February 11, 1923: Eight Members of the Black Hand Arrested in Harrison County
On February 11, 1923, eight gangsters were arrested in Harrison County for their involvement in Black Hand activities. Black Hand was a name given to underworld extortion techniques, such as threatening lives in exchange for money. During the early 20th century, it was most commonly associated with Italian and Sicilian mobsters who extorted money from their fellow countrymen who had emigrated to the United States.
In the first two decades of the 20th century, thousands of Italians poured into northern West Virginia to work in the region’s coal mines and factories. By far, they were and still are the state’s largest ethnic group. While the mobsters in West Virginia typically targeted Italian-American and Sicilian-American businessmen, they sometimes went after miners. Occasionally, the victims paid up, but some refused to pay, fought back, and were left alone.
The arrest and successful prosecution of Black Hand members in Clarksburg capped a three-year period of mysterious murders in the region. During the same time, prosecutors in Marion and Monongalia counties also were cracking down on organized crime, even as the prosecutor in Morgantown faced down personal threats on his life.