods without exchanging money.

Not long after Lawson opened his business on the courthouse side of the river sometime between 1820 and 1823, Dr. Zatoo Cushing opened another trading post on the Dingess farm across the Guyandotte from “the islands.” Both merchants found a plentiful market and helped the Islands of the Guyandotte to become a center of trade for miles around.

Furs, pelts and ginseng were generally traded at the stores and taken at least once a year to Philadelphia by Lawson and Cushing, who returned with items such as coffee and other goods that were nearly impossible to obtain in the newly developing Guyandotte area. Cushing shipped his goods down the Guyandotte by canoe, up the Ohio river to Pittsburgh and overland to Philadelphia. Lawson reportedly chose to export and import his goods by way of the mule in preference to water transportation, according to old accounts.

However, Lawson in 1849 would die from cholera on a return trip from Philadelphia near the community of Guyandotte in Cabell county. Lawson’s fenced in burial site is located at a revolutionary war veterans cemetery at Guyandotte. Lawson, 61, reportedly was traveling by river when he became ill.

Though the area’s first store owner never made it back to his little village, his wife never left as she was brutally murdered, according to the inscription on her tombstone, “by two of her own slaves” two years prior to her husband’s death. Ann Lawson’s burial site, including an iron railed fence and tombstone that matches her husband’s, can be viewed at what has become the abandoned cemetery on High Street in Logan that has long been referred to as the “City Cemetery.” In this cemetery can be found the names of many of the town’s former residents, several of whom strived to make a village into a town and then a city.

It is a shame that this local historical site, which is located right on the Hatfield-McCoy trail that cuts through the town, has never been placed on the National Historical Register so funds could be gathered to properly clear and maintain the site. But, come to think of it, that wouldn’t guarantee that grants would be obtained for the good of the property. I mean, after all, the Don Chafin House in Logan and the Hatfield Cemetery at Saran Ann have been on the National Register for years, and they still are an embarrassment to the county, instead of being wonderful tourist attractions.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with the author’s permission.

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Death of the Hatfield brothers

By Dwight Williamson

“It is my land and my corn—why can’t I do with my crop whatever I please?”

Dwight Williamson, Logan County MagistrateFor years— before, during and after Prohibition— mountain people asked that question of its government, virtually to no avail. With the Appalachian mountain region always lending itself admirably to the making of moonshine, and Devil Anse Hatfield, himself, being an expert distiller, it is little wonder that several of his sons got into the liquor business in one way or another. Long before either one of the two Hatfield brothers, Tennis and Joe, became Logan County sheriffs, they were involved in the saloon business before Prohibition went into full effect in 1920.

In 1911, when Joe was 28 years-old and Tennis just 21, they were in Fayette County helping their older brothers Detroit “Troy”, 40, and Elias, 36, run a popular saloon in a coal town named Boomer. Perhaps the younger Hatfield’s were learning the saloon business for future purposes, as Tennis would in time go on to own and operate several saloon/bars, both legal and illegal. According to Enoch Shamblin, bartender for the Hatfield’s in 1911—who in 1952 was interviewed for a story for the Charleston Daily Mail—before West Virginia adopted its prohibition amendment in 1912, barkeepers were hard to find because it was a dangerous occupation. Shamblin said he was paid $100 per month and that it was nothing for the bar to take in $3000 on coal miners’ pay day. “Business through the week never fell below $300 a day either,” Shamblin added.

Joe and Tennis’ experience in Fayette County was short lived though, as both their older brothers were killed in an alcohol boundary dispute just three miles outside of Montgomery following an encounter with an Italian named Octavio Jerome.

The well-documented killings have been chronicled in various newspapers of that time. According to the Montgomery News, Octavio Jerome worked for the Cannelton Saloon that was located just a few miles from the Hatfield’s establishment. Agreements were previously made by the saloon owners not to encroach upon the other’s territory in the sale of beer and liquors, much of which was delivered to homes where orders had been placed. The Italian employee reportedly had violated the agreement several times and was previously “thrashed” by the Hatfield’s, who felt they had given him a fair warning.

When Jerome continued to solicit orders at will from wherever he pleased, the Hatfield’s went to a home where the Italian was located, and when told of his whereabouts in a back room, Elias walked to that door where he was immediately shot three times by the Italian. Troy stepped over his brother’s body and was hit by three more shots from Jerome, who then ran out the back door. Known as “one of best marksmen in the country,” Troy, despite being shot in the arm, took careful aim and brought the heavy Italian down with the first shot hitting the man in the back of the head—the bullet coming out through the left eye causing instant death. Hatfield, leaning against the house, put three more bullets into his adversary before slumping to the ground.

Elias reportedly died quickly, while Troy lived long enough to speak to his brother, Joe, then a resident of Boomer. Ironically, Elias had been a barkeeper 13 years earlier in 1898 at a Pike County, Kentucky location known as “Skinners.” It was across the Tug River from there that Elias shot and killed a prominent Gilbert man, Humphrey “Doc” Ellis, who he blamed for an earlier arrest of his brother, Johnse, who was then jailed in Pikeville. Following an exchange of words on Independence Day of 1898 at a train stop 20 miles outside of Williamson, when the popular Ellis was on his way to be the special guest speaker for the July 4th event, Elias Hatfield shot and killed Ellis. Elias escaped back across the river to Kentucky, and he later would be found not guilty of murder on the grounds of self-defense.

Two floral covered caskets were placed on a train and taken to Huntington and from there by train to Main Island Creek near their home place where the brothers were later buried in the same grave at the Hatfield Cemetery. Devil Anse, then 71, and Levisa, 60, mourned the first deaths of their immediate family; two of 13 children born to the famous family. Ten years later, Devil Anse would be laid to rest near his two sons. His wife would join him there eight years later.

The obituary for Elias and Troy gave the addresses of their brothers, Johnson and Robert, as being Wharncliffe, while Joe’s address was Boomer. Tennis and Willis both at the time lived at Herbertown, a small community also in Fayette County. All of the sisters, Mrs. Nancy Vance, Mrs. Mary Howes, Mrs. Bettie Caldwell and Mrs. Rosie Browning lived on Main Island Creek.

The deaths of their sons probably accounted for the reason the elderly Hatfield’s chose to deed 200 acres each to Joe, Tennis and Willis December 12 of 1912. Perhaps they wanted their sons closer to home in the couple’s aging days. From the legal descriptions of the deeds, Tennyson (Tennis), the youngest son, received the home place, while Joe received the property surrounding and including the Hatfield Cemetery. Willis’s 200 acres was nearby.

When Don Chafin became sheriff in 1912 and later again in 1920, many of the Hatfield family became employed by the mighty sheriff. After Tennis Hatfield’s testimony against him, and prior to Chafin’s incarceration in 1925, in the general election of 1924, when Tennis sought the office of sheriff and while Chafin was looking at prison time, Chafin fought hard against the republican’s election; so much so, that it was his illegal actions on Election Day that wound up making Tennis the sheriff. Though Chafin’s help saw Emmett Scaggs narrowly defeated Hatfield, a West Virginia Supreme Court decision 16 months after the election gave the sheriff’s office to Hatfield, after Mud Fork and Striker precincts were thrown out because of irregularities, mostly attributed to Don Chafin.

The legal works of his appeal, according to Hatfield, cost him $60,000, and back then the office of sheriff was limited to just one four-year term. After his brother, Joe, followed him as sheriff in 1928, Tennis sought the office of sheriff again in 1932, but was defeated. He again appealed the results declaring election fraud. However, this time he lost the appeal. The events leading up to his defeat will be explained at a later date.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with the author’s permission.

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Halloween escapades of the “Porch Sitters”

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight WilliamsonWith Halloween just around the corner, I am reminded of times past when danger lurked on nearly every roadway in Logan County during this time of year. Thank goodness, everybody now seems to have their cell phones and other gadgets to keep themselves occupied, and perhaps that helps to keep people out of trouble during these cool autumn nights. Long before cell phones and computers came into existence, though, there were those who took advantage of the Halloween spirit in some not so flattering ways.

Take for instance, the guys more commonly known as the “Porch Sitters”. In nearly every hollow in Logan County—and the Lord knows we’ve got plenty of them—there were those usually young men and some women who, just like the “Porch Sitters, found ways to become downright—well, let’s just say, precarious. Now, I can’t begin to tell you when it all started, but I suspect it was sometime after the horse and buggy days, and when most of the county’s citizens could afford automobiles. While I am most certainly not endorsing the following stories for future generations to partake in, I must admit that those days, or should I say nights, were certainly exciting, yet dangerous—and illegal.

Usually, it started about a week before Halloween when the true ghosts and goblins, whose poor souls usually just enjoyed the bathing moonlight that reflected off the No. 16 company store showroom windows, suddenly became villainous. Maybe it was out of boredom; or perhaps it was for the thrills and laughs, but suddenly, the “Porch Sitters” and others became the diabolical “Verdunville Villains”. The ring leader, as I recall during my porch sitting days, was Teddy Hale. He masterminded many of our dastardly deeds, and he especially loved blocking the road that served as the only way in and out of Mud Fork. He always seemed to come up with a bunch of old automobile tires that we neatly stacked across the road several feet high. Along with brush and other burning materials, the fire was ignited by gasoline, and the skies suddenly were filled with dark smoke and ashes.

Most people knew better than to travel late evenings during this time of year, but I guess there were those who simply had to do so. Anyway, the police would soon be on the scene with their spotlights ever searching the nearby hills for the outlaws who had committed the crime. Occasionally, the state troopers would spot one of us and the chase would be on. With adrenaline pumping and knowing every nook and cranny of all the hills, creeks, and ditch lines in the area, no one ever got caught, but there were some close calls. Some of the braver, or perhaps I should say “more stupid” individuals, would yell at the police from the hillsides, trying to entice them into a chase. Frankly, it’s a wonder that somebody didn’t get shot. I do know there were a few times when shots rang out.

Sometimes filling balloons with water and then tossing them from a cliff onto the windshield of an oncoming vehicle would make for an interesting night. Most drivers did not find our antics amusing and oftentimes there were some choice words expressed as we slithered through the underbrush to prepare for another victim.

One of the more fun things to do was to take an old purse, or even sometimes a man’s wallet, and set one of them in the middle of the road. Attached to the purse or wallet would be a fishing line or string that could be jerked about the same time the person bent over to retrieve what they hoped would turn out to contain money. The driver, who usually had parked his or her vehicle off the roadway, was not a very happy person at that point; especially with all the heckling they received from out of the darkness. Again, choice words were conveyed by the poor “suckers” who most definitely were angrily embarrassed. Like always, nobody ever got caught.

There was the old rolling of the hub cap trick and then there was egg throwing which would lead to paint peeling from a vehicle if not cleaned off quickly enough. But one prank that even I did not appreciate was one in which I’ve never known who perpetrated. A fishing line would be tied across an alley from fence to fence and about six inches from the ground. I don’t know who enjoyed watching excited youngsters tripping and spilling their bags of candy, but let me assure you that I was not one of them.

Of course, most of these pranks were dangerous, not only to the pranksters and the trick-or-treaters, but also to the drivers. Accidents could have been caused and people could have been injured. One incident I recall was when the Porch Sitters got word of a monstrous fire located up the road at what we simply called “the head of the creek.” Word was that grown men and women with chain saws had cut large tree across the road and set them afire. I do not recall how we all got up the road that dark evening, but I sure do remember the trip back.

We arrived on the scene only to see headlights and shadowy adult figures on the other side of the blazing fire. We were about 25 yards away from reaching the road block when a man’s voice bellowed out something about his mother and getting her to a hospital. Seconds later, the booming sounds of gunfire of different calibers followed by angry words rang out loudly. There were about 10 of the Porch Sitters who scattered in different directions. I later found out four or five of these guys got hit by buckshot.

On my own turf, I would not have been too worried. However, I did not know the woods very well on upper Mud Fork. So, I chose to lie back even though I was faster than most of the fellows. In the pitch dark of the hills, running through briar thickets with gunshots in the background, a fellow who shared my name (Dwight) Baisden yelled out, “I know these hills; follow me.” In what seemed like only seconds later, I heard a terrible scream. “Ikie”, as most people called him, had run into a barbed wire fence neck-high and was not only bleeding, but also had choked himself. He survived, and years later went to work for the Federal government somewhere out west. He now is deceased. As for myself, I survived the night by staying in the hills and off the main road for the two-miles or more until I reached the confines of the company store porch where I rested. Wearily, I shortly later crossed the railroad tracks and headed for bed just hoping the rest of the guys got home safely, which they did; bruised, battered, and some still with buck shot in their hides, but OK.

Looking back, I realize the roads were in bad shape enough without us setting fire to them. I also realize that people could have been hurt, and that the inability of an ambulance or other emergency vehicle getting through should have been foremost on our minds. Understand, however, that most of us were kids, basically good kids. Unlike today, you never had to worry about any of us breaking into your home or stealing anything. In fact, back then most people did not even lock their front doors at nighttime.

For the most part, the Porch Sitters were a great bunch of guys; that is until the one stretch of the year when they became the Villains. Many of the Porch Sitters have either died, or at least settled down—or have we?

Drive carefully.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with the author’s permission.

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The end the Hatfield political dominance

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight Williamson, Logan County MagistrateThe years from 1920 through 1932 should be of great historical significance to Logan Countians and the names of Chafin and Hatfield figure prominently during this time period when political control of the county meant everything to its leaders.

The Prohibition era, which lasted from 1920 until 1933, caused more problems than it solved and created a situation in which Logan County’s inhabitants were looked upon by outsiders as lawless and murderous. For many outsiders, it appeared that the mountain people of Logan County feared neither God nor the Federal government, as Prohibition agents trying to foil the efforts of moonshiners were being shot and killed on a regular basis.

King coal had grown from the early 1900’s as coal camp communities sprang up in nearly every hollow of the county. Coal companies not only owned the communities, but just about everyone else, including police, school teachers, politicians and even the local pastors, who were also on the company’s payroll. Coal miners, many of whom had come into these hills seeking a better life for their families, hailed from Italy, Hungary, Poland, Russia and other European countries. African-Americans, more commonly called Negroes at that time, came from mostly the Carolinas and Alabama to work in the mines. Few native born Logan Countians actually worked in the coal mines until the 1930’s; the exception being some very young boys used in the early mining days.

Don Chafin and his hundreds of deputies were on the payroll of the Logan County Coal Operators Association. Chafin was paid to keep the miners from organizing in a union, so it was only natural that he, along with his army of 2,000 men, chose to fight the approaching miners in the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921. His efforts made him a hero in the eyes of Logan business people, who thought their little city might have been destroyed by the marching miners.

At the time, a sheriff could not serve consecutive terms in office. Chafin, however, had accumulated great wealth and owned much of Logan County, particularly within the city limits of Logan. A short stint in an Atlanta prison because of testimony by his former saloon business ally, Tennis Chafin, caused him much embarrassment. However, before Chafin’s appeals were denied and no pardon received from President Calvin Coolidge, and before leaving for prison in October of 1925, he fought desperately against the election of Tennis Hatfield for sheriff in the November election of 1924. And, even though all other offices were won handily by Republicans, Chafin’s candidate, Emmett Scaggs, narrowly won over Hatfield.

Hatfield contested the election, and 16 months later, the State Supreme Court heard testimony about Chafin and some of his men’s threats and intimidations at certain precincts on Election Day. The court threw out Mud Fork and Striker precincts for election violations, thus awarding Hatfield the job. According to Hatfield, the appeals process cost him $60,000. The sheriff’s salary at the time was about $3,500 annually. However, Hatfield was counting on the coal operators’ contributions and his control of certain gambling establishments and illegal liquor sales as future income.

Though his term was abbreviated, Tennis arranged for his brother, Joe, to win the job for the next four years, while he prepared to follow him in 1932. What neither he nor his brother counted on was the sudden emergence of Howard B. Lee into the county. Lee, who was the state’s Attorney General, had been ordered into the county to prosecute the case of Enoch Scaggs, who had killed Logan Police Chief Roy Knotts in December of 1930. Logan Judge Naaman Jackson had met with the Governor and Lee in regards to the case; Jackson pleading for help for a county he saw as lawless. Judge Jackson did not feel that justice could be served because of Logan deputies intimidating jurors and witnesses in the case—as they had in many others. Governor William Conley sent 16 state policemen to Logan to protect a special jury bused in from Monroe County. At the time, there were only a few state troopers located in the various state counties.

In the trial of Enoch Scaggs, it became apparent that Scaggs, who owned slot machines in the county and had been a deputy with a nasty reputation, murdered Chief Knotts because Knotts had agreed to “clean up” the city by ridding it of gambling machines, most of which were owned by Tennis Hatfield, while his brother was sheriff. As the “hit-man,” Scaggs had been convinced that the jury would be rigged and that he would be found not guilty. However, no one had counted on a special prosecutor, or jury. Scaggs was found guilty of 2nd degree murder and was sentenced by Judge Jackson to the maximum of 18 years in prison.

By this time, Lee, who had spent considerable time in Logan preparing for the trial, had identified many problems of the county; one being that nearly everyone was allowed to carry a weapon, particularly felons and ex-convicts. Describing Logan as a “Gunman’s Paradise,” Lee sought for and received from the legislature a bill that restricted the carrying of deadly weapons by anyone but dully authorized police officers.

As it turned out, the Depression year of 1932 would stand out as one of the most important years ever in the history of Logan County, for different reasons. Not only would Tennis Hatfield lose in his efforts to regain the sheriff’s office, but it would end the Hatfield political dominance as even former Governor and then Sen. Henry Hatfield was defeated. In addition, a new era was ushered in with the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the election of every Democratic candidate in Logan County. Also of relevance in 1932 was the gruesome murder of Mamie Thurman, the wife of Logan Police Chief Jack Thurman. The following is the surprising connection of Mamie Thurman to the political times of the sons of Devil “Anse” Hatfield.

Prior to the murder of Police Chief Roy Knotts, the President of the Logan City Commission was local banker Harry Robertson. At the time, there was no Mayor or City Council. Instead, a City Manager and the Commission formed the city’s government. In 1931, the Commission was deadlocked as to whether or not to keep the City Manager, W.M. Healy. The Logan Banner reported that Robertson would not break the deadlock to keep Healy unless he agreed to fire patrolman O.E. Jenkins, and hire Jack Thurman. The Banner described Jenkins as a very good policeman who was being “sacrificed at the altar for Thurman’s man.” “President Robertson has fought, bled and torn his pants for Thurman,” wrote one disgruntled reporter.

In reporting that Thurman was chosen over Jenkins, the newspaper account relayed that it was done so “although nobody can point to a single partisan or discredible act on the part of Jenkins during his term of service.” The newspaper further reported that Thurman sent word to The Banner that it had published enough scandal against him in regard to the job. The story said, “It was an important message because it may reveal that there is one more officer in the land that feels he has been called on from “On High” to regulate the press.” Fact is, Harry was seeing Thurman’s wife, who had worked with him at the old Guyan Valley Bank, and Thurman’s hiring would guarantee the rent on the apartment the couple rented from Robertson.

It should be noted that before Clarence Stephenson’s murder case appeal was turned down by the State Supreme Court in 1933, following his conviction of killing Mamie in 1932, her husband (Jack) and Harry Robertson—Mamie’s admitted lover and landlord—would neither hold their city positions because a new form of mayoral and council government was put into place with Thurman and Robertson let go.

Between 1924 and 1932 the Hatfield’s and former sheriff Don Chafin only agreed on two things: (1.) coal miners did not need a union and (2.) state policemen were not needed or wanted in Logan County. There was much that went on between the opposing factions. After one deputy, Amos Sullivan, was shot and another, Henry Napier, arrested for trying to destroy the Coal Valley News in Boone County, which published the Guyan Valley News that had been critical of the Hatfield’s—accusing them of running a slot machine racket in Logan County—Sullivan wound up telling a grand jury that Tennis Hatfield paid him $500 to destroy the newspaper plant, which just happened to be owned by Don Chafin. Prior to turning himself into the authorities, Sullivan had been arrested in Kentucky for the charge and a Logan deputy and assistant prosecuting attorney Ira Hager illegally brought him to Logan where he supposedly escaped. The Logan Bar Association then unsuccessfully tried to impeach Hager.

During this time Chafin was also under fire, accused of going to Charleston to use his influence in trying to rid West Virginia of state troopers, several of whom were in trouble for being bought off by the Hatfield clan in their efforts to maintain gambling machines and illegal liquor in the area. During a probe of the state police department initiated by Chafin in 1931, Boone county Senator M.T. Miller told the investigative committee that Chafin “was the man who had inaugurated the “thug system” in Logan County and that “now he comes here to this legislature and wants to get rid of the state police.” Chafin would later be arrested at his office for possession of liquor as it was widely suspected that Chafin was behind the investigation of state policemen who were paid by the Hatfield’s.

In a Senate investigation in Charleston, there was testimony by a former deputy, Mack Lilly, of a party at the home of Tennis Hatfield in which several state policemen, Ira Hager and others were drunk on the very night Joe Hatfield’s deputies arrested Don Chafin for possessing liquor in downtown Logan.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Howard Lee was applying the pressure to Sheriff Joe Hatfield. Lee and Governor Conley told Hatfield that he would be impeached and indicted for various illegal activities if he did not follow rules set forth by Lee. Hatfield discharged 14 deputies who had been paid by the coal companies and agreed to re-hire others that were improperly dismissed. The Charleston Gazette reported that Lee had made Logan “a safe place to live in.” “Lee has quietly been applying pressure to wipe out the conditions he encountered here when engaged in the prosecution of Enoch Scaggs,” the Gazette reported.

Another Gazette story said that Lee reported that “conditions in the famous subdivision of the state are greatly improved.” Slot machines, according to Lee, had been shipped out of state or destroyed. Gambling parlors had been closed and “speakeasies” had shut their doors. Lee would sometime later say that Joe Hatfield turned out “to be a very good sheriff.”

Tennis, along with his sidekick, Ira Hager, entered the political realm of 1932 by easily winning their primary nominations in May. C.C. Chambers, who four years later would defeat Judge Naaman Jackson for Circuit Judge, and then serve 32 years as Logan’s only judge, lost in his Democratic Primary bid for State Senate; it would be the only election he would ever lose. Elba Hatfield, the son of Cap Hatfield, who had died a few years earlier, also would lose in his re-election bid for Justice of the Peace. Hatfield, however, would file a libel suit for $100,000 against Chafin’s Guyan Valley News for reporting that Hatfield was involved in the 1921 raid of a Sharples coal camp during the Battle of Blair Mountain. Hatfield declared that he had never even crossed Blair Mountain in his life. Ira P. Hager also lost in his bid for the Senate.

Meanwhile, the wily Don Chafin was making the headlines again state wide. At a huge Republican rally in Huntington during the ’32 election, Walter Hallanan told the crowd that if Democrat H.G. Kump was elected governor “Don Chafin would be running things in West Virginia.” He declared that the former sheriff “is not now running things in Logan County and will not be permitted to run things in West Virginia.” The national Republican committeeman called Chafin a “discredited Logan County citizen” and said he would take on Chafin’s bet of up to $25,000 that Kump would be elected Governor. It would be a bet that the committeeman would soon regret.

“This same Logan County gentleman, Don Chafin, is indefensibly lined with the terrorism which prevailed in that county in the 1920’s when laboring men were denied their constitutional rights and everything was resorted to from assassinations to skullduggery,” Hallanan declared.

1932 was not a good year for the Hatfield’s, of which there were four Hatfield sheriffs then serving in southern West Virginia, and numerous Hatfield or family related deputies throughout southern West Virginia and even in Gallipolis, Ohio. All the Hatfield’s, including Sen Henry Hatfield, were defeated in the Democratic landslide that saw every county in West Virginia go Democratic. Ironically, Howard B. Lee, a Republican, who had brought normalcy to Logan, also was defeated. Lee, the author of several books, including “Bloodletting in Appalachia,” is noted for his efforts to eliminate government corruption. He died at the age of 105 at a Florida nursing home in 1985.

Though Elba and Tennis Hatfield wanted to challenge the 1932 election outcome, neither candidate had the finances to take their cases forward—particularly after a Democratic controlled County Court ruled against them in their charges of numerous irregularities in nine precincts, including Mud Fork and Striker, the two precincts that originally got thrown out when Hatfield was elected the first time in 1924.

A bitter divorce from his wife Sadie, who had brought forth nine children to Tennis, saw the determined mother take her divorce case all the way to the Supreme Court, after which she declared that she had forged Don Chafin’s name to several documents which helped send him to prison. Sadie said that Tennis and Joe Hatfield had forced her to forge Chafin’s name to the documents.

Gone was Tennis’ famous father, Devil Anse, his mother, Levisa, his two murdered brothers, Troy and Elias, older brother Cap, his wife and children, and now—with no political power—Tennyson Samuel Hatfield may have become desperate. According to his grandson, the late Stephen Hatfield, Tennis Hatfield burned down the old Hatfield home place in early January of 1933, just about four months after 10,000 people showed up there for a Hatfield reunion. “Daddy always said grandpa burned the house down because he owed so much money. Liquor and women was his downfall, is what daddy always said,” Stephen told this writer about a year before he died. Stephen’s father was Tennis’s son, Jack Hatfield, one of the few in the Hatfield clan that remained on Main Island Creek until his death.

The January 13, 1933 edition of The Logan Banner reported that “Tennis Hatfield late Tuesday evening saw the last of what was once the large and beautiful Hatfield homestead crumble in ashes. Fire of unknown origin, but thought to have started near the old mud chimney in the center of the house, completely destroyed the building, and its costly furnishings, besides a rare collection of priceless relics of the Hatfield family,” the writer reported. Tennis was the only Hatfield child born at the Island Creek home place, which was built by his father and older brother, Cap, in the year of 1890.

The newspaper declared the loss at $15,000, of which Tennis said $1,400 was the value of a radio set that was inside the structure. Hatfield said the home was insured for $10,000. It was said that a “splendid” view of the home place could be seen from the Hatfield Cemetery that overlooked the valley. It is there that Tennis and his brother, Joe, are buried close to their parents. Tennis, whose life resembled that of a “shooting star” that burned brilliantly, but quickly, died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 63 on August 12, 1953. At the time of his death, he was living in Logan with his sister, Rose Browning.

In a 1942 interview, Tennis was the proprietor of a beer joint called “The Silver Moon.” Located just a few yards from where the family home once stood, it was written that Tennis felt at ease with a beer in one hand a nickel for the jukebox in the other. “There’s no harm in selling beer,” said Tennis. “What’s more, there’s no harm in drinking it either, in reason.”

Joe Hatfield died in 1963 at the age of 83. His faithful wife, Grace, is buried alongside him at the family cemetery. None of their immediate family lives in Logan County. The Logan Republican Executive Committee in 1933 ousted Joe as Chairman of the GOP when he refused to resign voluntarily. It is said that Joe never delved in politics again.

Chester “Cush” Chambers, the most renowned judge ever in Logan County, and who is a story unto himself, bought two grave plots at Logan Memorial Park at McConnell, where he possibly could have been buried near Mamie Thurman, but sold the plots when the cemetery was abandoned. He died September 30, 1973 at the age of 82 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Pecks Mill.

C.C. Chambers, and Don Chafin, like the many Hatfield’s, who left their mark of political strife on Logan County, played influential and key roles in the history of the county, for both good and bad purposes.

Don Chafin, no doubt satisfied with the election results of 1932, moved to Huntington where he made his home following the Democratic landslide. He sold much of his property in Logan and visited often. His home on Main Street still stands today— just a minute’s walk from where the garage apartment of Jack and Mamie Thurman once stood.

The colorful Chafin, once declared the “King” of Logan County, died August 9, 1954 in Huntington at the age of 67 as one of the wealthiest men in West Virginia.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with the author’s permission and our special thanks.

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A stringent look into the history of Logan County

By Dwight Williamson

Dwight Williamson, Logan County MagistrateA stringent look into the history of Logan County will reveal that from 1924 until 1932 two of Devil Anse Hatfield’s sons pretty much ruled the county, but it should be pointed out that the “dynamic duo” really was just following up on the practices of their predecessor, Sheriff Don Chafin, who previously had been declared as “King” of Logan County.

Although most people know of Chafin’s defiant stand against the marching coal miners at Blair Mountain, it should be realized as to how one man could ascertain so much power. The Chafin name had been prominent in Logan County long before Don Chafin became the youngest person ever to serve as Logan County Assessor in 1908 at the age of twenty-one. His father was elected sheriff of the county in 1894 when Don was just seven years old. For all of Don’s life, Chafin family members or their business cronies had occupied most important public positions in Logan county. Accordingly, Don Chafin would wind up spending most of his adult life serving in public office and, —along with some wise investments—he became filthy rich before moving from Logan County in 1934.

In 1912, when the coal industry was beginning to boom and unionization was spreading in many parts of the nation, Don Chafin ran for sheriff of Logan County promising to rid the county of the hated Baldwin-Felts mine guards who were hired by coal companies to make certain no unions could be formed in the Logan coal fields and to evict families from coal camp homes. Chafin was elected, and kept his promise, but then set into motion a plan whereby the coal companies paid Chafin for special deputies, whose job it was to do exactly what the Baldwin-Felts thugs had done— keep the miners from organizing or joining a union.

His brother-in-law, Frank Hurst, became sheriff after that, while Chafin was elected County Clerk and served four years. In 1920 Chafin was elected again as sheriff and the Blair Mountain Battle followed. All the while, Chafin was collecting from a half cent to a penny for each ton of coal produced in the county. Deputies were paid from this fund and Chafin pocketed his part. By 1921, Chafin told a senate investigating committee that his net worth was about $350,000.

Over the years, Chafin, and especially the Hatfield’s, had been able to make money by gaining protection for their illegal liquor operations during the Prohibition era, while hundreds of other illegal competitors were being arrested almost on a daily basis. Devil Anse Hatfield and his family had always been a political force even before the killing of his brother, Ellison, on that fateful Election Day at Blackberry Creek, Kentucky in 1882. Devil Anse’s wife, Levisa, was, in fact, a Chafin, so the Hatfield’s and Don Chafin were part of the same family. These mutual ties, and the fact that both men favored alcohol, led to Tennis, Devil Anse’s youngest son, and Don becoming business partners in what was known as the “Blue Goose” Dance Hall at Barnabus near Omar.

When Tennis Hatfield was convicted and sentenced for prohibition violations regarding the Blue Goose, he probably was expecting Chafin to use his political influences to keep him from confinement. When that didn’t’ happen, Hatfield decided to testify against Chafin in Federal Court and Chafin was tried and in 1925 was sentenced to an Atlanta prison for two years. Granted a pardon by the Georgia Governor after just 10 months, Chafin returned to find that his former deputy, Tennis Hatfield, and his brother, Joe, had taken over the political reins of running Logan County and that set the stage for a local Democrat-Republican power battle.

Described by The Logan Banner as “an object of concern to tourists,” The Blue Goose saloon mysteriously burned in January of 1929. Two Logan deputies loyal to the Hatfield’s, George and John Hooker, occupied the residential portion of the former saloon. The newspaper account said it was unknown whether there was insurance carried on the structure.

Murders, maiming’s and alcohol related crimes had been happening for many years in Logan County to the point where the jail was filled to the brim, and the county, in the midst of the Great Depression, was struggling to pay its bills. Suicides were almost as common in the county as was a coal mine injury or fatality. Sexual diseases also were rampant as prostitution was widespread, particularly among the various hotel ownerships surrounding the town of Logan. In addition, gambling was considered almost common place.

Naaman Jackson, who was named President of the First National Bank of Logan after the Guyan Valley Bank failed, was also Circuit Judge in December of 1930 when Enoch Scaggs walked into the Smokehouse restaurant in Logan and fired five bullets into the body of newly named Logan Police Chief Roy Knotts, who was said to be unarmed. Knotts accepted the position following the resignation of Logan Police Chief Lon Browning after city officials announced they wanted the city “cleaned up” in regard to illegal slot machines, liquor and prostitution. Browning resigned saying, “Gentlemen, I am not yet ready to die.”

Judge Jackson decided he had to take action and in January of 1931 requested a meeting with Governor William G. Conley and Attorney General Howard B. Lee at the governor’s office. Jackson told the men that Logan had been troubled with lawlessness since 1913 and that “most of it had been traceable to the sheriff’s office.” Jackson said a fair trial in the Scaggs murder case would be impossible because deputies would lie and intimidate potential witnesses just as he had suspected to have happened in many other cases.

Governor Conley agreed to send Attorney General Lee to Logan to prosecute the murder case and ordered at least 16 state troopers to come with him to protect a special jury impaneled from Monroe County. While Lee was in Logan preparing for the trial, he became appalled at the lawlessness he saw going on in Logan, especially the number of murders and other crimes that were being committed because nearly everyone carried a firearm, including convicted felons. Lee focused on a conviction for Scaggs, but set his long range sites on the then Sheriff Joe Hatfield and his 150 special deputies that were paid for by the coal companies.

With over 200 slot machines known to be in the county, and at least 75 of them in the crowded town of Logan, Sheriff Joe Hatfield, along with his brother, Tennis, was known to own them all. However, with more and more state police being brought into the county, it took payoffs by the Hatfield’s to secure their illegal earnings. It was brought out during a special investigation of the state police that a planned raid on the Devil Anse Hatfield property, which is where Tennis lived, had been intended, but Hatfield was warned ahead of time. In just a few years, the old Hatfield home place, just like the Blue Goose saloon, would burn to the ground while Tennis was the tenant. Today, the site near the Hatfield Cemetery remains vacant, although there are rumors of the home place being reconstructed.

In February of 1931, the prosecution dismissed charges against Don Chafin, whose offices in the Guyan Valley Bank building were previously raided by sheriff’s deputies and Chafin charged with being in possession of a gallon of liquor. The same night, the Democratic headquarters in Logan also was raided. Chafin had purchased the Guyan and Valley Drug Stores in 1923 and The Logan Banner at the time described the Guyan store as “the largest single drug company in the state.”

All of this action was taking place while Attorney General Lee was staying at the Pioneer Hotel in Logan preparing for trial, and it only served as fuel to ignite the determination of Lee to “right” the many wrongs of the ruthless county leaders.

During the Scaggs murder trial, surprising testimony came from former Logan Chief Deputy, Mack Lilly, who said that former sheriff Tennis Hatfield and local businessman Dallas Morrison owned the slot machines in the county. Lilly further testified that Hatfield tried to squeeze Morrison out of the business, as well as Scaggs, who supposedly owned machines in Logan. Several local store owners testified that they had slot machines that were owned by Scaggs.

Lilly said that he had been fired as a deputy because he opposed the illegal slot machines. Lilly added that Tennis Hatfield told him one day, “I’m the big boss in this county and I’m going to run slot machines.”

The newspaper account described many witnesses taking the stand, several saying that Scaggs shot in self-defense, but the damning evidence came from Dr. S.B. Lawson, who said Knotts’ last words at the hospital were that he was standing at the magazine rack when Scaggs came up to him and said, “Haven’t we been friends”? —and began shooting.

State police officer Tom Barton testified that Knotts told him, “Tom, I’m done for. Don’t know why Scaggs shot, but I didn’t have a chance. Several of his gang were there and in on the plot.”

Defense witnesses who testified for Scaggs admitted under cross examination that they had spent time in prison for bootlegging liquor for both Tennis and Joe Hatfield. Coleman Hatfield, police judge for Logan, told of how fines were imposed and collected from slot machine operators. He said he was unaware of Scaggs owning any machines, only Tennis.

With the assistance of Wyoming County Judge R.D. Bailey, for whom the present day dam at Justice is named, Lee got a guilty verdict from the jury. Judge Jackson sentenced Scaggs to the maximum of 18 years prison. It was a verdict that would never had happened had it not been for the special prosecutor.

With this high profile case out of the way and justice served, Lee would soon see to it that the Hatfield’s, as well as Don Chafin, were stripped of their “absolute power.”

Today, some 85 years later, plans are in the making to finally honor Roy Knotts, who was killed in the line of duty. Knotts, also a former state trooper, will in May have his name graced upon the wall of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Logan Police Chief E.K. Harper, a former state policeman, himself, has submitted the proper paperwork that will allow Knotts to be named to the group of over 20,000 officers in the U.S. who have died in the line of duty dating back to the first known death of a policeman in 1791.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

*Published with the author’s permission and our special thanks.

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