Sid Hatfield

Plaque at Matewan History Society

Sid Hatfield was one of the key figures that led up to the eventual Battle at Blair Mountain. Sid Hatfield may not have been a member of the Hatfield family involved in the famous Hatfield-McCoy Feud though he boasted that he was. He received his nickname, ” Smilin’ Sid” Hatfield because of the gold caps on every one of his teeth.

Sid Hatfield (1893–1921) was Police Chief of Matewan, West Virginia during the Battle of Matewan, a shootout that followed a series of evictions carried out by detectives from the Baldwin-Felts agency. On May 19, 1920, thirteen detectives, including Baldwin-Felts president Thomas Felts, younger brothers Albert and Lee, arrived in Matewan to evict miners and their families from their homes in the Stone Mountain Mine camp. Sid Hatfield protested their arrival. No one knows whom started the famous gun battle but it ended with twenty people seriously wounded or killed, including the mayor of Matewan. There were rumors that Sid, himself, had shot the mayor in order to marry his widow. However, this is more likely a rumor.

He was put on trial several times, including in front of the US Senate. However, he proved to be a difficult man to charge due to his overwhelming popularity from the media and miners. He was also present during the 3 Days Battle, which occurred several months later in Matewan in which miners fought against the Coal Operator’s private militias for several days along the Tug River in West Virgina and Kentucky.

Fifteen months after the gun battle, Hatfield was indicted on murder charges stemming from the shootout but was later acquitted by the jury. He was sent to stand trial with Ed Chambers on conspiracy charges for an unrelated incident and was set to stand trial in Welch, West Virginia. Hatfield was unarmed when several Baldwin-Felts men shot and killed him on the McDowell County Courthouse steps.

Reports from that time say that the unarmed Hatfield had seventeen bullets in him. None of the Baldwin-Felts detectives was ever charged in Hatfield’s assassination. This caused an outpouring of grief for the fallen local hero at the funeral. It was one of the causes of the stem of outrage that led to the Battle of Blair Mountain.

Hatfield was buried in a plot across the Tug River in KY.

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Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm  Comments Off on Sid Hatfield  
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