DwightWilliamson_80876.jpg

According to some of the "old-timers" around Logan, like former Logan City policeman and current Logan County Court part-time court martial Tom Fink, the town of Logan once had at least 10 bars, clubs or pool halls that sold alcoholic beverages. The beer joints or beer gardens, as they were often referred to, could legally only sale beer, but nearly every community within Logan County had a "watering hole" at some point in their local history. Private clubs, of course, were allowed to dispense liquors and wines.

What I find interesting is that prior to Prohibition laws going into effect in 1914, Logan Countians did not want the sale of liquor, home brew or wine to be legal simply because they were afraid that businesses would be opened and it would cut into the local moonshining profits. Logan Countians repeatedly voted against the legalized sale of intoxicants until the Prohibition law was finally repealed in 1933.

The fact of the matter is that illegal alcohol existed and was readily available throughout Prohibition, as hundreds of newspaper accounts can verify with stories of arrests, moonshine stills destroyed, and lots of people getting killed either in the operation of moonshining or by the results of consuming the stuff.

According to one article from 1937, from the time Logan County was settled until Prohibition was repealed and the sale of alcohol placed under state control, there was really only one place in the county that was openly classified as a saloon, and it was owned by Island Creek Coal Co.

The reason Island Creek Coal Co. kept open its saloon was to provide wines and liquors to its employees of the mining company at Holden. The location, which later became a billiards hall, was described as "by no means being a wide open affair."

Company officials provided the newly-arrived immigrants with an opportunity to buy wines and whiskies because not doing so would - in the company's owns words - "be a tragic mistake." It seems that in the "old world," most family customs required wine at their meals, perhaps because of a lack of good drinking water.

It was thought that unless the immigrants, who had not yet taken up American customs, could have their wines they would not work long at a job. It was this thinking which impelled company officials to seek and receive permission from the county court to open a "company saloon." Needless to say, when the saloon opened in the very early 1900s it had an overflow of business, as many efforts were made to keep out "intruders" who wished to buy whiskey although they did not work for Island Creek Coal Company.

There were many improper sales made until the cashiers could remember the faces and names of the regular Island Creek Coal Co. employees. By 1937, Logan County would have three state-operated liquor stores - at Logan, Man and Omar - but the sale of illegally made liquor, particularly moonshine, never ceased, especially in the Harts and Crawley Creek areas of Guyan District.

Although the 1937 Logan Banner article that prompted this column depicts the old Holden saloon as the only one in Logan, perhaps it was true during the early 1900s, but history reflects the fact that both legendary sheriff Don Chafin and his cousin, Tennis Hatfield - who testified against Chafin in federal court and became sheriff of Logan County himself - served time in prison for providing illegal alcohol during Prohibition times in the early 1920s.

Perhaps it was the name of the establishment at Barnabus near Omar that helped lead to the two former partners in crime being federally prosecuted. One might think it a dead give-a-way if you named your business as "The Blue Goose Saloon" during the Prohibition Era.

BITS and PIECES

The 100th anniversary of the West Virginia State Police being formed recently went mostly unnoticed. What began June 29, 1919, because of strikes in the southern coalfields now consists of at least 600 men and women wearing the uniforms of green.

Prior to the State Police, local sheriffs were in complete control of a county and were bought and sold by the local coal companies, who even paid for the hiring of deputies. And when things started to get out of hand with miners who sought UMWA membership, Baldwin-Felts detectives were brought in to mining areas, as well as the National Guard, to quell the uprisings and various strikes.

Many of the first state policemen were seasoned veterans of World War I, but today's men and women are young and well trained to handle situations that could never have been imagined in 1919. New types of crime, particularly those associated with the use of illegal drugs such as heroin, fentanyl and meth, are increasing on a daily basis. July's Logan County jail bill, for instance, was almost $148,000.

Although August's jail bill was somewhat lower at $136,306, it still reflected that the crime rate is continuing to escalate and that the jail bill may never decrease to an amount that will keep Logan County financially stable. Already, magistrates have gathered with county commissioners, Chief Judge Eric O'Briant, Prosecuting Attorney John Bennett, Sheriff Sonja Porter and others to discuss the situation, but no solution to the overall problem has been met. At the rate the jail bill is averaging, the county commission will owe approximately $1,705,836 at year's end.

Even though everyone is entitled to a reasonable bond after they have been arrested, there are certain repeat offenders and other more serious offenders who simply do not belong in a normal society. It's now to the point that parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, and others are requesting that members of their own family be incarcerated for the arrested person's own good because there are few other ways to get them help for their addiction, which is generating mental health issues not properly addressed. "At least I know they will be safe in jail," is the usual comment.

Unfortunately, being safe in jail is not always true. Diseases and physical beatings and other matters sometimes make incarcerated persons worse off than when they went to jail. Left there too long and influenced by others, some inmates simply become a part of the system and lose all hope, especially after everybody else gives up on them.

I do not have a magic wand, nor do I have an answer to the problem. However, with Boone County practically broken financially and Mingo not far behind, the reality is that Logan County will eventually find itself in the situation where two of its best agencies - ambulance and fire services - could be greatly affected. Layoffs and cutbacks in other government areas may be imminent, even if they don't come until after the May Primary Election. Monetary handouts will eventually have to be ceased.

In the meantime, the jail is overflowing and people are dying.

Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.

Tags