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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


Now, (Sid) Hatfield promised to protect miners who joined the Union.

On the rainy morning of May 19, 1920, thirteen Baldwin-Felts detectives arrived by train in Matewan led by Albert Felts and his brother Lee. Almost immediately the detectives began evicting families from houses owned by the Stone Mountain Coal Company. Word of the evictions spread quickly.

As the detectives returned to the train depot, they were met by Sid Hatfield and a group of armed miners.

Lon Savage: Sid approached the Felts brothers, tried to place them under arrest, they tried to place him under arrest. Around them were miners with guns trained, ready to fight.

Dixie Accord: I had walked up the railroad into my grandmothers home and had put my foot on the first step when there were a thousand shots fired. It sounded like war had begun. I ran through and my aunt was there and I said, “Oh, Vinnie, Matewan has blowed up”. I thought everybody was murdered. We ran to the back and you could see the back end of Matewan and you could see Tug River in that bend of the road there. Over a hundred people ran out the city of Matewan and swam that river into Kentucky.

Narrator: When the shooting stopped, seven detectives including both Felts brothers and two miners lay dead. Also killed was Cabel Testerman, a plump jewelry store owner who was the town’s mayor.

As the five o’clock train pulled in, shocked passengers stared at all the bodies. A bloody stream flowed down the street.

Papers found on Al Felts revealed a plan to bribe Sid Hatfield to turn against the union. Hatfield, whose hat was shot off in the fight, boasted that he had killed all the detectives. When he was charged with murder, Sid said he hadn’t shot anyone.

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