The murderous ’30s

By Dwight Williamson - Contributing Columnist

Dwight Williamson

Some readers may recall the story of Logan Police Chief Roy Knotts being gunned down in 1930 at the Smokehouse restaurant in Logan by Enoch Scaggs, who put five bullets into the man who was on his first day of work. Despite several eyewitnesses to the killing, the plan was for Scaggs to get out of the charge by claiming self-defense. If not for the special efforts of State Attorney General Howard B. Lee, it is likely that Scaggs, a former Logan County sheriff’s deputy, would have never gone to prison.

You may recall that Scaggs collected monies from illegal gambling machines in the City of Logan and other parts of the county for then Sheriff Joe Hatfield and his brother, Tennis, a former sheriff of Logan. Knotts had taken the job following the resignation of the former police chief when the City Manager (today known as Mayor) announced his intentions of ridding the community of illegal gambling, liquor and prostitution. With Lee’s prosecution efforts and a special jury bused from Monroe County, Scaggs was found guilty.

Another story we’ve previously printed involving a Logan police officer and a murder was that of the 1927 killing of a 22-year-old Logan bus driver from Mud Fork named Lawrence Avis. The young man was shot in the back following his arrest at what was the State Restaurant on Stratton Street at 5:45 a.m. May 9, 1927. Logan police Chief Lawrence Carey and Hibberd Hatfield were charged with murder following an altercation in which The Banner reported “the screams of scores of women in nearby apartment buildings” could be heard following shots fired from a .38 caliber pistol.

There are some interesting twists to this story, as Hatfield, who was a night watchman at the time, would later be found not guilty and then became a Logan City police officer. Five years later, he would be working with Jack Thurman on the night (or morning) of Mamie Thurman’s murder.

Another intriguing fact is that during a recess in the trial of Chief Carey, he was escorted by a Logan deputy to his High Street home for lunch. However, when Carey was allowed into his bedroom, he took the same .38 pistol he allegedly used in the murder and killed himself with a bullet to his head. Carey, who had eight children, was the nephew of famous feudist Randall McCoy, as Carey’s mother was Randall’s sister. So, in a sense, there was a Hatfield and a McCoy working together, and both were accused of the same murder.

The following account from a December 1926 Logan Banner story also involves Chief Carey, who at that time made the arrest of a former Logan police chief who had killed his own 20-year-old son after the two argued over the son’s use of profanity while on the telephone. Here’s the story:

“J.M. Henderson, better known as “Mitch Henderson,” for many years chief of police of the city of Logan during former administrations, fired a bullet into the body of his son, Kernie Henderson, age 20, yesterday evening shortly after six o’clock, from which the young man died instantly,” according to the report.

From the story told by Henderson shortly after he had surrendered to police, his son came into the home drunk on moonshine. Kernie’s wife, who was visiting relatives in Columbus, Ohio, called her husband on the telephone and he began to use profane language to which the father objected. The newspaper account stated that Mrs. Henderson stepped in between the two in an effort to prevent trouble. Mr. Henderson said that his son pushed the mother aside and as he did so, he fired—the bullet striking Kernie in the right side, passed through the body severing the artery to the heart, and stopped just beneath the skin on the left side.

Realizing the seriousness of his deed, Henderson said he seized the body of his son and held him tenderly in his arms while the young man passed through the throes of death. After laying the body on the floor, Henderson walked down the street. In the meantime, neighbors who had been attracted by the screams of Mrs. Henderson telephoned a physician and notified the police.

Henderson was said to have surrendered himself “without the least bit of resistance” and admitted to the shooting. Prosecuting attorney, Con Chafin, was notified and told Judge Robert Bland that he did not oppose bail for the former police chief, but worried about relatives or friends of the deceased who might take the law into their own hands.

Grief-stricken relatives and sympathizing friends numbering in the hundreds attended the funeral rites for the younger Henderson, and The Banner reported that all available seating space at Neighbert Memorial Church was taken and that at least 200 persons were compelled to stand outside the church, or were turned away. Burial took place at the now abandoned Logan City Cemetery on High Street. Ironically, the very next year Chief Lawrence Carey, after committing suicide, would also be buried in the same cemetery.

Henderson was said to be torn by grief, but mastering his emotions was the focus for most visitors, and the newspaper account relayed that “…..thoughts of him and of Mrs. Henderson, who had seen her son shot dead by her own husband, brought tears and sobs from many of the people in attendance. “ The widow and her young daughter, Mary, were central figures in the group of mourners, as they had returned from their Columbus trip.

The mourning reached a peak when Mr. Henderson, passing the open coffin for the last time, stopped to kiss the cold lips of his son.

Henderson’s account of what happened before he shot his son changed in a later edition of the newspaper. He reportedly said that as he was preparing to leave the home for his job as a night watchman, he was holding a flashlight in one hand and his pistol in another when he saw his son running toward him. “I told him to stop but he kept coming at me, grabbed me, and threw my arms up—the flashlight fell out of my hand and the gun was fired,” explained Henderson. “Then Kearnie and I clinched. My right arm and hand were between us and I still held the gun—we wrestled for a second—the gun went off a second time. I felt Kearnie throw me to the bed and land on top of me.

“I pulled myself up from the bed, and set in a chair to get back my wind. Kernie’s mother went over to him when he didn’t get up, turned him over—and he was dead,” he concluded.

It was reported that the pistol was a .38 Smith & Wesson and two shots were fired; one taking effect as indicated, the other striking a door in the room where the scuffle took place.

The April 12, 1927 Banner headlines read: “Case Against Mitchell Henderson Dismissed.” Prosecuting attorney John “Con” Chafin told the court that in the Henderson case the State had no witnesses outside members of the family and they were agreed that the killing of Kernie Henderson by his father, J. Mitchell Henderson, was an accident.

“I will be cursed if I do, and cursed if I don’t,” declared the prosecutor; “but after going over the case carefully and talking to all witnesses, I am convinced that the State cannot make a case.”

Prosecutor Chafin—a few years after his involvement in the Mamie Thurman murder case of 1932— would be found dead standing up in the Guyandotte River. He was last seen the night before taking his daughter to a revival at a Stratton Street church. His death was declared a suicide.

And, another page of Logan County history has been turned.


There always seems to be what I shall term as “down-time” following the Super Bowl game each year…..after the World Series, there’s college, then pro football to keep sports fans enthused…..of course, the beginning of spring training for baseball hints of good things to come (like spring weather), and the NCAA basketball tournament is always entertaining, as well our local high school tournament games…..however, this year’s early entertainment seems to come daily in the form of comments or actions involving the current President of the United States, or members of his staff…..the nightly news is now almost as exciting as a Browns-Bengals game; oh wait, that’s probably not a very good comparison…..speaking of President Trump, I saw where the latest Gallup Poll says the President’s approval rating is at an all-time low of 40%, but I suppose that information could fall into the “fake news” category…..on the brighter side of things (at least in some people’s minds) is the announcement that Playboy Magazine is reverting back to its old ways—that is, the magazine will again be featuring nude women in all of its issues…..I can honestly say that the only Playboy magazine I ever owned was the last stapled edition, which featured several nude photos of “Madonna” before anybody even had heard of her…..what I remember vividly is her un-shaved underarms…..can’t help but wonder where that collector’s item disappeared to…..speaking of disappearing, how about the possible re-appearing of former NFL star OJ Simpson?… 70-years-old, I predict OJ will be released from prison on condition of parole, after having served eight years behind bars…..a hearing for Simpson is scheduled for some time this coming summer…..sports fans may remember that OJ wore the number 32 on his jersey, which has always been my favorite sports number…..some pro players who wore number 32 include Sandy Koufax, Bill Walton, Steve Carlton, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Franco Harris, Marcus Allen, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Jack Tatum, and several others…..DID YOU KNOW that the replacement fee for killing an elk in West Virginia is $4,500?—and that does not include a huge fine and court costs?…..the illegal killing of a rabbit, squirrel, opossum, or even a skunk, will cost you a replacement fee of $15 per animal…..I’m not sure when the new highway from Man to Logan will be completely open, or if it will be given any particular name, but those in control of that factor should remember the efforts of former Congressman Nick Rahall in helping to obtain funding for the costly project…..while on the subject of the highway, I have to credit Man Mayor Jim Blevins and all those responsible for the veterans memorial that is located just off of the new road and prior to entering the town of Man…..titled Freedom Hill, the outstanding memorial certainly stands as a welcome site for visitors or any travelers on the new road……I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it now, there needs to be a nice “Welcome to Logan County” “Home of Devil Anse Hatfield” memorial (or something to that effect) greeting people on U.S. 119 near the Logan-Boone County line…..the good news for Cleveland Browns fans is that ticket prices to the team’s home games have been lowered for this coming season…..after the trade of second baseman Brandon Phillips, I would suggest the Cincinnati Reds do the same thing…..QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Three men can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”—Benjamin Franklin, 1735…..a recent and pleasant talk with longtime Logan businessman, Mike Allie, was of real historical interest to me…..Mike, now 89-years-old, has agreed to sit down with me for a future interview that should result in some interesting reading in regard to the town of Logan……FINAL NOTE: Now that the legislature is finally gearing up, I truly hope that one of the issues that can be addressed is that of using regional jail inmates to clean up highways and to clear off abandoned cemeteries. There simply are too many hurdles to jump through to utilize inmates (men and women) in positive ways outside of the various jails. Certain legal restrictions prevent most inmates from being used as workers, even when the inmates want to do so. Of course, this is a small problem in comparison to many other West Virginia ailments…….

Dwight Williamson Williamson

By Dwight Williamson

Contributing Columnist

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