Early Logan County was a ‘mess’


Dwight Williamson - Guest Columnist



Dwight Williamson Bits and Pieces


The July 23rd 1929 edition of The Logan Banner proclaimed that 10,000 or more people had attended the third annual reunion of the Devil Anse Hatfield clan near the old home place on upper Island Creek. The Banner reported that “Hatfield’s, their kinsmen, neighbors and friends” all gathered in a great celebration. The notable celebrities that were credited for the affair were brothers— Sheriff Joe Hatfield, former Sheriff Tennis Hatfield and Chief Deputy Cap Hatfield, who in February had celebrated his 65th birthday. Also in attendance was former Governor Henry D. Hatfield, then a State Senator, and Coleman Hatfield, Police Judge for the City of Logan. It would be most of these men who would later be accused of plotting to replace State Police personnel and buying off others to protect certain family related illegal activities. By the time this happened, the most famous of the existing feudal clan, William A. “Cap” Hatfield, would be dead following an operation to remove a brain tumor in August of 1930.

One of the last court actions Cap Hatfield would take just three months before his death was the defending of Peter Kinder of Blair, who was accused of the murder of Joe Gore during the Battle of Blair Mountain. Kinder, 60, had been on the run since the historic confrontation, but was found and arrested in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Hatfield, who was taught to read and write by his wife, Nancy (Smith) Glenn, got married at the age of 19. Cap had later received a law degree by taking a correspondence course and was admitted to the Bar Association in 1906. In the last case involving the Blair Mountain ordeal, he managed to get his client’s murder charge reduced to manslaughter, thus saving him from the gallows of Moundsville Prison.

Cap’s oldest son, Coleman, was already an attorney, while another son, L.W. (Elba) Hatfield was elected Justice of the Peace in 1928 when his uncle Joe became Sheriff. Elba would in 1932 play a crucial role in the infamous murder of Mamie Thurman.

By 1930, central players of the time period—former Sheriffs Don Chafin and Tennis Hatfield—both had served prison times and were then at odds against each other following Hatfield’s testimony that convicted Chafin for selling illegal liquor during the Prohibition period when they were partners. Overall, Logan County was a complete “mess” as murders, stabbings, beatings, prostitution, moonshining, and political corruptness all were coupled together with coal mining injuries and deaths—all in the middle of the Great Depression, and when Logan County government was $900,000 in debt. With no federal government welfare funding, many people of the region were literally starving to death. Evicted coal miners and others were living in tents; many in the vicinity of what are now the local McDonald’s restaurant and the Four Seasons store locations.

The first bank ever in Logan County—the old Guyan Valley Bank that stood between Logan and Main Streets where Logan Bank and Trust now operates—failed and many people lost money following “Black Friday” of 1929 when the stock market crashed. Don Chafin lost over $100,000, but when the bank was later closed, he wound up purchasing the stone building, opened several businesses, and had his office on the second floor. It was at this office that the Hatfield’s would have him arrested for possessing illegal liquor.

Not only was there a political war going on in the Logan County, but due to nearly 60,000 residents then living in the county, and the City of Logan facing a shortage of housing, there was a battle to destroy filth and waste in Logan that had been leading to typhoid fever. It was announced that the hot weather of July had caused babies “to die by the thousands” nationwide from diseases caused by the house fly. The United States Department of Health was quoted as saying that one set of house flies could produce 46,600,000,000 more flies in just three months. It was said that an army of flies back then killed more people in the United States than all wars combined.

With no proper garbage disposal, citizens routinely tossed tin food cans into piles, while other garbage was burned, leaving open dumps throughout the county. Garbage dumps and hog pens, of which there were many in the area, were the chief breeding places for flies and rats. And the city of Logan, facing tough economic times, was trying to come up with funds for an incinerator. Officials said it was left over organic matter in tin cans that was the major cause of flies, rats and disease, and noted that the furnace of an incinerator, which operated between 1800 and 2000 degrees, would bring needed relief. Logan residents voted overwhelmingly to pass the bond issue, which brought the first garbage incinerator to Logan County. However, the large furnace and smokestacks of the local power company had long been rumored to be used by Sheriff Chafin and others when it came to incinerating certain human beings. This would in 1932 be backed up by a Tennis Hatfield political ad that said his brother had put an end to such actions during his previous administration as sheriff.

So, this was the setting Attorney General Howard B. Lee came into when he was enlisted by Governor William Conley to prosecute Enoch Scaggs for the cold blooded murder of Logan Police Chief Roy C. Knotts, who was shot five times by Scaggs at close range in the Smokehouse restaurant and pool hall on Stratton Street on a December 3rd afternoon in 1930. Logan Circuit Judge Naaman Jackson, who had seen all of the corruption he could handle since winning his position in 1924, had appealed to the governor to help bring an end to the reign of terror that had held Logan County as a “prisoner” unto itself.

It seemed to Lee that nobody could be trusted to testify truthfully or that a local jury could be impaneled that would hear the evidence and rule accordingly. During his stay in Logan in preparation for the trial, Lee became appalled at what he saw happening in Logan. Everyday shootings and many murders made him realize that nearly everyone, including convicted felons, had guns. Guns, combined with the constant availability of moonshine and other illegal alcoholic drinks, such as home brew or wine, created most deadly outcomes. Following the outcome of the murder trial, attorney General Lee addressed the State Legislature about the problem.

Lee told the legislators that Logan County’s “pernicious system of protecting gun-carrying ex-convicts, criminals and thugs was a disgrace to the state.” He referred to Logan as a “gunman’s paradise.”

Perhaps that is why 16 state troopers were brought to Logan to protect a special jury that had been brought from Monroe County to decide the fate of Enoch Scaggs. The jury stayed at the Aracoma Hotel, described as one of the most modern hotels in West Virginia. Lee would stay across the street at the newer Pioneer Hotel.

Political dominance from the Don Chafin regime had carried over to the Hatfield’s, who had previously worked in his administration. Deputies were still being paid by coal companies and most of them consisted of no more than political hacks, who could handle and be willing to use their firearms, and they did. While two deputies associated with former Sheriff Tennis Hatfield were about to be tried for trying to destroy a Boone County newspaper that opposed the Hatfield’s, Deputy A.C. Scaggs was facing murder charges after he shot Brooks Carey at the Logan Fire Department. Ironically, Brooks Carey was the son of Lawrence Carey, accused along with Hibbard Hatfield, of killing of a man named Avis in front of the old State Café on Stratton Street. In both murders, the men were found not guilty. Hibbard Hatfield would five years later be on duty in June of ’32 when Mamie Thurman was so brutally murdered. He would be working that stormy June 20th night alongside Mamie’s husband, Jack, and would testify in the trial of Clarence Stephenson, accused murderer of the so called “Vixen of Stratton Street.”

During the Hatfield reign of 1924 through 1932 there were many actions involving the Hatfield clan. The Blue Goose Inn, owned by Tennis, had in 1927 burned, along with eight other dwellings nearby. The former sheriff, described as a “skirt chaser” by members of his own family, was going through a bitter divorce in which one of his three wives sought revenge—and she seemingly got it. In addition, former Sheriff Don Chafin was in Charleston trying to use his political strength to get rid of all State policemen, while a special commission was looking into some state policemen being bought off by the Hatfield clan. Meanwhile, the assistant prosecuting attorney, Ira P. Hager, a staunch ally of the Hatfield’s, was facing disbarment for his role in rescuing an arrested deputy from a Kentucky jail. A petition had previously been filed in circuit court to remove Hager on the grounds of “gross neglect of duty and drunkenness.” Also, the Memorial Burial Park at McConnell was being completed, and the Logan Woman’s Club was formulating plans to beautify Logan. But it was Sadie (Walters) Hatfield’s words that had Logan County whispering prior to the blatant 1930 murder of Logan Police Chief Roy Knotts by former Logan deputy, Enoch Scaggs.

After Judge Naaman Jackson denied Sadie Hatfield’s request for a change of venue to another jurisdiction, even though the Supreme Court had already reversed an earlier divorce decree and remanded it back to circuit court, the determined wife of Tennis Hatfield spilled the beans. She filed a petition in which she claimed that years prior at the insistence of her husband and his brother, Joe, and “after being threatened with death or great bodily harm by Tennis, she spent considerable time learning to imitate the signature of Don Chafin.” She said that several of the papers concerning the liquor business at The Blue Goose Inn were used to convict Chafin in federal court. She accused Joe Hatfield of offering her $1500 to not disclose anything “that might get Tennis in trouble.”

The petition further stated that the “incumbency of Joe Hatfield as sheriff has been marked by a reign of terror,” originating when Tennis was sheriff but growing worse to the point “that the laws have completely broken down.”

(Part III of this story in a future edition of The Logan Banner will feature the Hatfield’s’ answers to many allegations and the actual murder trial of Enoch Scaggs.)

BITS AND PIECES

After a long and courageous battle with various ailments, a good friend of mine, Tommy Kitchen, has succumbed…..he recently telephoned me from his hospital bed in regard to trying to help someone who he said had a major drug problem……many will remember “Kitchen,” as some people liked to refer to him, as a State Road employee working for both County Supervisors, Hobart Adkins and Curly Belcher, or as a really good singer when he traveled around the county with his karaoke machines…..I will remember my friend in many ways, not the least of which is when he and his wife, Brenda, spent hours spray painting political signs bearing my name when I was first seeking election about 20 years ago……”The value of life lies not in length of days, but in the use we make of them; a man may live long yet live very little.”—MONTAIGNE…..Tommy Kitchen did indeed “live,” and my heartfelt condolences are extended to his family…..I’m now hearing that the new road from Man will not be opened by the end of this year as previously thought…..instead, it is more likely to be finished sometime next spring…..while on the subject of roads, I’m also hearing from reliable sources that the new bridge planned for the Logan boulevard that is often referred to as the hospital bridge will start next year, and will not affect the former bus terminal building that houses “Choppers” and a couple of other businesses….what it will eventually affect is the people who live under the bridge…..I guess they will move in with their neighbors that live under the Water Street bridge, or the ones that live under the Logan High School bridge…..of course, Chapmanville has a couple living under a bridge down that way, as well….wonder why it took so long to finally honor the victims of the 22 Holden mine disaster?…..most of the victims’ immediate family, some of which I knew personally, are now deceased…..I can remember when the Logan County Commission back in the early 1980’s commissioned a monument for the Blair Mountain Battle…..needless to say, it was stolen not long after it was placed at the top of the mountain…..the Cincinnati Reds were to play a day-night doubleheader Saturday in Cincy…..while that is rare in itself, fact is, baseball has done fans a grim disservice by eliminating what used to be several doubleheaders for teams each year…..Reds fans travel from near and far, and when a Loganite makes the trip, it would be well worth it to see two games in one day…..QUOTE OF THE WEEK: ‘You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn’t enough, in the second half you give what’s left.”——former great Yankees catcher, Yogi Berra…..when it comes to political debates, I believe everybody should be included…..it would not hurt to extend the time another 30 minutes or so to allow the lesser known candidates to present their views…..I happened to enjoy watching debates, and besides, I haven’t seen Mountain Party candidate Charlotte Pritt, since she was booed off the Verdunville polling grounds when she ran for Governor…..I always pay attention to those businesses who have over the years always supported local sports programs…..so today, I give a big shout out to C&W Discount at Stollings for their continued advertised support…..local businesses need to be considered before looking elsewhere for goods, but especially those that have always “been there” for us…..it’s now time for gripe and whine time: first, why can’t the road leading into Fountain Place Mall be properly repaired?…..the road near the red light close to LB&T Bank is deplorable and will get worse by winter……however, I don’t believe it is on the state system, but County Route 5, especially at the bridge near the local college, is like a mine field; between the sewer systems and sunken pot holes a driver is doomed to burst a tire…..also, all of the Mud Fork area looks terrible as brush has now taken over the guard rails to the point that vehicles are being scratched from weeds that need cutting on certain curves….by the way, whose bright idea was it to decide to place a stop sign at the Mt. Gay bridge near Kroger? ……for years, there was very few problems there, but now, people are complaining worse than ever, not just about the potholes in the bridge, but about the many tickets that are written for drivers not coming to a complete stop at the sign that didn’t used to be there…..DID YOU KNOW that, according to a link provided to me by local historian Brandon Ray Kirk, not only did Abraham Lincoln not receive a single vote in Logan during the 1860 election, but his democratic opponent, Stephen Douglas, got 0 votes as well?…..confused?…..I’ll explain it in a later writing…..FINAL NOTE: I saw where Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is calling for a special session of the state legislature to address flood funding. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were also called to address legalization of marijuana? Instead of lagging around like usual, where would West Virginia be right now had we enough intestinal fortitude to have beaten such states as Colorado to the punch? While we could still be fighting to save our coal miners, the influx of taxes and tourists would have the state thriving. Studies now show that opioid use (Logan’s downfall) has actually decreased significantly in places where pot was legalized. Let’s face it: the state cannot continue to count on raising taxes on alcohol and cigarettes—both of which are proven worse than marijuana— to keep government afloat. It will happen eventually, but the fact is that—just like during failed Prohibition, when the best liquor in the nation was produced in these hills—so even today is the best pot produced. At least that’s what I’m told. Oh well, see you on “the dark side of the moon”…………

Dwight Williamson Bits and Pieces
http://loganbanner.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_Dwight-Williamson-Web-2.jpgDwight Williamson Bits and Pieces

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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