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America’s Second Civil War? –

In 2008, my pretty spouse and I have been privileged to go to Mingo County, West Virginia, a number of instances as a part of ministry outreach. I made dwelling preparations for our group with a gentleman named Dr. Joseph Pat Garland, who owned and operated the Historic Matewan Inn, in Matewan, West Virginia, alongside together with his spouse, Sharon.

Dr. Pat, as he was known as, having served his religion as a missionary, was very accommodating to our group, even when we didn’t see eye-to-eye on all issues biblical. We actually had widespread floor on the Inn’s dinner desk as he and Sharon supplied all our scrumptious meals and handled our group like household, coming dwelling to go to every time we made the journey.

We made the week-lengthy journey to Matewan about 4 or 5 instances between 2008 and 2011. Garland was additionally one of many city’s unofficial historians. He floored me as we sat out on the outsized lined entrance porch in rocking chairs, discussing the lore of the Inn, the city, and the surprising historical past of that area. Sadly, in 2011, we heard that Pat had handed away. Before he did, although, he imbued me with what can solely be described because the fascinating true story of America’s second civil conflict and a massacre referred to as the Matewan Massacre. This occasion would result in an excellent bloodier chapter in our historical past.


Gun carrying miners


Back originally of “the roaring 1920’s” the coal business fueled the nation and was primarily the cornerstone of life in Appalachia. In the county that will develop into referred to as Bloody Mingo, and Southern West Virginia, the Stone Mountain Coal Company (SMCC) and different coal barons reigned supreme. As primarily the one employer within the area, miners have been compelled to depend on the coal firms for every part. Everything.

Coal firms had the help of most elected officers, lining the politician’s pockets for favor and affect. The coal firms constructed and owned just about all of the regional properties rented to the miners and their households by payroll deduction. The miners have been paid, not with U.S forex, however with firm scrip, which the miners may solely use on the firm retailer. Heating oil, meals, clothes, instruments, gear, and something the miners wished to acquire have been solely bought from that retailer. The firm even managed the church buildings the miners attended on Sunday. Everything.

Miners, circa 1920

Safety, nevertheless, was a priority for many who labored within the mines, not the barons. With the stress to supply or get replaced, the non-unionized miners confronted a number of the worst working situations conceivable. The solely option to describe the standing of the miners, with the working situations and their compelled dependence on the corporate’s forex, was indentured servitude. Companies, fearing union group and an erosion of their income, compelled staff to signal Yellow Dog Contracts agreements that they might not be a part of a union.

Black, white, immigrant mattered not; it was laborious to inform a person’s race when he was per week into mining on lower than a mixed ten-hours sleep and lined in coal mud. They additionally didn’t know, and maybe nobody cared, that the pulverized coal masking each inch of the miner’s physique was seeping by means of his windpipes and coating his lungs with the identical lethal black powder.

Miners longed to unionize. They imagined a strong union, comparable to these within the vehicle and railroad industries or different coalfields, which had been strengthened by the formation of the Federal Government’s Department of Labor (DOL) below President William Howard Taft. A union that will set them on a greater course and supply them with a greater high quality of life, in addition to safer working situations.

Ludlow, CO bloodbath web site

A strike in 1912 involving 6,000 miners was intervened by state militia. In 1914. in Ludlow, Colorado, John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s Colorado Fuel and Iron Company employed a militia to assault 1200 putting miners and evict them from the mining camp. When it was over, 25 individuals from the camp lay lifeless, together with miners, their wives, and 11 youngsters. World War I allayed the skirmishes to a point, however they resumed shortly after the conflict’s conclusion.

Ludlow headline

A nationwide (unionized) coal staff strike in 1919 had earned the union miners a whopping 27% pay improve, and now the non-union staff have been demanding higher therapy, higher pay, and higher working situations domestically in Mingo County.

Miners in Matewan determined it was time to carry the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) to the southern West Virginia coalfields.

The coal barons thought in any other case.

The firm (SMCC) employed Albert Felts and the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to quell the miners and evict rabble-rousers from their firm-owned properties. Felts descended on Matewan within the Spring of 1920 with a dozen thugs. Some of these males have been veterans of the Ludlow Massacre.

The evictions from firm-owned properties weren’t nicely acquired within the city. Matewan’s Chief of Police, “Smilin’ Sid” Hatfield, was a staunch supporter of the union and rebuffed the coal firm’s substantial bribe presents. Hatfield was a descendant of Devil Anse Hatfield, chief of the notorious Hatfield vs. McCoy feud. (There is a few dispute over Sid Hatfield’s lineage, although unofficially, he appears to have been an excellent-nephew to Devil Anse.) He joined with the city’s Mayor, Cabell Cornelis Testerman, to oppose the coal firm and their employed weapons.

Sid Hatfield

Despite the coal firms’ brutal, intimidating, and debilitating ways, hundreds of West Virginia coal miners joined the UMWA. Those who did quickly discovered themselves forcibly faraway from their properties, with their meager belongings thrown on the street, rain or shine.

On May 19, 1920, Felts and his crew spent the day evicting quite a few households at gunpoint after which went for supper on the Urias Hotel. They meant to take the 5:00 pm practice again to Bluefield, Virginia, the place the corporate was headquartered. Rain drizzled down from the encompassing mountains, relentlessly pattering the tepid waters of the Tug Fork River, which ran simply south of the city’s Main Street. The evicted households have been soaked in raindrops and righteous indignation.

As the Felts crew made the quick stroll from the Urias to the practice depot, they have been met by Chief Hatfield and Mayor Testerman. Hatfield informed Felts he was there to serve a warrant for his arrest, a contract procured by the county Sherriff.

Felts believed he had the higher hand. He was unaware {that a} band of armed and indignant miners surrounded him and his eviction posse as they stood on the platform. The miners have been all watching from strategic places across the small city. Prepared for a confrontation, Felts produced a warrant of his personal for the arrest of Sid Hatfield. As the lads argued, a shot rang out, after which all Hell broke free. A scene that will be the envy of many an outdated western film unfolded and the little mining city was riddled with gun smoke and bullets. The rain washed the streets of Matewan in blood, and a few say it flowed to the river.

Mayor Testerman and Albert Felts, alongside together with his brother Lee Felts, lay among the many lifeless. Also lifeless have been 5 different detectives and 4 miners. The coal barons have been outraged and demanded that Hatfield and the miners stand trial. The barons held sway over media shops, which branded Hatfield as “The Terror on the Tug” and the chief of the ambush. Murder fees have been drawn, and Hatfield, together with 22 accomplices (co-defendants), was set to face trial in Williamson, WV, on January 26, 1921.

Baldwin-Felts detectives, identified merely as thugs in and round Mingo County, lined the streets of Williamson to intimidate Hatfield’s supporters and witnesses. The ploy was unsuccessful, as protection attorneys may show the warrant Albert Felts offered to Mayor Testerman was a faux.

Hatfield testified, “and he gave the warrant to the Mayor, and the Mayor read the warrant and said it was bogus, it was not legal, and then (Albert) Felts shot the Mayor. Then the shooting started in general.” Most of the eyewitnesses corroborated Hatfield’s account. A century has handed, and you may go to Matewan right this moment and nonetheless see a number of the bullet holes.

Hatfield’s protection was additionally consulting with attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and so they adopted the recommendation to place the coal firms on trial. They entered into proof a protracted and sordid report of the barons utilizing their firm energy to disclaim their staff and native residents basic human rights.

The homicide trial, the longest in West Virginia historical past, was over earlier than it began, and all 23 defendants have been acquitted on all fees. Chief Hatfield was free to go.

Hatfield, mourning the lack of his nice uncle, Devil Anse, who died on January 6, 1921, had develop into a hero within the mining group. Despite his popularity for laborious dwelling and aggressive habits, he was beloved in Matewan and by the UMWA. He was additionally now essentially the most well-known son of the notorious Hatfield clan, which additional elevated his standing in Bloody Mingo.

Shortly after the Matewan Massacre, because it was being known as within the papers, Hatfield married the widow of the fallen Mayor and starred in a promotional movie for the union. He gave the impression to be aligning himself for greater workplace.

Undeterred by Hatfield’s resounding victory, the barons doubled down and despatched dozens of hardened detectives to proceed the brutal evictions and union-busting, however the miners continued their organizing efforts. Another strike and spherical of violence occurred that July. The Governor known as within the state police. President Wilson despatched within the National Guard. Martial legislation was declared, after which the President despatched in federal troops.

Meanwhile, Thomas Felts, the co-founding father of the Baldwin-Felts Agency, had efficiently embedded a spy named Charles Lively into the union. Using Lively’s inside data, Felts discovered a option to arrange Sid Hatfield. He was decided to avenge the dying of his brothers, however he knew efforts in Mingo County have been futile.

Thomas Felts

Shortly after the trial in Williamson, a non-union mining camp in Mohawk, WV, McDowell County, was “shot up.” The SMCC (firm-employed) mine guards claimed it was Smilin’ Sid, a Mingo County deputy named Ed Chambers, and a band of armed miners that did the taking pictures. The spy Lively gave secret grand-jury testimony that he had rallied with Hatfield and a number of the union miners decided to “arm” themselves and take motion towards the non-union “scab” staff. A grand jury indicted Hatfield and Chambers.

Some of the defendants

McDowell County Sherriff Bill Hatfield, a distant relative, assured Sid that he could be absolutely protected by the McDowell County Sherriff’s workplace when he stood trial within the anti-union city, Welch, WV. Confident in his kin-people Hatfield and Chambers, together with their wives, made their method, unarmed and unprotected, to the McDowell County Courthouse.

Dressed of their Sunday “go to church” garments, the 2 {couples} ascended the steep, stone courthouse steps. Sheriff Hatfield had quietly left city, and none of his deputies could possibly be discovered anyplace. Suddenly, a number of Baldwin-Felts Detectives, led by Charles Lively, stepped ahead and assassinated the lads in a hail of gunfire. Riddled with bullets, Hatfield fell lifeless immediately, whereas Chambers fell again down the steps. A gunman shortly ran down the steps as Mrs. Chambers begged the person to not shoot him anymore. As she tried to protect him, the gunman shot him as soon as extra behind the top at shut contact.

Did Hatfield’s grave marker

Lively, the chief witness towards Hatfield and Chambers within the McDowell County case, would stand trial together with Buster Pence and William Salters for the homicide of Hatfield and Chambers. After their acquittal, the Baltimore Sun ran a headline calling the three males “Gunthugs.”

In October of 1921, the 2 widows would testify earlier than the U.S. Senate, telling the Kenyon Committee, then investigating the “Mine Wars,” that their husbands have been “cold-blooded murdered.” Attorney General of West Virginia E.T. England testified that mine guards within the area routinely “beat and shot men down,” intimidating outsiders, together with union organizers, rebellious miners, and guests of all types. The Attorney General described the coal firm guards as typically “running roughshod” over the complete group.

Back in Matewan, after the assassination of Hatfield, the miners have been infuriated and banded collectively, able to tackle the coal barons, come what could. The Matewan Massacre was the primary main submit-WWI confrontation within the Mine Wars of West Virginia; it left indelible scars on the quaint little city, that are nonetheless seen right this moment. Yet the assassination of the labor chief and the city’s police chief, Sid Hatfield, sparked an explosion of anger that will draw hundreds of incensed miners to Matewan’s trigger and the UMWA.

All of this pales to what was looming on the horizon. Many had already perished in America’s coal wars. What occurred subsequent is without doubt one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s historical past. Stay tuned.

Check again for the subsequent chapter tomorrow.


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