Recently, I used Google to ask a simple question: “What is Logan, West Virginia known for?”
I thought there might be some interesting answers, like Logan County producing more veterans of foreign wars than any other county in West Virginia, or perhaps some mention of former all-pro football greats like Charlie Cowan and Lionel Taylor. I considered there might be a mention of a former major league baseball star, Max Butcher, or even former world champion heavyweight boxer, Jack Dempsey — all of whom are former Logan Countians.
Then there was my reasoning that Landau Eugene Murphy — the Loganite who went from washing automobiles for a living to becoming “America’s Got Talent” winner and now is performing as a millionaire around the world in various locations.
Naturally, I expected the likelihood of the mention of the Devil Anse Hatfield family, the Battle of Blair Mountain and, of course, the infamous sheriff, Don Chafin. Not to mention many other notable happenings and people who were born or lived in Logan or in some way made a historical mark on the county. Surprisingly, here’s what the Google answer was:
“The city is widely known for fierce violence, major disasters, and political corruption, as well as being the center of major economic wealth.”
First of all, my question was concerning the county, not the so-called city of Logan. However, if the historical shoe fits, so to speak, I guess one must wear it. I mean, sure there have been disasters in the town, particularly flooding and many fires of years ago, long before even the Aracoma Hotel fire, which I feel was a disaster.
And as far as fierce violence goes, well, I guess when a Logan police chief is assassinated with five bullets fired into his body on his first day on the job and a Logan policeman’s wife (Mamie Thurman) is murdered with two shots to her head and her throat cut, not to forget numerous other killings in Logan, including a former police chief killing his own son, yes, Logan fits into the category.
The third element of Google’s answer (political corruption) is almost everlasting with many illegal happenings in Logan, especially at the courthouse scene. No need to mention names — there’s just not enough room for them all.
However, when it comes to another Google answer, “the center of economic wealth,” that one puzzles me. I mean, whose economic wealth? A few individuals, coal companies and some coal related businesses? Maybe even certain government officials? Nevertheless, I’m glad the coal trains keep rolling.
Let’s change gears to a different time period. How about 99 years ago in August when several interesting things were going on in Logan, including three sewer line explosions in the city that could be heard for several miles, according to the Logan Banner newspaper account.
It was reported that sewer gas explosions “that boomed in quick secession over the city about six o’clock Wednesday evening caused great commotion among persons living within two miles of the city.”
The explosions that blew 100-pound manhole covers as high as 50 feet in the air occurred on Hudgins Street near the City Taxi Company’s office, the high school building and the Guyan Valley Grocery Company.
It was reported that the greatest detonation was at the manhole near the high school, which at the time was located on the hill behind Hudgins Street. It would later become Logan Central Junior High, the home of the Central Rockets.
During that same month, it was announced that ground had been broken for a new Logan City Hall, which was to be constructed on a lot next to the Logan First Christian Church that still remains today on Main Street. A two-story brick building was opened at the site, and it housed the fire department on the first floor, which included sleeping quarters. The mayor’s office, as well as offices for the police chief and the city council, were located on the second floor.
The cost of construction was said to be $18,000 and was the first Logan city hall to not have been rented. Since in today’s dollars $18,000 calculates to $311,906.32, the facility was obviously a very big deal.
Logan was growing profusely in population in 1923, and the building of several new schools became necessary, including a prized new Logan Senior High School that would be opened for the 1923-24 school year at the east end of Logan on Broad Street, which people now commonly refer to as Stratton Street.
Enrollment in the Logan city school system was said to be 869 pupils for the first week of school that started Sept. 10. It was also reported that enrollment in the Holden schools was 289, making it the most students ever enrolled in Logan or Holden. In addition, for the first time ever, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students from Holden were enrolled and bused to Logan’s new school.
The old school structure in Logan where the sewer explosion occurred was said to be abandoned for the 1923-24 school term. It originally was thought to be sufficient for many years, but the city had grown faster than anyone thought possible, with thousands of people coming from hundreds of places.
Such was the growth of Logan County that new schools — in addition to the new magnificent high school at Logan’s east end — were being built at Holden, Yolyn, Ethel, West Logan, Lyburn, Rum Creek Junction, Dehue Henlawson, Switzer, Peach Creek, Clothier, and other places near Sharples.
The highlight of the school system, however, was Logan Senior High School. Built at a cost that would in today’s market be $2,165,760, the school featured an auditorium that seated 1,500 people, a gymnasium of 40 by 100 feet, and shower facilities for girls and boys in separate parts of the building.
When the new three-story building was completed, it was generally thought that the school needs for the city would be fully met for many years to come. Even so, by the mid-1950s what was known as the old Logan Laundry building was converted into classrooms for the high school.
An above-ground hallway was constructed over a street to the school employee parking lot, which connected the two school buildings. The annexed property was named McDade Hall in honor of Frank (Pete) McDade, who had suffered a stroke while principal at Logan High in 1951, having served as a teacher for 36 years.
After 32 years of graduating students, a new Logan Senior High School was opened in 1957 and is the present home of the Logan High School Wildcats on Midelburg Island in Logan. Nonetheless, the buildings did not sit idle for long as Logan Junior High School was started at the east end site and became a rival to Logan Central, Omar Junior High and Holden Junior High, as well as Sharples, Man, and Chapmanville junior high schools.
This writer entered Logan Junior High School — the home of the “Kittens” — in 1966 as a seventh grader and I can still recall my homeroom as being numbered 7-2 and it being on the second floor of the building. A.R. “Rudi” Marushi was the principal there, and when I moved on to high school, Marushi was my principal again. Many years later, I would sit down with him and do an interview for the newspaper.
History sometimes has many parameters. For instance, Marushi’s bother married Mary Yvonne Scales, who was The Logan Banner reporter during the murder trial of Clarence Stephenson, convicted murderer of Mamie Thurman.
In addition, E. F. (Emmett) Scaggs, who was the heralded Logan County superintendent of schools in Logan when all the new schools were being built in the 1920s, also became the hand-picked candidate of Don Chafin and was the declared the sheriff of Logan in a narrow win over Tennis Hatfield, Devil Anse’s son. However, Scaggs was only sheriff for about 17 months before the Supreme Court threw out the results of three precincts, making Hatfield sheriff.
Interestingly, it was Emmett Scaggs’ brother, Enoch Scaggs, who killed Logan Police Chief Roy Knotts on the chief’s first day of duty in 1930. Knotts, whose inside jacket pocket contained the names of numerous Logan businesses he was to raid, was gunned down at the old Smokehouse Restaurant on Stratton Street. Scaggs would turn out to be an assassin for Tennis Hatfield, the sheriff at the time. The murder made the third by Scaggs, including one while he was a Logan deputy. However, that’s an entirely different story.
I suppose the more I think about it, maybe Google’s answers were accurate.
Still, I’ve got to ask: “Where’s the money?”
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.