Appalachia, Big Sandy River, Bragg Creek, Fort Gay, history, Horse Creek, Kenova, logging, Mingo County, Naugatuck, Ohio River, pushboats, rafting, steamboats, timber, timbering, Tom Brown, Tug Fork, Twelve Pole Creek, Wayne County, West Virginia
The following interview excerpt of Tom Brown (born c.1909) was conducted at Fort Gay in Wayne County, WV, on December 15, 1979.
It was probably hard to get around back then, to go to church.
Well the only way you could get around through this country was up and down creeks or on horseback or wagon. And roads were in the creek most of the way. And where they cut timber and logs they had tram roads built back in the heads of the hollows and they had tracks–they built their track out of 2″ X 4″s–and they hauled these logs or ties from the mills back to the heads of the hollows back to the railroads. And they logged out of the mountains and they ran lots of rafts down Tug River. I’ve see high as four to five. They started the rafts running in the spring. They run them out of Mingo County and generally a lot of them was set out in Naugatuck.
That’s how they got them, they used rafts and boats?
Yes, they used rafts. Logs. They’d put these logs together… Sometimes a raft would be maybe 200 or 300 feet long.
200 or 300 feet long?
Almost as wide as the river. The man would stay on that and they’d pull the men to, I guess, Kenova and the Ohio River down here. And they would log them through the winter. The spring waters came and they started down the rivers with the rafts. The river banks were all cut clean.
That’s what I was going to ask you about. They had to be cut clean, didn’t they?
Yes, they was all cut clean. But the rafts… Well they ran logs down Twelve Pole Creek to… Back then people used to put their logs in the creek when it would raise and run them plumb out down Twelve Pole to Kenova. Heads of these creeks… And sometimes I can remember Bragg Creek and Horse Creek… They was a sawmill. There was locks in at Saltpeter and they pushed just like water to Bragg Creek. I’d say along 1916-1917. And almost the travel was boats. It went down on a little showboat. It used to come up an old paddle wheel boat.
That was in about 1917?
About 1917, ’18, ’19, along that.
Could you get a ride on that showboat if you wanted to?
No, they just pulled in and parked and had a show every night, like the picture show, the movie picture show had.
How long did that showboat go up and down the river? How many years did that last?
Well, I don’t know. It would just come up every once in a while maybe, and just stopped at certain places maybe. Places you know at that time… That was about as far as it could get up. And then things was brought up on pushboat. They loaded ties and stuff like that. I remember them loading them on the boat at the river at the mouth of Horse Creek. It was about as far as boats could come up the river.
Appalachia, Bert Curry, Catlettsburg, coal, Cole and Crane Company, Delbarton, Elk Creek, Henry Ferrell, history, Holden, Island Creek, Island Creek Coal Company, Lando Mines, Lenore, logging, Louisa, Mingo County, Mud Fork, Pigeon Creek, rafting, Rock House, splash dams, timber, timbering, Trace Fork, Tug Fork, Wallace Curry, West Virginia
The following interview excerpt of Bert Curry (born c.1901) was conducted at Lenore in Mingo County, WV, on December 5, 1978.
How much money was around back then?
The first public works to come into the Pigeon Creek areas was when Cole and Crane come in to cut all of this virgin timber. All of Pigeon Creek. They built a splash dam at Delbarton, one on Elk Creek, and one on Rock House. They come in here in 1910 and they paid seventy-five cents a day and board for a man to work and he worked from daylight til dark and along later some of their best men, their team drivers… Team drivers had to work extra hours. They’d put them on by the month. I remember my brother-in-law got $35 a month, but he’d have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and then after supper he’d have to go out and clean the stable and curry his team and doctor ‘em, anything that had to be doctored and feed ‘em and bed ‘em down of the night.
Where did people get most of their income in those days?
If you had a job it was usually helping somebody cut timber. My first job was fifty cents a day carrying water for seventeen men and I was about twelve or thirteen years old.
Was that for loggers?
Well, these was loggers but my brother Wallace had a big field of corn. He had to grow corn to feed his cattle. He had six yokes of cattle and he used cattle in logging and he’d take a big flour barrel full of corn and them cattle would get around and he’d feed that corn to ‘em. They’d eat a barrel of corn each night and they’d let ‘em… Maybe a little fodder, or once in a while in bad weather they’d give ‘em a little hay. But them cattle, they worked ‘em six days a week haulin’ logs. They was trained to work and them six yokes of cattle was worth more than you could get for… You could buy a beef for $25 at that time but if you bought a good oxen that was broke you’d have to give about $50 for him.
What do you remember about the logging operations?
They was very primitive. They had nothin’ like a chain saw. They had a cross cut saw and they had axes and they had cane hooks and they had their teams of oxen and then some had teams of mules and horses. When Cole and Crane come in here they contracted all the cuttin’ of this timber. All the haulin’ it and puttin’ it into the creeks where the waters from the dams would take care of it. They had several contractors. They’d contract a whole boundary, maybe 500 or 1000 acres of timber to cut, and it was all virgin timber. It took six yoke of oxen or two to three big span of mules or horses to pull a tree. They didn’t cut it up into logs like they do now. They cut the whole tree and they didn’t take anything less than 16 inches up to the top. They’d be from 5 to 7 feet down where they cut them off and some of them would be 100 feet long and I’ve seen gorges of logs in Pigeon Creek they claimed had 5,000 trees in it. For a mile it’d be piled up bank to bank as high as they could pile. They’d work sometimes with all the teams they could get around them for three weeks a breaking one gorge. And when they got it to the Tug, they’d raft it. Sometimes they’d raft them and sometimes they would drift them down to the locks at Louisa before they’d raft them and they never went past there. They’d raft them there and then take tug boats and haul them from there to Cincinnati.
How did you raft them? I’m not familiar with that.
They had what you call chain dogs, a little chain about that long (indicates about 12 inches) with a spike on each end. They’d drive a spike in this log here and in this log (indicates two logs laying side by side) to hold it together, one at the front and one at the back, and they’d be oh maybe they’d be 50 feet wide and two or three hundred feet long, the rafts would. Maybe they’d have two or three rafts. One steamboat would be pullin’ maybe two or three rafts.
The logs wouldn’t drift apart?
They’d drive them spikes. Them spikes was about that long (indicating about six inches) and they’d drive them in there and it took a whole lot to pull ‘em out.
Did they work in the winter time, too?
Oh yes! I’ve seen fellers wade Pigeon Creek when they mush ice was a floatin’ and when they’d have to get back in the water to thaw before they could walk.
Was the creek deeper then or about like it is now?
It was more even. They had water all the time but they didn’t have as many severe floods as they have now because this was all covered with timbers, all of everything. See, this mulch in these forests held the water and let it leak out. It didn’t run off like it does now.
The water flow was more evened out this year around?
More evened out. But when they’d have a splash dam at Delbarton, one on Rockhouse up at Lando Mines and one in the head of Elk Creek, they’d time these. They’d know how long it took the water to run from Elk Creek, and they knowed how long it took the water to run from Rock House, and they knowed how long it took the water to meet. They’d try to have them all three come out at once so that they’d have a vast big sudden increase in water. You could look up the creek when they’d splash and you could see a wall floatin’ and a turnin’ in and everything.
And that was to wash the logs out?
Yes, well they washed them out to Tug River that way. That’s the way they got them out of Pigeon Creek.
Do you remember when Island Creek first came into the area?
No. Island Creek first come in about 1901. That was over there. They started when two young fellows come from New York in there looking for oil, to prospect for oil, so they could invest some money. And some old man had a mine open right where No. 1 Island Creek mine is and he was a haulin’ coal with a mule—a mule and a sled. He’d go back in there and he’d haul coal out—a big seam of coal six foot high and good and clean. So they decided that there was where they could make their money. So they got to talkin’ with these fellows and they went and got lawyers and they bought around Holden and Trace Fork and up Mud Fork and a vast area. I don’t know how much: 79,000 acres for 470,000 dollars. And fellows like Henry Ferrell, he counted timber so long. To count timber you have men a goin’ through and selecting the trees and one man a tallying. They’d make a mark on a tree when they’d count it, and the fellow with the tally sheet, he kept the numbers. He said they’d count timber a while and said then they had more money than they had brains. To spend that much money for that much land—470,000 dollars—and he said they put up a band mill and cut the timber and sold the timber and built their camps and sold enough lumber to pay for all of it. They got their coal and their land free. Just cut the timber and sold it and got their money back. People thought they were foolish for paying that kind of prices. Buying some of them farms out with all that timber for thousand dollars—that sounded like an awful lot of money. They didn’t have any money. They weren’t used to money. You worked for fifty cents a day. $1000 seemed like a whole lot.
Altina Waller, Appalachia, Beech Creek, Ben Creek, Betty Caldwell, Bob Spence, Brandon Kirk, Catlettsburg, Coleman Hatfield, Devil Anse Hatfield, Elias Hatfield, feuds, genealogy, Hatfield-McCoy Feud, Henry D. Hatfield, history, Jean Hatfield, Joe Hatfield, Johnson Hatfield, Kentucky, Levisa Hatfield, Logan Banner, Logan County, Matewan, miller, Mingo County, Otis Rice, Randolph McCoy, Red Jacket, Rosa Browning, Roseanne McCoy, Route 44, Sarah Ann, sheriff, Tennis Hatfield, The Hatfield and McCoy Feud After Kevin Costner, The McCoys: Their Story, The Tale of the Devil, Thomas Dotson, tourism, Troy Hatfield, Truda Williams McCoy, West Virginia, Willis Hatfield
In 2001-2002, I wrote a series of popular stories for the Logan Banner that merged aspects of well-known Hatfield-McCoy books written by Otis Rice and Altina Waller in the 1980s. I had previously enjoyed Rice’s narrative and Waller’s analysis; I did not conduct any new research. Even though I believed the definitive Hatfield-McCoy Feud book remained unwritten, my purpose in writing these stories was not a step toward writing a book; my purpose in writing these stories was to revisit the narrative with some analysis for Banner readers. My hope was that readers would see what I saw: first, fascinating history (or folk story) for its own sake; second, the power of history to create a popular type of tourism.
I was fortunate during this time to meet Jean Hatfield. Jean, born in 1936, operated a Hatfield family museum at Sarah Ann, WV. Jean was not a native of West Virginia but had lived her entire adult life locally and had personally known several of Anderson Hatfield’s children. I really appreciated her desire to promote regional history. She “got it.” She inspired me. Anytime that I drove up Route 44, I stopped to visit Jean at the museum. She was always welcoming. Knowing her reminded me that every Hatfield (and McCoy) descendant is a source of information–and that for the most part they have yet to tell the story in their own words. Three notable exceptions include The McCoys: Their Story by Truda Williams McCoy (1976), The Tale of the Devil (2003) by Coleman Hatfield and Bob Spence, and The Hatfield and McCoy Feud After Kevin Costner: Rescuing History (2013) by Thomas Dotson.
What follows is Part 1 of my interview with Jean, which occurred on August 7, 2001:
You were telling me some of the things you have. Family things.
Like the guns and gun molds and knives and things like that that belonged to the Hatfields. And of course as you can see here in the shop I’ve got all kinds of photographs. Still have more. I just don’t have the room to display all that I have.
You mentioned a gun specifically.
I have three of the pistols that belonged to Grandpa [Devil Anse]. The last one that he carried in his pocket. And then I have a large .38/.40. I also have a little silver pearl handle squeezer that my husband’s father gave him when he was running for sheriff before he died.
Which one of those boys was your father-in-law?
Tennis. That was Devil Anse and Levisa’s youngest son. He was just like 6 years old, seven years old when the feud was going on. I think he was born in 1889. And the feud actually started around 1886. So he was just a little boy, him and Uncle Willis both. Willis, if you remember the old picture of them in front of the old log house, Willis was sitting on one side and Tennis was sitting on the other side. Both of them was small boys.
Is that the one where they have the little coon skin caps?
Uh huh. It’s a very common picture. I think about everybody has that one.
Did you say you had an axe, too?
Yeah, I’ve got a little axe that they called their kindling axe. They chopped their wood up to start their fires with. Little short handle. Maybe the handle on it is like 28, 29 inches long. And it’s got two cutting sides so it would be a double-bitted axe. And I have gristmill rocks that they used to use to grind their meal up from their corn that they raised. They were pioneer people. They had to do everything on their own because there was no convenience store at that time. Anything they had… They floated their logs down to Catlettsburg in the fall and then they’d take a train back with their flour and sugar and things like that they needed for winter. And the rest of the things I would imagine they canned and dried so they had plenty of food the winter.
So they had their own mill?
Oh yeah. They’d grind their own corn into meal.
Where did it sit?
Uncle Joe had one over here across the road but now they had one earlier over ___. That was the area that they were in when the feud was going on. That’s where they done a lot of their timbering back over in that area.
What little town is there now that’s close to where they lived?
Red Jacket, over in that area. Close in around Matewan.
So you remember your father-in-law pretty well?
Well no. He died two weeks after my husband and I met. But I knew Willis and I knew Rosie [Browning] and Betty [Caldwell] and Uncle Joe. They were all Devil Anse’s children.
A lot of these things I read about, you don’t get a good idea of what they were like. Do you know anything that would make them seem like real people? Any stories? Things you’ve never seen in print?
Well, like Johnse. He was the ladies’ man. He was the one that fell in love with Roseanne and they wouldn’t let them marry. Now Tennis and Willis and Joe pretty well hung together. They were more buddies than the rest of them. Aunt Rosie was a nurse. So she nursed everybody. She was like a mother figure to all of them.
Did she nurse in a hospital?
I think she did nurse at one time in one of the hospitals. Probably one of Big Doc’s hospitals. Dr. Henry D. But she was always the type to go to the homes and take care of them, more or less. And Aunt Betty was very religious, so she was like the minister to the family.
Do you know what her religion was?
I would say Baptist. What was the older one? Probably United. But she was religious all of her life. They were human. I have a lot of people in the years that I’ve been here tell me that their grandfather and grandmother stayed at Grandpa and Grandma’s house because he wouldn’t let nobody go by if it was getting dark because they had wild bears and panthers and things like that. He was afraid people would get hurt. So he would make them come in the house and they would feed them supper and they’d sleep and the next morning at daylight they could go on. He’d done took care of their horses and everything. I would have give anything if he would have had some kind of a register that people could have signed that they have stayed all night with him. Because I still have people telling me, “My grandma, my great-grandma did this” and “My great-grandma did that.” And they took a lot of people in that didn’t have homes and let ‘em work and live with ‘em. They were kind people. But I think that they just didn’t like to be pushed around. Right now, everybody’s that way. They’ll give you anything they got, but just don’t try to take it off of ‘em. Now my husband, he was a very large man. He was like 6’2” when I met him. And I always called him my gentle giant because he was just as gentle as he could be. But you didn’t want to make him mad. He did have a temper. But I very seldom ever saw it. And they loved people. They liked dealing with people. Most of them were storekeepers. Two of Grandpa’s sons were doctors. Of course, Tennis was sheriff, Joe was sheriff. Lias and Troy, they were storekeepers. So they always were dealing with the public. You don’t deal with the public without repercussions if you’re mean.
Did you say something about having a chifferobe?
Yes. A handmade chifferobe and it has a little hidey-hole in the top of it where you could hide guns or money or whatever you want in it.
Do you know where the fort was?
I have never figured that out. I don’t know whether it was… There may have been one over on Beech Creek or Ben Creek, over in that area. But as far as I know from the family telling me, it didn’t exist. But I know their house was built back off of the road. Well, back at that time, there wasn’t a road. You had to go down through the creek to get anywhere. And trespass on other people’s property to get to Logan. I think this road went in here in 1932 or 1938. But even when Henry’s father put the monument up for Grandpa, there was no road here. That was in 1928. And they had to use mules and sleds and everything else to get that stone up on the mountain.