Well over a year ago, I wrote about a visit to Logan by two of Devil Anse Hatfield’s great-grandchildren, Grant and Joe Browning, who were childhood friends of Logan businessman Neal Scaggs, widely known and respected as a longtime businessman and owner of Baisden Brothers Hardware at Ellis Addition near Logan.
The Brownings at the time had returned to Logan to decorate their family graves at the Hatfield Cemetery during the week of Memorial Day. All three men are now together as they were in their childhood days, playing as neighbors in downtown Logan, Neal just recently joining his heavenly buddies Nov. 8, at the age of 85.
It turns out that Grant, 89, was a highly successful entrepreneur in Nashville, Tennessee, responsible for much of downtown Nashville’s landscape, including the Grand Ole Opry surroundings. In August 2020, Joe informed me of his brother’s death in Nashville.
Grant and Joe, their grandmother being a daughter of the most famous feudal leader in American history, were over 80 years-old at the time of their last visit, and the two were hoping to find a way that perpetual care of the coveted cemetery that straddles the Sarah Ann-Crystal Block area of Main Island Creek could be provided. Sadly, neither person lived long enough to see that vision transpire.
Unfortunately, Joe’s death came just four months later after his brother passed away, his one-year death anniversary coming up this month. His caring wife, Jenna, kindly informed me by email of his passing.
Here are Joe Browning’s thoughts provided in an email sent to me before the virus changed everybody’s lives and, of course, before he died:
“Dwight, as you know I have several letters written by Devil Anse’s children after they had left home. I also have the Hatfield Family Album with several pictures of family members.
“I contacted the WV state archives a couple of years ago about making them available to the archives. The lady I talked to then said the Archives Director would be anxious to talk with me about the documents and he would be calling me back promptly. To this date I have heard nothing further from the archive’s folks.
“I have recently received a request from the Hatfield-McCoy Museum in Pikeville to ‘loan’ the documents to the museum for display. I had hoped to be able to donate the material to a museum that would be established at the cemetery site. I have lost hope for that ever coming about.
“The lack of interest by the state and county in capitalizing on the cemetery’s historical and tourist value leaves me dumbfounded. I am not sure how to ensure that the documents are properly displayed. I have no interest in providing them to the Logan County Commission or the WV state archives. I hope that you may be able to advise me as to a proper depository for the documents.”
n Meanwhile, Pikeville continues to grow by leaps and bounds, thanks in part to the tourist industry that county has created. I find it interesting, yet somewhat insulting to Logan County, that as one enters Pike County from Williamson in Mingo County a large granite monument greets you with these words: “Welcome to Pike County. Home of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud.” Despite hundreds of Hatfield-McCoy trail riders entering Logan each year, many visiting the Hatfield Cemetery, there is no acknowledgment at any entrance to Logan County denoting the Hatfield connection.
All the while, the former Hatfield homeplace and the vacant land adjacent to it, as well as the final resting place of the legend himself — surrounded there by most of his family — is located about 12 miles from downtown Logan. Unfortunately, it is considered by many visitors as an embarrassment to Hatfield heritage and to Logan County in general.
A short distance from the cemetery on the other side of the road that should have long ago been named “Hatfield Highway,” the notorious Anderson “Cap” Hatfield — named after his famous father — was laid to rest in his wife’s family cemetery. Cap’s two-story homeplace, which stood idle for many years, was allowed to finally succumb to nature and is now a mere wilderness. A concrete bridge leading to the property bears Cap’s name and the date 1930. A large tree trunk now blocks the bridge entrance to the property.
A once magnificent home built entirely of stone was constructed by Cap’s son, Robert Hatfield, and stands very near Cap’s former homeplace, its sandstone fence surrounding the unusual house being a noticeable visual attraction.
There are so many possibilities for Logan County to reap the historical benefits that are connected to the Hatfield name. One might say that for far too many decades those possibilities have simply been “buried” in our past — awaiting resurrection and new life.
n Sticking with the Hatfield name, people should know that the September 1861 burning by Union forces of the Boone County courthouse, which preceded the burning of the Logan County courthouse in 1862, was widely thought to be the result of a bullet fired by Devil Anse Hatfield.
Southern sympathizers, likely part of his group known as the “Wildcats,” entered into a skirmish with union forces in Boone County and the first shot fired, thought to be by Hatfield, took the life of a Union officer. In revenge, the Boone courthouse was burned.
n Still of even more interest is the raiding of the Blue Goose Saloon at Barnabus, owned by Devil Anse’s youngest son, Tennis. Here’s part of what a newspaper report had to say after seven mounted state policemen, one federal officer, and two Prohibition officers raided the illegal establishment, which would later burn down:
“Tennyson Hatfield, the genial proprietor of the Blue Goose, whose name was one to conjure by until the advent of the mounted troopers, was always a picturesque character in the Blair Mountain country, and his ‘wide open’ methods were the scandal of the county. The underworld that was attracted like moths to an arc light, swarmed around the Blue Goose, spread the story that the police didn’t dare face a Hatfield, and by their verbose utterances hurried the curtain down on the pre-Volstead days in Barnabus.”
Everybody at Barnabus knew he was armed and that he was supposed to be able to pierce a dime at 50 yards. Hatfield was caught in the act of pouring whiskey in a bathtub for the purpose of destroying evidence, but the state troopers had the drop on him before he even had a chance to draw. He was immediately handcuffed and searched and a .45 Colt revolver with pearl handles, the pride of the proprietor, and a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver were found.
The report said that officers seized three 16-gallon copper coils, 80 60-gallon mash barrels, 15 one-half gallon jars of moonshine whiskey, three 100-pound bags of sugar and 25 cases of raisins. The story noted that a 10-by-10 “secret room” equipped with water and sewer connections “from all appearances had been used as a distillery for years.”
Hatfield’s older brothers, Elias and Troy, had been shot and killed in 1911 when they were making and selling liquor in Fayette County, becoming the first children of Devil Anse and Levisa to be buried in the Hatfield Cemetery. Tennis, who died in 1953, along with Tennis Jr., is buried nearby his mother and father.
After spending time in prison, Hatfield would later testify that he was a partner with former legendary sheriff Don Chafin in the Blue Goose establishment. After a conviction and a lengthy appeals process, Chafin served time in an Atlanta prison starting in 1925. However, in the 1924 election for sheriff in Logan County, Chafin bitterly fought against the election of Tennis Hatfield, causing Hatfield’s apparent defeat to Democrat Emmett Scaggs.
However, after a 16-month appeal process, it was determined that Chafin and his followers had intimidated voters and committed other crimes, causing election results at Mud Fork and Striker precincts to be voided, thus electing Hatfield. Ironically, after Tennis was sheriff for one term and while his brother, Joe, was sheriff in 1930, it was Enoch Scaggs, a brother to Emmett Scaggs, who shot and killed Roy Knotts on his first day on the job as Logan city chief of police. Knotts was shot in the back at the popular Smokehouse restaurant in Logan, having in his possession a list of names of establishments he was to raid.
Knotts, it was announced in The Logan Banner, had been hired to “clean up” Logan from gambling, prostitution and illegal liquor sales. Scaggs, a former Logan deputy sheriff, was the person who retrieved the monies from all of the gambling establishments for Tennis and Joe Hatfield — Joe being the sheriff at the time. Scaggs would go to prison only after a special jury was brought by bus to Logan from Monroe County. It was thought that no jury in Logan County would dare convict Scaggs for fear of retribution by the Hatfields and others.
So, after only touching on “some” of the background behind the Hatfield clan, as a knowledgeable reader of this writing, can you see why the Hatfield Cemetery and the history that surrounds it could be a wonderful drawing card for Logan County?
Here’s hoping third-generation grandson Jack Hatfield is successful in his enterprising effort to open a museum at the former site of the homeplace of a world-renowned family.
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.