It was 1912 in Logan County, and even though they were not allowed to vote, women had already started making a difference for the town of Logan, which was well on its way to becoming a true and bustling city. Thanks to the rapidly growing coal industry, Logan would become an enlightened and progressive locality, yet neither polished nor refined.
By 1912, the Logan Mercantile Co. - the first floor of which is now judicially utilized as Family Court - had been opened for barely a year by owner B.C Harris, who also conducted embalming and other undertaker procedures on the upper floor of the Main Street structure that featured an elevator.
Logan was growing quickly. The longtime former Indian burial grounds that existed under nearly all of the town even had its own Kroger's on Main Street directly across from the courthouse. The word Kroger's can still be seen painted on that particular building.
While men were probably hustling to open such businesses as pool halls, barber shops, retail stores and restaurants to take advantage of the growing population, and to cater to the coal camp folks who were pouring into Logan every weekend, many women saw the need for other things, so the group organized as the Woman's Civic League.
The objective of the league was to improve the conditions of the community, and its first move was to approach Logan City Council, after organizing and electing officers Feb. 3, 1912. It was reported that "every lady, married or single, over the age of 18 years, who has the interest of the city of Logan at heart" was invited to become a member. The initiation fee was $1 and included the first year's dues.
At a time when chewing tobacco was a popular item chewed inside and outside of the coal mines by both males and females, the Women's League wanted a halt put to spitting in public places. It convinced the council to pass an "anti-spitting ordinance."
Spitting on the sidewalks, walls or floors of public buildings, or in other places where the public might be in Logan called for the offender to be liable for a fine of from one to 10 dollars. Still, that wasn't all the ladies got accomplished in creating a better health environment.
Through their efforts with the council, the beginning of proper garbage disposal became a reality for the first time in Logan as the street commissioner was ordered to collect and dispose of all accumulated garbage on Monday of each week. To facilitate the effort, all residents were requested to maintain a barrel or "other suitable receptacle for waste matter" and to have it in a convenient place for removal each Monday.
The Logan Woman's Club would some years later come into existence, as well as the Daughters of the American Revolution, both of which accomplished many outstanding civic endeavors - but it was these "feminine pioneers" who were not even allowed to vote in an election until 1920 who made the early difference in helping Logan government in matters such as the sale of sewer and paving bonds, the location of the first bridges across the Guyandotte River into Logan, the blocking of railroad tracks by trains, and even the restoration of the evening passenger train to Holden.
It being Mother's Day, I though it only deserving that I relay the above story.
Happy Mother's Day to all appropriate "Earthlings" and to those now in Heaven, which includes my own mother, Ethel Williamson.
BITS and PIECES
In writing about the year of 1912, the historical significance to Logan County, as well as much of the southern coal fields, is the November election, which not only became the first time legendary Don Chafin got elected sheriff, but it also was the year that Prohibition was ratified by West Virginia voters, although it did not go into effect until 1914.
The "outlawing" of the sale of alcohol in West Virginia actually created outlaws, including Don Chafin and his business partner, Tennis Hatfield, both of whom served time in prison for their illegal efforts at the Blue Goose Saloon that was located at Barnabus. The two men, who were blood related, grew to hate each other and were arch enemies in the political world. They strived to politically destroy each other, which is a virtually untold feud story that would rival the Hatfield-McCoy's debacle of the 1800s.
I will relate this untold story of murder, deceit, political corruption and womanizing in later editions of this newspaper. However, I will tantalize readers by saying that Chafin left Logan County a multi-millionaire, and Hatfield - the youngest son of perhaps the most widely known West Virginian in the world, was said to later practically become a bum on the streets of Logan.
The following correspondence comes from the great-grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield, who was raised near the post office in Logan and was a childhood friend of Logan businessman Neal Scaggs. Joseph Browning - whose grandmother (Elizabeth) was Devil Anse's daughter - and I have been friends since we met over five years ago when he and his brother were in town to decorate family graves at the Hatfield Cemetery.
"Dwight, I used to shoot pool as a teenager in Ma Murphy's restaurant and poolroom on Stratton Street. Many times when I was there my Great Uncle Tennis was setting on a stool against the wall slumped over drunk. He never knew who I was.
"I visited my Great Uncle Joe with my mother many times during my pre- and early teens and he always seemed to be a very quiet and kind man. My second cousin Coleman lived on the hill above us when we lived at the foot of Guyan Street. I would see him many times walking down the street with his blind walking cane, but I never recall seeing him and my mother visiting or talking together; nor did he visit with my grandmother, Elizabeth (Betty), his aunt. However, I would not have suspected him or Uncle Joe of being involved in political skullduggery.
"I never recall my grandmother speak ill of any of her brothers and sisters, which is not surprising to me. I only recall that she had wished that the Blue Goose saloon would have burned to the ground. I believe that saloon was owned by Tennis."
Joe, who along with his wife will again be here Memorial Day weekend to make the rough trek up the hill to the Hatfield Cemetery, is a very distinguished gentleman who used to meet his older brother, Grant, each year in Logan to go to the cemetery. Sadly, Grant is no longer able to make the trip from his Nashville, Tennessee, home. I believe both men are now in their 80s.
Needless to say, I plan on meeting with Joe and his lovely wife.
When it comes to local feuds, how about this information: Both Holden Road grocery stores - Kroger's and Valley Market - are in separate feuds with separate distributing companies.
Kroger no longer carries Hormel brand meats and cheeses at its deli for unknown reasons to me, while Valley Market, which does continue to sell Hormel products, no longer sells Heiner's bread products.
It seems that the owner/operator of Valley Market was either just gone or perhaps on vacation one day when the "bread man" delivered his usual products. My understanding is that the owner had forgotten to leave a check for the bread products and that the driver of the bread truck then refused to leave the products when it was relayed that he would be paid later.
When contacted about the problem, the owner, Mike Sidebottom, (rightfully so, in my opinion) told his employee to tell the guy to take his bread and to never come back, ending decades of service between the store and the bread company.
Consequently, I now get my bread at Kroger, my pimento cheese at Valley Market, and mayonnaise at either store.
Isn't life grand?
n QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "When party and officeholder differ as to how the national interest is to be served, we must place first the responsibility we owe not to our party or even to our constituents but to our individual consciences." - John F. Kennedy
n DID YOU KNOW that it is against the law in Omaha, Nebraska for a policeman to appear in uniform with his hands in his pockets?
n CLOSING NOTE: Logan County's politics were overwhelmingly Democratic following the Civil War because Abraham Lincoln was a Republican and most people in the county, many of which owned slaves, were sympathetic to the old South, which is why northern soldiers burned both the Logan and Boone county courthouses. However, when the U.S. became involved in World War I, there was a sudden evaporation of money for better roads as everything went to the war effort. This meant that many highway projects in West Virginia were left half-completed in 1917 and 1918. When the Republicans began challenging Democratic machines in Logan during the early 1920s, their most powerful issue was the neglected roads, which allowed them to take power. Of course, the Republicans were swept out of office in 1932 because the Great Depression was blamed on Republican President Herbert Hoover.
Nowadays, most of our roads are just patched, if even that is done. Ditches need to be dredged, weeds need to be cut and drains should be cleared. There are roads in Logan County that are in terrible condition. Logan is a sprawling county. Perhaps the local Division of Highways just needs more funding and manpower.
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.