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.
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
American Sociological Society, Appalachia, coal, Colorado, Dartmouth College, deputy sheriff, Don Chafin, Edgar Combs, Edward F. Moore, H.W. Houston, Hanover, history, Industrial Management, Jerome Davis, Logan, Logan County, Macmillan Company, New Hampshire, notary public, Pennsylvania, sheriff, United Mine Workers of America, West Virginia
State v. Edgar Combs
Filed in open Court
Oct. 15, 1923
The American Sociological Society
August 1, 1923
As a teacher in Dartmouth College I have been called on to make several investigations into conditions in coal mining regions in Colorado and Pennsylvania. One of my studies was published by the Macmillan Company and another by Industrial Management. I have never been connected in any way with a labor union and believe that my testimony is impartial.
I have recently been to West Virginia for the purpose of studying conditions in the coal industry there. I was in the state for a total of about a month during June and July of this year. For the major part of this time I was in Logan County or in the surrounding counties.
I found it extremely difficult to secure affidavits from coal miners and others because they stated they were afraid of Don Chaffin and his Deputy Sheriffs. It seemed to be the general consensus of opinion that any person connected with the United Mine Workers of America would not knowingly be permitted to remain in the county and might be subjected to violence. I counted the names of over two hundred deputy sheriffs in the court records of the county and Don Chaffin informed me that the unions had so far been successfully kept out of the district.
Whether justified or not, operators and officials with whom I talked in Logan seemed to feel especial bitterness against H.W. Houston, Attorney of the United Mine Workers of America. It seems to me probable that necessary witnesses for the defense would be reluctant to testify fully and freely, and that they might actually be afraid to attend court for any considerable time. I know that there are a large number of responsible citizens of Logan County who share this belief, although they may not be willing to testify publicly for the reasons given above.
Taken, subscribed and sworn to before me this first day of July, 1923.
My commission expires on the 17th day of Feb 1928.
Edward F. Moore, Notary Public
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