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 family background and early occupations. Logging and rafting in the Guyandotte Valley are featured.
Would you mind telling me when and where you were born?
Right here. I was born about a mile up above here. I was borned in Logan County. The post office was Christian at that time. Christian, WV. It’s changed now. They throwed Christian out – it was over here at Christian – and they throwed it out and moved it over here to Bruno. Christian went… The mines stopped over there. And that’s where I was born, right here at Bruno, Logan County. Been here all my life.
What day were you born?
November 30, 1896.
Who were your parents?
Henderson Grimmett and Nancy Hatfield Grimmett.
What kind of work did they do?
They did logging work. All they had that day and time. Mule teams and ox teams.
Where did your dad do his work?
All over Logan County.
Did he have his own farm?
Oh yeah. Yeah.
How big was his farm?
It was about 287 acres.
Can you describe his house?
Well, the house was a two-story building. But he never did get… He took the fever and he never did get the upper story, all of it completed. He died at a very early age of 74. He put him up a little store. Got ahead a little bit. Had a store here. Come down and bought this place off Walter Buchanan and he deeded his five kids the homeplace up there. And then he stayed on it from ’21 to ’29. He died 19th day of January, 1929.
Who were your mother’s parents?
Oh, Lord, I can’t… Slater Hatfield was her daddy’s name. And I don’t know my grandma. My daddy, now they both was born in Wyoming County. Baileysville or somewhere in there. I think my mother was born over there in Big Cub Creek. She was a Hatfield. I don’t know where…
How many brothers and sisters do you have?
I had three brothers and three sisters. Sanford was the oldest one. Austin and Johnny. They’re all dead. I’m the only one that’s living. All my three sisters… Lilly was the oldest one, and Rose was the next one, and Ettie was the youngest. They’re all dead. All of ‘em but me.
Were you educated in Logan County schools?
Yeah, that’s all we got. Free schools. I believe we started off about three months out of the year. Right over there where that first house is sitting – a one-room school house. All of us kids.
What was the last year of school you completed?
I believe it was about 1914, I’m not right sure. ’15.
Did you use the McGuffey Readers?
That’s all we had. And the spelling books. And in the late years, why we had a U.S. history… A small one. Most of it was just about West Virginia. It wasn’t about the whole United States. And geography, we had that. Arithmetic. That was about all we had in free schools. We had to buy them all then. They weren’t furnished.
How did you meet your wife?
She was born and raised over here at Horse Pen in Mingo County. And that’s how we met. We were just neighbors.
What was her maiden name?
She was a Hatfield, too. But now they were… There’s three or four sets of them.
Was her family related to Devil Anse Hatfield?
Well, they was some… Not very close, though, I don’t think.
Which church did you belong to?
I don’t belong to any.
Did you belong to a church when you were younger?
No, never did. If I ever would have joined, I’d have stayed with it.
Do you remember the year of your marriage?
Yeah, I sure do. November 13, 1919.
How many children do you have?
Four. We have two boys and two girls. Travis Grimmett is the oldest. And Ralph, Edith, and Nancy.
What was your wedding like?
Well, we just got married and come right home. At that time, they didn’t have such things, to tell you the truth.
Who was the preacher?
Green Perry. Rev. Green Perry on Elk Creek. Rode a horse back when I went up there to get married. A pair of mules. I rode them mules.
Where did you first live after you married?
Right about a mile above here at the old homeplace.
You have lived here all of your life?
All of our life.
Was it always this populated?
No, no. Wasn’t three or four houses on this creek at that day and time. It was farm land. It’s all growed up now. All them hills was put in corn, millets, and stuff like that. If they couldn’t get a machine to it, they cut it by hand. Some of them raised oats and some of them raised millet, corn. Raised hogs and cattle and sheep and selling ‘em.
Who owned this property back then?
Burl Christian owned this here, but I don’t know… My daddy bought his… A fellow by the name of Wyatt Belcher. Wait a minute. Browning. I can’t think of his name. He lived over here on Christian and he bidded in… It sold for back taxes and he bidded in. Henderson Browning.
What kind of work did you do after you married?
Just the same thing as I worked at before I got married. I first started out – my daddy was a boss for Cole and Crane on this river. I first started out working in the log business. I worked two years at that and then I decided… Mule team – I worked about eighteen months at that. Then in 1913 the coal company started in and I went to work in carpenter work. I helped build all of these houses down here at Landville. The superintendent, we got done, they was wanting to hire men, he give me a job keeping time for a while. And he wanted me to learn to run the drum – that’s letting coal off the hill. I learned it and about the third day I was up there, a preacher was running it, and he told me they’d just opened up and they didn’t have much coal to run off the hill, he told me, that preacher, he rolled out two cards and he said if that preacher fails to go out and work on that side track today you give him one of these cards. Well, I didn’t give him a card. But he come out that evening, the boss did. And he said, did the preacher work. And I said, no he refused. He said, I’ll fix him. He fired him. And I took the job and stayed with it four years and then I got married and then I went to work over here at Christian running a drum and I stayed there 34 years.
When you worked for Cole and Crane, did either of those men ever come up here?
Oh yeah. One of them was. Cole was. I don’t think Crane was ever here. A little slim fella.
Did you get a chance to talk to them?
No, they wouldn’t talk to us working men. They’d talk to the boss. They’d go away from us and talk to theirselves. We just got a $1.10 for ten hours. Eleven cents an hour.
What kind of a person did Cole seem to be?
Well, he knowed how the men was. They’d raft timber and go down this river to Guyandotte. Had what they called locks and dams there to catch the logs. This river was full of logs. He bought timber everywhere. Plumb at the head of it.
Did you ever ride a raft?
Oh, yeah. I went with my daddy. I wasn’t grown.
Can you describe it?
Oh, they’d raft the logs, poplar. Now they didn’t raft hardwoods. They’d sink on them. Some rafts, a big one would be 160 to 200 feet long, about 24 to 26 feet wide. Oar on each end of it. If it was a big raft, they had two men up front all the time plumb in to Guyandotte. I was the second man on it when I got to go out on it. My dad had timber and he rafted it, took it there and sold it. Took what they called dog wedges and cut little basket oaks and rafted them, stringers across ‘em, you know. Lots of people get drowned, too.
Were you ever in an accident?
No, I never was in no big one. I’ve seen about six or eight drown.
Could you describe how it happened?
Oh, if he couldn’t swim, sometimes the best swimmer drowned, you know, if he got under a lot of logs or something. According to whatever happened there with him. He could get out if there wasn’t no logs on top of him no where to hold him under, you know. If logs were on top of him, he was gone. Now about the last ones I seen drowned was two colored people. They was building a railroad from Logan to Man up Buffalo Creek. So we was working on a log gorge down there at the lower end of Landville. And there was four colored men… 1921. Had a saloon up here at Verner. They wouldn’t allow one in Logan County. And they went up there on the 21st day of December to get ‘em a load of whisky. And they come back… They’d seen white people ride these logs. Some county people would get on one log and ride it plumb to Logan, as far as you wanted to go. And they thought they could ride it. And they got on. Rode ‘em off the gorge and they was running into eddy water and they would hit the back end, it would, and the other end would swarp out and they’d pull out that way. And they got on ‘em with their whisky and everything and two of ‘em got out and two of ‘em drowned.
When you rode the raft to Guyandotte, how did you get back to Logan?
Oh, we had to walk. We’d get a train up to Dingess over here. You know where that’s at? We’d ride down up to there. And then we’d have to get off and walk across the hill there and come right straight out at the mouth of Mud Fork, Holden there, and up another little drain and down Madison Creek down here. And walk… Man alive, our feet would be so sore, I’d be up for two or three weeks I couldn’t walk, my feet would be wore out so.
NOTE: Some names may be transcribed incorrectly.