From everything I’ve been able to discover over the years, it appears Logan County was a mighty tough place to live, particularly during the 1800’s. There were no real law enforcement officers, and oftentimes matters were settled—let’s just say—outside of a court room. The Hatfield-McCoy feud is a prime example. However, there were many other happenings— some of which that ended with gunfights that resembled old western shootouts. And there were several hangings, especially of black slaves when one of them was said to have committed a crime. The only white person hanged at the Logan courthouse (that was ever reported or recorded) was a prominent lawyer in 1897. And in as much as some readers may rejoice in hearing this lawyer news, I will relay the information which I uncovered from a Madison newspaper printed in 1939.
M.L. Jones, who taught school in Logan County during the 1880’s, tells the story of Charley Williams, whose untimely death came with the snapping of his neck in the Logan courthouse yard. Jones, who said he was listening to the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” on the radio when he was reminded of Williams, who he said was a well renowned banjo player in these Appalachian hills.
“Good banjo players were scare in Logan about 1883, and he and his banjo were welcome almost anywhere,” Jones explained. “But Charley Williams was no wondering minstrel. He was a man of intelligence and culture. He was of a leading family in eastern Virginia. While he was still a boy he joined Lee’s army, and was present at Appomattox. His people must have saved a little money; for after the war he took a course in law and practiced a while in Logan, then went back to Virginia. He returned to Logan about 1883 and for a short time was a leading lawyer of the Logan bar.
“I think I must have met Williams first while staying a couple of days at a home on Main Island Creek near where the Anse Hatfield monument is now. He was boarding there and borrowed a shotgun, and we strolled up the creek with it. Seeing a squirrel in a tree, he handed the gun to me and told me to shoot the squirrel. I told him I had never shot a gun in my life, but he insisted. I pulled the trigger, and the squirrel fell to the ground. Charley Williams was my partner in my first, last, and only squirrel hunt.”
According to the report, Williams did well for about three years, but by 1896 he was drinking heavily, but was described as “not being quarrelsome” and only “pleasantly conversational”. “I remember that while Bruce McDonald and I were teaching in the first schoolhouse built at Logan, Williams, feeling pretty full, said to me, ‘I like you Jones. You should study law; you would make a good judge.’ By 1897 his drunk spells lasted longer, and he reportedly became obsessed with the idea that certain men were his enemies. If anybody tried to rebuke or argue with him, he was terribly insulted.
“He began to mutter as he walked about,” Jones said. “People heard him say, always to himself, ‘I’ll kill him, or I’ll shoot him.’ Several men around Logan began to be afraid of him when he was drunk. It would have been well if Jim Aldredge had been afraid of Charley. Aldredge was a nephew of William—a sister’s son. He was almost as old as his uncle, and was County Surveyor, married and with several children. But not being afraid of him, he did his utmost from time to time to take care of him.
Doubtless, with what little mind the besotted lawyer had left, he fancied Aldredge was insulting him.
“One day Aldredge approached Williams and said something to him, which people thought might have been, ‘come with me.’ Before Aldredge or the bystanders realized the danger, Williams drew a pistol, said ‘I’ll kill you,’ and shot Aldredge through the heart. At once there was a great commotion. The gun was taken from Williams and he was put in jail. On either the second or third night, I don’t remember which, a mob took Williams from the jail and hung him in the court house yard.
“Thus, the only white man ever hung in Logan was a lawyer, a man of family and education, and originally a gentleman.”
BITS and PIECES
I suppose nobody in their right mind wants to go to jail, but based on information given by an inmate recently in Magistrate court, the jail at Holden now is so crowded that 20 inmates comprise the cells that were designed for eight people…..of course, not all of the inmates are from Logan County…..others come from Boone, Mingo and McDowell counties…..despite some rumblings when it was first announced, I’m now hearing only good things about the astroturfed fields at Man, Logan and Chapmanville…..out of county teams and fans visiting any of the football fields are going to be very impressed with these colorful changes…..players and coaches will be happy to not have to play in mud on rainy nights…..in a recent story I did reflecting upon the Whitman softball field, I mentioned that Don Chafin’s son (John) sponsored a team of which I was a member…..having played on various teams and with numerous players over the years, there were a few guys overlooked when I mentioned players on the Chafin squad because I concentrated on the original team…..other players that at some point played for a Chafin Coal team include Hank and Eugene Bowen, Bill Runyon, Terry Lawson, Johnny Toth, Tommy Kirk, Kelly Miller, Butch Williams, David Herndon, Larry Brammer, Anthony “Sneak” Adams and Paul Scott…..Sneak and Paul were actually on the Chafin team before I was, but both left the squad shortly after I became a member…..Scott Adkins, owner of SAK’s Jewelers in Logan, says he would be glad to service any clock that might be placed somewhere in downtown Logan as a nice throwback attraction…..he added that any purchase of a large clock for town would be quiet expensive…..I’m hearing the town is considering trying to get street lamps like the ones already at the new State Building in Logan…..most agree that it would be a pleasant facelift for the town…..thanks to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who sought legislation that lifted archaic regulations, the business of craft beer brewing has grown by leaps and bounds in West Virginia…..the Charleston Gazette has featured numerous success stories over the past several weeks…..with all of our local brewing talent that goes back well over a hundred years, I’m surprised nobody has come up with anything on a local level…..I can hear it now: “I’ll have one of those Devil Anse specials, if you don’t mind”…..speaking of Devil Anse, did you hear about the guy from Gilbert that was found in the historical Hatfield Cemetery at midnight one evening?…..when confronted as to why he was there at such an hour, the man pulled out a pint of moonshine and said, “I just wanted to have a drink with the Devil”…..there are many stories that go back over the years that declare that on certain clear nights one can see Devil Anse and some of his boys heading down to the local creek where Uncle Dyke Garrett, who baptized them all in the Island Creek waters, can be seen waiting…..Sarah Ann is a dark place at night…..Did you know that in 1928 it was reported that The Logan Banner’s circulation was well over 30,000 readers?…..now, consider this: the population in Logan County in the year 2000 was 37,710; in 2013 it was 36,442, which is 1,268 less or a 3.36 percent drop…..meanwhile West Virginia’s population grew for the same time from 1,808,344 to 1,853,619 (2.5 percent increase)…..the nation grew from 281,421,906 people to 311,536,591, a 10.7 percent increase…..so, maybe Donald Trump’s illogical logic is logically logical, after all…..say, what?…..I have visited the Triadelphia Country Club at Bruno and I have searched the files of the Logan Banner and have yet to find a grand opening article for the abandoned golf course, which I now believe was April of 1949…..I simply want to write a proper “obituary” for the place because it is indeed “dead”…..QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I lose faith in the people of this country each time I turn my television set on and see the youth and adults of America engaged in this hyenic dance.”—Logan Judge C.C. Chambers in 1962 speaking of the new dance at the time called the “twist”…..just for the record, a few years later myself and a girl named Diana Hall won the twist contest at Verdunville Grade School…..I plan a complete story on the longtime judge, which I promise to be of interest to readers…..Landau Murphy just got back from a tour in Florida and will be headed to Morgantown by Aug. 21 for a performance there…in the meantime, his wife Jennifer tells me that their daughter Kyra Wells will be headed to the University of Charleston where she received a four-year $40,000 academic scholarship……congrats are appropriate…..FINAL NOTE: Josh Butcher and his wife, Jamie, are to be congratulated for their fine efforts in getting funding for the Don Chafin House on Main Street in Logan that formerly was the Logan Woman’s Club Library. The roof is the most important step in saving any structure. Every effort should be made in making this house a visible tourist attraction. I bet there even are volunteers who would be willing to help paint the place and do other improvements. Progress may be slow in coming, but thank God, the Butchers, Shirley Baisden, the Logan County Commission, City officials and anyone else who may have had anything to do with something finally being done about the most historic house in Logan County. Wow.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.