On August 1, 1921, Matewan police chief Sid Hatfield and his friend Ed Chambers were gunned down by Baldwin-Felt Detectives in front of the McDowell County Courthouse in Welch.
The trouble between Hatfield and the Baldwin-Felts had started more than a year earlier. In May of 1920, a shootout in the Mingo County town of Matewan had pitted Baldwin-Felts detectives against Hatfield and a crowd of angry miners.
A shootout left seven of the detectives, two miners, and the town’s mayor dead in the streets of Matewan.
After the Matewan Massacre, as it’s now known, Hatfield became a hero to the miners who were trying to unionize southern West Virginia. The Baldwin-Felts detectives decided to take revenge against Hatfield after he and 17 others were acquitted of all charges related to the massacre.
They seized their chance when Hatfield and Chambers were set to appear at the McDowell County Courthouse on charges unrelated to the earlier shootout. Hatfield’s murder sparked an uprising that led weeks later to an armed march on Logan County and the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest single conflict of the Mine Wars.