By Debbie Rolen
First -time author, Claude L. Chafin, has penned a compelling tale of strife and survival in “The Messenger,” which chronicles the early life of Andrew Chafin, who at the age of 9 was sent to live in the home of “Devil Anse” Hatfield in the closing days of the infamous Hatfield-McCoy Feud.
Chafin says his grandfather went to live with the Hatfields so he could go to school.
“My great-grandparents, Hobert and Lucinda Chafin, had a farm on Cow Creek and the closest school was the ‘School in the Bottoms’ built by “Devil Anse” Hatfield on Island Creek,” Chafin said. “My great-grandparents asked Levicy Hatfield if my grandfather could stay with them during the week so he could go to school. He stayed with them for his first two years of school. After that, my great-grandfather still worked the farm at Cow Creek, but my great-grandmother and the children moved into a cabin belonging to Anse on Island Creek, where they lived until all the children had finished school.”
Andrew Chafin met and married his wife, Sarah, who was also born and raised on Cow Creek. The Chafins then moved to Fairview in Williamson and Andrew took a job as an accountant for Price Motor Company. He was a dedicated Christian and a member of First Methodist Church at Williamson, where he played the violin and served as a deacon. After he retired, they moved to Seminole, Fla.
Claude Chafin said he lived in Tampa, Fla., and would go his grandparents’ home every weekend to mow their grass. He said his grandmother would bake a carrot cake. After his work was done, he said, he would sit with his grandfather, who would smoke a cigar and tell stories of his childhood.
“Starting in 1966 and going through 1972, I listened to his stories every weekend and asked him questions about the time he spent with the Hatfields. I had to ask him questions to get him to talk about it,” the author said. “In 1972, when he was 86 years old, I decided to get his stories on tape. He would never have agreed to allow me to tape him, so I hid the microphone under the table and recorded as he told story after story.”
Chafin said his grandfather died not long after he taped the stories and the tape was misplaced. It was discovered years later and converted from reel-to-reel to disc. A copy is now in the West Virginia Archives.
Those recordings, along with two trips to Williamson and one to Cow Creek and Island Creek were the basis for “The Messenger.” Chafin has woven together his grandfather’s recollections into a tale of survival against all odds. In The Messenger, Andrew faces down murderers, bounty hunters and violent characters in Logan County’s challenging landscape.
Chafin said his grandfather would not have appreciated his putting the stories in writing.
“My grandfather felt the feud put West Virginians in a bad light. If he knows about this book, he is looking down from Heaven and shaking his head,” Chafin said. “I am in a lot of trouble when I see him again.”
Copies of the book are available on Amazon.com. Chafin says the book is listed at Amazon’s No. 30 of the top 100 books on history.