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 occupations. Tennis Hatfield, Cap Hatfield, Joe Hatfield, Willis Hatfield, pushboats, Logan, World War I, coal, and blacksmithing are featured.
What about Tennis and Joe Hatfield?
But now they come out, they paid all their debts and everything and stuff like that. They was honest, as far as I know. I think both of ‘em went broke, they was so good to the people. They had all kinds of things… Tennis had a five thousand dollar ring and he pawned it to the First National Bank and somebody got the ring. I don’t know who did. Tennis didn’t get it back. They both lost everything they had. And not just only them. Osey Richey, he was assessor and J.G. Hunter was assessor, and they lost all they had. People just, after they got elected and everything, thought that they had to furnish ‘em whether they had it or whether they didn’t.
Tennis and Joe were too young to participate in the Hatfield-McCoy Feud.
Oh yeah. That happened before I got big enough, Cap and them. Cap was chief deputy, though, while I was on. I can remember some of it. Just hear-says. I don’t know nothing about it. Ellison Toler was related to them someway and he stayed at my daddy’s and they kept him up for killing somebody over there at Welch and they hung him there at Welch yard on a tree. I remember getting into my daddy’s papers and reading the letters after I was just learning in school about such stuff like that. And I thought that was the awfulest thing ever was, writing to him and telling about it.
What changed in the county for the Hatfields between the feud and the 1920s?
Mostly, they died out to tell you the truth. Joe and Tennis died out and nobody else had guts enough to take it, you see? Now, Willis, he was the youngest brother. Elba, now he was JP and after he got out as JP he pulled out and went to California. And Willis, he died here about a year ago up on Rum Creek. And Tennis and Joe both died. And that was all of ‘em. All of the old people. Harvey Howes married their sister, and they’re all dead.
Did you ever talk to Cap or Willis?
Oh yeah. Willis, they’d hang after me all the time. They knowed I was half-Hatfield, you know. Tennis and Joe would, too. They was awful good to me ever way. Now Cap, I never – Cap just had one word for a person. If he wanted to talk with you, he’d say, well let’s talk a while, and if he didn’t, he’d say, get the hell away from here. That was the way Cap was. Devil Anse, he used to kill a beef and roast it every Christmas, you know. I’ve went there and eat with him a lot. They tell me they wouldn’t know that place now. They’ve cleaned the graveyard up, you know. I ain’t been up there in… Be five years in January since I got down and I ain’t been away … Only one takes me anyplace is my daughter Edith and Ralph and Edith’s working all the time and Ralph’s all the time busy and Ralph takes me to the doctor every month and Edith took me to the store back and forth and Ralph took me last Saturday.
How has Downtown Logan changed since you were young?
Oh, it’s changed a big lot. Built more buildings in it and everything. Used to be you had about three or four policeman and that was it. Now I can remember back whenever they had a wooden courthouse. A boxed building. I was just a big boy then. Daddy followed rafting and pushboating. You know what pushboating is? Well, they had a big long boat. He had two. And one of ‘em was about eight feet wide and about 46 feet long. Other one was about twelve feet wide. And they had to catch water to get that big boat. And sixteen foot wide. And they’d take a pair of mules or horses, whichever they had, and they’d go to Logan and buy groceries. He had a store and he boated most of his stuff. They’d kill hogs and take chickens and catch fish and take it down to Logan and sell it and they’d bring groceries back.
And they’d make these trips how often?
He went every week. It would take two days to make it, very best. You had from daylight to dark.
Tell me more about your work history.
Well I was a blacksmith. Worked in electric force. They knew I was going to fire. Harvey Ferguson was superintendent. Johnny Davis was general manager. They knowed how old I was. They knowed I was going to retire. I left Christian over here. They shut down. Johnny Davis offered me a job and offered me a job and I wouldn’t take it. I met him right at the foot of the hill. He was a boss over some Elk Creek mine. Well, I went and worked about six months lacking two days for Burl Stotts over there in Campbell’s Creek, built a tipple he fell off of and got killed. I come back and Johnny had come in home that week and Johnny and Harvey Ferguson had been up here and they wanted me to come around there and talk with them on Saturday night. I went around there. They said Johnny said he wanted me to come back up and work for him. I said, well you won’t give me enough. He said, how much you getting? I told him. He said, well I’ll give you three dollars on the day more. I said, well I’ll do it. The rates was 24 dollars. Union then. He give me 27 dollars. I wasn’t getting 24 and going over there and paying board, you know. So I said, well I’ll go back over there and work next week and pay my board up. I wouldn’t walk right off the job from him. He was a good fellow. And he was good to me. And he liked me and everything. And he give me all he could give me. They said they appreciated that, Davis and Harvey Ferguson both. That I’d do a thing like that. So I went back and worked that week and paid my board and come back and went up there and stayed with him fourteen years and retired. In November 30, 1962.
Do you remember anything about your last day?
No, they give me a pair of gloves and Johnny told me that he was going to put a ten dollar gold piece in my envelope. And he did.
What about World War I?
Well I was called… I was drum runner. The superintendent come down in the drum house where I was at. The superintendent said I see you are called for service. I said, Yeah, two more weeks will be my last. You better get somebody in here and let me learn him while I can. He said, we were studying about that. Do you want to go? I said, no I don’t want to go but I guess I’ll have to go. Kaiser was his name. He said, We’ll see what we can do about it. I’ll let you know and I’ll keep you posted at all times. Well, that was on Monday morning, I believe it was. On Saturday evening, I had to work six days a week, Saturday evening he wanted me to come over to his office. That was around on Huff Creek, at Mallory 1. And I went over there. He said, I think I’ve got you retired. He said, We’ve got to have coal men as well as army men. Just don’t say anything about it to none of the boys. You’ll not have to go. And that was all of it. I never did have to go. But I registered five different times for the service. Last time I registered, they took everybody. They didn’t get too old—I registered them all. And the company put me in a little old room beside the store and furnished my eatings for that day paid me for my day’s work and the government never did pay me a cent for none of it. Five different times. Now at first start I had to take them, I had to keep a tally of how many registered, had to take them to Logan and send them out, call in to Washington and tell them how many I registered and everything. Now the last time, I didn’t have to do that. A man come and got ‘em the next day.
Who taught you how to blacksmith?
Oh, I taught myself. My daddy used to shoe horses and I used to help him in the shop. That’s the hardest job ever I got in, shoeing horses or mules. Dangerous job, too. I’ve had them kick me plumb over top of… At that time you had belluses you blow. They’d kick me plumb over top of them belluses. Almost kill me sometimes.
Were there any blacksmith shops around Logan when you were a boy?
Oh yeah. There was plenty of them. There in Logan there was a big one. A fellow named White was the blacksmith down there. Boy, he’d whip a mule. He kept big old hickory poles in there and a mule or horse that didn’t hold still or anything he’d throw its leg down and grab one of them poles—I’ve been in there and watched him—and he’d beat that mule… I swear, I’d be uneasy about it. Think he was going to kill it. It would just quiver like a leaf.
Where was his shop?
Right where the courthouse sits now. There was a wooden courthouse. Box building. Two-story high. And his blacksmith shop was right on down the street. I’d say it wasn’t quite down to the Smoke House. Not quite down that far. Over on the right hand side. It was a big old boxed building and a shed to it. He’d get dirty coal. He was too tight to buy the coal or something. And he’d have enough smoke go all over that town. Yeah, I remember all about that.
NOTE: Some names may be transcribed incorrectly.