The Siege of

Crooked Creek Gap

By: Michael M Meador

Photographs by Rick Lee

Page 2

MM: Were they up on top of the divide there?
EB: They were everywhere. There weren't any miners in that section, but they didn't know when they would come. The miners were all up the left-hand fork, about 5,000. That never was published in the papers. They never mentioned Hewett Creek or nothing like that.
They just come and come all day. It wasn't just miners, there were men come up there from every walk of life-doctors, lawyers, people that run drugstores and got out of there and took to the hills with high-powered guns with the expression, "l want to get a crack at those S.O.B's."
MM: Do you know anybody that got killed or how many were killed? EB: I don't know. I saw them bring one in but he did not get killed, he had a heart attack. He was carrying water to them. I saw a Negro shot through, but if he died they never brought him into the barracks there.
MM: Do you know who was in charge of the miners?
EB: Yes, Bill Blizzard.
MM: Was he stationed at the schoolhouse?
EB: No, he was just in and out. Bill Blizzard was supposed to be the commander-in-chief of them. Whether he was or not I don't know. He came in there a lot.
MM: Do you know anything about what happened over at Beech Fork, Ardrosson, or any of those places?
EB:Just hearsay is all I know. These fellows they called "thugs," they were hired men and a lot of deputy sheriffs and everything. Don Chafin was a very popular man. We differed politically and everything. Personally I liked him and he was a fine man in my book. He just got rich. He was a good-looking man, a very brainy man, a man who wouldn't lie to you. I heard of him accused a lot, but never knew of him doing anything wrong. I was a "dyed-in-the-wool" Republican here in Logan County and my father, brothers, and both grandfathers. We were a Republican family. There never was one of us mistreated by him. But there were various stories about it, and I can't say whether it was true or not. I don't know.
Bill Blizzard
Courtesy WV Collection, WVU
Now I had a sister who was married and it was reported to me that she was in the basement of the house and had nothing to eat but canned stuff. I decided to go get her. I went down the road here, I got an army, I had Elmer Nelson with me. When we got up on Craddock Fork the machine gun started cutting the papaw bushes down. We took the other side of the point and went into the hills. We met a crew who had a Thompson machine gun. We pulled in Crooked Creek Gap. There was a Browning machine gun, we were going to capture it. We found out they had moved the machine gun and the bullets were coming through the trees there just a little over our heads. It was a continual fire.
MM: Were you up the Sycamore Fork side?
EB: I was on the Sycamore, right in the very head of the hollow, almost on the top of Crooked Creek Mountain. I think we had nine men when we got there, out of about 40 or 50. The others took cold feet, you know, dropped out. I had got the news that my sister had come out of there about daylight that morning. So when she got out, I said I don't have anything in this, l'm going home. Some of the boys went on to the other mountain, sight-seeing and so forth.
MM: So you stayed up there the whole time then?
EB: No, I was all over the world. I went through the line and far down as we could find men and everything.
MM: What did they do for food?
EB: They had plenty of food, they brought it in here. They never took anything from anybody that I know of. I think they got some stuff on credit at a few stores, but I think they paid for it later. I don't think they beat anybody, but I'm not sure. I was not in business at that time. There were men from every walk of life in this, but they were all called miners.
MM: Did you go to Charles Town to the trials?
*The Miners' March trials, beginning in late April, 1922, were held outside the coalfields, at Charles Town in Jefferson County. A special train, dubbed the "Red Special" brought union leaders and defense attorneys, as well as 1,000 witnesses and defendants, from Charleston. -ed.
EB: I was indicted in 700 cases, I guess-not that many but several. We were to give bond that day. I don't know how much bond there was, but I think I give a $200,000 bond then, if they requested it. When they called my name, Don Chafin called across the room to me and said, "Early, don't move your trial, I'll take care of you." Well, that was the law and the gospel, whatever Don told you was the truth. He didn't lie to you.

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