“Let he who is without sin be the one to cast the first stone.”
Those were the words of Jesus of Nazareth, according to the Bible, and those also were practically the only words delivered by Rev. B.C. Gamble during the 1932 church services of Mamie Thurman at Nighbert Memorial Church in Logan just two days after Mamie’s lifeless body had been recovered from a briar thicket on Trace Mountain of Holden, an area well known to be a location visited often by raccoon and fox hunters, which included one of Mamie’s confessed lovers, Harry Robertson, and his black handyman, Clarence Stephenson. Originally, both were charged with her murder. Robertson’s hunting cabin was said to be located about a mile from where the body was located.
There was no sermon delivered that Friday, June 24, as Rev. Gamble referred to Bible scripture in which a woman was caught in the act of adultery and brought before Jesus. The Book of John says that the people came to stone the woman to death. However, Jesus did not condemn the woman, but told her to “go and sin no more.” Based on scripture, Rev. Gamble then told the crowd that consisted of 550 women and just 30 men, “This is the text. Develop your own sermon on that basis.”
Mamie’s obituary was read and much weeping was heard as the crowd dispersed, leaving Jack Thurman alone in the church’s front pew to gaze upon the closed casket of his wife. Could it be that Jack was the last person to see his wife alive? Indeed, was he the murderous culprit?
The mystery behind Mamie Thurman’s death likely can never totally be resolved. There were many characters in Mamie’s life that could very well have wanted her dead. First to come to mind is Mrs. Harry Robertson, the mother of two young daughters the Robertsons had brought into this world. She had for a long time been suspicious of her husband and Mamie’s relationship, and she had cut all ties to Mamie, whom the socially elite Mrs. Robertson had even previously taken golfing with her at the Logan Country Club.
Could Mrs. Robertson have killed Mamie and had her loyal servant Clarence Stephenson dispose of the body at what is now 22 Mountain at Holden? Could Clarence have sliced her throat causing the jugular vein to quickly dispense the body’s blood so as not to leave much evidence in the vehicle that allegedly transported the body? Could he have taken her to Trace Mountain and there shot and killed Mamie before slicing the throat?
There are many possibilities, which includes even Harry Robertson perhaps doing the dastardly deed, or having his handyman, Clarence, do the damage, or at least engage in the conspiracy of murder. After all, Clarence was ordered by Harry to look for her on the night Mamie disappeared and to sit on the steps of the old Guyan Bank and watch for her to enter or leave the upstairs of the Holland Building on Stratton Street that — according to trial testimony — was used by members of a so-called “key club” for purposes of which one can only speculate — illegal booze, private gambling, illicit sex?
Perhaps Harry Robertson was saving his own hide when he testified that Mamie had given him a list of 16 Logan businessmen of whom she had engaged in improper relationships. Likely, all were members of the “key club,” and it is likely, too, that some of them, if not most, were officials present right there in the crowded Logan courtroom where curious onlookers stretched their necks to hear every word of what had become a most notable murder trial. Even the lack of air conditioning mattered not to the curiosity seekers.
It was apparent that the parties for both the prosecution and defense did not want to reveal any of the 16 names of businessmen. Assistant Prosecutor Emmett F. Scaggs, who had described Mamie as “Logan’s most popular woman,” and her death as the “most brutish crime in Logan County history,” declared to the press that he would not drag anyone’s name into the murder case “just to get even with them.” He also noted that he was not interested in prosecuting anyone for adultery since it was only a misdemeanor charge. One would think that Harry Robertson, among others, was pleased to hear that.
There were three prosecutors utilized in the murder trial of Clarence Stephenson, who was defended by former Logan Judge Estep and C.C. Chambers, who later was elected as a Logan judge. Interestingly, Judge James Damron of Huntington volunteered his “free” services to the prosecution and in so doing declared Mamie’s murder as ”that of a well laid out conspiracy.”
On July 29th, The Banner reported there were over 1,000 people at the courthouse when Stephenson’s preliminary hearing was conducted in front of Magistrate (Squire) Elba Hatfield. For history’s sake, it should be noted that Hatfield was the son of Anderson “Cap” Hatfield of Hatfield-McCoy feudal fame and was the grandson of Devil Anse. Four months later, Hatfield would lose as the Republican incumbent for justice of the peace. In fact, his uncle, Tennis Hatfield, a former sheriff, would also lose in his bid to replace his brother, Joe, as sheriff in the November 1932 election that saw every Republican candidate in Logan County lose when Franklin Roosevelt was swept into the U.S. presidency.
When Harry Robertson took the witness stand that hot July day, there were likely other people sweating, as he admitted to a two-year relationship with Mamie and that he had often met her at the “Key Club” that was in the heart of Logan. That structure, which was built in 1910 and named the Holland Building, exists today and can be seen beside of the business known as Gold Town. The upstairs that features several small rooms that extend toward the railroad tracks was where the “Key Club,” which was also referred to as the “Amen Club,” formerly operated. That second story area is today vacant and unused.
Facing the charge of murder, Robertson testified that Mamie had given him the list of names while the two were working together at the Guyan Valley Bank before it closed. Robertson said the club was frequented by a number of well-known businessmen and their “lady friends.” He added that both the male and female members had pass-keys they used to get into the club, which he said also was publicly known as the Logan Businessmen’s Club.
Of the 16 names given to Robertson, he testified that “one of them is dead, all except three live in the city of Logan, and all are married but one.”
It should be understood that many reports of the finding of Mamie’s body was by boys picking blackberries. However, that is not the case. In fact, according to testimony in which hand communication was used because of Garland Davis being a deaf mute, it was relayed that he was actually 32 years old and by himself when he came across the ghastly sight.
Also of interest is that Davis said through an interpreter that after finding the body, he went back to the roadway and a man whose last name he knew as Neely was there and when he told him about finding the body they went down the hill to No. 21 mine and told the men there about it.
Davis then testified that he returned by Neely’s truck to the site of the body and when asked if anybody else came with them, he said a man named Hernshaw and another man named Holland also came, but he did not know either’s first names. It should be pointed out that the name of Holland, for which Holland Lane in Logan is so named, was not a widespread name in Logan County. The Hollands owned the building where the Key Club was located and were prominent citizens of Logan. The name of Holland can still be seen on the building.
There are numerous avenues of twisting suspense this murder mystery could actually lead to. Unfortunately, I do not have the time or the space in this newspaper to fully address the dramatic possibilities that could lead even the most well-informed crime investigators to scratch their heads in bewilderment. What I can tell you is that things are never what they appear to be when it comes to murder.
I hope that interested people will try and attend the play “Mamie” that will again be presented this coming weekend and the next at the Coal Field Jamboree in Logan. Perhaps you will be able to form your own conclusions as to the gruesome death of Logan’s “Vixen of Stratton Street.”
Something few followers of the Mamie story realize, though, is that in 1932 the Logan Police station was located on Stratton Street near what is now the First Baptist Church of Logan. The walk from what was the Thurman or Robertson residence to that location takes less than two minutes. The walk from the Thurman home to the courthouse takes four minutes, and the walk from the courthouse to Dingess Street where Mamie was seen walking by the old Midelburg Theater the evening of her disappearance also takes just four minutes.
So why mention these numbers, you ask?
Mamie was shot twice in the head with a .38 revolver. She was found at 22 Mountain in 1932 at the age of 31. She had at least 16 different lovers, but only ONE life.
Should a tombstone or memorial of some type be placed at her gravesite at McConnell, it could very well become the NUMBER ONE Halloween attraction in Logan County.
At least then, perhaps Mamie Thurman could finally rest in peace.