By Betsy Allen, The Hurricane Breeze
MATEWAN, W.Va. — Last Saturday, my father and I went to the Magnolia Festival in Mingo County to see the historical drama of the Matewan Massacre. When I was younger, my mother and I had watched the 1987 film Matewan, which was one of several movies which she considered West Virginia classics (the list also included October Sky, about the teenage years of NASA engineer Homer Hickam). Several years ago, I learned through Facebook that the town of Matewan puts on an annual reenactment of the battle. I thought that this event sounded interesting since I have long enjoyed attending early frontier life demonstrations and Civil War reenactments. Unfortunately, due to my mother’s limited ability to travel, we were unable to attend the event during her lifetime.
Although this year is technically the 101st anniversary of the Matewan Massacre, it marks the 20th annual performance of the reenactment. Due to COVID, the town was unable to hold the event last year. The reenactment is usually held around May 19, which was the date the shootout occurred, but this year the event was moved to June.
The Matewan Massacre reenactment was held on Saturday, June 12, as part of the town’s Magnolia Festival, which was a three-day event lasting all weekend. On Saturday morning, the newly renovated United Mine Workers of America building was dedicated in a special ceremony, followed by a pig roast. Other events held that day included a performance by the Lincoln County Cloggers as well as live music and fireworks.
While visiting the town of Matewan, we visited the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum located in the Cecil E. Roberts Building, which was formerly the Matewan National Bank. Besides educating the public about the Matewan Massacre, the museum documents the history of mining throughout the state, the conflicts between the workers and the coal companies, and the establishment of labor unions to protect the miners’ rights. We also toured the Matewan Depot Welcome Center and Museum, which is housed in a replica of the old railroad depot which once served the town. The museum has exhibits on the massacre, railroad history, and the infamous Hatfield McCoy Feud. Our final stop was at Wingo’s Grill, which is part of the Hatfield McCoy Inn Resort…