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Sid Hatfield


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Sidney ‘‘Sid’’ Hatfield (May 15, 1893-August 1, 1921) was the controversial police chief of Matewan and martyred hero to union coal miners. He was born near Matewan but on the Kentucky side of Tug Fork. He worked in area coal mines until Mayor C. C. Testerman named him Matewan’s police chief in 1919.

In that position, Hatfield in early 1920 assisted a United Mine Workers campaign to organize Tug Fork miners. On May 19, when Baldwin-Felts detectives evicted several miners from their homes near Matewan because they had joined the union, Hatfield and a crowd of angry miners confronted the detectives. The ‘‘Matewan Massacre’’ resulted, a shoot-out in which seven detectives, two miners, and Mayor Testerman were killed. Hatfield survived unharmed and instantly became a miners’ hero. Ten days later, he married Mayor Testerman’s young widow.

On January 26, 1921, Hatfield and 17 others were tried on murder charges arising from the shoot-out. All were acquitted. On August 1, 1921, Baldwin-Felts detectives shot Hatfield and his friend Ed Chambers to death in a hail of bullets as the two, with their wives on their arms, approached the McDowell County Courthouse in Welch. Miners considered it murder, and thousands of them rose in rebellion in late August and September in the celebrated Miners’ March.

Written by Lon Savage

Sources

  1. Savage, Lon. Thunder in the Mountains. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.

  2. U.S. Senate. West Virginia Coal Fields. Hearings before the Committee on Education & Labor. 67th Congress, first session, 2 vols. United States Government Printing Office. Washington.