William Blizzard

Charleston Gazette
May 28, 1922

Blizzard Makes Speech; Calls Verdict Vindication

"Disgrace to State," Some Yell, But Great Mass Cheer Verdict. Never Had Intention to Commit Treason, Blizzard Says.

(By Staff Correspondent)

CHARLES TOWN, May 27. - Wm. Blizzard was acquitted of the charge of treason tonight. The jury returned its verdict after being out six hours.

Following the adjournment of the court there was a wild demonstration which began in the court room and was then transferred to the usually quiet streets of Charles Town. Joy on the part of the miners and their sympathizers was too great to go mute. Men yelled and danced and laughed while the women were hardly less vociferous in their exhibition of delight.

The first verdict brought in was incorrect as to form, being "We, the jury, find for the defendant." Judge Woods required the statutory form to be used and this caused some delay, the lawyers for the defense passing upon the wording. The finished wording was submitted to Colonel C. W. Ostenton [sic], principal counsel for the state, who nodded silently.

Did Duty

Judge Woods then excused the jurors, saying: "I believe you have done your duty for this term. You are excused from further service on the panel."

The jurors thanks him.

Once the session was formally ended the crowd surged forward and friends surround Blizzard, Keeney, Mooney and the defense attorneys shaking their hands.

Judge Woods warned against any demonstration from spectators, but after court adjourned ma[n]y in the crowd threw their hats to the ceiling and gave a few war whoops.

Enthusiastic friends leaped upon Blizzard, patting his back and shaking his hand.

Mrs. Blizzard sat quietly in her chair, smiling. After the verdict was read and the defense had inspected it and indictment, Judge Woods dismissed the jury and court was adjourned until 9 a.m. Monday.

Blizzard's mother and wife and Mrs. Mooney also took part in the reception. It was difficult for Blizzard to leave the court room by a back door, so many friends clung to him and would not be separated from him.

Defendant Yelled

"Down with the coal barons," yelled one defendant, a union official. Others echoed similar sentiments.

There was a very numerous element which received the verdict in silence and reserved its comment until getting out of the judicial chamber.

"It is a disgrace to the state," said one of these.

"It's a disgrace to Charles Town," said a well dressed lady.

The division of sentiment as to the case which has become apparent in Charles Town lately was apparently heightened and made more bitter by the result. Whatever the next case may be this feeling is certain to show from the beginning.

All of the jurors looked haggard and some of them received the plaudits of the defense sympathizers with apparent indifference if not distaste. Fred Keeney and Mrs. Blizzard hastened to the telegraph office to flash the glad news to friends. There were many others in the defense ranks who were also anxious to file messages as soon as the rush of newspaper copy had been sent.

Blizzard made a speech in front of the court house in which he declared the verdict a vindication and repeated he had never had any intention of committing treason.

After the jury had retired, there was a crowd of waiting and anxious people in the court room remaining to hear the verdict. Many others waited just outside. At 5:40 there was a stampede as the information spread through the crowd that the jury was coming in. It developed however, that the jurymen were merely hungry and wished permission to go to their evening meal.

These tense feeling of the crowd was shown by the looks and actions of the people. There was a sigh as the twelve men filed in and then absolute silence.

Court Adjourned

Court was adjourned until 7:30.

It is said that one of the jurymen is reluctant to go home. He had never played cards until this trial began but has become very fond of the game and quite proficient and he knows that his wife will object to his continuing the past-time.

Words are ordinary in describing the scenes in Judge J. M. Woods' historic Charles Town court room as the trial of "Smilin' Bill" Blizzard drew to a close. Children of the defendant and of many of his friends snuggled close to their parents.

Tears glistened in the yes of the miners' woman folk. All but C. Frank Keeney and Fred Mooney, looked as grave as mourners. These two men, reputed to be the "brains of district 17," wore cynical grins and their eyebrows twitched involuntarily as they were called to account by C. W. Osenton, for the book of three of their armed men, who were murdered behind the lines.

C. W. Osenton closed the case for the state. The little court room, which could seat about 300 people, was crowded by about 500, who fairly clung to every word uttered by the state counsel.

"I have nothing against Bill Blizzard," said Osenton. "I am not asking for Bill's blood. I'd like to say: 'Young man, take you wife and babies and go home.'"

Mrs. Blizzard Weeps.

At this juncture, Mrs. Blizzard burst into tears, and "Smilin' Bill's" gray-haired mother turned ashen pale.

"But your men did not give John Gore Munsey or Cafalgo a chance, when Munsey, dying with a bullet through his neck, pleaded for mercy, your men put a high-powered rifle to his head and pulled the trigger on the ammunition you probably gave him the night before, Bill. His head bounded eight inches off the ground, and then he died. I ask you, jurymen, to show Bill more mercy than his army did those men or the women and children of Logan valley.

"May the Giver of all things good so fortify and strengthen your minds that you will give a just and true verdict. If guilty is the verdict, it will be the duty of his honor to sentence Bill to be hanged. If mercy is asked, then you may recommend a penitentiary sentence of from three to ten years.

"But you must punish Bill Blizzard and his co-conspirators. You must render a verdict to uphold the state. Were you to follow the suggestion of Harold W. Houston, you would be a follower of Hermos and Emma Goldman. You must go on record for law and order. I would ask for this verdict, even if I had to tramp home through an army led by Sam Montgomery of men who were armed with high-powered rifles, in order that the sovereignty of my state be upheld."

During a high spot in Osenton's ortaory [sic], juryman Walter Demery's chair broke and dropped him into a cuspidor. He was not hurt.

"The time will come, Frank Keeney," said Osenton, shaking his finger at the district president, "when you and Fred Mooney will want the rock of ages to fall on your faces to hide them from men who won't betray their state.

Refers to Mother Jones

"Mother Jones tried to stop you, but you said, when they told you the Logan mountaineers would stop you, that if the federal troops stayed out you would take your men through. You double crossed General Bandholtz. If you had won Lewis White would have replaced Judge Bland, Jim Morrison, the sheriff and Keeney and Mooney would substitute for government. That's the way Houston would do, too, but God grant that the day will never come when force will replace law or that the flag of West Virginia will be the Red one - although it would if Houston got a chance to correct things after his manner."

Osenton scored defense lawyers and friends who had laughed while such terrible stories of murder and bloodshed were being recited. He defended the operators who loaned West Virginia $15,000 to prosecute the case because the state was unable to do so. He accused Houston of giving testimony, while not under oath, when addressing the jury and scored the alleged cowardice of "Bill's army" in leaving Fred Hall, who had been wounded by a machine gun to die alone in the hills.

A threat of a charge to be preferred against Harold W. Houston, of defense counsel, featured A. M. Belcher's address to the jury. It came when Houston objected to Belcher saying the miner defendants also faced federal charges.

"So are the operators," said Houston.

"Not the West Virginia operators," said Belcher.

"They ought to be," snapped Hous[ton.]

"So ought some others, and maybe before long," said Belcher.

Mr. Houston said last night "he wondered why he had not been indicted." "Maybe, if the state does full justice, his question will be answered."

Attacks England

Belcher declared E. T. England, attorney general, was playing the part of Judas and betraying his state into the hands of enemies.

"No one regrets more than I do that the attorney general is not here," said Belcher. "He is sworn to preserve the constitution of the state, but is now against the state.["]

John D. Porterfield, Jefferson county prosecutor, was commended for his connection with the case and refusal to let treason go unanswered. He helped at the beginning of the case.

Belcher compared Houston's jury speech with the circular the miners sent out August 7 and said it was for a sinister purpose camouflaged with legal verbiage.

"No miner prepared that resolution to Governor Morgan asking the destruction of contract rights in Mingo," he said. "The operators have been charged with many things. The miners were supposed to be defending their wives and children. Then why did the men of Marmet and Boone go up to Blair in trains labeled "Mingo" with the banner "Mingo bound?" The answer is in that one word "Mingo." That was their password on the firing line. Were is the evidence that women and children were killed? None. But there is that one word "Mingo." That's why the men were there.

"Keeney camouflaged on August 26. He had to go up there to save his own hide and now he is too cowardly to take the stand so that the state and jury might get the benefit."

Belcher started to tell about the deaths of Sid Hatfield and Ed Chambers, whom he styled "gunmen of this organization," when Houston objected. Houston had referred to the matter yesterday, saying they had not been given promised protection. The court ruled the matter was not pertinent to this case.

"They say thugs shot women and children, but the only evidence of firing on women and children was when armed miners fired on S. P. Embry's car. Keeney called Governor Morgan's supporters 'red-handed murderers,' but Keeney, Mooney and Blizzard are to blame for at least three murders of their own men. They are the red-handed murderers, the men who tried to raise a super-government.

"It has been said that when a man takes an oath he ceases to be a man, but an altar to his God. But listen to what they say. Here were from 8,000 to 10,000 'brothers' of these defendants in the hills for two weeks and yet the officers of the organization didn't know about it.

Ignors Money

"Reference has been made to moneys paid counsel. I have not been paid one cent, nor has a fee been discussed, and when the time comes that I wouldn't try such a case without thinking of pay then I don't want respectable men to give me any consideration."

T. C. Townsend made much of discrepancies between days and dates in the testimony of witness Brinkman. Brinkman had said Blizzard was in Blair on Wednesday, August 30. Wednesday was the 31st.

"You are trying Bill Blizzard for something he is said to have done, and he can't be blamed for anything else," said Townsend.

"Gentleman of the jury, I know you wouldn't convict a yellow dog of the streets of Charles Town on the testimony of Ed Reynolds, and he was the only witness who said he saw Blizzard go over the mountain into Logan. Nothing outside of Logan counts, save to prove a conspiracy. The over act charge must be proved by two witnesses."

Townsend then reviewed some of the evidence.

Osenton objected, saying Townsend was trying to testify about something that wasn't evidence, and the court sustained the state.

Sam Montgomery, of defense counsel, was the orator today at the Confederate Memorial day exercises.


West Virginia Archives and History