A short tour of Logan will reveal from its mostly brick structures that much of its glamourous but notorious past occurred from around 1908 through the 1940s, although events of interest certainly didn’t end following World War II. It’s just that the early decades of the 1900’s are more riveting in terms of murder and corruption.
Two names that are intertwined throughout that time period are Hatfield and Chafin. From the Blair Mountain Battle of 1921 until the death of Logan’s most famous mistress of the night — Mamie Thurman in 1932 — it seems there was always a Hatfield or a Chafin somehow involved. The dates on local buildings in Logan range from the 1910 date of the Holland building in downtown Logan to the condemned 1921 Chafin Apartment building near what is called “Dead Man’s Curve” — appropriately named because of a murder there in which one man killed another in a jealous rage.
Stepping forward from the famous days of the Hatfield-McCoy feud of the 1800’s, let’s take a look at some irony. For instance, in the preliminary hearing of Clarence Stephenson — the Black handyman accused and later convicted of the savage murder of Mamie Thurman — the presiding magistrate was L.W. “Elba” Hatfield, who just happened to be a son of Anderson “Cap” Hatfield, the man said to be the meanest of the Hatfields during the feud. Cap, like many of his family, including brothers Tennis and Joe, who became sheriffs of Logan County from 1924 through 1932, played interesting roles in our local history. Elba Hatfield would narrowly lose in his re-election bid in 1932 and would never hold public office again, eventually moving to California.
Also, during the murder trial was the recognition that Mamie Thurman’s husband (Jack) reportedly hired John (Con) Chafin to assist in the prosecution of Stephenson. As you will see in later segments of this writing, Chafin was an interesting character prior to his most unusual death in the Guyandotte River.
It should be noted of particular interest that some of the listed pallbearers at Mamie’s funeral were Joe Hatfield, Hibbard Hatfield and Dallas Morrison. Morrison had previously been implicated as owning gambling machines in Logan while Joe Hatfield was sheriff, and when a Logan police chief was murdered. Interestingly, it would be Coleman Hatfield’s testimony in 1930 (Coleman being another son of Devil Anse and a Logan attorney) that implicated Morrison, who was never charged with a crime.
Hibbard Hatfield’s role in Logan history, as you shall see, also was of shady character.
Let’s take a look at a few historical aspects of Logan, an example of which should be the month of June 1932 when The Logan Banner reported in that month alone there had been six murders in Logan County, two suicides, two drownings, one mining fatality, and one person killed by a train, for a total of 12 deaths by violent means. The lone mining fatality reportedly was the fewest for any month during the prior two years. Train deaths were also very common at the time, usually two to three per month; some being the result of murder, when a person was tied down on the tracks to await an oncoming train — usually a Black man, or immigrant.
Some readers may recall the story of Logan Police Chief Roy Knotts being gunned down in 1930 at the Smokehouse restaurant in Logan by Enoch Scaggs, who put five bullets into the former state policeman, who was on his first day of work, after the prior chief resigned for fear of being killed.
Despite several eyewitnesses to Knotts’ murder, the plan was for Scaggs to get out of the charge by claiming self-defense. If not for the special efforts of State Attorney General Howard B. Lee, it is likely that Scaggs, a former Logan County sheriff’s deputy formerly employed by legendary sheriff Don Chafin, would have never gone to prison.
Scaggs collected monies from illegal gambling machines in the City of Logan and other parts of the county for then Sheriff Joe Hatfield, elected in 1928, and his brother, Tennis, a former sheriff of Logan, and the mastermind of the operation. Knotts had taken the job following the resignation of the former police chief when the city manager (today known as mayor) announced his intentions of ridding the community of illegal gambling, liquor and prostitution. With Lee’s prosecution efforts and a special jury bused from Monroe County, Scaggs was found guilty and sentenced to 18 years in prison. It was widely believed that Scaggs was simply a “hit man” for the Hatfields.
Another story we’ve previously printed involving a Logan police officer and a murder was that of the 1927 killing of a 22-year-old Logan bus driver from Mud Fork named Lawrence Avis. The young man was shot in the back following his arrest at what was the State Restaurant on Stratton Street across from the Midelburg Theatre at 5:45 a.m. May 9, 1927. Logan police Chief Lawrence Carey and Hibberd Hatfield were charged with murder following an altercation in which The Banner reported “the screams of scores of women in nearby apartment buildings” could be heard following shots fired from a .38 caliber pistol.
There are some interesting twists to this story, as Hatfield, who was a night watchman at the time, would later be found not guilty and then became a Logan City police officer. Five years later, he would be working with Jack Thurman on the night (or morning) of Mamie Thurman’s murder in 1932.
Another intriguing fact is that during a recess in the murder trial of Chief Carey, he was escorted by a Logan deputy to his High Street home for lunch. However, when Carey was allowed into his bedroom, he took the same .38 pistol he allegedly used in the murder and killed himself with a bullet to his head. Carey, who had eight children, was the nephew of famous feudist Randall McCoy, as Carey’s mother was Randall’s sister. So in a sense, there was a Hatfield and a McCoy working together, and both were accused of the same murder.
The following account from a December 1926 Logan Banner story also involves Chief Carey, who at that time made the arrest of a former Logan police chief, who had killed his own 20-year-old son after the two argued over the son’s use of profanity. Here’s the story as it unfolded during the year that the White and Browning building in Logan was under construction.
“J.M. Henderson, better known as ‘Mitch Henderson,’ for many years chief of police of the city of Logan during former administrations, fired a bullet into the body of his son, Kernie Henderson, age 20, yesterday evening shortly after six o’clock, from which the young man died instantly,” according to the newspaper report.
From the story told by Henderson shortly after he had surrendered to police, his son came into the home drunk on moonshine. Kernie’s wife, who was home after visiting relatives in Columbus, and her son began to argue, her son using profane language, to which the father objected. The newspaper account stated that Mrs. Henderson stepped in between the two in an effort to prevent trouble. Mr. Henderson said that his son pushed the mother aside, and as he did so, the father fired — the bullet striking Kernie in the right side, passing through the body severing the artery to the heart, and then stopping just beneath the skin on the left side.
Realizing the seriousness of his deed, Henderson said he seized the body of his son and held him tenderly in his arms while the young man passed through the throes of death. After laying the body on the floor, Henderson walked down the street. In the meantime, neighbors who had been attracted by the screams of Mrs. Henderson, telephoned a physician and notified the police.
Henderson was said to have surrendered himself “without the least bit of resistance” and admitted to the shooting. Prosecuting attorney John “Con” Chafin was notified and told Judge Robert Bland that he did not oppose bail for the former police chief, but worried about relatives or friends of the deceased who might take the law into their own hands.
Grief-stricken relatives and sympathizing friends numbering in the hundreds attended the funeral rites for the younger Henderson, and The Banner reported that all available seating space at Neighbert Memorial Church was taken and that at least 200 persons were compelled to stand outside the church or were turned away. Burial took place at the now-abandoned Logan City Cemetery on High Street. Ironically, the very next year Chief Lawrence Carey, after committing suicide, would also be buried in the same cemetery, according to newspaper accounts. Those gravesites are no longer recognizable.
The April 12, 1927, Banner headlines read: “Case Against Mitchell Henderson Dismissed.” Prosecuting attorney John “Con” Chafin told the court that in the Henderson case the state had no witnesses outside members of the family and they were agreed that the killing of Kernie Henderson by his father, J. Mitchell Henderson, was an accident.
“I will be cursed if I do, and cursed if I don’t,” declared the prosecutor. “But after going over the case carefully and talking to all witnesses, I am convinced that the state cannot make a case.”
Prosecutor Chafin — a few years after his involvement in the Mamie Thurman murder case — would be found dead standing erect in the Guyandotte River. He was last seen the night before taking his daughter to a revival at a Stratton Street church. We will likely never know what went on during that special church service. His death was declared a suicide.
Logan’s amazing history is filled with almost unbelievable accounts of murder, political corruption, mystical soap opera greed, and other wrong doings. However, if you believe in the adage “the more things change, the more things remain the same” — well, you might be wrong.
Then again, maybe you’re not.
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.