(It has been 30 years since I first started writing about the now infamous murder of Logan’s Mamie Thurman. Now, with the beginning of the theatrical production of “Mamie” slated to begin July 19 at Chief Logan State Park, the following is some interesting information I feel essential for readers to evaluate.)
According to medical testimony at the trial of Clarence Stephenson, death resulted instantly for Mrs. Mamie Thurman, a resident of Main Street in Logan. There were two bullet wounds through her head, her throat cut, and her neck broken. Doctors testified that they believed the throat was cut after she was shot with a .38 caliber pistol. Her hat, with a bullet hole in it, was found fifty feet from the body on Trace Mountain, now known as 22 Holden. Two diamond rings, a wrist watch, and eight to ten dollars in her pocketbook were also recovered at the gruesome site where two young boys picking blackberries happened upon the body. Robbery was obviously not a motive for the killing.
June 22 will mark 83 years since Mamie’s demise, but for many her spirit remains close by — perhaps refusing to let locals forget about her tragedy, and maybe seeking someone to identify her final resting place. Despite many efforts over the years, no one could ever declare where she was buried. Her half-brother, George Morrison, came here from New Mexico hoping to find her gravesite and place a proper monument there. Morrison is now deceased and left Logan more bewildered that when he arrived.
One must understand the era in which Mamie Thurman lived. Although the Great Depression officially began with the 1929 stock market crash, Logan County really did not feel its effects until a few years later and in 1932 miners were lucky to be working one or two days a week, according to newspaper accounts from the time. Still there were many prominent people in the area who made multitudes of money when coal boomed from 1904 through the ‘20’s. And even though many of these people lost hundreds of thousands of dollars when two Logan banks failed, Loganites were to ride the storm out in due time.
Harry Robertson, a banker himself, was a very important player in the story of Mamie. Not only was he one of Mamie’s secret lovers, but as an extremely influential City Councilman, he also had a police officer fired so that Jack Thurman, Mamie’s husband, could be hired in his place. The Thurman’s also rented an apartment from Robertson. Originally charged along with Stephenson with Mamie’s murder, Robertson was not indicted. It is interesting to note that his boss at the bank and other associates and friends comprised the grand jury. It is expected that some of these men were members of the so called “Key Club,” which existed upstairs in what was known as the Holland Building and today is occupied by the store known as Gold Town on Stratton Street. In 1936, the building became known as G.C. Murphy’s, better known as the “Dime Store.”
With Prohibition in effect, the Key Club supposedly consisted of men and women who drank illegal alcoholic beverages and partook in lewd and indiscriminate sexual affairs. Although individual names were not allowed into trial testimony, the club was acknowledged in various testimonies. It is possible and even probable some of the very people involved with the murder trial were members of the club. One of the prosecutors in the trial, John “Con” Chafin, would a few years later commit suicide in the Guyandotte River following him escorting and attending a local church with his daughter. He was a first cousin to legendary sheriff Don Chafin.
There are many interesting twists to the Mamie Thurman story. In 1932, Joe Hatfield, Devil Anse’s son, was serving as sheriff of Logan County and his brother, Tennis, was a Republican candidate hoping to succeed him. He would win the Primary and lose to Democrat Sherman Smith of Chapmanville in the November General election of the same year. Among numerous other intriguing facts concerning Mamie, is the information that the attorney representing the black handyman, who worked for Harry Robertson and was convicted in the murder of Mamie, was a young C.C. Chambers, who would the same year defeat the Circuit Judge who tried the case — Naaman Jackson — who also was President of a local bank. Chambers would later be featured in LIFE magazine as a member of the KKK.
Intriguing still is the fact that nearly 900 pages of the transcript of the trial were taken many years ago from the Logan Circuity Clerk’s office by a now deceased Logan Judge. The transcripts were never returned. However, thanks to a Logan Countian, Rory Perry, who serves as Clerk for the WV Supreme Court, this writer is in possession of the 843-page account of the trial, related photos, and copies of the appeal to the Supreme Court and the denial by the same court.
Although Harris Funeral Home records show Mamie Thurman to have been transported to Bradfordsville, Ky. for burial, testimony by the very first and third witnesses called in the murder trial proves this to be incorrect. R.B. Harris, the funeral director himself, and Jack Thurman, Mamie’s husband, who was 16 years older than her, were called to the stand by the Prosecution.
Since by today’s standards, it takes 4 hours and 56 minutes to drive to Bradfordsville, which is 257 miles from Logan, it would have taken much longer in 1932 — long before any interstate highways were constructed. It is likely that Mr. Thurman changed his mind because of the cost and because he was given a plot in the McConnell Cemetery known as Logan Memorial Park. Here is the testimony of the first witness, R.B. Harris:
Question: “In what county did you find the body?”
Question: “And what did you do with it after you embalmed it?”
Answer: “We kept it at the funeral home until the funeral arrangements were made, and then buried it at the Logan Memorial Park, Logan County.”
After Jack Thurman took the witness stand and was asked numerous questions, the final query to him by former Judge and special Prosecutor Damron — “Was your wife buried here in Logan?” was answered by Mamie’s husband — “Out at McConnell.”
The question now is, exactly where? Also, why did her husband never place a headstone upon his wife’s grave? And, who gave him the cemetery plot?
These and many other questions will be answered in future editions of this newspaper—so stay tuned, and enjoy the play. In the meantime, let me advise readers that Jack Thurman remarried less than a year before the anniversary of Mamie’s vicious killing. The girl, who hailed from neighboring Boone County, was even younger than Mamie.
For those who seek Mamie’s final resting place, you will find it not far from the huge Steele monument at lonesome and abandoned Logan Memorial Park.
It remains unmarked.