“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Matewan in Mingo County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)

The Battle of Matewan

— National Coal Heritage Trail —

The Battle of Matewan Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 23, 2021
1. The Battle of Matewan Marker
Inscription.  The Battle of Matewan was one of the defining events of the West Virginia Mine Wars of the early 1920s. The battle — often called the Matewan Massacre — took place on the afternoon of May 19, 1920, when a group of Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency operatives returned to town after evicting pro-union mining families from nearby housing owned by the Stone Mountain Coal Company. While waiting on the 5:15 PM train to Bluefield, Albert Felts and other detectives were confronted by Matewan Police Chief Sid Hatfield, Mayor Cabell Testerman, and others. After futile attempts by the parties to arrest one another, shooting broke out in front of Chambers Hardware Store. There are conflicting accounts as to who shot first, but when the shooting ended 10 men were dead — seven Baldwin Felts detectives (including Albert Felts and his brother Lee), Mayor Testerman, and two local miners.

Bullet holes are still present on the north wall of the old
The Battle of Matewan Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 23, 2021
2. The Battle of Matewan Marker
Maraker is visible at the corner of the nearest building, in front of the side door. Marker faces Ferrell Street, which continued across the tracks to Magnolia Avenue, today Route 49, whose pavement you see in the foreground.
Click or scan to see
this page online
National Bank building on the south side of the railroad tracks, where a recording that features different accounts of the event can be heard. The West Virginia Division of Culture and History has funded a brochure with information on the Battle, other local history, landmarks, events, and activities. A variety of information, historic photos, documents, and artifacts is also available at the Matewan Replica Depot and Museum along the tracks on the west side of town.

In March 1921, Sid Hatfield and 14 other defendants were acquitted in a Mingo County trial for the murder of Albert Felts. Hatfield returned to Matewan a hero, only to be charged with blowing up a coal tipple in nearby McDowell County. On August 1, 1921, Hatfield and friend and deputy, Ed Chambers, were shot and killed by Baldwin-Felts operatives on the courthouse steps in Welch, the McDowell County seat. Their murders outraged thousands of union miners from across the state who planned to march on Logan and Mingo counties, which were controlled by anti-union forces. The march culminated in the Battle of Blair Mountain, in which federal and state troops defeated the miners and thwarted the United
Former Matewan Post Office image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 23, 2021
3. Former Matewan Post Office
This marker is just out of frame on the right, casting its shadow on the wall facing right. On the wall that faces left the shop clerk pointed out what could be high-powered rifle bullets embedded in the mortar. See a closeup in Photo No. 4.
Mine Workers’ attempt to organize the southern West Virginia coal fields.

About 3:30 they came back to Matewan and they had guns on their shoulders with high-powered rifles, and there were 12 or 13 of them … [Albert] Felts… gave the warrant to the mayor and the mayor read the warrant and said it was bogus…and then he shot the mayor. Then the shooting started in general —Sid Hatfield, Matewan Police Chief.

We resent the cowardly libel … by the sheriff of Mingo County and the Matewan Police, in which [they] charged that Albert Felts, one of the murdered men, started the trouble by firing a shot through his coat pocket into the body of Mayor Testerman. —Tom Felts, General Manager of Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency.

(Newspaper clipping)
Fight Follows Ousting of Discharged Miners from Coal Camp at Matewan.
Seven Detectives, Two Miners and Two Citizens Are Others Killed
Bullets Embedded in Wall image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, July 23, 2021
4. Bullets Embedded in Wall
Close up of wall shown in Photo No. 3
Are Said to Have Had Trouble When They Joined the Union
Special to The New York Times, CHARLESTON, W. Va., May 20 [, 2020].—

(Newspaper clipping)
Justice of the Peace Testifies on Experience on Day of the Matewan Shooting.
State Contends Wounded Detective Placed In it Was Shot and Killed.
—New York Times article published February 19, 1921

(Newspaper clipping)
Testify Detectives Made Threats and Fired First Shot at Matewan.

• WILLIAMSON, W. Va., March 5 [, 1921].— Some of the seventeen defendants in the Matewan battle trial will probably tell their story to the jury next week. Nine defense witnesses were disposed of today. The testimony of Miss Elizabeth Burgraff, sister of one of the defendants, and John Burt, a union miner, caused the greatest stir.

Miss Burgraff testified that she overheard remarks by Albert C. Felts, one of the detectives killed, that he was “going
Albert C. Felts image. Click for full size.
Public Domain via
5. Albert C. Felts
Superintendent of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency
to get Sid Hatfield, Testerman and Blankenship” before he left town and “others if they interfered.” Hatfield is the Chief of Police and Testerman was the Mayor of Matewan. He was killed. Blankenship was Sheriff of Mingo County.
Erected by National Coal Highway Authority, the U.S. Department of Transporatation Federal Highway Administration, and Norfolk Southern.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Labor UnionsLaw EnforcementNotable Events. A significant historical date for this entry is May 19, 1920.
Location. 37° 37.381′ N, 82° 9.919′ W. Marker is in Matewan, West Virginia, in Mingo County. Marker is at the intersection of Ferrell Street and Hatfield Street, on the right when traveling north on Ferrell Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Matewan WV 25678, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Matewan Massacre (within shouting distance of this marker); Hatfield-McCoy Feud (within shouting distance of this marker); Divided Loyalties (within shouting distance of this marker); M.E. South Church (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line);
Sid Hatfield image. Click for full size.
Public Domain via, July 11, 2012
6. Sid Hatfield
Matewan Chief of Police
a different marker also named Matewan Massacre (about 800 feet away); Mingo County / State of Kentucky (approx. 0.2 miles away); Sid Hatfield (approx. 0.2 miles away); Matewan Area History (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Matewan.
More about this marker. In addition to three newspaper clippings reproduced on this interpretive panel and transcribed above, there are five photographs captioned as follows, counterclockwise from upper left:
  1. Baldwin-Felts detective badge
  2. Albert Felts
  3. View of downtown Matewan facing east, showing crossing to Matewan Station
  4. Matewan Station photograph cirac 1920, view of downtown Matewan facing west
  5. Sid Hatfield

Also see . . .
1. West Virginia Mine Wars Museum. 2019 article by Kyle Warmack Hailey Horn in Clio, Your Guide to History. Excerpt:
But these union victories in West Virginia during the 1910s led the coal operators to fight back. By the 1920s, coal fields in Mingo and Logan counties had unionized--so coal operators in Mingo county hired the Baldwin-Felts agency to evict union coal miners and their families from their camps. Since miners were paid in company scrip which had no value outside their own coal camps, this would have rendered the affected families penniless and homeless.
(Submitted on August 1, 2021.) 

2. Murder in Mingo, The Documentary.
View of the Post Office in that Era image. Click for full size.
Public Domain, Tony Santon Collection via e-WV
7. View of the Post Office in that Era
You could say this is the other side of the story. Excerpt:
These records reveal a radically different perspective of the events on that fateful day than has been the accepted and idealized version, much of the mis-information perpetuated from Sayles fictional movie. In the actual chain of events, Sid Hatfield, the Chief of Police of Matewan, orchestrated mass, premeditated murder in collusion with pro-union officials and county law enforcement. On the telephone a half hour before the shootings, Sid Hatfield told Tony Webb, the chief deputy of the Mingo County Sheriff's department, that "they would kill the God damned sons-of-bitches before they left town" and set a trap for the detectives at the Chamber's Hardware Store where snipers awaited in second story windows, armed men hid in and around the store and the surrounding area. Through court testimony, detective agency memos and statements from eye witnesses and survivors, "Murder in Mingo" will bring into the light the actual events surrounding this terrible tragedy.
(Submitted on August 1, 2021.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 1, 2021. It was originally submitted on August 1, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 437 times since then and 89 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on August 1, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

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Mar. 29, 2023