Notes on the Matewan “Massacre”

From a description in Christopher M. Finan’s “From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America”

The Matewan “Massacre” would make an interesting, if challenging film. Starts out with a classic Western-style showdown. Escalates to open warfare.

“Passengers on the Norfolk and Western trains went through the battle zone crouching on the floors of the cars while glass crashed overhead.”

  • Sid Hattfield (28). Police chief, former miner. Shot Albert C. & Lee Felts. Gunned down on courthouse steps.
  • Albert C. Felts. Shot mayor Cabbell Testerman. PI for Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, deputized in neighboring town. Hired to evict fired miners.
  • Cabbell Testerman. Mayor & town druggist. Authorized the arrest of the detectives for carrying arms within town limits.
  • Miners. Payed in company scripp. Fired when they joined unions.
  • Baldwin-Felts Agency Detectives. Seven killed by miners in initial gunfight, rest fled across river.
  • President Warren G. Harding. Sent in Federal Troops.

OUTSIDE

  • Rev. John Haynes Holmes. Eloquently denounced the violence on both sides.
  • The ACLU. Only a few years old. Spoke out against the underlying causes.
  • The courts. Widely abused injunctions to suppress meaningful picketing. Used sedition laws unevenly to ban violent pro-union publications while allowing employer publications to advocate violence openly.
 Notes on the Matewan “Massacre”

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