Devil Anse: A true part of American history

Dwight Williamson - Bits & Pieces

On Sunday July 3rd my wife and I decided to once again take the scenic drive to the small historic town of Matewan, which has rejuvenated itself through the route of tourism and trail riding. As usual, I traveled to Horsepen Mountain and took the relatively new highway that allows one to enjoy the mountainous views of our hills and valleys — almost as if you were looking over the area while in an airplane. Of course, in Autumn this drive provides a more spectacular view.

As always, as I approached the Sarah Ann/Crystal Block area of Route 44, I glanced over at the property that once was the site of Cap Hatfield’s home and noticed the bridge leading to it that still bears his name. I remember Cap’s house standing there that was allowed to rot away and fall down, and I envision what could be done with the vacant property. Unlike the rest of his famous feudal family, Anderson “Cap” Hatfield, the most notorious of Devil Anse’s sons, is not buried at the Hatfield Cemetery that is located a short ways on up the road. Instead, Cap’s grave can be found not far from his former home site on a small hillside where he rests alongside his wife.

Upon approaching the Hatfield Cemetery on up the highway, I saw some 20 or more Hatfield-McCoy trail riders coming and going from the historic cemetery that has been visited so often by site seers and historians from across this country and others. The trail riders managed to park their ATV’s beside the road as there is no parking anywhere else at the location. To see the life-like granite figure of Devil Anse Hatfield is no doubt a tremendous feeling for most visitors familiar with the world’s most famous feud. Most take photos of the statue and peer at the many grave sites, including the rest of the infamous family, many of whom led interesting lives of their own following their father’s death in 1921.

1921? Think about it. It is so perplexing to me that it has now been 95 years since this famous mountaineer and father of twelve was laid to rest and yet the cemetery has changed very little and a washed out dirt road which few elderly people can traverse is the only way to view the graveyard. Still, many thousands of people have visited the place and will continue to do so. The site that most Logan Countians take for granted is a true part of American history. Indeed, it is an iconic part of Logan’s historic past that must be preserved. In fact, never should there be a Logan County student who has not been shown the site and taught the story of the Hatfield clan.

Several books and many articles in newspapers and magazines have been published in regard to the Hatfield-McCoy feud. And, of course, we are familiar with the television mini-series that received several awards. Many tales have been shared over the years by both sides of the two families. Unfortunately, in their haste to earn the almighty dollar, not all stories have been factual. The following is an account of a story that appeared on television in 1959, and it caused many West Virginians to become upset.

Guy Hatfield, described as a former Logan resident who in 1959 resided in California, appeared as a guest on NBC’s popular television show “You Bet Your Life,” which older folks will recall as being hosted by popular comedian Groucho Marx. The show’s guest told a national audience that 300 persons were killed during the Hatfield-McCoy feud and that it lasted 95 years. There was no truth to the statement since the feud lasted from 1882 until 1888 (the same time The Logan Banner was started) and it has been generally agreed upon that only11 persons were killed.

Hatfield talked about so many West Virginians making moonshine and how steep our mountains are. “You have to stand in the middle of the road and look straight up to see daylight,” he told the national audience that included some enraged Logan County people.

One local individual contacted The Logan Banner in reference to Hatfield allegedly making West Virginians appear generally as “dumb.” The story related that the remarks made on television “didn’t leave a very good impression of West Virginia.” However, the writer described an article written in a New York newspaper about Logan as a bit more disappointing.

The story was written by Bill Slocum, who had come to Charleston with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus in March of 1959. He telephoned The Banner and told a reporter that he was coming to Logan to get information about former great heavyweight fighter, Jack Dempsey, who had lived and worked in Logan County. Slocum, however, did not visit The Banner and it was thought that the man had called off his visit; that is until the article bearing a Logan, West Virginia dateline was brought to the attention of the local newspaper. The story started off as follows:

“From the dark and dreary mountains I bring a late report on the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.” The story went on to say how many Hatfield’s and McCoy’s still lived in this area and, “writing from imagination more than fact,” its author said that the feud was far from being over. The account said that “when a Hatfield meets a McCoy on a local street corner, he stares coldly for a second or two. And then cuts the blighter dead.”

Slocum wrote that the town of Logan’s population almost doubles on Saturdays because “the rugged men and women who eke out a living out of the wilderness of the surrounding mountains come into town for some shoppin’,a picture show, and a chance to do a little gossipin’, eatin’ and drinkin’.”

To further insult Logan, the writer quoted a former area resident then living in Charleston as saying “Logan is one of the great knife-fighting towns of our country.”

He wound up his story by telling how hard the mechanization of the coal industry had hurt the area. He wrote that on his way from Charleston to Logan “about three out of every four houses were boarded up.” In fact, it is true that many miners left the area during the 1950’s and found work in factories in places like Chicago, Columbus, Cleveland and Detroit, as well as many other places. While many never returned to live in these parts, nearly all came back for visits.

One former Loganite, whose father (Frank Marino) in the 1950’s operated Marino Dental Lab that was located on the third floor of the White and Browning building in the town, recently telephoned me concerning some information he was seeking while in Logan. Unfortunately, I was of little help for the former CIA agent who is 80 years-old and living with his wife in Thailand. But we did have an enjoyable conversation. Richard Marino, who said he grew up on Pine Street in Logan, is a 1954 Logan High graduate and became a ROTC graduate of WVU four years later.

Having led a most interesting life across the globe, Marino said he still has a “soft spot in my heart for Logan” and he added that he comes back to Logan every year. “At my age now, I would pick Logan at that point and time to grow up in,” Marino said, explaining that at one time his family lived in the Steele Apartments on Pine Street. “Logan was a busy place back then.”

Throughout the years, there have been many people leave Logan County and become successful like Mr. Marino. However, there is one man who will never leave Logan County again — and that is a good thing.

The gentleman’s name is Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield.

Dwight Williamson

Bits & Pieces

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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