Appalachia, Baldwin-Felts Agency, Bluefield, Cabell Testerman, Carleton Starr, Chambers Hardware Store, chief of police, Clara Berman, coal, crime, Harry Berman, history, Matewan, mayor, Mine Wars, Mingo County, Sid Hatfield, teacher, United Mine Workers of America, Welch, West Virginia, Williamson
On December 2, 1978, Harry Berman of Williamson, Mingo County, West Virginia, recalled the Matewan Massacre of May 19, 1920:
When do you remember that the union… What do you remember about the organization of the unions?
Well, that was in Matewan. I was at the age of about thirteen years old at that time. That was about 1915, I’d say. This was concerning the miners there, about a strike. They all got together and so they went on a strike, and the company has ordered the people that went on a strike. The company has ordered them to vacate their homes.
That was the company houses?
That was the company houses. The miners at that time, they didn’t approve of it and so they began to gather around. So they got Baldwin-Felts men in there. There as about twelve of them from Bluefield, West Virginia. So they came in on that midnight train that comes through there about twelve.
The Baldwin-Felts gang was a gang that broke the unions. They traveled all over the state or throughout the coalfields breaking the unions.
Well, they were trying to break the union at that time, but these twelve men were sent in here from Bluefield and they came in on the twelve o’clock train and they went over to the hotel. They spent the night there and the next morning they got up and out and they vacated more houses for these men. This kindly upset the union men at that time. So anyway then when after all that was all done they all went back again to the hotel, and so they packed their bags. Unfortunately, what they done, they took their rifles, they took them apart, and they packed them on the inside of their bags and some of them packed them on the outside of their bags.
In other words, they were going to show that they were leaving in peace?
After vacating people from their company houses?
Yeah. That was about the time… Let’s see, the train comes through there, that Number 16, it comes through there about five o’clock in the evening. So they all came to the station at that time. When they all got to the station, all the union men–there must have been at least 100 of them–all gathered around them. You know, as they came to the station. Well, I was standing there in front of the door, in front of my father’s store there at that time, and watched all these people coming to the station. So, they all went the other way–that was Chambers Hardware at that time–they went toward Chambers Hardware. When they all got there, they all bunched together.
Was that the union men bunching together?
That was the union men that bunched together there around the Baldwin-Felts men, because I don’t think the Baldwin-Felts men suspected anything at all. If they did, they would have went there with their rifles, see.
In other words, you think they were surprised with an ambush?
Yeah, they were surprised. It took them by surprise.
The whole, as I understand it, the whole Baldwin gang was shot on the platform as they were getting ready to board the train?
Well, before the train came in. That was about maybe fifteen minutes before the train came in through there, see. So the mayor of the town was Testerman. He went along with them to the Baldwin-Felts men down in there and also with the union men and they all bunched around Chambers Hardware Store. Then the chief of police–he was also in the crowd, too. Just for the curiosity I went right along with them. Sid Hatfield, I knew him pretty well. So when he was standing there with Testerman, which is the mayor. Facing one another, I was standing about maybe two feet in the back of Sid Hatfield, and all at once there was a shot fired and I think he was the one who put a bullet through Testerman.
Yeah. The mayor. And then that was what started all this shooting. So the first thing I knew I got scared and I beat it back to the store again, see, and while I was going back to the store there was one man laying across the broadwalk. At that time there wasn’t any…
Boards for a sidewalk?
Yeah. The boards were made out of sidewalks. One was scattered there. One was laying here, one was over there. And the first thing you know, then they began to get out and try to get away from them, if they could, you know, see. But the first thing I knew, there must have been at least maybe about eight or ten of them laying around on the ground there.
Bullets went over your head. Remember the bullets that were shot over your head?
Oh, there was bullets everywhere at that time. I really do recall that. That’s a fact. Then after Sixteen came in, the union men, the conductor got off. Which he was a tough conductor, too, he was. They called him McCullock. A captain McCullock at that time. So he got off of the train and he wanted to know what it was all about. And then union men all went into the train. When all the passengers on the train came off you know, the union men went in there and they were searching the train because they figured that some of these detectives stopped Sixteen down there just on this side of the tunnel. To see if any did get on there. Because they said there was about…
In other words, they expected more of the gang to come in?
No. Some of these that did get away from the union men… They thought about two or three of them went down toward the tunnel to stop the train to get on. So that’s what they expected, you know.
The union breakers?
Yeah, the union breakers, and so when the train came in to the station they rushed into the train and they looked all through the compartments. Under the seats and everywhere and there wasn’t no union men on there.
Yeah. There wasn’t any detectives on there at all. In the meantime, I think there was about maybe one got away, from what I understand. He was hid in a coal pile. Mrs. Hoskins, a school teacher, hid him in a coal pile and she didn’t say anything about him at all. She must have felt sorry for him or something. And I think he got away. He really did… He got away, from what I understand. So that was it and so when Sixteen came in they put Testerman on the baggage car and before he got to Welch he died.
They killed him.
Yeah. Well, they killed him, naturally.
In other words, he left here alive but they killed him before he got to the hospital?
Yeah. He died in the baggage car. Testerman died in the baggage car.
But the chief of police’s family killed him because the chief of police had been shot?
No. The chief of police wasn’t shot. Let’s get it straight. The mayor is the one who got shot. The chief of police is the one who shot the mayor.
22nd Virginia Infantry, Appalachia, Charleston, Confederate Army, Daniel Ruffner, French and Indian War, gas, George S. Patton, George Washington, Henry D. Ruffner, history, Holly Mansion, John McCausland, Joseph Ruffner, Kanawha County, Kanawha Riflemen, Kanawha River, Kanawha Street, oil, Revolutionary War, Richard Laidley, salt, Thomas Bullitt, United Daughters of the Confederacy, West Virginia
Appalachia, Bill Skeens, education, Frank Rice, genealogy, Haskell Compton, Hattie Loud, Henlawson, history, Lizzie McComas, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Roberta Russell, Sadie Ferguson, Stone Branch, Von Browning, West Virginia
A correspondent named “Sweet Marie” from Stone Branch in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following news, which the Logan Banner printed on January 11, 1924:
We are having some bad weather at the present writing.
There is a lot of sickness in our camps at this time.
Miss Hattie Loud and Roberta Russell was calling on Sadie Ferguson Tuesday evening.
Mrs. Lizzie McComas and Mrs. Bill Skeens of Henlawson was visiting friends at this place Saturday night and Sunday.
Wonder how the boys like their teacher here.
Haskell Compton was visiting Frank Rice Sunday afternoon.
They are holding a revival at this place. Everybody is invited to attend.
Mrs. Bill Rice was calling on Mrs. Von Browning Sunday evening.
22nd Virginia Infantry, A.J. Lightburn, Appalachia, Battle of Charleston, Charleston, civil war, Confederate Army, Craik-Patton House, George S. Patton, history, James Craik, Kanawha Boulevard, Kanawha County, Kanawha Rifleman, Kanawha Valley, lawyer, Ruffner Log Cabin, Terry Lowry, The Battle of Charleston, Union Army, West Virginia
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this bit of history for Sheriff Don Chafin. The story is dated February 10, 1922:
REJECT SHERIFF’S RESIGNATION
Don Chafin Presents Same to the County Court But Would Not Be Accepted
ACTION OF SHERIFF DUE TO LACK OF COOPERATION
He Has Agreed to Serve Out Term of the Office After Urging of Court and Friends
Last week Don Chafin tendered to the county court his resignation as Sheriff of Logan county. The county court promptly rejected his resignation and Mr. Chafin was prevailed upon by his friends to let the matter drop and continue to serve the county in his official capacity.
The direct cause of his resignation was the lack of cooperation on the part of some of his deputies. To those who are unacquainted with the official duties of a Sheriff in Logan County the duties of the office might be considered one of ease and pleasure but to those who are initiated with the trials and tribulations of the position it is a well known fact that the life of a Sheriff in this county is anything but a bed of roses.
The Banner is directly opposed to the political policy of Don Chafin but it must be remembered that when Mr. Chafin offered himself as a candidate in the fall of 1920 for the office of Sheriff he was elected by an overwhelming majority in keeping with the choice as expressed by a majority of the citizens of the county. The Banner accepted the result and resolved to extend to the incoming Sheriff all the assistance within our power in fulfilling the duties of his office. Since that time we have had no occasion to regret our course. The previous term of Sheriff Chafin had satisfied us that the duties of the office would be fulfilled honestly and faithfully and the short time that he has served during the present term has justified our faith.
Logan county is in many respects far different from any other county in the state. We are in one sense of the word isolated from other sections of the state inasmuch as we are situated on a branch of a railway system with only one outlet. Consequently it is no easy matter for the mining operators in this field to secure labor. In their efforts to supply their mines with labor it is necessary for them to draw on the supply of raw labor of the larger cities. This brings into our midst an element of labor that is not always of the most lawful type but in many instances the men are of foreign birth and of various races hence we are sometimes so unfortunate as to admit many men of criminal tendencies.
Not one tenth of the labor required in the various industries of the county are of native birth, the other 90 percent being men who have no interest here other than the wages they may receive. Thus if may be seen that it requires constant attention to duties by the authorities of the county to maintain the law and prevent crime. To do this not only requires courage but tact and diplomacy as well.
How faithfully Don Chafin has performed the duties of the office the world is well aware. When thousands of armed men had banded themselves together with the avowed intention of invading our peaceful county last fall it was he that said, “They shall not pass.” They did not pass. Don Chafin stood like a stone wall and while the army of angry men stormed at the gates of our county he firmly held his men on the defensive and saved our county from invasion. Ho well he performed this duty is attested by commendation from all parts of the nation and needs no repetition here.
This is the second term of Don Chafin as Sheriff of this county. The citizens to the county called him to serve. While the routine of his duties may prove most irksome and perplexing we trust that he may exercise the fullest measure of patience and continue to serve the citizens of Logan county during the remainder of his term. The Sheriff needs the cooperation not only of his official family but of every law abiding citizen of the county and we should be quick to express our appreciation of duties well performed by giving to him all the assistance within our power.
From the Logan Democrat of Logan, WV, comes this editorial originally printed by the Huntington Advertiser regarding mountain violence. The item is dated January 7, 1915.
From the Huntington Advertiser–
Every time neighbors fall out in the West Virginia or Kentucky mountains, and one of them is killed, the New York newspapers discover a feud, and discourse upon the lack of civilization that permits such things to be.
Yet in this same New York, the constituted authorities have proven themselves helpless in dealing with gangs of “gun men,” and there is more flagrant defiance of the law in certain sections of New York today than anywhere in the Kentucky or West Virginia mountains.
So complete has been the failure of the New York authorities to deal with the problem of the “gun men” in any effective manner, that the business men of the east side are organizing a citizens police force to accomplish the work the New York police have been unable to accomplish. This organization of citizens is no more, no less, than a revival of the vigilance committees in the hurly-burly days in the western gold fields, and that the greatest city on the western continent should be compelled to resort to the methods of the mining camp in dealing with offenders against the law and against the decency is a sorry comment upon the metropolis.
But the New York newspapers will remember nothing of this the next time there is a lynching in the south, or there is a “feud” outbreak in the mountains.
Appalachia, Ashland, author, authors, coal, Guyandotte Valley, history, Kentucky, Logan Banner, Logan County, physician, poems, poetry, Thomas Dunn English, Three Forks, Viola Ann Runyon, West Virginia, writers, writing
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this bit of history about Veola Ann Runyon, authoress-poet of Logan County. The story is dated January 13, 1922:
LOGAN COUNTY HAS AN AUTHORESS-POET
Mrs. Veola Ann Runyon, of Three Forks, Has Had Much of Her Work Published.
We never know in what nook or corner we may find unknown talent or beneath what bushel measure we may and a shining light unless, perchance, we may trip across a clue that may lead us to a welcome discovery. Such was the case with a representative of The Banner on a recent trip to Three Forks, when he fortunately learned of the presence there of Mrs. Veola Anne Runyon, a poet and talented writer of fact and fiction.
Mrs. Runyon was born in Ashland, Ky. Her grandfather was a French physician and author. From him she derived the gifted talent at at the early age of sixteen she began writing stories and for the past ten years she has been a regular contributor to several of the largest magazines of our country. She has in preparation at the present time a romance which will be happily connected with the coal mining industry, while she has in the hands of her publisher two other books, one dealing with scientifical and botanical work and the other on entomological facts.
The story now in preparation will be eagerly sought by all readers in Logan County, due to the fact that part of the plot will be based upon knowledge gained within this county. Mrs. Runyon was requested by her publishers to write a story closely connected with the mining industry and so not knowing the details connected with the industry she came to Three Forks, and while stopping at the Club House there she is gathering facts that will prove invaluable in her latest work.
Mrs. Runyon is a gifted writer and is filled with the love of the work. She is also deeply interested in botanical work and the study of nature. Through persuasion we were able to secure some of her poems for publication in The Banner, and we are pleased to announce that arrangements have been made with her for regular contributions to the columns of this paper.
Her presence here will recall to mind another author who came to Logan County in years gone by. Dr. Thos. Dunn English recognized the beauty of these mountains and the nearness of true nature and came here during the period between 1850 and 1860. Some of his poems deal with life in the Guyan Valley.
With her ability and fluency of language, Mrs. Runyon should find in these grand majestic mountains and wonderful natural beauty an invaluable aid to inspiration that will enable her to complete a wonderful story that should attract the favorable attention of the most critical.
Note: I cannot locate any biographical information for this writer. Three Forks, according to one source, is also known as Saunders (Buffalo Creek).