Maintaining our historic sites in Logan County

By Dwight Williamson For Civitas Media

June 1, 2014

Logan County needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

Seriously, the county has three sites which have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most people cannot name all three of them, so let me relay them to the readers. The sites are the Hatfield Cemetery at Sarah Ann, the Don Chafin house located on Main Street of Logan and the locomotive located in Chief Logan State Park. Blair Mountain used to be on the register, but was taken off. Only the park site is what one could say is readily accessible to the public.

In just nineteen days, the annual Hatfield-McCoy reunion is scheduled to begin in Mingo County. The three day event will bring many tourists from all parts of the nation to such places as neighboring Williamson and Matewan, as well as Pikeville, Ky., and other areas of that state. There are guided tours to all of the different sites that were involved in the feud. Visitors get a brochure which has directions to numerous sites for those who wish to drive to them, and many choose to do so. The final site listed, and the one most people want to see, is the Hatfield Cemetery featuring the life-size statue of the clan leader, Devil Anse Hatfield, and the gravesites of most of his family.

I have attended the festivities in the past and have overheard out of state visitors speaking at the reunions. Their comments about the cemetery, particularly the lack of a road or steps to it, were embarrassing for this Logan native. There were whispering comments like: “Can you believe the condition of that place?” or “Why doesn’t somebody do something nice there?”

I am now ashamed to report that things have gotten worse. A rope has been placed across the bridge and signs there clearly mean anything but “welcome” to visitors, some of whom in the past have traveled as far as Alaska to see the historic site that most of us take for granted.

Attempts were made to find out who and why the right-of-way to the cemetery is blocked, and by whom. I was not successful. What I can tell you is there are numerous court cases on record which conclude with persons NOT being able to block a right-of-way to a cemetery, any cemetery.

This year, it appears visitors will get to see what most definitely appears to be polluted water pouring into Island Creek from a culvert located right beside the blocked bridge. Whatever the white substance is, it comes from a small ditch across the road and the water there comes from a mountainside just up the road at Crystal Block. There are no houses located at the water source. The water has actually “painted” white nearly every rock and pebble it has touched.

There have been efforts in the past to improve the entire area. This writer, then a reporter with The Logan Banner, remembers the promotion of one project in the 1980s which I believe was a scam. There was to be a nice playground to be placed at the foot of the graveyard hill with sheds and picnic tables. A road and steps to the graveyard were also planned. No one now can tell me what happened with the project. Also, I know the Logan County Commission has used employees to clean up the one acre cemetery several times and I’ve been told the Omar Crime Watch has done the same.

The historical significance of the Hatfield-McCoy feud could be no better shown than in the 2012 mini-series featured on the History Channel. Described as “the most influential TV show ever on pop culture,” TV Watch Magazine this year named the show the “greatest of all time.”

Earlier this year, the internet was said to be in a “frenzy” when rumor had it that the History Channel had confirmed a revival of the popular sitcom, which featured the likes of Kevin Kostner and Tom Berenger. There were even talks of a movie. However, both actors have expressed concern as to whether any future shows could possibly match the past ones.

I have a suggestion. If the proper people simply look into the entire history of legendary Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin, which even involves some of the infamous Hatfield clan, there could be another TV series that would indeed rival the Hatfield-McCoy showing. There was much more to Don Chafin’s life than his involvement in the Battle of Blair Mountain. Any historian can verify that.

Unfortunately, shows involving the life of Sheriff Don Chafin could not be filmed at his former Main Street home — that is, unless the shingles are replaced, the house painted, the grass cut and windows repaired — oh wait, doesn’t that need done anyway? It is a landmark site.

It’s interesting to note that anytime a site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, federal and state grants are then made readily available. Question: So why hasn’t this been done for either the cemetery or the house? Or has it?

Meanwhile, while Mingo and Pike Counties will be racking up the economic benefits from thousands of visitors, Logan can’t even secure enough regional jail inmates to clean up a Logan City cemetery that holds the gravesites of some people who shaped the entire county, including even the feudal towns of Matewan and Williamson, which were then both a part of Logan County.

Just as these forgotten Logan souls have long watched from their final resting places on the hill on High Street, so it must be with Devil Anse and his clan as they peer through the trees from the steep knoll at Sarah Ann — probably, in total bewilderment.

Somebody please, “wake up and smell the coffee” before it is too late.