Just in case you haven’t noticed, the history of Logan County is to me fascinating. There is much good to tell of our county’s past, but along with the good also comes the bad. All of us are just by-products of our past, and when one looks deep enough, he or she usually will find a few things in their own family’s history that maybe they are not too proud of. And, of course, there are those who would rather just forget about our county’s negative past, as if it never happened at all. As for me, I say, “It is what it is.”
Much of Logan County’s history is filled with stories of murders, shootings, stabbings, gambling, prostitution, illegal moonshine making, political corruption and just about anything illegal one can imagine. Although one can pick any of the past decades and find an abundance of stories involving our county’s ragged past, the 1920’s and ‘30’s—when coal was booming and the county was too— is the most interesting time period for me. Here’s a short story of interest from 1939 when The Logan Banner headline declared Logan as a “White Slave Center.”
Steve Crea, 40, a former Williamson hotel proprietor, was charged by a federal warrant for transferring Mrs. Helen Gay Davis, 23, of Huntington from Logan to Youngstown, Ohio for what was described as “immoral purposes.” The report said Crea was placed in the Cabell County jail where he remained under a $25,000 bond. The newspaper also reported that the woman told the court that Crea compelled her to give him her earnings, after sexual encounters with other men. The charge was denied by Crea, who said he simply had befriended her out of sympathy.
The Banner declared: “Logan is a center for the traffic for which Crea was found guilty,” according to an inmate who was interviewed while lodged in the Logan County jail. “They haul women out of Logan to other cities and back here all the time,” the inmate explained.
“It’s a racket both ways,” he said. “The man who takes women away from here to another town or brings them back usually gets paid from what the woman earns. Then, sometimes a smart woman can turn the tables on the ‘trafficker’ and get clear of him.
But when they do, that’s when the guy gets caught. He doesn’t usually get into the minds of the law, though, because the woman he takes away usually works hand-in-hand with him.”
The Banner said the jailed prisoner who related the story had a long experience in Logan with what it described as “Logan’s underworld.” The report stated that the man was an authority on the situation as it existed in Logan and elsewhere.
The facts are that venereal disease was rampant in Logan County back in those days. As a matter of fact, it was so bad that Logan Circuit Judge C.C. Chambers, who at times seemed like the only moral person in the county, advocated when he was Mayor of Logan that the diseased women be kept in the old Logan jail, which was located near the current Logan post office on Hudgins Street. According to all reports of the time period, women arrested for prostitution were jailed there and kept from the public.
Unfortunately, as much as Chambers fought for morality in Logan—while serving as mayor and later as Logan’s longest ever serving circuit judge—the county’s problems continued throughout the lifetime of the stringent judge, despite all of his efforts.
I can’t help but wonder, if he were around today, just what the ‘ole judge would think about the criminal changes in the county. Oh, wait. Things really haven’t changed. Arson, prostitution, robbery, murder—crime goes on, even with a major drop in the county’s population.
On second thought, moonshine is currently legal to license and sale, while illegal drugs have replaced alcohol by far as the biggest problem the police and our local society has to confront on a daily basis. So, I have to say that things HAVE changed—and for the worse. Sorry, Judge Chambers.
BITS and PIECES
By now, we’ve all heard about the passing of legendary country singer Mearl Haggard …..he, like Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash and George Jones, was a true country singer…..most of today’s so called country singers do not fit in those legends’ category of true country…..two anniversaries that were not mentioned this year, was the anniversary of the Holden 22 mine disaster that occurred March 8, 1960 and claimed the lives of 18 coal miners when I was yet a child, including one of my coal camp neighbors….more recently was the third anniversary of the murder of Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum, who was shot in the head April 3, 2013 while sitting in his police cruiser having lunch…..I don’t know if we will ever here the real story behind Eugene’s death…..speaking of Mingo County, our sister county is having their usual knock-down, drag out political fight over there …..I’m told there are 17 candidates running for three magistrate positions….Mingo magistrates have for over 16 years had direct connections to Logan County…..Eugene Crum’s family originally was from the Omar area, while Dee Sidebottom was from Mud Fork, and Pam Newsome’s grandfather lived at Switzer; both Dee and Pam have now retired…..present Mingo magistrate Barry Marcum, a former state trooper, is from Dehue where his father, Ernie, still lives….Ernie was a good friend of my father, as both worked at the Dehue mine then owned by Youngstown Steel…..word is, former Logan assistant prosecutor Sabrina Deskins is in a tough battle for Family Court Judge in Mingo …..the Dingess Street bridge project, which has been delayed several months, apparently is still scheduled as I saw where a special meeting will be held for the public’s input from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Logan High School cafeteria on April 28th…..the bridge, which has been named the Reverend Glenn White Bridge, is slated to be replaced and probably will involve some structures nearby, as traffic patterns into town will change, according to some plans I’ve seen, thanks to Mayor Nolletti…..while on the subject of things being replaced, I wonder how many old houses of the county still are using lead pipes in their plumbing…..the county’s high cancer rates over the years could be traced back to the lead that has been proven to be deadly…..anybody remember John Turner?…..no, not our current County Clerk, but the John Turner who played football at Logan High in the mid-80’s…..I recently called a Kroger telephone number because I had a question to ask…..when I gave my name and address to the fellow on the line, he asked: “Is the Dwight Williamson that covered ball games and did the radio , too?”…..turns out it was John, who now lives in Huntington where he works as a Corporate Ambassador for the Kroger Company…..now, 49, John has a two-year-old daughter…..he also reminded me that he was a member of the Wayne Bennett coached Logan team that defeated the Man Hillbillies for the first time in 20 years in 1986….QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “We feel the buying and selling of votes is not only playing into the hands of communists, but is also betraying those who have died to make America a free nation.”—written in a letter to the Logan Banner in February of 1951 from the Logan Ministerial Association…..DID YOU KNOW THAT Kasey Kasem, who some of the older folks will recall was the voice behind the songs of the American Top 40 radio Countdown for many years, was also the voice for “Shaggy” in the hit children’s cartoon, “Scooby Doo?”…..FINAL NOTE: The latest statistics from Logan County Clerk John Turner’s office show that for the first time since probably the early 1900’s there are less than 20,000 registered Democratic voters in Logan County. People are changing their registrations not realizing they may not be able to vote for anybody on the local level, except non-partisan candidates such as judicial offices and the Board of Education. As of Wednesday, there were 27,196 total voters registered. Look for a full story about this in a future edition of this newspaper.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.