The Cliftonville Riot

Follansbee Review
October 27, 1922

Kaminski On Trial For Murder Of Sheriff

Jury Visits Scene of Cliftonville Mine Riot in July Where Six Men Were Killed and Tipple Was Destroyed

Claims Was Forced To March

The jury was secured late Tuesday afternoon to try the case of the State of West Virginia against John Kaminski, of Avella, Pa. in the special session of Brooke County Circuit Court, at Wellsburg.

Kaminski is the first of the miners to be tried on indictments for first degree murder when Sheriff H. H. Duval and six other men were killed in a mine battle at Cliftonville last July.

The personnel of the jury is as follows:

John T. James, undertaker, Wellsburg.
Jay Churchman, mechanic, Wellsburg.
Paul Craft, farmer, Cross Creek district.
Wm. G. Powers, butcher, Wellsburg.
C. R. Heath, oil well driller, Wellsburg.
C. R. Heath, oili-sfff.G[sic]
Charles Frye, farmer, Buffalo district.
Alfred Lauck, farmer, Buffalo district.
Elza Cox, farmer, Cross Creek district.

Of the 20 tentative jurors accepted, the following were excused by Judge J. B. Sommerville until the November term:

Chill T. Reid, farmer, Cross Creek district; Edward Rithner, glass manufacturer, Wellsburg; Alvin Hogg, grocer, Wellsburg; Fred Lantz, mill worker, Follansbee; S. S. Melvin, Wellsburg; Ray H. Patterson, post office lcerk, Wellsburg; Edward Brazka, auto mechanic, Wellsburg; Geo. Park, hardware merchant, Follansbee.

It is estimated that at least ten days will be consumed in trying this initial case. Both state and defense have many witnesses.

Prosecution and defense completed their opening arguments at the trail of John Kaminski on Wednesday, after the jury had spent several hours investigating at the scene of the Cliftonville mine riot.

The state announced that it intended to prove that Kaminski was a "lieutenant" in command of a force of the union miners, who marched across the state line from Pennsylvania and that he, personally set fire to the mine tipple.

It was asserted by the defense that Kaminski knew nothing about the conspiracy of striking miners to destroy the non-union property; that he was forced at the point of a pistol, to join the marchers at Avella, and he made unsuccessful attempts to escape.

At 3 o'clock Wednesday afternoon, Attorney John J. Coniff, of Wheeling opened for the state with the reading of the indictment concerning Kaminski and others named therein. He explained the law on which the indictment was drawn, and stated that the state expected to show that Kaminski was present when Sheriff Duval was killed.

"On April 1, 1922, the Cliftonville mine changed hands, and the new owners adopted an open shop policy" asserted Mr. Coniff in his opening remarks. "Kaminski and several others, as we will show, decided they would permit this no longer. The state will show that five min locals existed in that section, and that there were several active spirits among the men."

Gathered at Tunnel

These men conspired that it would be a good thing if they could get these men together, arm them, march upon the mine, wipe it out and in their invasion they would brook no interference. The state will also show that a meeting was held, formal votes were taken, and that on Sunday, July 16, 1922 it was arranged to get together at 9 o'clock at night at Avella, Pa., five miles from the end of a tunnel near the scene of the shooting."

"There is where the march began. The men were lined up and departed between 9 and 10 o'clock. The defendant John Kaminski, had been in this neighborhood previous to this affair and came back from Canton, O. to participate, in the march, joining them near Avella. We will show that he was made lieutenant and at one time had charge of the march. A password, "national," was arranged and every man who stepped out of line was forced to drop in again."

Explosion, Attack Signal.

"When the marchers reached the Kenova baseball park, between Cliftonville and Avella, the last inflammatory was made to the men, and then the march was continued in the direction of Virginia sation. Here they divided , as the state will show. some going along the road which leads to the bridge, while others went to the bottom of the hollow. The United Mine Workers' camp was just across the creek from the mine, and the state will show that the explosion of the dynamite was from there. The explosion was the signal for the attack, but the forces were not ready and postponed their plans till 5 o'clock in the morning."

"The state will show that Kaminski was busy all the while rounding men up for the march, and that just previous to the attack he called out to everybody with arms "Everybody with arms line up in front here," when the train left the station at Cliftonville at 5 o'clock Deputy Sheriff Mozingo was seen walking down in the hollow, and one of the marchers remarked, "There goes that damn scab. Let's shoot him." This precipitated the shooting."

In his concluding remarks, Attorney Coniff said, "Gentlemen of the jury, evidence will show that one of the conspirators now possesses these weapons as souvenirs. If the facts, as I have stated them, are verified by evidence, then the state will ask at your hands a verdict of murder in the first degree."

Gardner for Defense.

Attorney John D. Gardner opened for the defense at 4 o'clock. "The defense will show that Kaminski lived in Ohio with a man named Jacob Andes, and that prior to July 16 Kaminski had never laid eyes on the Cliftonville mine or any of its connections," he asserted. The defense concedes the fact that there were meetings and that things attributed to them did transpire, but will prove that Kaminski at that time was working in Canton, O."

"Kaminski arrived at Avella, Pa., on July 16 for reasons just and proper, the defense will show. He did not come back to act as lieutenant, and the defense will prove that he was standing on a bridge talking to a lady friend when the march came along. He was told he would have to join it by an Italian miner who held a club in his hand." Turning towered the prosecutor's table, Mr. Gardner in a voice raised to high pitch remarked "I predict witnesses, from whose lips much of the testimony will come, will say like this body that they were forced to join in the march.

Faced Union Expulsion.

"He was told he would never belong to the United Mine Workers again, unless he joined in the march and therefore, as we will prove, his entire presence was by force rather than desire. This force was exerted by leaders rather than Kaminski and who are not now in custody." In concluding his open statement Mr. Gardner said, "I think, gentlemen that the testimony when sifted from the chair will show Kaminski is about to be made a second victim of that conspiracy, which he knew nothing of. But the moment he learned of the horrible contemplation of the horde, he sought to leave it. If the defense proves this, I ask that the jury return a verdict of not guilty."

The actual taking of testimony in the trail of Kaminiski began Thursday morning. The first witness called by the State was Frank E. Foster, Wellsburg undertaker and funeral director.

Locate Body Wounds

The witness explained the location of wounds on the body of the dead sheriff. His testimony was of a professional nature and cross-examination was confined to tow questions. He was followed by Dr. J. B. Walkinshaw, coroner, who testified along lines similar to those of, the preceding witness but named another wound in addition to three given by Undertaker Foster. No autopsy was performed, but the witness stated that Sheriff Duval came to his death from gunshot wounds through the head, and there were two.

George Cree, actual participant in the Cliftonville battle, former deputy sheriff, was the next witness called. He gave a detailed account of his actions and the events which transpired in and near Cliftonville from Sunday evening at 6 o'clock, when he went on duty, until the battle ended. The remainder of his testimony was a recital of events which have been repeatedly told in his statements before the coroner's inquest and to the press. Shortly after the noon session of court opened the witness was turned over to the defense for cross-examination.


West Virginia Archives and History