Appalachia, Battle of Blair Mountain, Charles Town, Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, coal, Democratic Party, deputy sheriff, Don Chafin, geography, history, Huntington, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, mine guards, politics, Republican Party, West Virignia
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this editorial about mine guards, dated June 30, 1922:
MINE GUARDS OF LOGAN
The attorneys for the defense in the miners’ trials at Charles Town, which have been in progress for the past several weeks, have taken every opportunity of referring to the deputy sheriffs of Logan county mine guards as “thugs” and “two-gun men.”
Logan county is, and has been for several years, ruled by officers elected on the Democratic ticket. The Logan Banner adheres to the party of Lincoln, Grant, Roosevelt and Harding. It believes in the policy of the Grand Old Party and so long as that belief endures we will be found advocating the doctrines as preached by the leaders of this political organization.
Politics has no place in the discussion of the so called mine guard system in Logan county. We hold the love and respect of our homes far above any reverence to political parties and when the good name of Logan is attacked we forget political lines and join with the good people of this vast community in resenting any reflection on the fair name of Logan.
It has always been a mystery to us why the demand for the abolishment of the extra number of deputy sheriffs in this county should come from parties who are non-residents of the county? Who has demanded their abolishment? What cry has been heard from Logan county for aid? What facts have been presented of any unlawful acts committed at the hands of officers in this county?
Logan is filled with men of the highest type of intelligence. Likewise, they have many, many men here who are as brave as any men to be found in the nation. These men would not, for an instant, be a party to crimes in the county without raising their voices in protest. When it is all sifted down, it is found the hue and cry for a change of conditions is raised by those other than citizens of Logan county. Here are four points that must be borne in mind when considering Logan county:
- Due to the natural geographical conditions, Logan is rather isolated from other sections of the state.
- Due to this isolation and the fact that it is far removed from through transportation facilities, it is hard to attract labor here.
- In order to secure labor it becomes necessary to employ many who have had previous criminal careers.
- The county is mountainous, the operations are many and widely scattered, and the forces of deputies are not too many but otherwise too small to maintain order and uphold the law in an area of 400 square miles
Logan is situated among the mountains with but one natural outlet. This is by way of the C. & O. branch line to Huntington. The county is naturally divided by creeks, valleys, and branch railway lines. On these can be found many operations, employing hundreds of laborers, and to successfully cope with the lawless the sheriff is naturally required to employ more than the usual amount of deputies.
If Logan county was situated on the trunk line of any railway system, it would be a much easier task to supply the mines with labor, but due to the fact that it is far removed from any other section of the state and that in order to reach any other point, east, west, north or south it becomes necessary to travel over a distance of 75 miles to Huntington, labor is hard to obtain.
In securing this labor to fill the requirements of the large corporations operating here, it is necessary to visit the employment agencies located in the larger cities. Anyone acquainted with these agencies recognize the fact they are not scrupulous about whom they list, and the natural consequence is that many brought here on transportation are recognized criminals and members of all nationalities. Not all of them, thank goodness, are of the lawless class, but many are. They require constant watching and close scrutiny to see that their criminal tendencies do not become too pronounced. In order to do this it becomes imperative to have a large force of officers.
In view of the fact that there are 142 operations in this county and that approximately 50,000 people are laboring within our borders it can be readily seen that 35 deputies are a comparative small force to exercise supervision over such a huge population. Should a riot break out within our county it would require at least eight hours to obtain help from any section of the state. The fact that Logan needs as large a force of officers was amply attested when the armed march was made on Logan last August.
This article is not written in the defense of Don Chafin or his deputies. They need no defense at our hands. It is not written in defense of a policy adopted by any political party in the county. Regardless of the political affiliations of the sheriff, the Banner would earnestly recommend to anyone, be he the most rabid Republican in the county, if they should be sheriff, the retention of an official force as large as is now employed.
A great hue and cry has been raised because the salaries of these officers have been paid by the coal operators. Let us for a moment realize that the coal industry in the county is the sole industry in our midst. Upon the shoulders of these operators fall the burden of the peace and happiness of their employees. It is in order to furnish these employees protection and security that they have gone into their pocket books and paid for this protection. Who objects? Have you heard a taxpayer in Logan county object? Not one. They are perfectly willing that this cost shall be borne by the operators. They might as well object to the operators subscribing to better schools in Logan. Also voice opposition to better roads, the burden of which falls on the shoulders of the operators.
No one has heard a Macedonian cry from Logan for aid? Not even when union fields of the state were appealing for bread. If there was ever an example of the benefits of the non-union shop plan it was simply exemplified during the recent dull period. Logan worked and fared well. We have no ills to cure nor any abuses that need redress. The propaganda put forth pour from the foul mouths of others than citizens of Logan county and we beseech them to busy themselves with affairs other than ours, for we are perfectly able to take care of ourselves, and when we need their assistance, or advice, we will call for them loud and long.