Blasts from the past

By Dwight Williamson - Guest Columnist

The Following is a series of short stories from our local past that I’ve found to be interesting. I hope readers enjoy these “blasts from the past.”

FEBRUARY 8, 1927—-With Prohibition in full effect in 1927, three Logan County deputy sheriffs, armed with a search warrant, and under the supervision of Sheriff Tennis Hatfield, raided the home of Rev. George Alexy of Holden and seized an assortment of wines, containers and other articles deemed relevant in the serving and dispensing of liquid refreshments.

Father Alexy was said to be visiting friends in Huntington on the day the deputies forced an entrance and made a thorough search of the premises. Deputies seized two 10-gallon kegs partly filled with wine, two five-gallon jugs partly filled, one small jug, a bottle of imported liquor, six quarts of wine, two dozen corks, four whiskey glasses and a funnel, according to the newspaper account.

Marks on the containers indicated that the wine had been shipped to Logan County from Canton, Ohio, presumably for use in religious rites. It was for that reason that The Logan Banner reported that it was anticipated that Father Alexy was expected to contest the results of the search when he was either arrested, or turned himself into authorities.

The search warrant was issued “because of complaints that have come to the authorities of a misuse of wines supposedly intended for sacramental purposes.”

SEPTEMBER 2, 1927—-A matrimonial tangle in the household of Deputy Sheriff Grady Cook of Holden led to a shooting on the night of August 29th at Coal Branch and the resignation of Sheriff Hatfield’s deputy the following day.

It was reported that, although he was a party to the shooting, the deputy arrested the other participant, Arthur McDonald, along with Ethel Cook, and brought them to the Logan jail, where a charge of shooting was filed against McDonald. Both were released the following day when Deputy Cook withdrew his charges, following an investigation by Prosecutor John “Con” Chafin.

According to the strange story learned by authorities, an affair took place at the home of John Neace in Coal Branch, where Cook found young McDonald and Ethel Cook; Mrs. Neace being the mother of McDonald. Deputy Cook told authorities when he went to the residence McDonald drew a revolver and shot at him. The fire was returned by the officer, but both shots missed and nobody was injured.

It was understood that Ethel Cook was the wife of the deputy, but both McDonald and Mrs. Cook said they had just a few days earlier gotten married at West Baden, Indiana, accompanied by Mrs. Neace. While in the jail, Mrs. Cook told police that she had left Mr. Cook because he had a still and was making moonshine at their home.

Deputies reportedly were sent to the Holden location to investigate, but failed to find a “moonshining outfit” in the house. However, the deputies did find a still in operation not far from the Cook home. The Banner reported that no arrests were made. The story also said that the couple could not be prosecuted in Logan County on a bigamy charge, as the offense was committed in Indiana.

McDonald was the son of Dr. J.E. McDonald, a once prominent deceased Logan physician.

MAY 2, 1936—-State Police were said to be scouring the Buffalo Creek section of Triadelphia District for a Negro who was reported to have killed Pete Basemore, 25, with an axe. It was reported that Lonnie Gray, 21, was to be charged with killing his brother-in-law by sinking the axe into Basemore’s skull “splitting his head wide open, and causing instant death.”

According to State Troopers, Basemore had threatened to kill his wife on numerous occasions because of her complaining, and had started out to do it on the night that he was killed. After making the remark “I will just kill you,” Basemore is alleged to have chased his wife out of bed, a distance up the highway and back into the house, and was on top of her choking her and was opening a knife to “cut her throat” when Gray ran in with the axe and sent his brother-in-law into the place of fire and brimstone.

Neighbors told the officers that Gray remarked before disappearing that he “wasn’t going to stand by and see him murder my sister.”

McNeely Funeral Home was said to be in charge of funeral arrangements.

JUNE OF 1929—-Logan Judge Naaman Jackson and J.C. Aldredge took an interesting and unusual motor ride up Mud Fork and into the Harts Creek area in what was described as a “bumpy” ride. The two said they were glad they went “but they are not going to make the same trip again.” It was reported that very few people had ever tried driving to Harts from Mud Fork.

An editorial in The Logan Banner read: “It has been obvious for a long time that the Harts Creek country needs attention of some sort. We are inclined to think it needs nothing else so much as a good road. A real highway might quickly accomplish more in curtailing the activities of moonshiners and in suppressing feuds than 1,000 raids could accomplish.

Think of the benefits to accrue to the people who live on Harts and who could not be persuaded to live elsewhere! If there were a highway up Mud Fork and down Harts comparable to the down-river road in safety and smoothness, what a fine Sunday or evening trip it would be to “make the circle.” And literally thousands of people born and reared in the county could and would gratify their curiosity to visit that near and not yet all but isolated section.

Our county must go forward or backward; it certainly will not stand still but will be largely what we make of it,” the editorial concluded.

MAY 14, 2017—-It should be noted that today, some 88 years after the above Logan Banner editorial was printed, the Harts Creek area does have narrow roads leading over the mountainous terrain to Mud Fork and then to Logan. However, even more important is the fact that the Harts area is finally receiving public drinking water.

JANUARY 4, 1936—-Reuben Chaney, the first white man ever sentenced from Logan County to be hanged, and whose execution was set for January 24, was given a new chance to make a fight for his life when the Supreme Court granted a review to Chaney, who was convicted in Logan of murdering Henry Napier, aged 69.

Chaney, 46-year-old coal miner, had said he killed Napier in self-defense when he returned to his home at Lundale, which he occupied along with Napier, and found Napier and another man fighting. He said he ordered them to quit and Napier then attacked him.

State witnesses at the trial had declared that Chaney went to another room, obtained a razor, and then slashed Napier’s throat.


Well, one thing is for sure in Logan County, and that is that election time is never boring…..and it looks like the future holds an interesting political agenda, especially since State Sen. Richard OJeda and House of delegates member Rupie Phillips have both announced their candidacies for the seat currently held by Evan Jenkins in Congress… you probably know, Jenkins has announced his intentions of seeking the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Fairmont’s Joe Manchin, who, of course, is our former Governor…..when you think about it, it just seems to me than none of these people know what they want to be “when they grow up”…..for instance, Manchin went from Governor to Senator, and is viewed widely as a “Republicrat”, while Jenkins is a former Democrat, who changed his registration to Republican…..Phillips has went from Democrat to Non-partisan to now, Republican, and is desiring to go from the Statehouse to Washington D.C……OJeda, who just got elected to the State Senate as a Democrat, and is mostly known for his marijuana legislation, has decided the zoo in Charleston doesn’t have enough monkeys to suit him, so he has set his sights on the much bigger circus in Washington, D.C……in the meantime, a Mingo County coal miner named Bo Copley is also seeking Senator’s Manchin seat, and will be Jenkins’ opposition on the Republican ticket…, who do you think will be the Democratic opposition for OJeda in the Primary Election?… for Delegate Ralph Rodighiero, I would not count on him for another run for his current seat… me, I believe the average voters are being underestimated, just as it has happened in the recent past…..unfortunately, for many office holders and candidates, people have become somewhat disgusted with government, or the lack thereof…..there are also some political rumblings on the local county level, but we will deal with those things later…..meanwhile, the Logan County Commission should be commended again for the new senior public housing complex that is to be built in Logan via a $5 million federal grant…..the 36-unit structure is planned for a site on the now unused portion of the Logan boulevard, which is near Midelburg Addition… me, this is fantastic and long overdue positive news for the county and the town of Logan, and I do hope the location is out of the flood zone…..speaking of the County Commission, apparently the county coffers are in fairly good financial shape since the Commission seems to never have to turn down a financial request for help, which included a recent $20,000 donation to the theatre group, Aracoma Inc., …..apparently, there is more in the works in the form of planned housing, since the Logan County Housing Authority is planning a meeting for 3 p.m. Tuesday at the courthouse to perhaps discuss or announce plans to purchase what is termed as “Queen’s Realty”…..this just might coincide with a legal ad that I observed in The Logan Banner in which the County Commission is seeking sealed bids for the purpose of “constructing single-family unit home foundations”…..bids must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. May 17th…..DID YOU KNOW THAT every day an average of 91 people die in the U.S as the result of overdosing on opioids or heroin?…..or that DUI deaths as the result of drugs has now surpassed alcohol DUI deaths, although alcohol is technically a drug as well?…..according to Logan County Clerk records, there have been 13 couples apply in Logan County for marriage licenses since the Same Sex Marriage Law went into effect October 10, 2014…..County Clerk John Turner said the day the law went into effect two years ago, the clerk’s offices had not even received the proper forms that covered those type of marriages…..state tax increases are always frowned upon, even when they may be necessary……however, if you happen to be a smoker (and I am not), then you might not want to leave West Virginia for New York City…. cigarettes in The Big Apple now average between $10 and $13 per package… the past 17 years, there has never been a legislative member ever contact me about any pending bills that could affect Magistrate Courts; nor, have they asked our opinions on just about anything…..a few weeks ago, however, House of Delegates member Zach Maynard visited Boone and Logan Magistrates (possibly others) and listened to certain problems, and the visit was appreciated; especially concerning ridiculous courts costs on citations…..QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”—Albert Einstein…..fellow magistrate Joe Mendez, who went to lunch with Delegate Maynard, had some positive things to say about the delegate’s visit…..sometimes I become frustrated by my fellow political friends out there who believe that one should not even speak to so-called “enemies”… problem is that I have yet to figure out just who my enemies are supposed to be…..I hope to sit down with 103-year-old Bill Farley of Switzer, who I know is a friend of my buddy, Claude Yeager, who I did a story about a few years back…..according to Jessie Jude of Yuma, who gave me a phone call in reference to Farley, the Centurion still drives about every morning to Janet’s Park ‘n Eat restaurant at Mt. Gay to have breakfast with “the boys”…..the employees at Janet’s know his every day breakfast order to be: two eggs, a biscuit and gravy, three slices of tomatoes, and an order of bacon…, now, I’ve just given readers the secret to longevity, but I don’t believe the secret can be found in the gravy…..CLOSING NOTE: A mother is a mother, no matter what. It’s just that, in my opinion, “they” don’t make them like they used to. In today’s society riddled with drug use, too many children are growing up not knowing what a “real” mother is like. Some of the younger generation of moms should appreciate the fact that they do not have to hand wash and bleach cotton baby diapers and then have to hang then on an outside clothes line to let them dry. How mothers, like my own (Ethel Williamson), could raise seven children, tend to a garden, provide home cooked meals, preserve much of the food by “canning,” and make sure all the kids went to school for an education that she was denied, is historically astonishing. Just remember to honor your mother today; for when you lose her, you often lose your best friend. HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY!

By Dwight Williamson

Guest Columnist

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.

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