With Cupid’s arrows supposedly zinging through the air as we prepare for Valentine’s Day, I thought it appropriate to tell readers about the “marriage near the clouds” that occurred over Logan County on April 29, 1930. It was the first wedding ceremony ever conducted in an airplane in southern West Virginia, but more importantly, it marked the first time an airplane took off from Logan County soil, according to The Logan Banner account printed the same day.
Although the bus service was really just coming into its own as a means of transportation in and out of the hills of our county, and was already in a major battle for customers with several local taxi cab services, the idea for airplane service to the county was for commercial reasons. Later, some coal company and land officials opened and utilized small fields for their private use. However, the first ever “airport” was located between Chapmanville and Godby Branch just off of what is now called “old route 10”; back then, it was simply called the “Huntington Road.”
Price Field was the name given to the airport that was comprised of several small tracts of land owned by various people. About 1,500 feet long and approximately 400 feet wide, the property to this day still lies between the C&O Railroad tracks and the Guyandotte River. C.E. Rogers had been contracted to “clear the field of cornstalks” and develop one of the few level places in the county. The property today is owned by Jack and Josh Mullins, according to Logan County records.
Red Wing Flying Service was the name of the company that chose to offer airplane service to the county, and the “wedding in the sky” apparently, was a part of the grand opening ceremonies, which would later include parachuting as hundreds of people looked on in amazement. The airplane used on opening day for the wedding ceremony was a “bi-plane,” which was the same type of airplane used to drop bombs on the miners nine years earlier during the “Battle of Blair Mountain.” A bi-plane was an early aircraft with wings at two different levels, one above and one below the fuselage.
One can only imagine the tremendous excitement back then that must have been generated by the “flying machine” as it crossed into the various hollows. It was said that some people stood in amazement, while others “took to the hills” as the strange aerial sounds bounced off the hills of Logan County. I’m sure there were other folks who did not believe weddings should be conducted anywhere outside of a church. However, the difficulty in finding a preacher for the wedding may simply have been the fear of flying itself. Regardless, the Rev. Robert F. Caverlee, the well-liked pastor of the First Baptist Church in Logan, agreed to officiate the highly unusual wedding.
Miss Mattie Turner, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Turner of Chapmanville was the bride-to-be, while Theodore Grant McCarty of Marlington WV, a Private with the Logan detachment of the West Virginia State Police, was the groom. The couple had two attendants, Mary Scales, who was the reporter, who two years later would cover the infamous murder trial involving Mamie Thurman, was the maid of honor, while Sgt. R. E. Brooks, head of the Logan detachment, was the groom’s best man.
Decorations for the wedding were furnished by Mother Nature in all of her spring glory and the mountainous background added a touch of romance, as it was covered “with shimmering green, dotted with many blossoms.” The “whirr’ of the propeller served as the pre-nuptial music while many friends, family and acquaintances looked on. The first part of the ceremony was performed in the airplane, just before taking off. The final vows were pledged when the plane sailed over the heart of downtown Logan. As the Reverend pronounced the couple man and wife, the pilot made a “love dip” that dazzled onlookers.
The newspaper reported that the plane and its highly acclaimed pilot, Roy Ahearn, a former stunt pilot in the movies, had carried 27,000 passengers that particular year without an accident. The 220 horsepower four-passenger plane was the same type used by aviator, Charles Lindbergh.
Although there is much interesting history still to be told concerning our county and its people, I believe it is safe to say that there probably is nowhere else in the country where one can boast that the “first” airplane to leave a county’s “first” airport also was the setting for a wedding that close to heaven—4,000 feet above “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia.
BITS and PIECES
A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question as to who the readers thought was the best ever Logan High School basketball player…..among the names mentioned were those of Walt Walowac, James Davidson, Mark Hatcher, Ross Scaggs, Vic Herbert, Greg Bartram, Mike Stone, Kevin McCallister, Kenny Ross, Gary Webster, Tony Blackmon, DeAundre Murphy, Ron Gaiter, and several others…..well, the jury is still out, but preliminary results seem to be coming down to either James Davidson or Mark Hatcher…..Jim Bailey, a longtime and wise local sports official, who refereed basketball and football games at about every level, as well as umpiring baseball, did not hesitate in saying: “Mark Hatcher.” “I saw Walowac, Davidson, and all of them and Mark was the best,” Bailey said…..when I told a former Logan player what Bailey said, the guy’s response was: “Is Jim on drugs? James Davidson was by far the best”……I remember years ago when I covered the Wildcats for The Banner, Logan Coach Willie Akers, Denny Frost (Trader) of now defunct WLOG radio and Banner editor Earl Lambert were all traveling together to a game when I posed the question to Willie…..Willie really never said for sure which one, but he did say it was between Davidson and Hatcher……of course, Willie did not coach Walowac, who, like Davidson, was a Marshall star…..Hatcher wound up at VPI, but had several other basketball power offers…..back then (1971), VPI, now Virginia Tech, had a great basketball program…..knee problems ended Mark’s playing career…..a super nice guy, as is Davidson, he now is a retired physical education instructor from Holden Grade School, and a friend…..maybe we should institute a poll on the above question…..Wilson Cleaners of Logan has closed its doors, apparently for good…..a sign on the door says “gone out of business”…..for those who don’t know, it has operated beside what is now Chirico’s Restaurant across from the Chinese restaurant for as long as I can remember…..over the years, there have been several owners of the property that is leased from the Taylor/Vinson heirs, like almost everything on Route 10 to Aracoma…..some former owners include partners Phil Glick and Sam Mureddu, as well as Claude Ellis, to name a few……I’ve traced the business to the mid-1950’s, and will try to put together a story for later…..meanwhile, I’ve contacted just about every State Senator in the WV legislature in regard to Senate Bill 534, which was introduced by both republican and democrat senators, including Boone’s Sen. Ron Stollings…..I e-mailed the sponsors and many other senators in regard to the statewide magistrate support for this bill, which would help alleviate a major judicial problem that involves the Dept. of Motor Vehicles…… only one senator telephoned me in regard to this bill, guess who?…..QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The inevitable end of multiple chiefs is that they fade and disappear for lack of unity—Napoleon Bonaparte…..DID YOU KNOW that in 1932, the year Mamie Thurman was murdered, the average income in the nation was $1,652, or that a new car averaged $610?…..FINAL NOTE—I am planning a story concerning some of the Hatfield’s that paints a different picture than the one we are all somewhat used to. Meanwhile, a local friend of mine has Devil Anse’s rifle and his pocket watch with the clan leader’s name engraved on it. The watch takes a key to wind it. I wish I could tell you who the person is, but unfortunately, I’m afraid one of our “druggies” would go rob him.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.