By Dwight Williamson For Civitas Media
June 10, 2014
Two of Devil Anse Hatfield’s oldest living relatives will be in Logan County this week with hopes of “cleaning up” the Hatfield Cemetery at its Sarah Ann location. Grant Browning, age 83, and his brother Joe Browning, 81, are the great-grandchildren of the renowned clan leader and the grand-children of Devil Anse’s daughter, Elizabeth Hatfield Caldwell. Grant Browning, who resides in Nashville, Tennessee, said he and his brother, a resident of North Carolina, would like to hire “laborers” to do the work.
“We’re not able to do it, but we would like to make it (cemetery) look as good as we can,’’ Browning explained. “I can’t make it there until Friday, but my brother should be arriving Wednesday. We would love to have some help.”
Browning said he was born on Stratton Street “not far from the Don Chafin house.” His father, John B. Browning, was Chief Deputy for Sheriff Joe Hatfield, son of Devil Anse. Hatfield became Logan County Sheriff following the reign of legendary Sheriff Chafin, the commander in the infamous Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921. In an odd twist of fate, Chafin, a notorious opponent of unionization of the Logan coal fields, who reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from coal mine operators for his suppression of the union, would in 1924 be arrested for the illegal sale of liquor at a bar co-operated by Tennis Hatfield, another son of Devil Anse. The bar was located at Barnabus and was known as The Blue Goose. Reportedly, Hatfield spent time in prison but testified against Chafin, resulting in a three-year sentence to an Atlanta, Georgia prison for the longtime sheriff.
Sheriff Chafin’s connection to the Hatfield clan is the fact that Levisa “Levicy” Chafin was not only Devil Anse’s wife, but also Chafin’s great-aunt. The Chafin name has always served the political realm of Logan County since its early beginnings.
“My father had a business education,’’ Grant Browning said. “Most of the others couldn’t read or write very well, so when Joe Hatfield became sheriff he hired my dad to be the businessman of the Sheriff’s department. “Browning and Sons was the name of a country store my father owned at Barnabus when he took the Chief Deputy’s job. My father was a republican, so when the democrats took over, he went back to running the store before it burned down a few years later.”
Readers should be informed that the “democratic takeover” actually came in the election of 1932 when Chapmanville’s Sherman Smith, a democrat, defeated Tennis Hatfield in the Logan County Sheriff’s race. It should be noted that every republican in the county lost in their bids for office, including Naaman Jackson, the Circuit Judge in the infamous trial of Clarence Stevenson, convicted murderer of Mamie Thurman. The democrat who defeated him was C.C. Chambers, longtime Logan Judge whose huge house still stands on Cole Street, now owned by Mike and Jane Watson.
Joe Browning, who should arrive Wednesday afternoon from Carolina, said he and his wife have’ been visiting the cemetery for the past 45 years to place flowers and to do cemetery cleanup.
“I’ve got three brothers buried up there,’’ Browning said. “We’re going to bring a couple of weed eaters and do the work ourselves, if necessary.”
Another great-grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield is Logan resident J.T. Caldwell. Caldwell lives at the end of Main Street directly across from the Don Chafin house which has been in the possession of the Logan Woman’s Club since 1946 when Chafin signed the property over, with certain particular instructions contained within the deed. His brother, Joe, may be coming to the area as well, according to Browning. J.T.’s younger brother also lives in another state.
The Browning family moved from Stratton Street and lived in a house a short distance from the cemetery, Grant Browning explained.
“We had a lifetime lease on a house on the other side of the road,” he said. “We didn’t have the coal rights, I don’t guess.”
The brothers both indicated they would be very pleased if the privately owned cemetery could be placed in a situation of “perpetual care.” When informed of a plan that was taking place to do just that, both men seemed very pleased. Indeed, plans have been in the making for some time and should be announced in the very near future.
The cemetery, which is on the National Historic Register, as is the Don Chafin House, will soon be visited at the very least by hundreds of people who annually come to the Hatfield-McCoy reunion in neighboring Mingo County, nearly all eventually traveling to Logan County to view he life size monument of Devil Anse and nearly all of his family. One member not to be found in the Hatfield Cemetery is Cap Hatfield. Depicted as one of the “meanest” of the Hatfield clan, Cap is buried in another private cemetery at Sarah Ann. That cemetery is said to have been his wife’s family cemetery. His former home, which stood vacant for many years and was allowed to simply “fall in”, was located just above the sandstone house now owned by Janice Stone. The concrete bridge bearing Cap Hatfield’s engraved name still stands. The property is now overtaken by vegetation.
“My great-grandmother lived with us at the Browning house at Sarah Ann,’’ Grant Browning explained. “She told us many stories about the Hatfield family and the feud. She was like a mother to us. She said her father (Devil Anse) was ‘the best man that ever lived, but her brothers were not’.”
Joe Browning, who has many possessions of the Hatfield family, said he would be bringing some things with him to show anyone interested in viewing them, including photos and letters.
While a story is pending another interview in regard to the blocking of the bridge right-of-way and possible vandalism at the cemetery, it appears there are combined efforts on the way that could bring a lasting peacefulness to ole’ Devil Anse and his clan as they welcome visitors to their final resting places.
Perhaps, however, it is pitiful that two men in their 80s, traveling from long distances, are the ones here to do the work. Anyone or any organization willing to meet and help the two brothers can reach them by telephoning Grant Browning at 336-657-8326 or Joe Browning at 615-383-4070. I’m sure any help would be greatly appreciated.