Matewan Massacre

Williamson News
May 20, 1920

A Terrible Calamity Brings Instant Death.

Seven Baldwin-Felts Detectives Killed on the Spot.

Mayor of Matewan, C. C. Testerman, Killed and Others.

The dead:
C. C. Testerman, Mayor of Matewan.
Bob Mullins, Miner.
Tot Tinsley, Miner.
Albert Felts and Lee Felts, brothers of Thomas Felts, of the detective firm of Baldwin-Felts. C. B. Cunningham, of Baldwin-Felts Company.
C. T. Higgins, same agency.
A. J. Boorher, same.
E. O. Powell, same.
J. W. Ferguson, same.

Wounded Citizens:
Sam Arters,
Isaac Brewer,
Will Reyer,
James Chambers and
Bill Bowman.

Consternation was created in the minds of all our people yesterday evening by a telephone message from Matewan that Mayor Testerman, Albert Felts, and perhaps many others had been shot in the streets of the city shortly after four o'clock. Telephone communication with Matewan became impossible, and rumors of general shooting and rioting spread like wildfire. Sheriff G. T. Blankenship quickly gathered a small company of deputies and was able to catch No. 16, which brough him to the scene very shortly after the shooting occurred.

Sheriff Blankenship was followed to Matewan in an hour or two by several automobile loads of deputies who had been mustered by Deputy Sheriff Tony Webb.

Strictly accurate reports of just what took place are not now available. It is probably that the true details will never be known, for from the firing of the first shot the confusion was so great and excitement so general that even those who witnessed the tragedy are at a loss to describe it.

According to citizens who were present, the detectives were awaiting the arrival of No. 16, on which they intended leaving town. Mayor Testerman was talking to Detective Albert Felts about the release of Policeman Hatfield, who was alleged to be in the custody of the detectives. A crowd had congregated about the station and in the street across the railroad. The first shot was fired without warning, and the shooting instantly became general. Mayor Testerman and Mr. Felts were the first to fall, and the seven Baldwin-Felts men were shot as they tried to make their escape, according to onlookers. The twelve or fifteen detectives, it is said, fled toward the river and some of them succeeded in crossing to the Kentucky side. According to one report one of the detectives was shot while attempting to swim the river. Two of the detectives are said to have run to the tunnel just below Matewan and flagged No. 16, when the train came through a half hour later, and secured the protection of Sheriff Blankenship until the train left Matewan. These two men, and according to most reports, all the other detectives have now left this section and proceeded to Bluefield. It is said that all the detectives but one have now been accounted for. It is thought that this man may be the one some observers say was shot in the river.

Sheriff Blankenship is now on the scene, and reports that there have been no further disturbances of any importance.

Passenger trains were notified to run through Matewan without stopping last night, but the city is now quiet and train will stop as usual today.

The Baldwin-Felts men are said to have come to Matewan for the purpose of evicting from company houses miners who had joined the United Mine Workers of America. It is stated on good authority, however, that proper warrants for the evictions had not been issued by the civil authorities.

Last night Matewan was a seething mass of humanity bearing firearms. This morning it is quiet, with but few people on the streets.

Several members of the state constabulary have arrived in Williamson this morning, and it is said that by tonight about forty of them will be here.

The bodies of the seven detectives who were killed were brought to Williamson last evening on No. 1, and taken to the Ball Morgue for autopsy and embalming.

The wounded were taken to a hospital at Welch.

The Seven Who Lie Dead Here

Seven men lie dead in our city today who yesterday were well and in the prime of life.

Little is known of them here except that they were detectives and were not afraid to face death in the discharge of the duties of their calling. Yet not one of the thinking people of this section but will sincerely mourn the death of these men and sympathize with those who loved them.

These men did not come here, probably, with any idea of bringing peace and better counsel to the tortured miners and mining interests of Mingo county, but it may yet be that by their deaths they have sobered the reckless ones and brought all to a more wholesome view of the troubles which exist.

These seven have paid dearly for their participation in Mingo county's troubles and we have only sorrow for their untimely taking off.

Mayor C. C. Testerman

Matewan loses one of its most valuable and respected citizens in the death of Mayor C. C. Testerman. Mr. Testerman was elected mayor of Matewan last fall, and had always discharged the duties of his office in an efficient and public-spirited way.

The report that Mayor Testerman died instantly when shot yesterday, was not true. He was taken in an unconscious condition to Welch and died at the hospital there at 11:50 last night.

The many friends of the mayor in this county and elsewhere will extend their sincerest sympathy to his bereaved family.

It is very quiet in Williamson today. All the talk of our people is of the tragedy at Matewan. This should be a lesson to us all. May such a deadly combat never occur again in our midst.

Matewan Massacre


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