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McKinley Grimmett was born on November 30, 1896 to Henderson and Nancy (Hatfield) Grimmett at Sand Lick, Logan County, WV. On May 14, 1916, Mr. Grimmett married a Ms. Plymale, who soon died, in Logan County. One child named Alva died on June 21, 1919 of whooping cough, aged fourteen months. His World War I draft registration card dated September 12, 1918 identifies him as having blue eyes and light-colored hair. He was employed by Mallory Coal Company at Mallory, WV. On November 13, 1919, he married Matilda “Tilda” Hatfield, daughter of Thomas Hatfield, in Logan County. He identified himself as a farmer in both of his marriage records. During the 1920s, he served as a deputy under Sheriff Tennis Hatfield.

The following interview of Mr. Grimmett was conducted at his home on July 17, 1984. In this part of the interview, he recalls his occupations. The post-World War I flu pandemic, early Bruno residents, timbering, the Hatfields, politics, and crime are featured.


Do you remember the flu that came along after World War I?

Oh yeah, I’ve seen ‘em up here in my graveyard bury as high as three or four in one day. Buried a man and his wife and kid all in one day there. It was bad. I was running a drum at Mallory for the company. I went there well that morning and at 10 o’clock they hauled me back in a jo-wagon. I couldn’t walk with the flu. I was down for four days and the mine didn’t run. I got over it awful quick. The doctor come… Dr. Shrewsbury, used to be at Mallory. Next day was Saturday and Sunday and he told me to stay off for Monday. And he said he’d send after me. Come and get me, bring me back in the evening. All he wanted me to do was run the drum. Not get hot or anything. I got over mine. My sister come there to see me. She had seven kids. She come there and took it. And all her kids come to see her and they all took it. And her husband come to see about them and he took it. And her husband couldn’t talk plain. Keenan Walls was her husband. He called onions “inghams.” My mother would say, Keenan, what do you want to eat today? They fried them. She’d fry them onions. He said, I don’t know hardly unless you fry me some more inghams. Yeah, they’s about 250 graves in that graveyard of mine.

Tape stops.

There’s a lot of people up this creek. Used to be there wasn’t about six families when I was a boy growing up. Wyatt Belcher lived down below the mouth of the creek. And Burl Christian lived up here a little ways. And Watt Elkins lived over there. And my daddy lived next. And my daddy’s brother Harve Grimmett lived next. Phil Elkins lived next. Now in the head of the creek where this backland was, that was before McDonalds got a hold of it. They lived on it, built log houses and everything else. I couldn’t tell you who all… Mountses there. I made several caskets. I made my mother’s coffin. I bought my daddy a steel coffin and I had to take some straw out of it. He was a pretty good sized man like myself. They both had the flu. And she had a lot of chickens here. I lived up at the old homeplace and they lived here. She wanted to know where that straw come from. I told her the truth about it. I told her I had to take it out of Daddy’s casket. It was a little too tight on him and I wouldn’t put him away that way. And said, Kin—she called me Kin, my nickname—said, whenever I die I want you to make my casket. She’d seen me make so many, you know. She wanted me to do that. And so I made it. I went to Logan and I bought the handles. It cost me $105 dollars. Looked like silver. And I bought plush stuff and lined it and everything. And I went down here to this planing mill and I bought the first class lumber. Didn’t have a knot in it. Logan Lumber Company run it then. And I made it. Oh, I’ve made oodles of ‘em. I made the old man Joe Browning’s in Spice Creek up here one time… And he’d sawed beech lumber now for me to make that casket out of. And old man Scott Browning, I got him to help me. And I bet you he weighed about 300 pound. And that beech lumber was 22 inches wide and I still had to put a slab on each side up at his hips down about four inches wide on each side. They couldn’t get enough men around that to lift it. I don’t see how they ever got it down in the grave. I didn’t go to the grave with ‘em. I made the casket and that was all.

Would you rather work with timber or coal?

Well, it’s according to what kind you do with lumber. I believe I would rather work in the mines because I’ve always had a good job in the mines. I worked 44 years and two months around the mines and I never was laid off. Born and raised here in Logan County. Never been in jail. Never been arrested. Never been sued. I never bothered nobody’s business only my own. I’ve been honest with everybody.

Were you ever politically active?

Yeah, I was, whenever them Hatfields was in there. They’d make you, whether you wanted to or not. Tennis and Joe and all of them. You get in that bunch of Hatfields at that day and time you couldn’t get away from ‘em. They’d claim me as their cousin all the time, ‘cause I was half-Hatfield myself. I don’t reckon my mother was any relation to any of them. She didn’t know nothing about them. She was from Wyoming County up on Big Cub Creek, you know. Now she heard lots of talk about Devil Anse and Cap and all of them. She was afraid for me to be with them all the time.

Did you like politics?

Yeah, I liked it pretty good.

Did you ever run for office?

Yeah, I run for JP one time. ’52. Bill Mosely run against me. And I beat Bill over here at his office precinct but he beat me up at Buffalo. Yeah, I run for JP one time. I never did run any more.

Who has impressed you the most in politics?

I reckon Tennis has been the one. Now Joe is a man that was still kind of sulky like. He didn’t seem like that he appreciated what you’d done or something like that. Either that or he thought hisself a little bit higher than you was. Something like that. I don’t know. I couldn’t figure him out. But Cap now, he’d cuss them out and everything else.

Do you remember the ’32 election?

Oh yeah. I remember. Why, coal companies, they went in with the Democrats and they fired us off of the deputy force. The coal companies put us on as guards. And we stayed that way for about three months. And Democrats come in and they cut that law out. And we went on back to work and that didn’t change nothing. I tell you, it was a sight whenever Chafin was in there. Lord, they killed people and everything. Up Buffalo at Accoville, they was building a railroad up through there. Well, that day and time they built camps for their men to stay in and they rode horses, the bosses did, ride him right out on the job. And they’d get up in the morning, Elech Steven and Elech R. Luster was the two bosses—one was superintendent, one was boss—and they’d go around, one had a ball bat and a hole drilled through it and a strap of leather in it and it was a small ball bat now and if them colored people or hunkies and Italians wasn’t up they’d knock the window lights out and then nail the window up instead of buying them a window and putting it back in. And they killed them two, the hunkies and Italians. They come out on ‘em and shot ‘em both and killed ‘em. About eight of them. Well, they killed three of ‘em before they got out of sight, the Americans did, up Accoville Hollow there. And the rest of ‘em come through and they shot one right over the Huff Knob and he rolled plumb from the top of that ridge down just like a dog bouncin’ plumb into the river. That made four of ‘em they got. Then they got two more up here on Elk Creek. Then they got two more up at Spice. Made the eight. Well, they killed them all. And they brought them—I was up there at the store at Elk Creek whenever they brought them two Italians down there… Now, this old raw bacon. Slabs that come that wide and be that long, grease would be running out. And they would cut them off raw meat and throw it to them like throwing it to a dog and they’d eat it.

NOTE: Some names may be transcribed incorrectly.