The infamous 1920 Matewan Massacre is recalled by Marie Cooley Robinette of
Blackberry City, age 94, in the latest issue of GOLDENSEAL magazine, now on
sale. The article, titled “Eyewitness: Marie Robinette of Matewan,”
was written by retired local teacher Dallas H. Jude.
As a 10-year-old girl on a trip to the town grocery, Marie found herself in the midst of a now-legendary shootout between union sympathizers and Baldwin-Felts detectives sent to evict striking families from company houses. Ten people were killed in the incident. Though she was uninjured, Robinette still has vivid recollections of the harrowing experience, which she recalls in the article.
Years after the gun battle, she married railroad worker George Robinette, and the pair settled permanently in the Tug River Valley. In the article, Robinette recounts the struggles of keeping house and beginning a family in a railroad shanty. Though times were hard for the Robinettes, Matewan was then a bustling community as a result of the booming coal and railroad industries. Eventually, coal mining gave out. Matewan’s economic decline was worsened by repeated flooding and a devastating fire in 1992. In the article, Marie recalls these changes and reflects on the town’s current bid to develop itself as a heritage tourism destination.
Also in this issue of GOLDENSEAL are articles on Fairmont’s Sagebrush Round-up country music show, folk toy maker Dick Schnacke of Wetzel County, and the Charleston Woman’s Improvement League, a century-old black organization.
GOLDENSEAL is West Virginia’s magazine of traditional life and is published quarterly by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History in Charleston. The magazine sells for $4.95 and is available at the Matewan Depot Restaurant or by calling (304)558-0220, ext. 135.