It's amazing to me the amount of history that exists in Logan County, particularly in the town/city of Logan where another landmark has recently given up in its 102-year-old fight to remain erect in welcoming those persons who visit Logan via the Water Street Bridge; a bridge that was dedicated to a former Logan World War II pilot, who also was a coal mine operator and well-known politician - Bill Abraham.
The building that separates Main and Stratton streets and abuts Dingess Street is often referred to as the Sayer's Building, but to me it has always been the Midelburg Theater building, even though I never was in the structure when it served as a movie theater, which closed sometime in the 1950s.
Luckily, the building, which opened as the Midelburg Theater in 1917 at a construction cost of $35,000, did not cause injury when it suddenly spewed forth its brick outer lining on a recent late Friday afternoon, about 30 minutes after I had just exited the town.
I have written before about its former owner, Ferd Midelburg, but I thought some people might want to know a few other facts concerning the three-story building that dubiously stands on a 43.7 foot by 103 foot lot.
Interestingly - at least to me - is the fact that murdered temptress Mamie Thurman was last seen walking at that very spot where the wall has fallen the night of June 20, 1932, sometime before she was viciously killed.
Also of interest to me is the fact that another historically recognizable figure, Don Chafin - infamous for his sheriff role in the Blair Mountain Battle of 1921 - bought the property from Harry Buskirk in 1913 for $3,500 and then sold a half interest in the real estate to former Logan Circuit Judge J.B. Wilkinson, who some may know built and owned the home that later became and remains to be a funeral home in Logan, today known as Honaker Funeral Home.
Ironically, in 1937 Midelburg again purchased property from Don Chafin and yet another former Logan Judge, Robert Bland, when he paid $90,000 to the gentlemen for the Main Street property that became the Logan Theater and is today known as the Coalfield Jamboree.
A fellow by the name of Walter Lewis bought the property that became the Midelburg Theater from Judge Wilkinson for $25,000 in August of 1917, after paying $5,000 down. Curiously, Lewis then dealt the real estate to Mae Midelburg, Mr. Midelburg's first wife, who died in 1920, for $20,000. In her will, she left the property to her husband, Ferd. Why his name was not on the original deed is unknown.
Ferd Midelburg died in 1950 and in his will, the commercial properties, then listed as Midelburg-Logan Holding Co., were made a part of Kanawha Building and Trust, which was the bank named as the Executor of his estate. Midelburg had no biological children, but did have an adopted daughter, Ruth Thalheimer.
David Sayer Jr. in 1962 obtained the property from the bank in what was referred to as a "quiet" sale, and in 1981 it became Sayer Brothers Inc., with the sale price listed as $40,000.
Many people should remember the business operating as Super S department store prior to the brothers opening a Super S store at Monitor, which later became AMES Dept. store. Heirs of the Sayers continue to own that now vacant property, which is used only for flea market purposes.
Prior to the collapse, the former theater and land was appraised at $38,100 by the Logan County Assessor's office, but is incorrectly listed as being built in 1962, which probably is about the time it was renovated by the Sayers brothers.
Mr. Midelburg left all of his estate and financial holdings to his second wife, Edythe, and to his adopted daughter and her juvenile children. However, it should be noted that Midelburg named Alexandro DeFobio as the recipient of $2,000. DeFobio, better known as Alex, was a beloved employee of Midelburg and would go on to open his own movie house known as the Capitol Theatre in Logan. Of course, the very likable DeFobio is another story by itself and still to be told.
Farris Sayer, 83, died Feb. 22, 2019, and was the last of three brothers who laid claim to parts of Logan County. Like the Sayers, Midelburg and DeFobio also are deceased.
Now, the building that all of these men were successfully associated with at one time or another has decided it can't go on any longer either.
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The following is a 1929 story involving the former theater that I found interesting in the Logan Banner microfilm files at our local college. The Banner reporter wrote: "Comedy and tragedy were strangely mixed at Midelburg Theater Sunday afternoon. From the audience there arose a character, who proceeded to give a crude imitation of the climax of the thrilling story portrayed on the screen.
"It is difficult to tell what is the proper starting-point of this story, but it must be told at the outset that John Patrick made a sprawling dive from the balcony and alighted on the heads of some movie fans on the floor. That was rather a startling incident in itself, but there is another surprise in that the citizen from Holden was not killed or seriously hurt. John was limp and relaxed when he made his descent and that may explain why he was uninjured.
"John's feet struck Miss Mary Adams on the face and chest, and his head and body fell partly across Miss Mildred Hicks, who sat directly in front of Miss Adams. They received some cuts and bruises and they were nearly scared to death for a moment or two, but their presence may have saved John from sudden death or serious injury."
"'The Masquerade,' described by the newspaper as a 'talkie,' was the movie being shown, and the audience was 'watching and listening spellbound," according to the newspaper report. The scene was a fight on top of a building and one of the combatants received a punch that sent him crashing through a skylight and falling at the feet of the officer below. Realizing he was the man he had been seeking the officer remarked, "I always get my man."
It was about at this juncture of the movie that John Patrick fell, according to the Banner report, "full of liquor, dizziness and nausea." The writer jokingly noted that Patrick may have been demonstrating the kinship between real life and "reel" life.
Among those who luckily did not bear any of the brunt of "stopping" the fallen man was Logan jailer Bob Hatfield, Miss Adams' date, who was sitting in the adjoining seat. Hatfield, a grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield, and who was at the time employed by Sheriff Joe Hatfield, (Devil Anse's son), picked up the man, not knowing whether he was dead or alive, and carried him outside.
Soon, learning that John was not hurt, but was very drunk, he rushed back to his girlfriend and, imitating the actor of the movie, whispered to her, "I always get my man." And she responded, "Yes, when he falls at your feet."
Mr. Patrick was taken before Magistrate Elba Hatfield (son of Cap Hatfield) and was fined $50 and costs for being drunk. Failing to pay the bill, he was taken on to jail.
The former Midelburg Theater, which many people today do not realize, once was a rather majestic place.
It undoubtedly will be torn down in the not so distant future, meaning that another concrete tombstone will disappear in the place that once was an Indian graveyard.
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.