Appalachia, Battle of Blair Mountain, Blair Mountain, Charles L. Estep, Chauncey, Edgar Combs, history, Litz-Smith Coal Company, Logan County, Simp Thompson, United Mine Workers of America, West Virginia
Appalachia, Battle of Blair Mountain, Blair Mountain, Charleston, crime, deputy sheriff, Edgar Combs, Ephraim Morgan, genealogy, governor, Harold Houston, history, Howard Gore, Huntington, J.E. Wilburn, John Gore, John Wilburn, labor, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Moundsville, prosecuting attorney, United Mine Workers of America, West Virginia, West Virginia Federation of Labor, Wheeling Metal and Manufacturing Company
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, in a story dated August 14, 1925, comes this bit of history relating to the “armed march” on Logan and Mingo counties in 1921:
FEDERATION ASKS PARDON FOR MAN WHO KILLED GORE
The West Virginia Federation of Labor has been holding its annual convention in Huntington during the past week.
On Tuesday morning the convention unanimously passed a resolution calling upon Governor Howard M. Gore to pardon or parole Edgar Combs who is serving a sentence imposed in connection with the murder of John Gore who was killed on Blair mountain when the “Red Necks” made their famous “armed march” in an attempt to invade Logan and unionize this field.
The resolution was presented Monday by Attorney Harold Houston, of Charleston, counsel for the United Mine Workers in District 17.
The resolution was as follows:
“Whereas Edgar Combs is now confined in the state penitentiary at Moundsville serving a life sentence imposed by the circuit court of Logan county for the alleged murder of John Gore, killed on Blair mountain during a clash between members of the ‘armed march’ of 1921 and a posse of Logan county; and
“Whereas he is now the only person serving in the penitentiary for an offence connected with said uprising, the Rev. J.E. Wilburn and John Wilburn, his son, having turned so-called ‘state’s evidence’ and been pardoned by Governor Ephraim H. Morgan, the said pardon to take effect early in the year 1926; and
“Whereas all of the many hundreds of prosecutions growing out of said trouble have been dismissed and abandoned by the prosecuting attorney of Logan county; and
“Whereas Edgar Combs has a wife and five infant children dependent upon him for maintenance and support, his wife at the present time working for the Wheeling Metal and Manufacturing company in an effort to keep her family together.
“Therefore, be it resolved by the eighteenth annual convention of the West Virginia Federation of Labor assembled at the city of Huntington W.Va. that we earnestly petition the Honorable Howard M. Gore, Governor of West Virginia, to grant and extend executive clemency to Edgar Combs, and either pardon or parole him for said alleged offense.
“And be it further resolved, that a copy of this resolution be immediately forwarded to Governor Gore for its consideration.”
A.M. Belcher, Appalachia, Battle of Blair Mountain, Bill Blizzard, Blair Mountain, Boone County, C.W. Osenton, coal, Coal River, crime, deputy sheriff, Dingess Run, Edgar Combs, George Muncy, H.W. Houston, history, J.E. Wilburn, James Cafalgo, John Gore, Lewisburg, Logan Banner, Logan County, Nellis, Ottawa, T.C. Townsend, United Mine Workers of America, Velesco Carpenter, W.B. Mullens
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this story dated June 29, 1923 about the trial that resulted from the “armed march” on Logan County, WV, by UMWA miners:
Widow Is Introduced At The Blizzard Trial
LEWISBURG, W.Va., June 27 — Two word pictures, one from the lips of the widow of George Munsy, coal digger who “never came back” from guarding his county, the other from one of the party that met and killed the outpost on the mountain side, lay tonight before 12 men who are to determine whether Sub-District President William Blizzard, of the miners’ union, was an accessory to the murder of Munsy.
Before these word pictures the jurors had heard counsel on both sides outline the story of the labor trouble of Southern West Virginia coal fields, the march of thousands against the Logan border, the interruption of that march after a brigadier general of the United States Army had intervened a midnight clash between miners and deputy sheriffs and state police, resumption of the march, fighting on the mountain ridges that separated the non-union Logan coal fields from the then union fields on Coal River, the meeting of 30 or 40 marchers with Deputy Sheriff John C. Gore, of Logan county, and two companions one of whom was Munsey, the volley of shots that answered the Logan pass-word, “amen,” and a wealth of detail about the march presented from point of view of both prosecution and defense.
Review Blair Battle
All the morning was spent in the opening of the attorneys, A.M. Belcher and C.W. Osenton, for the prosecution, and H.W. Houston and T.C. Townsend, for the defense. Then in the afternoon the jurors turned their attention to the witness box. First they saw W.B. Mullens point out the battle line and the points of interest in the march on a map that was tacked to the courthouse wall above the witness stand. Next Velesco Carpenter, facing an inexhaustible stream of questions in direct and cross-examinations told how he had gone from his home in Nellis to Blair, how in a party of about 35 he marched up Blair mountain, spent the night, and early the next morning set out and from his place in line watched the meeting with three men, one of whom he learned was Gore, heard the shots and saw the bodies after they had fallen. Then just before court adjourned Mrs. Munsy took the stand for her brief examination so that she might return tomorrow to her seven children in her home on Dingess Run Creek in Logan county.
Widow on Stand
“The night before he was killed was his time to come home but he never came,” Mrs. Munsy testified that her husband had been digging coal for about fifteen years before his death and that they had been married about 20 years. He had been “guarding for about a week, working for Logan county, for the coal operators,” she went on, but later when Mr. Houston cross-examined her on that statement her formerly quiet tone rose to the ringing declaration “he was defending his county.”
Carpenter did not know who fired the shots that killed Gore, Munsy and James Cafalgo. When the shooting began he ran back a few steps and dropped to the ground, he said. After it was over he went to a point near the body of “the foreigner,” and saw that of Gore, but could not see the third body. Edgar Combs told him he had killed the one Carpenter had designated as “the large man in the middle,” and later told another of the party this man was Gore.
He left Nellis, where he was employed as a pump man, on August 29, 1921, he said, after a man had come to the mines and threatened to “knock off” the “yellow” men who did not go. A journey on foot and by rail took about 30 in his party to Ottawa, and there Edgar Combs picked him and three others he named to go to Blair. The next day from the schoolhouse steps in Blair, he said, Rev. J.E. Wilburn made a speech and a party was organized that went into the hills. Some threw down their guns and refused to go but threats were made, and the men were lined up in single file, with leaders for squads of eight men. The original party of 50 or 60 divided, and the group of about 35, in which he went, camped on the top of the mountain until daybreak. They heard firing in the direction of the “gap,” through which previous testimony had shown the road from Blair to Logan ran and set out in that direction.
Then he told of the meeting with the “large man” and his two companions, and by pre-arranged signal the leader lifted his hat three times to indicate there was no danger. The large man beckoned to them to come on, and when the parties met there were mutual demands for the password. The shots were fired, Carpenter testified, when somebody said “amen,” and in the opening statements prosecution counsel had told the jury that it would be shown that “amen” was the Logan password. Wilburn, the preacher, was in the lead of the marchers column, and Combs next behind him, the witness said.
A.M. Belcher, Appalachia, Charleston, coal, deputy sheriff, Ed Reynolds, Edgar Combs, George Munsey, Harold W. Houston, Harry R. Barnes, history, Jackson Arnold, James Miller, James Swanner, John Chafin, John Gore, justice of the peace, Lee Belcher, Logan, Logan Banner, Mason City, Matewan, Meigs County, Mine Wars, Ohio, Point Pleasant, Pomeroy, Savoy Holt, U.S. Cantley, United Mine Workers of America, W.M. Swanner, Wallace Chafin, Welch, West Virginia, William Chafin
From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, comes this bit of history about the armed march of 1921:
OFFICERS SAY OHIO MOB THREATENED LIVES
“Let’s Make It a Matewan-Welch Affair,” Yells Citizens of Pomeroy
Officers Say Lives Were Threatened
Another tragic sequel to the miners “armed march” on Logan was narrowly averted at Pomeroy, Ohio, Monday, when a mob of about three hundred persons are said to have threatened the lives of Deputy Sheriffs Wallace Chafin and Lee Belcher, and Mr. Chafin’s son William, who went to Pomeroy to visit his grandfather. The officers were sent to Pomeroy with requisition papers for the removal of Savoy Holt, and U.S. Cantley, who are wanted in Logan on the charge of being accessory before the fact of the killing of George Munsey and John Gore, during the “armed march.”
A statement was given out by Officer Chafin Wednesday, which he described in detail the affair at Pomeroy. Bearing requisition papers for the removal of Holt drawn by the Governor of Ohio and later held up by the agreement of attorneys of both the defense and prosecution till after the trial of James Miller. Officers Chafin and Belcher reported to the sheriffs of Meigs county. They were sent to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office of the county where they were advised that they would have to get other papers for their purpose. They then went before Justice of Peace Harry R. Barnes and swore out a fugitive warrant for the two men wanted. “A crowd of seventy-five or a hundred gathered around the jail. All of the men wore coats and did not seem friendly,” Mr. Chafin said. “We returned to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office, and as I came out there was considerable commotion among the large crowd of men. Persons were being waved back and told to stand aside. These directions were being made by members of the crowd,” Officer Chafin said. Chafin returnerd to the Sheriff’s office and was told that he had been called away, and that he could not see Holt.
“Officer Belcher, myself and my son were directed to the Mayor’s office. We were told that the Mayor had a telegram for us from Governor Donahey, which said that Holt should not be delivered and that if we were ___ to run us out of town and tell us not to return. We did not go to the Mayor’s office, and thought if we were really causing trouble it would be best for us to leave immediately. From the time I arrived in town I noticed that the atmosphere had changed since I was last there. Not an officer could be found anywhere. People gazed out on the streets from their houses in great numbers. And several people were noticed to follow us from the time we arrived in town.”
“When we decided to leave, we hired a taxi cab with the intention of going to Point Pleasant. Again, the crowd which seemed to be growing surrounded the cab, and the driver fled, leaving us standing amidst the crowd in the middle of the street. We heard some one in the crowd say, ‘Let’s make it another Welch or Matewan affair.’ A man who said he was a newspaper reporter began to ask questions as the crowd pushed in against the cab. We were asked if we weren’t Logan county thugs, and if we were not in the gang that opposed the ‘armed march.’ We told them that we were regular Logan county officers and had been serving as Deputy Sheriffs for some time, also that we had been sent there with the proper papers to return Savoy Holt to Logan. They were told that I had been a Deputy for two years and that Belcher had been in office for six years. The crowd dropped back and we got our bags and endeavored to hire another taxi, but evidently the drivers had been given instructions not to drive us. They all refused and we were forced to go to the ferry. The crowd continued to swell and they followed us to the ferry. The ferry boat was on the West Virginia side and we were forced to endure the jeers and threats of the crowd until the boat returned to the Ohio side.
While on the ferry ten or twelve men came in a group and demanded me to get off, saying that I had given a false name. I told them if they wanted me they would have to come and get me. They approached and requested me to show further identifications and I compiled by showing them my Masonic cards.”
“Upon arriving on the West Virginia side I saw several of the same men I had seen in Pomeroy. Another taxi was hired to take us to Point Pleasant. As we started we were hailed. The taxi was stopped and we were told that the driver could not take us. We concluded that we would walk to the next station to avoid trouble. A short distance below the town we were surrounded by about twelve men in automobiles. Heading for the river, and afraid that they would kill my son, we returned to the station at Mason City to wait for a train. While sitting in the station group after group of men came to the doors and men swarmed around. I believe they would have fired on us in the station if there had not been several women sitting near us. The first train to arrive was an east bound train which we took to Parkersburg. The last words we heard from the crowd was from a large man who seemed to act in capacity of spokesman. He yelled, ‘I’m damn sorry boys we did not make this another Welch or Matewan affair.'”
Mr. Chafin reported the affair to Governor Morgan at Charleston Tuesday. He was instructed by the governor that the removal of Holt and Cantley would be affected by the state authorities. It is understood that Colonel Jackson Arnold has been sent to Columbus, Ohio, to get the proper extradition papers for the men’s removal. Cantley is still at large and Holt is being held in the county jail at Pomeroy, where he has been held as a witness in the case of James Miller who was sentenced from two to twenty years for the killing of E. Reynolds and W.M. Swanner. Holt was in the Miller home in Pomeroy at the time of the shooting which took place in Miller’s front yard.
Logan (WV) Banner, 3 August 1923
POMEROY, OHIO, IS A REFUGE AFTER CRIMES ARE COMMITTED, SAID
A.M. Belcher, Attorney, Says the Failure of Meigs County to Relinquish Prisoners Is Proof.
MAKES STATEMENT WHILE CALLING ON PROSECUTOR
“The attack on Deputy Sheriffs Wallace Chafin and Lee Belcher, at Pomeroy, Ohio, where they were threatened by a mob when they attempted to return Savoy Holt to West Virginia for trial in connection with the armed march on Logan, in 1921, is only added proof to the claim that the Pomeroy Band is serving as a refuge for various crimes in West Virginia,” said A.M. Belcher, state counsel in the prosecution of the so-called armed march cases.
Mr. Belcher was here Thursday to assist Prosecuting Attorney John Chafin resist an application for a change of venue for Harold W. Houston, chief counsel for District 17, United Mine Workers and Edgar Combs, a member of the mine workers union, for their alleged connection with the murders which grew out of the armed march.
“The refusal of the Meigs county authorities to turn over Holt to the custody of the Logan county sheriffs was in a direct violation of an agreement we had made with attorneys representing the defense,” said Mr. Belcher.
“At the time J.E. Miller was indicted for the murder of James Swanner and Ed Reynolds, Holt was indicted as an accessory to that crime. He was also wanted by the Logan county authorities for his participation in the march, but an agreement was made with Miller’s attorneys that if he were allowed to remain in Meigs county until after the Miller trial that he would immediately be returned to Logan.”
Requisition papers for Holt’s return were honored at the time by Governor Donahey but at the request of Miller’s attorneys West Virginia decided not to insist upon Holt’s immediate return, relying on the defense’s promise that he would be surrendered as soon as the trial was over.
“When Deputies Chafin and Belcher went to Pomeroy Tuesday they had in their possession the requisition papers issued at the time we instituted the original proceedings. They were signed by Governor Donahey on May 15. Neither of the two deputies expected any resistance but to their surprise they were met by a mob of 300 men who not only drove them out of town but pursued them across the river into West Virginia territory.
It would appear that there is something radically wrong with the state’s government that would permit a mob’s action to override its official decisions. The Pomeroy Band has become the refuge of scores of miners who took part in the uprising against Logan county. The entire section apparently is in sympathy with the band of radicals who fostered the march against the citizens of a peaceful county.
The temper of the mob which threatened the two Logan county deputies is seen in the fact that it was only by a miracle that the two officers escaped with their lives. “Let’s make it another Matewan affair” was their battle cry; and the reason that two more West Virginians did not meet death in Pomeroy as did Jim Swanner and Ed Reynolds is due to the courage and coolness of the two officers.
Holt was once in custody of the Logan county officers but was released on bail. Soon after his release he is said to have gone to the headquarters of the United Mine Workers at Charleston and then on the following day left for Pomeroy. It was on the next day that Swanner and Reynolds went to Pomeroy to offer Miller immunity if he would return to Logan county and testify for the state in the armed march cases.
Miller met the two men at the door of his home near Pomeroy and shot both of them to death, though neither of the Logan deputies were armed. Holt, it is said, was in the house at the time of the shooting.
Logan (WV) Banner, 10 August 1923
Appalachia, Blair Mountain, Cabell County, coal, crime, deputy sheriff, Edgar Combs, H.W. Houston, history, Huntington, lawyer, Logan County, Mine Wars, Thomas West, United Mine Workers of America, West Virginia
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