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Transcript of interview with Tom Chafin, June 11, 1992, for the film "West Virginia."

Source: WV History Film Project


Q: Tom, tell me what kind of a man Devil Anse Hatfield was?
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TC: From what I've always heard and been told that he was a good man. That he didn't want to ever hurt anybody or do anything that wasn't right. Now, I've been told that all my life.

Q: But that's not what people say about him, is it?
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TC: No, no. They think that he was an outlaw, that he wanted to kill. He never did kill anybody. He had a son, now, that did kill I believe five. His name was Cap, the oldest member of Devil Anse's family was Cap Hatfield. He killed one in Matewan there that I know of because the one that he killed in Matewan had shot his first cousin, my uncle, my daddy's brother. He had shot him and crippled him, and Cap decided that he'd get even with him; and he killed him. He killed him in Matewan right where you turn up the river there where they tore the old school down.

Q: Now, as a boy you knew Cap Hatfield; you met him. Tell me about that.
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TC: Yes. I had took a trip with my grandfather, Mose Chafin. We would ride a horse up to the head of Mate? Creek and across into the head of Pigeon Creek and down in the head of Island Creek. Now that's where Devil Anse's home is; that's where he was buried, where they have the cemetery there. Cap then would come over to see my father, Allen Chafin. He came over one day, you know where Ellison Hatfield cemetery is, that hollow is called Pat's? Branch. Cap was Ellison Hatfield's brother and Dev? Lance's brother. He came over and got me to go up Pat's Branch with him and he was showing me a spring where they used to get water and just different things in Pat's Branch. He wanted to go back to his old stomping ground, he called it.

Q: Do you remember what he was like and where did you hear about what kind of a person he was.
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TC: He was a very friendly person, very friendly person that seemed -- he was just a very likable person. Cap was, yes.

Q: But in his younger days he was a terror wasn't he.
TC: Yes, in younger days now he was really mean. He had killed. I have been told that he had killed five. I know of one that he'd killed down there in Matewan. I could show you right on the street where he killed him.

Q: Tell me about your trip up to Devil Anse's house when you were a boy.
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TC: I took a ride over there with my grandfather, Mose Chafin. We didn't stay all night. We stayed two or three hours and talked with Aunt Vicy.

Q: Could you start over Tom and tell me that ...when I was a boy ... could you start with that sentence?
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TC: When I was a boy I went up to Devil Anse's with my grandfather, Mose Chafin, to see Devil Anse and Aunt Vicy. Devil Anse was gone; he wasn't there. He didn't get to see him. We talked with Aunt Vicy a long time. Devil Anse died a long time before Aunt Vicy died. They had a big family. I believe they had eleven children. I'm double cousins to all of them.

Q: I thought you told me last summer you actually went up and sat on Devil Anse's lap one time. Is that true?
TC: No. I don't think so.

Q: Tell me the story about Devil Anse even in his later years putting boys at the window and what Aunt Vicy said.
TC: Yes. First, I'd have to say that I took a ride in a small plane from.

Q: Don't tell me that story yet. First tell me the story that you heard about Devil Anse putting boys in the window.
TC: Well, this is it. He decided that he would take him a good long nap, you know, rest awhile. He would put two of his boys. He ...


Q: Okay, Tom pick up that train of thought again. Tell me about Devil Anse.
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TC: We went over to see Devil Anse, my grandfather and me, and he was gone but we stayed with Aunt Vicy awhile, say three or four hours and came back. And Devil Anse's shoes, she was telling my grandfather Devil Anse decided that he was going to take a nap the evening before that. He put Willis, one of his boys was Willis, and the other one I forget his name, at the windows. He lived in a log cabin and they had two windows in it, one in each end of the log cabin. He would give them a rifle and they would hold this rifle on their lap and would look out that window and he would tell them: 'Now don't take your eye off that window. You look out that window and watch because your dad's gonna take a nap and I don't want to take a chance.'
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Aunt Vicy would get mad, and she would ball him out and say, 'Anderson -- she called him Anderson -- Anderson, why don't you go on in there and go to bed and sleep. Those McCoys are not coming all the way over here in Logan County to Island Creek. Why don't you go on in there?' He said: 'Oh, Lord, honey, no. I can't do that. I love you too much.' And he would put one at each window in the house and they'd stay right there as long as he slept.

Q: What was your aunt like, Vicy?
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TC: Aunt Vicy was very strict on everything; she was more strict than Devil Anse was. When she said she was the boss; she was the boss. I can tell you that. That she was the boss at their own. The boys and the girls, all of her girls and all of her boys. She had about eleven children.

Q: A lot of things have been said about Devil Anse. That he was a violent man, that he loved his Winchester rifles that he wanted nothing but revenge from the McCoys for the killing of his brother, Ellison. What's the real story?
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TC: I don't think Devil Anse was like that. What I know about him and what my father knew about him and would tell me about him -- that he was a good, good peaceful, wanted to be a peaceful fellow. But Cap and those two bad men -- they had Vance, Jim Vance on the Hatfield side and they had a Phillips -- I can't think of his first name -- on the McCoy side in Kentucky. And Phillips and Vance kept up the fight with them all the time. Hadn't been for those two probably the Hatfields and the McCoys would never had a fight. Those two.


Q: Tell me, what you just told me about Devil Anse on the one hand and Cap on ? ?
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TC: I've been told by my father and by my mother and other people too that Devil Anse never killed anyone and wanted always to have peace. But Cap and two of his brothers, Cap for sure I've been told, killed five different people. I know of one that he killed down at Matewan. I know of the others if I could think of their names, but I can't think of the names right now.


Q: Tom, tell me about what Matewan was like during the trouble?
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TC: Back in the trouble, when they called the strike and they began to put them out of the houses, it wasn't safe to go through Matewan. You just couldn't go through Matewan safe. Blackberry City, down below Matewan or up at north Matewan where I was showing her were Stony Mountain Camp is, it wasn't safe to go through there at all. You just had to be careful when you did go or you had to take your friends with you. Cap Hatfield, he was the chief of police, and he -- I guess he was one of the best protectors that they had of the people. He would protect the people day and night. He wasn't just there in the daytime; he was there at night too.

Q: Why wasn't it safe? What was the danger coming from, the miners, the Baldwin Felts or what?
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TC: The Baldwin Felts coming in on the miners and the miners getting ready to kill them. Them, the Baldwin Felts coming in to kill the miners. They indicted two of the United Mine Workers up at Welch. You know about that. When they was going up the steps, why the Baldwin Felts was standing up on top of the steps. Steps are still there; you can see them. And when they was going up the steps, Ed Chambers and Cap Hatfield they were going up the steps, why the Baldwin Felts killed them. Cap's wife took her umbrella, it was raining a little bit, and beat one of them over the head with the umbrella when he was shooting Cap.

Q: What did your father tell you about the union? Was he a strong union man?
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TC: He was a strong union man, and he said if we didn't, if we didn't organize ... My father told me that if ...


Q: Start your answer with my father, but tell me what your father told you about the role of unionizers, the union?
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TC: My father would tell me before I was old enough to go in the mines. Don't never be against the United Mine Workers; always be for them cause they're for the working people. And if we don't have the United Mine Workers, we're going to be in trouble; and they're going to drive you to stay after dark, get there before daylight, pay you what they want to, pay you nothing, hardly, and if we have a United Mine Workers and do the right thing we can live better. Now, that's what he'd always tell me. Be sure that you do that, and I was sure that I did. I stayed with the United Mine Workers.

Q: Tell me about what you did in the mines, when you went in and what you do?
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TC: I went in the mines on the 9th day of March, 1928 as a trapper. They called it trapper. A trapper is to open the door when they hear the motor coming and close it after the motor gets through and to be alert all the time, to be watching for everything. You got other things that goes through, has to go through. People has to go through and all that works in the mines.

Q: Let me ask you to start over and say that again, but I want you to tell me how old you were too .. I went into the mines at such and such ...
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TC: I went into the mines ... I went to work in the mines, got a job and went to work in the mines on the 9th day of March 1928, I wasn't sixteen until the last day of April, 1928, almost two months. Lacked nine days of being two months. I was a trapper then. I stayed a trapper for about a year and then I began to get a bigger job, bigger job. Finally, I got that motor and I had the world's best I thought then. I was really happy with it.

Q: Tell me a little bit more about what Matewan was like in the 20's.
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TC: Matewan was a nice town. Had plenty of people, plenty of people working. You mean in the '20's now? ... Yes, they were working then, but the Baldwin Felts when they come there and begin to move them out of there. Well, they tried to organize. They wanted to organize the United Mine Workers of America. That's what we needed and that's what we wanted. That's want they tried to get, but they come down there and they got into this fight and they got killed and they killed some. It just all blew up, and it wasn't worth what had happened.

Q: What was the town like, aside of all the mine trouble, what was the town like?
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TC: Well, the town was a good place. ... Matewan was a good place to live and had some of the best people that you could find anywhere. The mayor, the chief of police, all of them was good people and good to people, wanted to be good to people. But they sent those Baldwin Felts down there to kill them and put them out of the houses. Well, just tell you what to do when they come. That's what they came for.

Q: Was Matewan a different looking town back in those years? Tell me about that.
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TC: Yes. It was really nice looking. I hope they build it back like it was. Both sides of Matewan, the buildings, they were beautiful, beautiful buildings at that day and time.

Q: What kind of places were they? Stores --
TC: Stores, stores, and apartments. Living apartments where they live in them.

Q: There were quite a few saloons weren't there?
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TC: Yes. No, they wasn't. In Matewan they had one saloon; one saloon in Matewan. Then after the saloon days were over they had one liquor store; that's all I can ever remember. But back then, back then when the Baldwin Felts they had a saloon at that day and time.

Q: Do you remember anything about the saloon?
TC: No, I can't remember, but they had a saloon then.

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Chafin Interview