With reunion set, Hatfield Cemetery blocked

Logan Banner photo A rope now blocks visitors from crossing the bridge to see the historic Hatfield Cemetery.
Logan Banner photo
A rope now blocks visitors from crossing the bridge to see the historic Hatfield Cemetery.

A column by Dwight Williamson for The Logan Banner 

LOGAN, W.Va. — Logan County needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

Seriously, the county has three sites which have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most people cannot name all three of them, so let me relay them to the readers. The sites are the Hatfield Cemetery at Sarah Ann, the Don Chafin house located on Main Street of Logan and the locomotive located in Chief Logan State Park. Blair Mountain used to be on the register, but was taken off. Only the park site is what one could say is readily accessible to the public.

In just nineteen days, the annual Hatfield-McCoy reunion is scheduled to begin in Mingo County. The three day event will bring many tourists from all parts of the nation to such places as neighboring Williamson and Matewan, as well as Pikeville, Ky., and other areas of that state. There are guided tours to all of the different sites that were involved in the feud. Visitors get a brochure which has directions to numerous sites for those who wish to drive to them, and many choose to do so. The final site listed, and the one most people want to see, is the Hatfield Cemetery featuring the life-size statue of the clan leader, Devil Anse Hatfield, and the gravesites of most of his family.

I have attended the festivities in the past and have overheard out of state visitors speaking at the reunions. Their comments about the cemetery, particularly the lack of a road or steps to it, were embarrassing for this Logan native. There were whispering comments like: “Can you believe the condition of that place?” or “Why doesn’t somebody do something nice there?”

I am now ashamed to report that things have gotten worse. A rope has been placed across the bridge and signs there clearly mean anything but “welcome” to visitors, some of whom in the past have traveled as far as Alaska to see the historic site that most of us take for granted.

Attempts were made to find out who and why the right-of-way to the cemetery is blocked, and by whom. I was not successful. What I can tell you is there are numerous court cases on record which conclude with persons NOT being able to block a right-of-way to a cemetery, any cemetery.

This year, it appears visitors will get to see what most definitely appears to be polluted water pouring into Island Creek from a culvert located right beside the blocked bridge. Whatever the white substance is, it comes from a small ditch across the road and the water there comes from a mountainside just up the road at Crystal Block. There are no houses located at the water source. The water has actually “painted” white nearly every rock and pebble it has touched.

There have been efforts in the past to improve the entire area. This writer, then a reporter with The Logan Banner, remembers the promotion of one project in the 1980s which I believe was a scam. There was to be a nice playground to be placed at the foot of the graveyard hill with sheds and picnic tables. A road and steps to the graveyard were also planned. No one now can tell me what happened with the project. Also, I know the Logan County Commission has used employees to clean up the one acre cemetery several times and I’ve been told the Omar Crime Watch has done the same.

The historical significance of the Hatfield-McCoy feud could be no better shown than in the 2012 mini-series featured on the History Channel. Described as “the most influential TV show ever on pop culture,” TV Watch Magazine this year named the show the “greatest of all time.”

Earlier this year, the internet was said to be in a “frenzy” when rumor had it that the History Channel had confirmed a revival of the popular sitcom, which featured the likes of Kevin Kostner and Tom Berenger. There were even talks of a movie. However, both actors have expressed concern as to whether any future shows could possibly match the past ones.

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