Last year, I talked about the Matewan Massacre over in WV and some of the stuff that went on. Everyone has heard about the Hatfield and McCoy feud of course but unknown to most people the Hatfield clan almost ended up in another feud in the mid 1920s. This was not with another family but was an internal affair.
From about 1907 through the early 1920w, Don Chafin ruled Logan County like a czar. He held several county offices including two terms as sheriff and his rule was so complete that no one held virtually any government job or operated any illegal enterprise without his personal approval. Curiously, one of the ways he got elected as sheriff was to promise to rid the county of the hated Baldwin-Felts mine guards, which he did. He promptly replaced them with his own relatives and supporters that he appointed as special constables and deputies. Records show they eventually numbered several hundred. The plight of the miners that elected him was no better. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
They had just replaced one set of muscle and triggermen for another. Chafin became so powerful that he even levied tribute from the mine operators on every ton of coal mined in the area. To keep out anything from the outside world that might undermine his influence, his deputies watched every stranger that entered Logan County. Union organizers, Wobblies, Republicans, Federal Revenue agents and other such undesirables was shown the door. If they didn’t leave they were tossed in jail. On Chafin’s orders several were shot “trying to escape.”
Chafin’s moment of glory came during the miners march on Logan County in 1921. This became known as the Battle OF Blair Mountain which I will talk about another time. He organized a huge force of mine guards and militia that backed the regular US Army troops and WV State Police that were sent in to quell the rebellion. One of the songs song by the miners was “we’ll hang Don Chafin from a sour apple tree.”
Chafin’s troubles started sometimes around 1923 when one of his deputies, Ten Hatfield, was arrested by the Feds for moonshining. Under questioning he revealed that his partner was Don Chafin. It was a logical arrangement as the Hatfields and Chafins were cousins, and Hatfield votes were a keystone in the Chafin empire. When it became known that the Feds were going to prosecute Chafin, it was pretty much accepted that Ten Hatfield would be Epstiened before trial. Rumors started to grow of a new feud.
Ten Hatfield was the youngest son of Devil Anse. As Devil Anse was dead, the leadership of the clan had passed to his son Cap. Taking matters into his own hands one SUnday morning, Cap donned his Colt and Winchester , saddled up his mule, and rode over to Chafin’s house in Logan. In a confrontation between the present czar and the lord high executioner of an earlier era, it was made clear that Ten Hatfield would stay healthy or Chafin would personally answer for it. Before Cap left town he rode by the jail and issued all Chafin’s deputies the same warning. Apparently Don took Cap at his word as both men served terms for making moonshine. Later, Ten challenged the Chafin political machine and won when he was elected sheriff in 1924. The Hatfields simply took over Don’s empire intact and ran it till hammer fell and the entire mine-guard system of scammery was abolished in the 1930s.
Logan/Mingo County, WV politics is about the same now as then.