There apparently are more "nuts" in Logan County than what I thought. And longtime West Logan Police Chief Robert Ward, like myself, is definitely one of them. That is to say, he and I are both "history nuts."
In addition to purchasing items of historical interest at estate and yard sales, Ward utilizes his metal detector in various locations and has come up with some interesting finds, including the deputy sheriff badge of Tennis Hatfield, who not only was Devil Anse's youngest son, but also served as a deputy for renowned Logan sheriff Don Chafin, who was his relative. Hatfield also became sheriff only after Don Chafin's efforts to keep Hatfield from winning were disclosed by a West Virginia Supreme Court ruling, some 17 months after the election of 1924, just before Chafin's prison stint.
Some may already know that Tennis and Don were involved in the selling of illegal liquor as partners in the Blue Goose saloon that was located at Barnabus near Omar. Tennis went to prison for his part in the illegal deeds that occurred during Prohibition times. He would later testify against his former business partner and boss, which helped send the county's most prominent citizen and Blair Mountain leader to prison.
While Chafin was in the Atlanta, Georgia, correctional facility, the Hatfields took over the political realm of Logan County, mostly behind the strong-armed efforts of Tennis Hatfield, whom Don Chafin grew to despise and whom he would eventually politically and economically destroy. In fact, it was Chafin's efforts that helped lead to the demise of the Hatfield fortune, including the Hatfield home place itself, which was believed to have been burned by Tennis for insurance purposes due to his mounting debt.
At any rate, Robert Ward located Hatfield's badge in Logan and on it is imprinted "T.S. Hatfield Deputy Sheriff." Hatfield's middle name was Samuel.
Recently, Ward brought to me the eyeglasses worn by another local historical figure whose intriguing life story I intend to pen. The glasses, purchased by Ward for a mere $5, belonged to a most interesting Logan Circuit judge named Chester "Cush" Chambers, better known as C.C. Chambers, or Alimony Slim. The name of C.C. Chambers is etched on the eyeglass case and a portrait of Chambers in a Logan County courthouse courtroom verifies the glasses' authenticity.
Ward and I swapped history barbs in my office, particularly some history involving the City of Logan. Ward, who is a former Logan city police officer, mentioned some past murders in town that intrigued his interest. The following is one such story:
Some readers may recall the story of Logan Police Chief Roy Knotts being gunned down in 1930 at the Smokehouse restaurant in Logan by Enoch Scaggs, who put five bullets into the former state trooper who was on his first day of work. Despite several eyewitnesses to the killing, the plan was for Scaggs to get out of the charge by claiming self-defense. If not for the special efforts of state Attorney General Howard B. Lee, it is likely that Scaggs, a former Logan County sheriff's deputy, would have never gone to prison.
You may recall that Scaggs collected monies from illegal gambling machines in the City of Logan and other parts of the county for then-Sheriff Joe Hatfield and his brother, Tennis, a former sheriff. Knotts had taken the job following the resignation of the former Logan police chief when the city manager (today known as mayor) publicly announced his intentions of ridding the community of illegal gambling, liquor and prostitution. With Lee's prosecution efforts and a special jury bused from Monroe County and housed at the Pioneer Hotel in Logan, Scaggs was found guilty of murder.
Another story we've previously printed involving a Logan police officer and a murder was that of the 1927 killing of a 22-year-old Logan bus driver from Mud Fork named Lawrence Avis. The young man was shot in the back early one morning in front of the old Midelburg Theatre following his arrest at what was the State Restaurant on Stratton Street at 5:45 a.m. May 9, 1927. Logan Police Chief Lawrence Carey and Hibberd Hatfield were charged with murder following an altercation in which The Banner reported "the screams of scores of women in nearby apartment buildings" could be heard following shots fired from a .38 caliber pistol.
There are some interesting twists to this story, as Hatfield, who was a night watchman at the time, would later be found not guilty and later became a Logan city police officer. Five years after becoming a police officer, he would be working with Jack Thurman on the night (or morning) of Mamie Thurman's 1932 murder.
Another intriguing fact occurred during a recess in the murder trial of Chief Carey, who was escorted by a Logan deputy to his High Street home for lunch. However, when Carey was allowed into his bedroom, he took the same .38 pistol he allegedly used in the murder and killed himself with a bullet to his head. Carey, who had eight children, was the nephew of famous feudist Randall McCoy, as Carey's mother was Randall's sister. So, in a sense, there was a Hatfield and a McCoy working together, and both were accused of the same murder.
The following account from a December 1926 Logan Banner story also involves Chief Carey, who at that time made the arrest of a former Logan police chief who had killed his own 20-year-old son after the two argued over the son's use of profanity while on the telephone. Here's the story:
"J.M. Henderson, better known as 'Mitch Henderson,' for many years chief of police of the city of Logan during former administrations, fired a bullet into the body of his son, Kernie Henderson, age 20, yesterday evening shortly after six o'clock, from which the young man died instantly," according to the report.
From the story told by Henderson shortly after he had surrendered to police, his son came into the home drunk on moonshine. Kernie's wife, who was visiting relatives in Columbus, Ohio, called her husband on the telephone and he began to use profane language to which the father objected. The newspaper account stated that Mrs. Henderson stepped in between the two in an effort to prevent trouble. Mr. Henderson said that his son pushed the mother aside and as he did so, he fired - the bullet striking Kernie in the right side, passed through the body severing the artery to the heart, and stopped just beneath the skin on the left side.
Realizing the seriousness of his deed, Henderson said he seized the body of his son and held him tenderly in his arms while the young man passed through the throes of death. After laying the body on the floor, Henderson walked down the street. In the meantime, neighbors who had been attracted by the screams of Mrs. Henderson telephoned a physician and notified the police.
Henderson was said to have surrendered himself "without the least bit of resistance" and admitted to the shooting. Prosecuting attorney Con Chafin was notified and told Judge Robert Bland that he did not oppose bail for the former police chief, but worried about relatives or friends of the deceased who might take the law into their own hands.
Grief-stricken relatives and sympathizing friends numbering in the hundreds attended the funeral rites for the younger Henderson, and The Banner reported that all available seating space at Neighbert Memorial Church was taken and that at least 200 persons were compelled to stand outside the church, or were turned away. Burial took place at the now abandoned Logan City Cemetery on High Street. Ironically, the very next year, Chief Lawrence Carey, after committing suicide, would also be buried in the same cemetery.
Henderson was said to be torn by grief, but mastering his emotions was the focus for most visitors, and the newspaper account relayed that " thoughts of him and of Mrs. Henderson, who had seen her son shot dead by her own husband, brought tears and sobs from many of the people in attendance." The widow and her young daughter, Mary, were central figures in the group of mourners, as they had returned from their Columbus trip.
The mourning reached a peak when Mr. Henderson, passing the open coffin for the last time, stopped to kiss the cold lips of his son.
Henderson's account of what happened before he shot his son changed in a later edition of the newspaper. He reportedly said that as he was preparing to leave the home for his job as a night watchman, he was holding a flashlight in one hand and his pistol in another when he saw his son running toward him. "I told him to stop but he kept coming at me, grabbed me, and threw my arms up - the flashlight fell out of my hand and the gun was fired," explained Henderson. "Then Kernie and I clinched. My right arm and hand were between us and I still held the gun - we wrestled for a second - the gun went off a second time. I felt Kernie throw me to the bed and land on top of me.
"I pulled myself up from the bed, and set in a chair to get back my wind. Kernie's mother went over to him when he didn't get up, turned him over - and he was dead," he concluded.
It was reported that the pistol was a .38 Smith & Wesson and two shots were fired; one taking effect as indicated, the other striking a door in the room where the scuffle took place.
The April 12, 1927, Banner headline read: "Case against Mitchell Henderson Dismissed." Prosecuting attorney John "Con" Chafin told the court that in the Henderson case the state had no witnesses besides members of the family and they were in agreement that the killing of Kernie Henderson by his father, J. Mitchell Henderson, was an accident.
"I will be cursed if I do, and cursed if I don't," declared the prosecutor; "but after going over the case carefully and talking to all witnesses, I am convinced that the state cannot make a case."
Prosecutor Chafin - just a few years after his prosecutorial involvement in the Mamie Thurman murder case of 1932 - would be found dead standing up in the Guyandotte River near where the Logan Boulevard is now. He was last seen the night before taking his daughter to a revival at a Stratton Street church. His death was declared a suicide.
And another page of Logan County history has been turned.
Dwight Williamson is a former writer for the Logan Banner. He is now a magistrate for Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.