It is my opinion that two of the best kept secrets in Logan County are the organizations of PRIDE of Logan County Inc. and the Logan County Genealogical Society. Those two organizations are almost like unseen atomic submarines that roam the world’s ocean depths. We know they are out there, but they quietly go about their business.
Perhaps it’s because of a lack of controversy that keeps PRIDE and the Genealogical Society — unlike some other institutional bodies — out of the limelight. I really don’t know, but what I do know is that PRIDE has grown by leaps and bounds, now even serving McDowell, Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties through the weatherization program of PRIDE Inc.
In fact, there are job openings in just about every department of PRIDE due to the expanded services the organization continues to provide, be it the Head Start program, Senior Services, or any other aspect of the nearly $9 million-per-year nonprofit entity.
However, it is a much smaller group that I can appreciate for their volunteer work that comes from historical research. Although I am a dues-paying member of the Logan County Genealogical Society, I can take no credit for their works, but as a history freak I can certainly appreciate their research findings and the information they produce in their newsletters they provide to members.
I really enjoyed a newsletter that featured the genealogies of the men of the 1917 Logan County Sheriff’s Department, and I’m looking forward to the autumn edition that will highlight the lives of three Logan County men who were executed at the West Virginia Petitionary.
I also am saddened to learn of the resignation of past genealogical president Barbara Kovach, as she and her husband have since moved to Tennessee to be closer to their family. I appreciate Barbara’s work and I wish to point out that it was she who provided me with the Boone County marriage certificate of Jack Thurman marrying a very young girl less than a year before the anniversary of his wife, Mamie Thurman’s death, a story I plan on producing soon.
At any rate, readers can find both PRIDE and the Logan Genealogical Society on their Facebook pages for more information.
Meanwhile, it was a post on the genealogical society page in 2019 by Barbara Vance Cherep that caught my eye and caused me to research the 1894 edition of The Chicago Tribune — 1894 being the year prior to Mingo County coming into existence.
I don’t know if anyone knows for certain as to why Mingo County was created from Logan, but based on the Chicago Tribune story and from what I already knew, I believe Mingo County became the youngest county in West Virginia in 1895 because of political and business decisions made in Aracoma (Logan). And it all really had to do with the coming of the railroads.
Imagine living in the Williamson, Matewan or Delbarton areas and having to travel by horseback all the way to the Logan courthouse to file a deed or to handle other legal matters. Logan was once a huge county that at one time entailed parts of others, including Boone. The county seat was the center of every legal action and at the time was named Aracoma, only becoming Logan in 1907.
When it was realized that the railroad was going to reach places like Williamson, Matewan, and Dingess before it was going to reach Logan, the political powers of the time, even though some of them came from parts of what is now Mingo County, correctly knew that area would grow and prosper quickly because of the railroads. Naturally, that meant more people and in turn that likely meant the voters would elect people from that area, and Logan businessmen and politicians wanted to keep their political strength in the vicinity of the town of Aracoma.
For the record, the Norfolk & Western Railway reached Matewan in 1892, providing a direct route from Bluefield through the coalfields to the Ohio River. Meanwhile N&W had reached Williamson in 1890 and a major rail yard was established there that still exists. Just 13 miles west of what is now Logan, the Dingess tunnel was opened, and a route was enabled from Lenore via Dingess to Wayne until 1913, when the railroad track became inactive.
Nonetheless, until the railroad reached Aracoma (Logan) in the very early 1900s, the business people of the town purchased goods and had them brought by horse and buggy from Dingess into Logan. By the time Aracoma was renamed Logan in 1907, the area was beginning to boom, thanks to coal mining and the railroad.
The following article from the Chicago Tribune would seem to indicate that the people of Logan County were pleased that Mingo would be formed and that the people there could erect their own courthouse and have their own local government.
Here’s what appeared in the Dec. 10, 1894, Chicago Tribune, almost exactly as it was written:
“Down at Logan County Court-House, West Virginia, the other day the mountaineers had a novel banquet. A few days ago they voted upon the question of dividing Logan County, and there was an overwhelming vote in favor of division. Thereupon a grand barbecue was arranged to come at the court-house.
“The tables were spread in the street and all traffic (horses, mules and buggees) was suspended. Hundreds of stalwart mountaineers came in with their wives and children from the region roundabout. Eight big black bears had been shot within a mile or two of the town, and their carcasses served in barbecue style, were the piece de resistance of the feast.
“The bears were flanked and surrounded with roasted and baked ‘possums, wild turkeys, pheasants, quail, rabbits, and all sorts of domestic fowls. Potatoes by the barrel were roasted and pumpkin pies by the hundred lined the tables. Hard cider was the beverage.
“Devil Anse” Hatfield, the noted leader of the Hatfield-McCoy vendetta, was master of ceremonies. He stood at the head of the table with a half-open valise from which the butts of three big revolvers protruded. Though there is a generous price set upon “Devil Anse’s” head it is said there was not a disturbing word spoken and that the barbecue was a great success.
“The popular satisfaction with the presiding officer largely grew out of the fact there are over a score of graves on the adjacent hillsides testifying to his deadly skill with those pistols.”
So here we are today, almost 130 years from the time of Devil Anse’s barbecue and the county split, and although thousands of people visit the haunted tunnel at Dingess, the Coal Museum and railroad yard in Williamson, as well as the former train station and coal museum in Matewan, the master of the ceremonies that fateful day still doesn’t have a half-decent road to his final resting place at the Hatfield Family Cemetery.
I now am pleased to tell you that a $200,000 or more project will soon be announced that will make many of us very happy. In addition, a new agreement between Logan and Pikeville, Kentucky, is going to make the nearby Cap Hatfield cemetery another scenic attraction for visitors. I would bet that some readers never knew that Cap, the meanest of the Hatfield clan, has his own family cemetery, separate from the rest of his clan.
As a part of this latter history-related nonprofit organization, I will be proud to keep you informed of future happenings at the two cemetery sites. When all of this historical beautification program is completed, I’m wondering if we will have a grand barbecue celebration (just like ‘ole Devil Anse did) in downtown Logan.
We may not be able to kill any bears for barbecuing, and I suspect nobody will be interested in feasting on baked possum, but I think Logan County Assessor Glen Adkins could roast us a few hogs as part of a great celebration in the hills.
Keep in mind that we will have plenty of law enforcement around. After all, we don’t want anybody fighting over the hogs.
I mean, shucks, that could lead to a feud, or something.
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media