Matewan Massacre

Matewan Oral History Project
Matewan Development Center

John Hennen: Today is June 7, l989, this is John Hennen for the Matewan Development Center Oral History project. I'm in Huntington, WV, at the home of Mrs. Dixie Accord, who grew up in Matewan. Her address is 144 Jefferson Park Drive in Huntington, WV. It is approximately 11:00 a.m.

Dixie Accord: I was born in Louisa, Ky. on July the 18th, 1912. My parents were Fred and Eclestia Webb...

J: You mean E.C.L.I.S.T.?

DA: E.C.L.E.S.T.I.A. Eclestia Bates Webb. I was a Bates. My mother was a Bates, excuse me. My mother was a Bates and I, my grandmother Webb brought me to Matewan when I was a year old and kept me 'til I was 14. And there's were the biggest portion of my life was spent in Matewan. And I did not live with my father until I was 14 years old and my mother, uh...was always close by though. Uh...and so was my daddy. And I had three uncles who were real grand but, two of them were union. My daddy was union but one uncle was a boss and he could not belong to the union, but the day...

J: What were their names?

DA: They were Jink, Jim, and my daddy's name was Fred. And Blucher the young one, now he didn't count much cause he was very young. He didn't, uh...he was too young to take any part but Jink and Jim were the ones that worked...turn...(phone rings and tape cuts off).

J: Which of your uncles that you were mentioning was the company man?

DA: Jink...

J: Jink. Is that J.E.N.C.K?

DA: J.I.N.K.

J: J.I.N.K.

DA: Jinkens Webb... J: Oh, Okay.

DA: He was a boss. He was a mine foreman at Thacker, WV. And, uh..., he was not a union man. My Uncle Jim and my daddy were union men. My father was not in town the day of this massacre. He was up at Stony Mountain putting his furniture back in, on, the porch. They set it out in the rain. They said all the...the Baldwin-Felts detectives set everybody's furniture out in the rain ......

J: Uh..., this is in Matewan or Thacker?

DA: No, Matewan...

J: In Matewan.

DA: Up at..., between Red Jacket and Matewan. It was called Stony Mountain Camp. The mines that was involved in it this day was Stony Mountain right there in..., below Matewan called Stony Mountain, and, uh..., my father was not in town that day, thank God, and they couldn't involve him in it and uh... he was up there putting his furniture back on the porch, it's all we had. That with...with seven or eight more children, he had to save his furniture, and we were standing there and my grandmother was watching her two sons....

J: Okay. Where was this you were standing...Where was...

DA: I was standing front of John Robinson's meat market in Matewan. Diagonal to the station. But we could see down under Chamber's Hardware at the...where they was in... under, a shelter where a brick...where a porch was built out above and they all congregated under there out of the rain. It was misting. It would..., it didn't rain to what you...pouring or nothing like that but you had to get out of it. So my grandmother turned to me and she said, "You go home."

J: Who, now who was gathering here. Were these the Baldwin-Felts ...

DA: Union, the union and the, uh...Baldwin-Felts Detectives and word got out that they had warrants to arrest Sid Hatfield and Mayor Testerman that evening and take them to Bluefield. They were from Bluefield. And that's east of Matewan. And, uh...they were, uh...their, their, their intentions was to arrest them, serve the warrants on them and arrest them and take them to Bluefield on 16 which come in about between 5:00 and 5:15. And my grandmother couldn't find her two sons. And, so she told me, she turns around to me and she tells me to go home, and I went; I knew to mind. And I started walking home. Now that distance from John Robinson's to this house right here, (pointing to diagram) and I walked as fast as I could for an 8 year old girl and when I set my foot upon our front porch there was a thousand shots fired in ten minutes. My aunt was at my house. My youngest aunt. My grandmother's youngest daughter was at home. And we ran to the back facing Tug River cause we lived between the N & W railroad and Tug River and that was Kentucky over there. And I saw at least twenty people come out of Matewan and swim Tug River and get into Kentucky. And one of them was Everett Harmon 'cause I recognized him. He was a, he was the coal operator at Lynn, WV above Thacker, above Matewan cause he always wore a white riding pants and boots...leggings. And I recognized him and they was at least 20 people swam that River. Now, in the picture it shows one man in New River paddling around .....

J: In the movie you are talking about...(movie filmed at Thurmond on the New River)

DA: In the movie. I thought that was ridiculous. So, it all died down. Now the battle took place around this hardware (surveying pamphlet). And here's the bank. Here's the main street coming went, and this goes into the river, the...the ...down there where the..., and there's where...

J: Was there a road down to the river, a path...

DA: Yes, there was. There was a road. Cause the, uh...water company was down there. The uh...the uh...water...that furnished the town of Matewan ..., the water, it was down. Oh yes, they was mostly, there was not many cars. But they was several cars there in Matewan. Mostly the, you know, the wagons and things they had to have a way down there. And when the river was down the river, the, the uh..., wagons would go across the river into Kentucky, and uh..., but, now, I didn't see anything other than hear the shots. But my grandmother came home. She brought her boys with her and ...

J: What were their names?

DA: Webb. Their name was Jim and Jink...

J: Oh, okay. You told me that.

DA: Yeah, you have that. James, well we called him Jim, and Jink, and Jinkins was his really...really his name. And uh...then that evening, now they was a non, and during this battle, C.C.(Cable) Testerman was shot. He was our mayor. He was a nice looking man. He had a jewelry store there on the corner. Uh...of uh... right on down here where the steps went down to this uh... main street. He had a nice jewelry store. Mr. Testerman was a, uh... fine looking gentleman, back in his time. And uh...he was shot. Tot Tinsley (14 or 15 yrs. old) was killed. He was just a bystander. And on around the corner here at the back of this office, it's over Chamber's hardware. Dutch Rherer, he came out and came down, and he was shot. But he did not die. Dutch is dead now but he did not die from that. But, C.C. Testerman when 16 was stopped below Matewan and held up on account of this battle; But when it come through Matewan, they put CC Testerman, my grandmother said, on that train and sent him to Welch. That was the quickest train. There was no ambulance then. the hospital. But he died. C. C. Testerman died in Welch hospital. I assume he was still alive when he got to the hospital. It's been so many.., I wouldn't know. I couldn't remember that.

J: Um-hum.

DA: Then at 7:00 or maybe a little after, No. 7 comes down from Bluefield, going west into Cincinnati making all the stops. You know, the little stops, Thacker and Matewan and Williamson and they took doors, new doors out of the hardware and put those Baldwin-Felts detectives bodies on them 'cause I saw it. And put them on that, in that baggage car. I saw that.

J: Put them all in one baggage car. Where were the bodies when you first saw them?

DA: Right, right where they were shot. Some were shot there and some the hardware and some was around here in the back. They were shot. They were seven of them killed and I believe two or three of them were brothers. I don't know. Albert, and I don't know whether one brother or two. I cannot say.

J: I believe it was two.

DA: I believe it was two. It was two. I am sure it was. Uh, Uh...I should've kept a diary on this 'cause we talked about it for years. It was something to talk about. Now I...I tell you, before this, uh...uh...that night I don't think anybody slept. I don't think any.. They expected the Baldwin-Felts detectives to come in there and blow the city of Matewan up, was what they expect. Well they would've never got very far 'cause, Matewan was fortified, and those mountaineers didn't take it easy. They didn't take no for an answer.

J: So did people come to town after the shooting and...

DA: No, uh...people came...people scattered out. I can't say how many stayed down there, er...,nothing at all about it, because I didn't get to go back down there until after 7 that evening. All this happened between 4:30 and 5:00. Then about 5:15, Sixteen come in going east, going towards Bluefield, and that's the train they put Mr. Mayor Testerman on. But he died in either..on the train or on route to Welch or after he got there, uh.., I can't remember. Now, Sid Hatfield was there. They was going to arrest Sid. They was going to arrest uh...Testerman. These were bogus warrants, you see. They want...they knew they was the ringtail leaders in that and they wanted to get them out of there. They finally killed them later on the steps of the courthouse in Welch and their wives. Tthese pictures that you see right here those two women were with them and they were witness. Now I was in Williamson the day that happened and my uncle, was an engineer on the N & W Railroad came in and told us we had no communication like you have now. And uh...but now that all happened in a matter of minutes there and it was, back then, that was horrible. To me I will never forget it for as long as I live all those shots being fired. I never, well it just seemed like the end of the world to me. And if my aunt hadn't been with me, I guess I would have run and hid somewhere. But she, she was with me. Now, we, we did not see any of the act-ual stuff only I saw the men running down this alley here. It was a street into the river. The water works was down there and uh... people brought boats over from Kentucky and we have a bridge, I understand there is a bridge there now. And uh...that uh... that was a horrible time, those miners really uh...struggled to organize the union and I know that I saw uh... I saw enough. That I'll never forget it as long as I live. My grandmother was a woman that seen where her children was and that's the reason she was down there to look after those two young, those two boys of hers and uh, but my father was not in it as I stated before. Poppy wasn't in it. He probably would have been accused but I don't think he would have picked up, I don't think Poppy...he would have sympathized with them but I don't think Poppy was the type of man that would have picked up a gun and used it, but that's my opinion. And, but he was up in Stony Mountain Camp putting our furniture back on the porch. I say ours because he was my, it was my mother and father, but I didn't live with them. I lived with my grandmother. And uh...

J: You indicated on our phone conversation yesterday and with a couple of statements that you made earlier that you didn't think the movie Matewan was a particularly accurate portrayal...of the events that day. What are your criticisms?

DA: I don't think so. I definitely don't. Well, it was made in the wrong place the first thing cause Thurmond does not own a brick building and it doesn't have a street to make it on and another thing doesn't portray any of it 'cause I saw with my own eyes the men and...of the union and the uh...uh...the uh...detectives uh...meeting under that dental office porch there and I stood up on John Robinson's uh...sidewalk, which was wood and it was built up. He had two or three steps to go up. And I stood there and watched that with my own eyes with my grandmother and they never showed nothing like that and showed when they had...never showed a shot being fired, you know that, and they met on the railroad. Now that's a lie. That is a definite lie, and I'd tell the producer, whoever put their money in it that they're lying. And I don't...and I don't believe that people that's involved in that battle in Matewan would let 'em make it and that's my opinion and you can't keep me from expressing my opinion and I'm a pretty ...uh... I believe in free speech and I'm going to have it and I don't believe...and that picture wasn't worth a dime. I didn't go to the theater, but my grandson in Lexington bought the tape and put it in his VCR and when I seen that, I was so disgusted.

J: Now why do you think that the people in Matewan wouldn't want...

DA: Well I don't think it was the Matewan people that didn't want it. They would've liked to have it. I think it was the other side of the picture 'cause they have such a loss, and they didn't win and they didn't want their..their...they didn't want nothing brought back to life or exposed.

J: So you're speaking of the representatives of the coal companies...

DA: I am. I am.

J: Do you have an idea of, now I know you said you were, you didn't see the shooting, you heard the shooting?

DA: No...I heard it no...I was in...

J: Where has...what is your impression of where the actual shooting began? Was it inside the store or outside?

DA: Oh...out...oh all of it...some of it run into the office the bank and hid in the doctor's office and hid and some of them followed them in there, so I'm told and...and uh... but none...none...all of the shooting took place mostly right there. The man is dead that fired the first shot but I am not going to repeat his name because he told me because he later mar-ried into my husband's family and I don't want to repeat his name but he fired the first shot because he told me he did, and I believe him.

J: Okay. One last question and we will catch the news. What is your reaction to the charge that Sid Hatfield shot Mayor Testerman?.

DA: I don't believe it. I don't believe it. He could've been shot accidentally. It was never proven who shot him. Of course they made a story out of that because he later...later married his wife. And...but, I think, out of sympathy, that he uh... that was all out of sympathy that uh... I can't see that. I can't see Sid Hatfield uh...if he'd have wanted her, he'd have took her right on front of him. Now, he wouldn't had to kill him. He's that type of a man. He wouldn't done that, but he...he might have been, in my opinion, that Testerman was shot accidentally like Tot Tinsley was. I've never heard Tot's name mentioned. He was a young boy about 20 years old and Dutch Rherer was a elderly man and I...I'd say he was in his early fifties.

J: How do you spell that name?

DA: R.H.E.R.E.R. And he was from Alma Thacker, in Kentucky and uh..he was youngest uncle married his (Dutch's) daughter and but, now Dutch wasn't...Dutch was...and he just walked down out of the dental office, Dr. Whitt's office and was shot. If he'd stayed up there, well I guess he thought the shooting was over with.

J: You said earlier, but I forgot, was he killed or did he survive?

DA: No, he was just wounded. He was just wounded and he left.

J: Did Testerman carry a weapon to your knowledge?

DA: To my knowledge, I don't know. I wouldn't know and uh... nothing was never said. No. Uh, I guess he uh...he uh... he just walked down there, you know, 'cause the news, the word got out uh... one of the chambermaids down at the hotels told that she overheard them...who they had warrants for to arrest and take on 16 to Bluefield and that was Sid Hatfield and Testerman and uh... uh...and Ed Chambers all and uh... that...see they wanted to get the ringtail leaders out of Matewan so they could break the union. But, now, Sid Hatfield is not the man that killed Albert Felts...Felts I can tell you that, but I...

J: Is that right?

DA: No. Man, I told you that he is dead now. They're all dead, but I won't repeat...

J: Oh, that fired the first shot?

DA: Fired the first shot and he killed Albert Felts.


J: Now I've heard stories, particularly in a book that Howard Lee wrote a few years ago that...that night...before the bodies now... the Baldwin-Felts bodies, you said were picked up at about seven o'clock. Now I've heard stories that that night before the train came and picked up the bodies, that people were dancing around, firing weapons and drinking,...

DA: No. That's not so. That's not so. That's a lie. They might have been somewhere hidden and rejoicing or doing something like that. Some of the drunks might, but, I tell you it wasn' all scattered. It was very quiet. It was very quiet. It wasn't so.

J: So they didn't have a big party.

DA: No. They didn't. No. That town was patrolled that night. Now, I'm gonna tell you something, you shut that off. I don't want this on there. (tape cut off) ...

Mose Adkins

they had struck up at, at...Stone Mountain. That was a little mine right behind uh...Matewan. Hit come out on the strike so uh...they'd fired all their men and noticed them...they had a camp just outside of Matewan town and they had a camp up thair. Lived right along by the side of the road. Railroad and uh...we'd go up thair, you know, and play cards and things like that and then uh...they decided they was gonna get rid of them too. Get them out of thair so they sent for the Baldwin-Felts men to come put them out of the houses. Well Sid Hatfield had...he had went to bein' a law officer by that time. He...I reckon he was chief police. Thair's no chief about it. Just the only police we had thair in Matewan.

J: Now this was the same...the same Sid that you had worked with?

SA: Huh?

J: This...this was the Sid...

SA: Yes sir.

J: Hatfield you mentioned before?

SA: Yes, sir.

J: Same sid. Okay.

SA: Um-hum. Yeah. He worked down thair with us and uh..they was several of the others. I can't recall their names right now but my brother-in-law, I mean my half brother. I had a half brother. I didn't tell you about him awhile ago uh...he was in that tent colony by the...he stayed in thair with us.

J: Un-hun. And what was his name?

SA: Joe Smith. Joseph Smith. And uh...when they come in thair, why, they would notify us when things was gonna happen you know, when they could find it out so uh...they told us that they would be in thair that day. The Baldwin-Felts men. Well, in fact they sent a man up thair to tell us after they come in. They come in on a train. I don't know which one...and, must have been along in the morning. They give us uh...a warning to not go up around thair and said they was all heavily armed and threatenin' people and was arrestin' some of them and puttin' them in jail and uh...Tom Accord, A.C.O.R.D. Accord, my first cousin. Him and me went down to Matewan and uh...we thought everything was over. They done went up and...I thought and put the men out of the houses. I don't know whether they put them out or not. But anyway, we was over in the depot, a little depot right across the uh...mayor's office and I saw Sid Hatfield and C.C. Testerman. He was the mayor. A comin' out and goin' in his office and then I seen the uh...Baldwin-Felts man or two come in and go in thair.

J: Go into the mayor's office?

SA: Went into the mayor's office.

J: Okay.

SA: Just a little while after they went in. I never noticed how many went in but anyway, Ike Brewer, uh...he was a very well known feller in this country and mean as a snake, he come out with one of them and they was a...apartment upstairs in...I think it was over uh...the dry goods store and they started up them stairs, him and that...they just stood thair and talked a little bit and started up the stairs.

J: This is Brewer and of the agents?

SA: Brewer and one of the...the Baldwin-Felts men and he uh...after they got started upstairs I...I heard a shot. Now that was before this shootin' started out in the back alley.

J: Um-hum.

SA: And uh...Ike come a rollin' back down the...the steps. He was shot. And he pulled out his gun and begin to shootin' back up the stairs. I don't know whether he was shootin' at that fellow or not. Tom and me shut the door. We was in the...we was...well I say, within fifty or sixty feet of 'em.

J: Now you were in the depot?

SA: I was in the depot and he was too.

J: Okay.

SA: So uh...we shut the door and then all, thair's old sayin', then all hell broke loose. (laughter)

J: Un-hun.

SA: Out in the back alley. But it was not in the back alley, it was out int he front alley. Right at the...right were you...well they had a (Nenni's) shoe shop thair and it between that shoe shop and...and the Urias Hotel and then, uh...they come across thair and...and run behind the depot uh...the Baldwin-Felts men did, and one of them fell down as they went around behind the depot and the other one was right behind him and he picked him, kinda helped him up and they went on out...I don't know where they went to then. Then they was a feller come down out of the up thair somewhere. Started walkin' down through thair and I seen him fall right thair in front of the the railroad track then thair was another one fell and uh..then I got out and went...

J: Now these guys are falling as a result of shots?

SA: Yeah.

J: Okay.

SA: Yeah...yeah. Shots. And I got out and went behind the depot where them other fellers was and uh...we, Tom and me, went up in the hill and uh...I had a thirty-eight special and just had one shell for it and I got it out and got it ready and uh...they didn't foller us over thair. And I saw old man Reece Chambers come up...thair's a set of steps right between the squires office and the, well I reckon it was a little restaurant...I believe it was a restaurant. And he come up out of thair and he had a looked like a high powered rifle and he was...thair's some trash barrels around thair and he was lookin' behind them and so forth and he went down to the post office. The post office was down at the end of the houses down thair. It was right at the end of 'em, and uh...I had carried the mail and used it along before that and I seen him look in a barrel and shoot in that barrel. Now, I don't know what was in it. I couldn't see and uh...but I...I sold out. Now me and Tom took the hill and went up thair and we knowed how to...both of us was hunters and we knowed how them mountains laid and we went up thair and went out through the hill and when we was up in the hill, when the train come and took them Baldwin-Felts men out of thair...

J: These were the...the dead guys?

SA: Yeah. They was the one...some of them got killed too and they took them out of thair and uh...we went back up to the tent colony so uh...


J: Oh, I do have one last general question about the uh...shootings in Matewan. How many people would you estimate were down town at that time? Say union people and Baldwin-Felts Agents?

SA: Well I would say they was a pretty good bunch of them uh...we knew them people was in town and was lookin' for trouble. That's how come, us in thair, and I'd say they was uh..well, we could say twenty-five or thirty people that uh...more than just a general run of the people that lived thair.

J: Now were the Baldwin-Felts agents carrying weapons?

SA: Oh, yeah. And I mean they had loads of them.

J: Rifles?

SA: Rifles. Pistols.

J: How were they dressed? Do you recall?

SA: Yeah. They had on uniforms of some kind. Looked to me like I believe it was green or black one, dark uniforms. (B-F dressed alike, but no actual uniform)

Harry Berman

J: Oh. Okay. Now you were a witness at least some of the action on the day of the so-called Matewan massacre.

HB: Yes.

J: Describe that day to me.

HB: I happened to be there...well, I didn't know that the detec-tives came in on the midnight train...Train always comes in at twelve o'clock at night and of course, the only place that they could put up for the night would be in Buskirk's hotel. Well, the next morning you know, I heard that the detectives were in town, see, was the fact nobody didn't know that they were there, because they came in twelve o'clock, see. So I heard that they were there and uh...nothing no more said. Well, they came there to take the people out of the company houses and to see if they could break the strike, see, so I don't know how far they got with it but along just before sixteen comes in around five o'clock, people always come to visit the trains when they come in. So I happened to be out in front of the store at that time and I seen quite a few of the men a carrying their bags they were...they must have been the detectives, and on their bags they had their...their rifles strapped to their bags.

J: Uh-huh.

HB: You know, of course, they were taken apart and then in a few minutes after that I seen Sid and Testerman walkin' behind them. Walking back towards Chambers' Hardware. Usually the train always ...the passenger coaches always...ends up there at that point, see, because it's such a long train, see?

J: So the passengers would get on and off in front of Chambers' Hardware?

HB: Yes. That's right. Uh-huh. And that's why the detectives headed that way.

J: Uh-huh. Okay. (Pause)

HB: Uh-huh.

J: What was the uh....what was the weather like that day? Do you recall?

B: Huh?

J: What was the weather like that day?

HB: Well, it seemed to be comfortable. It wasn't cold, it wasn't hot, it was just moderate...

J: And how many...

HB: I had short-sleeves on at that time. (laughter) Uh-huh.

J: How many uh..detectives and other folks would you estimate were milling around downtown?

HB: Well, I don't know but I know there's one thing it was quite a crowd. It was quite a crowd of people there and when uh...I walked behind Testerman and Sid, I was always a fellow that was curious. I wanted to see what was goin' on. See, I had my nose stuck in everything at that time, so they stopped there at Chambers store. And Testerman was talkin'...I presume it must have been one of the detectives. The detectives had his back towards Chambers' Hardware store, there.

J: So were they out on the sidewalk?

B: Yeah. On the sidewalk. Had his back towards the building. Testerman was facin' him, see, and Sid was behind Testerman, and I was not more than three or three and a half feet at the most from Sid.

J: Behind him?

HB: Yeah. Behind Sid and their was quite a few people in the back of me. I don't know how many, but I know there was quite a few of them, and on the side standin' around, you know. Wanted to see what was goin' on.

J: Uh-huh. Were people expecting some kind of trouble?

HB: I don't know if they were or not. I don't think anyone was, to tell you the truth.

J: Uh-huh.

HB: But...when I seen Sid pull his very few people I don't think seen that, when he pulled his gun and he shot Testerman, I seen Testerman fall on the...on the ground, see, and the fellow that was talkin' to Testerman, I don't know if he was..if he was shot or not, see, but I presume he was, see, but by the time I got back from where I was standing there when I left, about twenty-five or thirty feet, I seen three bodies laying on the ground.

J: So you saw Sid pull his gun and then...then he shot the mayor.

HB: Yeah.

J: Was he standing sort of behind and off to the side of the mayor or...?

HB: No. Right in behind him.

J: Right back of him?

HB: Uh-huh.

J: Okay.

HB: Right in the back of him. And then when sixteen came in see, of course they picked Testerman up and they put him in the baggage car to take him to Welch hospital, and of course he died before he got there, see? But now when that gun went off, everybody started shootin', and that's when I...I left there. I seen three bodies laying on the ground, and I headed back to the store.

J: Were these the bodies of detectives?

HB: Detectives. That's right. J: And had they uh...had they drawn weapons themselves by this time?

HB: Well, I don't know if they did or not but now they had their guns, what do you call it the uh...their shotguns strapped to their suitcase so they never had no chance. They never had no chance.

J: So, when you ran to your father's store?

HB: Yeah. So I went back to the store.

J: Uh-huh.

HB: See. Now the news got back to these fellows, to the union men that one of the detectives beat it down as far as the tunnel and, to flag sixteen, and got on sixteen so when sixteen came into the station, they uh...held the train up for fifteen minutes at the most, I believe, and they looked from one end to the other.

J: This is the union men?

HB: Yeah. The union men. But they didn't find nothin' then. See so uh, must have been just the tale started there of something was said but I do know though, from what I understand, that Mrs. Hoskins, the teacher, hid one of the detectives in her coalhouse in the back of her home.

J: Uh-huh.

HB: See, and how ling he stayed there or how he got away, I don't know. That's a fact.

J: But he did get away?

HB: But he must have got away. He must have got away.

J: After ran back to your father's store, uh...of course, the shooting was going on at that time, uh...

HB: Uh...yes, it was goin' on but it didn't last too long. Didn't last too long.

J: Few minutes, maybe?

HB: Yeah. That's all. Didn't last too long and uh....some of the union men, I knew and some that I didn't knew, and you know, know and uh,.. so that time some of them were...twenty-five, thirty, forty, fifty years old, see, and of course they are dead and gone now.

J: Uh-huh.

HB: See. At that time. So uh...actually I was the only one that stood there and seen it all and uh...there's no one today can say that. Now this fellow that I was talkin'...that I was tryin' to think of his name. I couldn't do it. He was there, but I don't think he seen anything, Frank Allara.

J: Oh, yeah.

HB: You know Frank?

J: I haven't met him, I know the name though.

HB: Well, he's a nice fellow.

J: Yeah.

HB: Frank Allara, and then he's up around in my age, now. He said he was there at the time.

J: Uh-huh.

HB: But I don't think he seen what I seen.

J: Now later you lived downtown so you were still in town later that night?

HB: Yeah. I was still in town.

J: Did you see anything going on that...that evening?

HB: No, because I tell you, when number seven came in, seven always comes in right after sixteen leaves. It runs from Bluefield to Williamson here and uh...they took the bodies of these fellows and they took them across the railroad tracks and put them in the baggage car, and brought them here to Williamson.

J: Uh-huh. Put them all in one car?

HB: Put them all in one car. In the baggage cars, see, and then my father decided we'd just take number seven and come on to Williamson and we stayed here with my Uncle, Jacob Shine, also had a clothing store here in Williamson.

J: Uh-huh. So your father wanted to get you away from there or...or was this just something that you did routinely?

HB: No. He just felt uneasy I think.

J: Uh-huh.

HB: And we just thought maybe that we would just come all get on...on the seven...on number seven and come into Williamson. So, the next morning we got number seven back again, and got off at Matewan coming back.

J: And by that time had things settled down?

HB: Yeah. Things were all settled and uh...gone there and uh...I think Sid was still chief police, and I don't know how long. I can't remember now. But uh...he uh...he went to Matewan at that time uh...from Matewan into Welch at that time and uh...with uh...Howard ,with one of the Chambers boys.

J: Ed Chambers.

HB: Uh-huh. And that's when uh...they killed them on the steps there at the courthouse.

J: And between the time you saw Sid shoot the mayor and the time Sid was shot, did you have any contact uh...with Sid to speak of? Did you see him on the street or anything?

HB: No. No. I didn't. I didn't talk with Sid anymore there. I guess he...but now I don't know if I should mention, can you cut it off a minute? (Reference to Sid and Jessie rumors)

J: Uh...when you...when you saw the uh... shooting start and at the massacre, I meant to ask you a few minutes ago but I forgot, when Sid shot the mayor, to your knowledge, was that the first shot fired?

HB: Yeah. That was the first shot.

J: That set it all off?

HB: And then that started all the shooting. You could hear guns poppin' everywhere, see, and that's when I seen three of the men laying on the ground. They were the detectives.

J: Between the time and the first shot was fired and you got back to your father's store, at least three people had been shot then, or four people countin' the mayor.

HB: Before I got back to the store I seen three people...I was not more than twenty-five or thirty feet from where I was standin'.

J: Uh-huh.

HB: From Sid that I seen three men laying on the ground. And I don't know how many more that was...I beat it. And everybody else scattered around.

J: So you didn't know when...where the shots were comin' from you just knew there was some firin' goin' on?

HB: I just heard the firin' that's all and I beat it back. And I think everybody else started runnin' now, too, I think. But that's it. But uh...when sixteen came in, uh...the captain from the train, Captain McCulloch, he was a little short fella. Mean as a striped snake. He didn't take no foolishness, see. And he was mad as a hornet when they held up the train for about fifteen minutes to search to see if there was a detective on the train.

J: Huh.

HB: I remember that.

J: Did they go through the train carrying their weapons...carrying their rifles?

HB: I don't know, probably...probably they did but I didn't know. I beat it back.

J: Now, Mr. McCulloch, was he the conductor on the train when you say captain?

HB: He was the conductor yeah, he was the conductor of the train at the time with the N & W and uh...sixteen ran from Cincinnati I think to Norfolk at that time, see? Okay. And then number seven would come in after sixteen leaves, from Bluefield to Williamson and then at twelve and then uh...the twelve o'clock there would be number three, that would be the midnight train. That would come in from Norfolk to Cincinnati. See, and then the next day, at twelve o'clock, at noon, fifteen would come in, see, and they'd carry a lot of passengers. That train would come from Norfolk to uh...Cincinnati.

J: This is all N & W...

HB: There was quite a few trains runs through there, you know, and they held quite a few passengers. And lot of baggage and stuff would take off so sixteen now would make a stop at Williamson here and Matewan and uh...I don't think they would stop up until they got maybe to Welch, I think or, I believe. They didn't make many stops, 'cause it was a fast train through and uh...number three would be the same way. Fifteen would be the same way, see, but now uh...number seven comin' from uh...from Bluefield into Williamson here, they would stop at every station, every station. They wouldn't miss a station.

J: Uh-huh.

HB: And uh..comin' back the next morning, it would be the same thing they'd stop at every station, see.

J: mentioned there were a lot of people meet the train on the evening of the massacre. Was uh...was there always a crowd to meet the train?

HB: Well, they was yeah...they was always a lot of people to come to see who gets on...who gets off, you know what I mean, and uh... you know, to visit, you know, they'd always be a lot of people on that side of the of the railroad. Be a lot of people. Be more people on that side than it would be on the main street.

Roy Hall and Bill Hall

M: Didn't some of these...weren't some of these in that Matewan Massacre they talk about?

BH: They were all in it.

RH: Yeah, the old man Reece was there, and...

M: Yeah, what happened, then? Tell about it.

BH: Well...

M: What you remem...well, you, Roy, one of 'em had your coat on him when he got shot?

RH: Yeah, yeah. One of 'em had my coat on when he got shot. Clarence...what was his name? Tinsley?

BH: "Tot," "Tot" Tinsley. (A nickname)

M: They called him "Tot?"

BH: "Tot."

RH: They called him "Tot."

M: Well...tell about that Massacre, dad. Remember when I was down there and you were showin', pointin' it out to me? And about the one that ran into the barber shop, whatever, doctor's?

BH: Well, I don't know who all was involved in it, I knowed some of 'em.

M: Well, name the ones that you all remember that was in it.

BH: But we know that the "Baldwin Felts Gang" was Matewan and they was to...supposed to buy Sid off, and get him to work for them.

RH: That's right.

BH: And they were up...just about a half a mile, the Baldwin men were, out of little mining town there, and they were sittin' people out of their homes; carryin' their furniture out, and if they was sick, they'd carry them out, too. Sid goes up there to find out what is goin' on. He got to talkin' with 'em and told 'em they had no right to do that, and one of 'em looked at Sid and told him, said, "Hatfield," said, "We've run men to the mountains and killed 'em in Paint Creek and Cabin Creek." Sid told 'em, "Yes, but the man that kills you'll be lookin' you right in the eye." And so they said they had a warrant for Sid, and he said, "Well, we'll have to go down and the Mayor'll have to fill bond for me." And they go down in Matewan, and the Mayor sees 'em. He comes out and asks Sid what's wrong, and Sid tells him they had him arrested. So, the that time, the Union men seen what was goin' on and they began to gang up on the station ground, where it happened...and the mayor read the warrant, he said it was "bogus", it was no good.

RH: That was Testerman said that.

BH: And Isaac Brewer spoke up and he said, "Damn you, you'd better wrote it on a Ginger Snap, so you could eat it," they said.

RH: Yeah, that's what it was.

BH: And he said, "What's that?" And he said, "Well, you heared me the first time." By that time, the Baldwin men was linin' their men up, facin' the Union men. And they...Isaac Brewer was supposed to have been standin' beside of Sid Hatfield...when it happened.

RH: He must have made 'em believe it, because they never did kill him after that. He...he joined the very bunch that he killed the first two...he was the man that killed the first two.

BH: That's right.

RH: Isaac went over to the other side, and yet he turned evidence. state's evidence. He, undoubtedly, made 'em believe it, or they... they did, or they'd have killed him, 'cause I know them fellers.

BH: And they say they found papers on 'em, after they were killed, that they was supposed to pay Sid a thousand dollars to come over and work for the coal companies. And, if he didn't take it, they was supposed to kill him.

RH: That was...that was supposed to be the way it was, now, I'm tellin' you...

BH: That's the true statement.

RH: He's tellin' you right, there.

M: And he wouldn't go over? Is that why they killed him?

BH: He wouldn't go over. And, uh...when the shootin' started, why..."Tot" Tinsley was a young boy, he was about sixteen wasn't he?

RH: Yeah. Clarence Tinsley had my coat on when he got shot. Why he done it, he and I had a habit of wearin' the same clothes. I wudn't there that day, if I hadda been I'd of been right down there with him...and maybe got killed, too. But, anyhow, he run and put my coat on...and went down there and was agettin' there just about the time the fight started. When he saw the fight start he went runnin. One of the detectives, I don't know which one done it, shot him in the back with a 45 auto...automatic, 45 Colt; with a "dum-dum" bullet. They claimed it knocked a hole in 'im (him) big as an egg. I know...I know, I they never did use that coat no more, and I...they may have it over there yet, I don't know.

M: Yeah, daddy didn't you say that...

BH: Durin' this time, why, Dutch Rherer was shot through the corner of the post office, that glass front there. Isaac Brewer was shot in the hand and in the lung. And, one boy (last name was Haywood)...killed one with a jug of chloreform. He run in the doctor's office to hide, and one of the Felts men come backin' in there on him with a gun in his hand ashootin,' and the boy got scared and hit him in the back of the head with a jug of chloreform. And the doctor said he woulda never waked up if he hadn't the time he hit the street when he knocked him out of the door, the men shot him; but the doctor said he would've never waked up no way, he was drowned in it...almost. It was about a two gallon jug of chloreform busted on the back of his head. And that's the way it was.

M: Do you all know anything about who shot the mayor that day? I didn't...

BH: Nobody...nobody knowed who shot who, that day. Because they was shootin' at everybody that moved, they didn't have no friends there, no relatives, and they come there purpose...

RH: The fight took place on the same day they come down there.

BH: They didn't come there and stay like this movie they made shows.

RH: No, no they didn't come atall.

BH: They was...they was killed the same day they come in there. And as far as celebratin', the night...the day of the murder, that night...they did not celebrate it, but they got news that they was gonna be a gang of Felts men come in there to shoot the town up. And they was out there, the miners was, a-lay-wayin' number "3" passenger train that come through Matewan at noon, twelve o'clock that night. That was the only celebration you could call it.

RH: Yeah, that's right. 'Cause they didn't celebrate nothin' like that. They was...they was all lookin' for, uh...the town to be shot all to pieces that night, and they was awaitin' for that train to come in. Well, see...see McDowell County uh...they wasn't tryin' to organize that at that time...and they's alookin' for 'em to come down...and attack those fellas there at Matewan that was tryin' to organize.

BH: But we do know that they was...about eleven of 'em, altogether, killed there that day.

Matewan Massacre


West Virginia Archives and History