African-Americans, Appalachia, coal, Con Chafin, crime, Democratic Party, deputy sheriff, Don Chafin, E.T. England, guitar, Guyandotte River, Herald-Dispatch, history, Huntington, Ira P. Hager, John B. Wilkinson, Ku Klux Klan, lawyers, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, mine guards, O.J. Deegan, politics, prosecuting attorney, Republican Party, sheriff, timbering, W.C. Lawrence Jr., West Virginia
From the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, WV, comes this story printed by the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, dated October 30, 1914:
Republican Voters Driven from Co. by Gunmen
Deputy Sheriffs, Acting as Mine Guards, Are the Law and Enforcement Thereof.
Many Believe Martial Law Will be Sequel to Rule of Thugs.
Democratic schemes for the intimidation of Republican voters, for the prevention of a Republican victory in the state next Tuesday, whether by fair means or foul, have reached their climax in Logan county. If there is a place in West Virginia where lawlessness has succeeded law and order, where the persons chosen to enforce the law have initiated a system of rule by force and intimidation, a rule by force of clubs and pistols, a rule by thugs and gunmen, that place is Logan county.
A thorough investigation of conditions in Logan county today proves that the Ku Klux Klan in the south were mere pikers. There are men in Logan county who could beat them blindfolded.
The man, woman or child who would enjoy life–aye, who are willing to accept life or pass through Logan county, must be careful not to cross the paths of Sheriff Don Chafin and his force of about two hundred armed deputies.
And it can be truthfully said that the paths of these men extend to every nook and corner of the county. And several newly-made graves along the banks of the Guyandotte river and its tributaries shows who is the law and the enforcement thereof.
Several men have been shot, two negroes fatally, others have been clubbed and driven out of the county, women and children have been forced to flee clad only in their night-clothes, upon order of the Chafin deputies.
And all this because some Republicans desired to be registered in order that they might cast their votes for the Republican candidates next Tuesday.
Logan county is about to throw off the yoke of Democracy. The coal and lumber industries are rapidly being developed, and, as is always the case in progressive communities, the Republicans are making large gains.
If the voters of Logan county are allowed to cast their ballots as they desire, and those ballots are counted as cast, the Republican candidates will be elected.
If the conspiracy which has been formed by and in the interest of the Democrats is allowed to be carried out, the Democrats will continue in control of the county, the enforcement of law will be a mere joke and there will be probably a score added to the newly made graves along Old Guyan after next Tuesday.
Opinions vary as to what the outcome will be. Some believe that only martial law will prove a solution. Others are of the opinion that conditions will grow gradually worse and that the enforcement of law and order in Logan county will be a subject for investigation by the next legislature which convenes in January. Most certainly, if the threats of the Democrats are carried out, the Republicans are driven from the polls next Tuesday, the legislature will be asked to make a sweeping investigation and their findings will reveal conditions incredible in a civilized state.
Don Chafin is high sheriff of Logan county. His cousin, Con Chafin is prosecuting attorney. All the county officials are Democrats. Circuit Judge Wilkinson is a Democrat, though a man who wants the law enforced.
Sheriff Chafin, it is estimated, has about two hundred deputies. When he was elected, a part of his platform was that he would drive out the Baldwin mine guards from Logan county. No Baldwin men are known to be in this county now but these deputy sheriffs are known as mine guards. All of them are supposed to be armed with pistols, black-jacks and the usual weapons of gunmen. But few of them are licensed to carry such weapons and there is no trouble to find evidence that they have these weapons in violation of the law. Some of them are known to be ex-convicts and as such would not be licensed to carry revolvers, etc.
They shoot, club, slug and thug at will. But they are not arrested and imprisoned. For they are the law and the enforcement thereof.
Events of the past few weeks show the effectiveness of this organization of deputies and the way in which they operate. When the registrars were on their rounds registering the voters some of the deputies were on hand and even the Democratic registrars were afraid not to obey their orders. To go back further, they were on hand at the Democratic primaries and the Democratic nominees were the men of their choice and of that of their chief.
The Democratic registrars refused to register many Republicans, especially among the colored voters. When the county commissioners met to canvass the registration, four Republican lawyers State Senator E.T. England, Ira P. Hager, W.C. Lawrence, Jr., and O.J. Deegan, the latter being Republican county chairman, took the lead to see that Republicans entitled to vote were registered. One hundred colored voters were brought into Logan for examination and registration.
Threats have been made by deputies against the journeying of negroes to the court house, there to demand their rights, and the republican leaders realized there was danger.
The work before the county court was slow, as the democratic leaders challenged every step of the republicans. But eleven men were passed upon the first day, five of whom were registered, six turned down. That night the apparent cause for delay came. A colored family lived at Monitor, a mile from the court house. It was supposed that some of the negroes awaiting registration were there. This gave the conspirators a chance and the gunmen got busy.
Soon after dark a band of armed men raided the house, shot out the windows, fired bullets into bodies of two colored men, beat up others and drove a woman and child into the hills without giving them time to dress. The raiders said they were looking for “strange niggers.” As the result of that raid one colored man lies in an unmarked grave on the hillside and another is likely to join him soon. No “strange niggers” were in that house.
A colored man owned a cleaning and pressing establishment within a couple of squares of the court house. His windows were demolished and his place of business next morning looked as though a German siege gun had been turned on it.
A score of colored men awaiting registration were quartered for the night in the office of Senator England, and adjoining offices. About 11:30 o’clock at night some of the negroes were awakened by noises in the hallways and a sensation of not being able to breathe. They rushed to the windows and threw them open, but met with a shower of stones from the outside.
Piled on Senator England’s desk can be seen the stones hurled with force as is shown by the scars on the walls. Some of the stones were thrown from the court house steps.
No arrests were made. A grand jury was in session and Judge Wilkinson instructed the jurors to ferret out the dastardly assault and bring the miscreants to justice. But not an indictment resulted. It is no mystery in Logan as to who committed the deed. Any citizen not afraid to talk, and they are few, will name half a dozen deputy sheriffs as being in the party.
A telephone exchange girl next door to where some of the negroes were attacked made an outcry and was told that she would not be hurt if she kept still. She knows who told her to keep quiet, but would hardly give his name, probably not if she faced a jail sentence for contempt of court. It is not safe to talk in Logan county. “Don’t mention my name,” is what they all say when discussing the outrages.
A short distance from Logan is a construction camp. A large crowd of deputies raided the camp. One negro was playing the guitar and singing. No “strange niggers” were found there, but the one negro sang his last song. He, too, lies in an unmarked grave along the banks of Old Guyan. “Resisting arrest” was the excuse given.
Such depredations naturally drove many colored voters away and they will not vote.
Though threats have been made against the life of Senator England and his followers, they are putting up a game fight. By agreement the county court was to hold a night session to get through with the registration. England was later notified that nothing further would be done that night but the work would be taken up the next day he was amazed to find the court was no longer sitting. He went before Judge Wilkinson, mandamused the county court to sit again, and got ninety-eight colored voters registered.
The democrats were beaten in that game. “What’s the difference,” said a deputy when the court reconvened. “We will get them election day.” It has been openly boasted by the democrats that in many precincts the republicans, especially the colored voters, will not be allowed at the polls next Tuesday.
The sheriff and his deputies form an organization with unlimited power. Every little town or village, every public works, has the deputies. By intimidation and force in most instances and by favors in others, these deputies can run things to suit themselves. Infractions of the law by supporters of the organization can easily be overlooked, while on the other hand, the slightest technical violation can be punished to the full extent of the law.
The high-handed way in which the Democratic county organization is running things has caused a ruction in the Democratic ranks and many of them will quietly vote the Republican ticket. Many members of the old-time militant Democracy, some of them ex-Confederate soldiers, have assured the Republican leaders that they can no longer approve the Democratic methods employed in Logan County and will record their votes against it.