With the production of “Mamie” being presented at the Coalfield Jamboree in Logan, and with Halloween coming up, I’ve decided now is the perfect time to relay some information concerning many factors involving not only Mamie Thurman’s gruesome death in 1932 but also some other matters that Mamie fans might find of interest — most of which has not been previously revealed.
Some 34 years ago, I recall a couple of gentlemen being directed by Editor Raamie Barker to my desk in the newsroom of The Logan Banner. I must say that at the time, I had never even heard of Mamie Thurman, much less her hideous murder. Before me, though, on that particular sunny day, stood her brother, a retired New Mexico lawyer and former prosecuting attorney. The other gentleman accompanying George Morrison had an old style video camera strapped to his shoulder, which I found a bit odd.
As it turns out Morrison told me what he knew of the murder of Mamie Thurman and that he wanted to know where she was buried so that he could place a proper marker at her grave site. He also indicated that it was his desire to research the murder in every way possible to determine who killed Mamie, since he did not believe the black man, Clarence Stephenson, convicted of her murder was guilty of the charge.
As requested, I escorted the two men to what was in 1932 referred to as Trace Mountain, but today is known as 22 Mountain at Holden. Once there, I photographed Morrison in front of the sign that indicated 22 Mine Road.
We proceeded to what was known as “the dip” of the roadway on up the mountain where Mamie’s body had been discovered by young men who were reportedly blackberry picking on a June 22 afternoon. I never bothered to mention that it was this location that many Logan High School graduating seniors had for years gathered in celebration, or quite frankly, to party. The Class of 1971 was no exception, as I can attest to.
Today, what I can tell you is that even after all of these years, following books being written and Mamie’s murder still a topic of interest because of the shrouded mystery that involved her unknown burial site, as well as romance, deceit, and illicit affairs involving many prominent people in Logan, I know of not a single soul who knows that Mamie’s father, a contractor, built the house on Main Street that the Robertsons lived in, as well as the garage apartment that Mamie and her husband, Logan City patrolman Jack Thurman, called home as tenants of the Robertsons.
What is interesting about this fact is something that adds a little more mystique to the already outlandish account of a bizarre juncture in local history, which has never been resolved. The facts are that Mamie’s father, George Morrison, for whom her brother was named, was an excellent carpenter, but also a chronic alcoholic, who died of pneumonia after falling into a small stream on Cole Street and then not found until the following day. His death came just four years prior to Mamie’s demise.
To add a little more fuel to the puzzling account, Morison’s death certificate describes him being buried in the Aracoma Cemetery, which is the same cemetery commonly called the City Cemetery on High Street in Logan. However, after numerous visits at various times of the year to the dilapidated one-acre cemetery, I can guarantee you there is no headstone bearing the name of George Morrison. How substantially ironic it is that neither Mamie nor her father ever received even a headstone marking their final resting places. One must wonder why.
With Mamie ‘s brother’s information and with my researching of the The Logan Banner microfilm files that were later stupidly ordered destroyed by a former out-of-state corporation that purchased The Logan Banner long before its current owner, I developed a series of stories that appeared daily for weeks in the newspaper. So much interest in the stories was developed that the town’s then historic restaurant, The Smokehouse, could not keep enough newspapers, as the circulation department of The Banner reported the popular meeting place selling 500 copies a day, most of them during lunchtime.
As the story of Mamie’s life and death unfolded each day in the newspaper in 1985, local interest never wavered, as people flocked to 22 Holden, especially during nights, some even reported seeing a ghostly female figure along the roadway there. Other people even camped out at various places on the mountain where the body was located. Having camped out there many years before I ever heard of Mamie, I can tell you first hand that the red eyes of foxes peering through the darkness into the campfire can make one appreciate the value of daylight.
I have given interviews to ghost hunters from Kentucky and others, as well as WCHS television, and I’ve also provided a YouTube interview for one young lady several years back. In addition, I have written several Mamie-related stories, but I have never released a book, which I know has perplexed a few people over the years.
I suppose I could have made a few dollars by striking while the iron was hot, so to speak, but there remained way too many unanswered questions, particularly as to where Mamie was buried. As an example, take Mamie’s brother, George, who wound up returning to New Mexico where he wrote and had published a fictional book about his sister. He even returned to Logan and spent at least one entire day in the newspaper’s front office autographing books for people who purchased his book.
Morrison’s book was written before I obtained 100 percent proof as to where his slain sister was buried. His subsequent death left him never knowing that she was buried at McConnell, another abandoned cemetery that once was Logan County’s only public cemetery. Although promising perpetual care, it’s abandonment led to the necessity for both Forest Lawn and Highland Memory Gardens to be created.
By being patient for all this time, I not only have discovered where Mamie was buried, but thanks to the West Virginia Supreme Court, I also received a 843-page typed transcript of the trial and the appeal made by attorney C.C. Chambers and the answer to it from the Supreme Court in 1933.
It was from the transcript of the trial that it became evident where the murdered mistress was laid to rest, although I feel she may never have found peace.
The very first witness was R.B. Harris, described as the funeral director for what would become Harris Funeral Home on Main Street. Following testimony concerning Mamie’s dead body and the fact that it was found with her neck broken, two bullet holes in her skull and her throat slashed from ear to ear, Harris answered the prosecutor’s final question: “And what did you with it after you embalmed it?” by saying: “We kept it at the funeral home until the funeral arrangements were made, and then buried it at the Logan Memorial Park, Logan County.” For those who do not know, Logan Memorial Park is the abandoned cemetery at McConnell.
The third of 36 or more witnesses called by the prosecution, Mamie’s husband, Jack Thurman, was asked at one point, “Was your wife buried here in Logan.” Thurman, 16 years older than his 31-year-old deceased wife, answered: “Out at McConnell.”
I have the map of the 20-acre cemetery and a list of everyone who purchased a grave plot and was buried at what once was considered Logan’s finest cemetery. The name of Mamie Thurman is not among any of those names listed. However, with the trial testimony provided, there can be no doubt as to her being buried somewhere there.
Here’s the scenario I feel likely. Mamie’s sudden death left her estranged husband unlikely able to pay for funeral expenses or a burial plot. So, the mystery now is who gave Jack Thurman a plot in the cemetery — one that had already been purchased? I will now reveal that C.C. Chambers, the very man who defended the man later convicted of killing Mamie, had purchased two plots at McConnell. He and his first wife are today entombed at Forest Lawn Cemetery at Pecks Mill.
Chambers would go on to defeat the murder trial’s judge, the very well respected Naaman Jackson, in 1936 and would virtually rule Logan County from the bench, narrowly winning his final election in 1960 after making the headline of LIFE Magazine as a longtime member of the KKK in Logan. His departure left him as the most controversial and longest ever serving circuit judge in Logan County history. I will address this matter in another part of this story.
For now, I will tell you that it was the perfect setting for a murder that night or morning in June as a thunderstorm had blanketed the bustling city of Logan with rain that would help cover up any gunshots or screams that could have occurred.
I must add that in Logan County, the name of Hatfield has always been prevalent in our history. That name again pops up in the trial of Mamie Thurman. You see, Hatfield was the police officer working with Jack Thurman on the eve of the murder and was with him when the two went looking for Mamie, according to their trial testimony. What readers should know is that it was five years earlier in 1927 that Hatfield was charged with murder himself.
He, along with Logan Police Chief Lawrence Carey, were accused of killing 22-year-old Lawrence Avis on the streets of Logan. On the day of Carey’s trial he committed suicide. Hatfield was then later found not guilty, despite testimony that he hit Avis in the head “about 25 times” with both a blackjack and pistol before Avis was shot by Carey.
Ironically, Carey was buried at the City Cemetery on High Street in Logan, which at the time was called Cemetery Hill. It was near this very house five years later that Mamie would take clean bed linen to the home of Fanette Jones, a black woman who rented rooms there on a nightly or hourly basis.
Since one of her confessed lovers, banker and city Commissioner Harry Robertson, testified that Mamie had given him a list of 16 names of Logan businessmen she had been intimate with, it would seem that Mamie was a busy 131-pound lady of the night.
The play “Mamie” that begins in Logan Friday will feature Logan Circuit judge Eric O’Briant in the role of Judge Naaman Jackson. O’Briant, who formerly played the role of attorney Chambers in the production at Chief Logan State Park, is now the longest ever serving circuit judge in Logan County history.
Stay tuned for more.