Each week I try to write about something that I hope is worth reading. And, although I mostly like to feature writings of some historical value, sometimes I get a little left of center, so to speak, and today just might be one of those days. Let’s just refer to it as a “throw it against the wall, and if it sticks, it’s done” spaghetti day.
Perhaps we should begin with this newspaper. I do not know the actual circulation of The Logan Banner, Williamson Daily News or Coal Valley News, all of which my writings appear in weekly. What I do know is that there must be many people across the country who read the newspapers via the internet because I hear from a good many of them, some of whom reach out to me through Facebook, some by email, some by regular mail, and others by telephone. Most of these “readers” are former residents of the area, and many of them help to enlighten me in one way or another, usually, about things, people and places that used to exist or about past events.
When it comes to Logan County, there was a time when there were more people who received The Logan Banner at their homes than there are residents of the county right now. As of the 2010 census, there were 36,743 residents in Logan County. However, at one point in time there were 37,000 people who either had The Logan Banner delivered to their home or purchased one from vendors on the streets (newspaper boys), or from newspaper boxes at various locations.
The newest census taken this past year is yet to be released, but with the numerous drug overdose deaths and more recent COVID-19 departures, as well as the folks who left the county for jobs elsewhere, it’s a good bet the residential number will fall well below 36,000. I’m certain similar results will be visible in neighboring Mingo, Boone, Wyoming and Lincoln counties.
For the record, Logan County’s population was largest in 1950 when 77,391 called Logan County their home. The county’s population has declined in every census result since that time. As for the town of Logan, its population has declined to the point that it technically cannot be described as a “city” anymore.
Anyway, getting back to the basis for this writing, I have “friends” who I have never even met and some, like John Stratton of Ogden, Utah, a former Logan Countian and a direct descendant of Major William Stratton (the man for which the street in Logan is named). and Kenneth Singleton, former Logan postal carrier, now a resident of Cape Coral, Florida, who have dropped by the courthouse to visit at different times.
There, of course, have been other friends — like former Logan Banner writer/photographer Emery Jeffrey, as well as former Logan High School basketball coach Rick Cook — whose visits I also enjoyed. In Cook’s case, the visit was for several days, as I interviewed him concerning his embattled coaching career in Logan and his exceptional coaching career in California. I spent nearly eight hours one Sunday interviewing via telephone many former players who Cook coached after his departure from Logan.
Cook, naturally, feels like he should be vindicated from what he calls mostly false allegations that likely cost him and his assistant coaches Randy Schuman and Randy Anderson their coaching positions at Logan High, and he would like to present his side of the story, maybe one never revealed. However, I found the stories relayed to me by former players Cook coached, including former Logan standout Mike Collins, now a neighbor to Cook in North Carolina, to be of particular interest and very positive in general. Besides, Cook’s “story” will have to be written in a series of articles or composed in a book. I’m not ruling out either one of those two options.
Still, there are other people, such as former NFL football great Lionel Taylor, formerly of Buffalo Creek near Man, who I interviewed by telephone and cherished listening to as the New Mexico resident described his football playing and coaching careers, which, by the way, included a Super Bowl ring while coaching with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I have been contacted by people living in California, Alabama, New York and many other locations, including even Ireland, who usually wish to provide a story relating to their pasts in Logan County. Many of these people re-visit Logan and lament to me the changes that have occurred over time. Naturally, these folks are of the older generation; thus, time will take its toll and there will be fewer and fewer people to reminisce about their “growing up” days in Logan County.
I have plans for many stories concerning people in the Logan area as well as several who reside somewhere else. The problem for me is getting around to either meeting with or talking via telephone with these individuals. And the COVID situation hasn’t helped matters either.
Unfortunately, some of my “friends,” some of whom I have kept in communication with for years, have passed on. Two of those people are Grant and Joe Browning, the great-grandsons of Devil Anse Hatfield, formerly of Logan. I will later provide some surprising historical information provided to me by those two deceased gentlemen, relatives of longtime Logan optometrist Arabel Hatfield, whose story I will write soon, as she is retiring from her many years of service, most of which was in the former White and Browning building in downtown Logan.
Meanwhile, it was good to hear from former Logan state trooper Bob McComas, who was one of the three troopers injured in the shooting that I wrote about a few weeks ago involving current Logan County Sheriff P.D. Clemens, the first of three state policemen to be hit by bullets fired by Troy Canterbury back in 1979 near the Logan-Mingo county line.
McComas, along with trooper Sam Pinion, who still resides near Monaville in Logan County, were also injured in the shootout that wound up ending Canterbury’s life. McComas, who still has the bullet lodged in his leg, now lives in the small town of Mabscott in Raleigh County, having retired after 25 years of state police service. The injury eventually led to McComas receiving both a knee and hip replacement and, like Clemens, McComas and Trooper Pinion were understandably off duty for at least a couple of months before returning to their “serve and protect” positions in Logan.
“I still have a lot of friends in Logan, and Sam Pinion is like a brother to me,” McComas said in a message following his reading of my column. “I am glad you published the article. People need to know the price men and women pay to protect them.”
Another former Loganite contacted me following the article about the troopers’ shooting to remind me of yet another former state policeman, who was assigned to Logan as his first duty station, after completing training at the State Police Academy. Following his transfer to Raleigh County, that lawman began having an illicit affair with a woman at Hinton in nearby Summers County.
While in uniform, the trooper went to her mobile home the day after Christmas in 1976 and soon thereafter she was shot through the head with a .357 magnum pistol and the officer was shot in the left shoulder. The two where found lying beside each other, the murder weapon (the trooper’s revolver) lying beside him.
After the policeman was charged with murder, the orthopedic surgeon who operated on the trooper testified in court that the injury to the trooper had come from behind him because of how the bone fragments were blown to the anterior of the man’s body. The prosecution, on the other hand, said the policeman had tried to commit suicide and the bullet had bounced off a ballpoint pen in his shirt pocket and deviated through his shoulder.
Offered a manslaughter charge, the trooper pled not guilty but was declared guilty in 1977 of murder in the first degree by a Greenbrier County jury, which recommended mercy. However, according to court records, the case was appealed partly due to the prosecutor allegedly having a financial interest in the outcome of the case. It was revealed that relatives of the deceased woman had hired the prosecutor’s law partner to represent them in a wrongful death suit.
Nonetheless, there was testimony from a bystander who said the wounded trooper, while lying on the porch of the deceased, made the statement, “I’ve killed her. Get the gun and shoot me.”
There is much more to this story, but the fact is that the Supreme Court upheld the murder verdict of 10 years to life imprisonment, and the former trooper spent 10 years in prison before his release.
I have many more interesting stories to relate — thanks to former Loganites who read this newspaper and who are located in nearly all parts of our nation.
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.