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Matewan Massacre

Unidentified Article
Logan Coal Operators Association Collection
Ms90-82
104:22


Matewan Massacre. May 19th, 1920.

On the morning of the 19th day of May, 1920, Albert C. Felts, who was connected with the Baldwin- Felts Detectives, Incorporated, and who was also a deputy sheriff of Mingo County, West Virginia, with twelve other men went to Matewan to evict about half a dozen men who were unlawfully holding possession of some houses belonging to the Stone Mountain Coal Corporation. These miners had been repeatedly legally notified to surrender possession of the premises occupied by them, but had refused to do so. Under the direction of Mr. Felts, the household effects of these men were carefully and peaceably removed.

Mr. Felts and his men had rifles with them, but all of them were in grips or packages except possibly three. These rifles had been put together while the evictions were being made because of the fact that a large body of men headed by Sid Hatfield had marched out to the place where the evictions were being made, and conducted itself in a threatening manner. This crowd was joined by Mayor Testerman, who discussed the legality of the convictions with Mr. Felts. Mr. Felts told Mayor Testerman that the evictions were legal, and advised him to get into communication with the county authorities at Williamson, and also with his personal counsel. And Mr. Felts further remarked to Mayor Testerman that if he decided that the evictions were unlawful, all he had to do was to send a boy to him (Mr. Felts) and he and his men would come down and give bond, at the same time remarking that he did not want to have any trouble.

In the afternoon, after the evictions had been made, Mr. Felts and his men went to the hotel at Matewan where they had supper and put all of their rifles in packages or grips, preparatory to taking train No. 16 of the Norfolk & Western Railway Company, which left about five o'clock, p.m., out of Matewan. In the meantime, Sid Hatfield had called one Tony Webb at Williamson, who was at that time a deputy sheriff of Mingo County, and who was a friend of the miners' Union, and requested him to send up warrants for the arrest of Felts and his men. Webb informed Sid Hatfield that he could not get the warrants to Matewan before train No. 16 run. Whereupon, Sid Hatfield remarked, over the phone: "We will kill the G D S of B------ before they leave town."

It appears from the statements of witnesses that while Mr. Felts and his men were in Matewan, Sid Hatfield and certain officials and members of the United Mine Workers of America were getting together a body of armed men for the purpose of attacking Mr. Felts and his men. These men were collected at and in the neighborhood of Mayor Testerman' store in the town of Matewan. After Mr. Felts and his men had eaten their suppers and had packed their rifles, they went to the railroad station to take said train No. 16. About four of Mr. Felts's men, including himself, were armed with pistols, they having the right to carry them under the laws of West Virginia. While these men were at the railroad near the station preparatory to taking the train, Sid Hatfield, at the head of a crowd of men, came up to Mr. Felts and without any warrant or authority of law told him that he would have to hold him until train No. 16 ran. Just previous to this, Sid Hatfield had remarked to a crowd of men, while Mr. Felts was at the hotel, that "If he could get the crowd together he would go out and kill every damn one of them without any damn warrant." When Sid Hatfield approached Mr. Felts, Mr. Felts served a warrant on Sid Hatfield, which had been issued by Squire R. M. Stafford, a Justice of the Peace of Magnolia District, Mingo County, West Virginia, for the arrest of Sid Hatfield, Bas Ball, Tony Webb and others, which warrant was directed to Albert C. Felts for execution. Sid Hatfield seemed to show no feeling over his arrest because he walked down the railroad track with Mr. Felts, laughing and talking. Under some pretext, he beguiled Mr. Felts in front of the door of the Chambers Hardware Store. Sid Hatfield went into the hardware store where Isaac Brewer, Ben Mounts, Dutch Roeher, and others were. Mr. Felts remained on the outside. While Mr. Felts was standing on the outside, in front of the door, some question was raised as to the genuineness of the warrant. At this time, Mr. Felts was surrounded by a large crowd of men. Mayor Testerman walked up and Mr. Felts passed the warrant over to him for examination. While the warrant was being examined by Mayor Testerman, and when Albert Felts was not looking, Sid Hatfield stuck his revolver up within a few inches of the head of Albert Felts and shot him. Thereupon, the shooting at Mr. Felts's men became general, several hundred shots being fired.

It would appear from the statements of reliable witnesses that Albert Felts had no thought of being injured at the time he was killed, and did not get an opportunity to fire a single shot. After Albert Felts was killed and the shooting became general, Lee Felts, his brother, and C. B. Cunningham, who was one of his men, attempted to defend themselves, but in an instant both were killed. The other men who were with Mr. Felts ran and were pursued, with the result that C. T. Higgins, A. J. Booher, O. E. Powell, and J. W. Ferguson were killed at different spots in the town of Matewan while endeavoring to get away. Captain G. W. Anderson, who was with Mr. Felts, was shot through the shoulder while running, but made his escape by hiding. Five of the other men with Mr. Felts also succeeded in making their escapes without being injured. After Albert Felts was shot, and while he was lying on the ground, in an unconscious condition and mortally wounded, Sid Hatfield fired a shot into his body with a revolver, and one Bill Bowman placed his rifle up against his head and shot him through the head. Everyone of Mr. Felts's men who were killed were shot from behind.

After the shooting, Sid Hatfield repeatedly boasted that he had killed three of the Felt men, namely, Albert Felts, Lee Felts and C. B. Cunningham. The most important eye-witness to this shooting was one Anse Hatfield, who knew most of the men who took part in it and who testified before the Grand Jury, which indicted Sid Hatfield and others. A very short time thereafter, and after dark, he was assassinated by being shot while sitting in front of his hotel. Another important witness who has since been assassinated is Squire Harry Staten, a Justice of the Peace of Mingo County, who testified that he had heard Sid Hatfield boast the night of the massacre that he had killed Albert Felts, Lee Felts and C. B. Cunningham. Other witnesses to this shooting have been enticed or forced away from Matewan, and a number of them have been brutally assaulted and mistreated.

The murder of J. W. Ferguson is about the foulest on record. He was evidently shot in the first volley while running away, but succeeded in reaching the house of Mrs. Mary Duty, which is situated in the outskirts of Matewan. When he reached Mrs. Duty's house, he was unarmed and told her: "I am shot. I never fired a shot." and requested the assistance of a doctor and the privilege of remaining at her house. A number of men came rushing through Mrs. Duty's house and fired at this man while he was sitting in a rocking chair. He attempted to escape, by climbing over a fence, and while climbing over this fence he was shot by one Fred Burgraff. When his body was examined, it was found that he had six wounds.

Besides the Felts' men who were killed in this massacre, three other men were killed, including Mayor Testerman. Mayor Testerman was, in the opinion of many persons, killed by Sid Hatfield. In any event, within two weeks of the massacre, Mayor Testerman's widow became Sid Hatfield's bride.

Among the men who took part in the massacre of Mr. Felts and his men, were Sid Hatfield, Fred Burgraff, Reese Chambers, Ed Chambers, Talt Chambers, Hallie Chambers, Charles Kiser, Ben Mounts, Doug Mounts, Art Williams, William Bowman, Bowser Coleman, Jim Overstreet, Clare Overstreet, N. H. Atwood, Van Clay, Jess Boyd, Lee Toler, John Patrick, and many others, whose identities have not yet been established.


Matewan Massacre

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West Virginia Archives and History