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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 144

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This is the grave of Sid Hatfield.

Likely born in Pike County, Kentucky in 1893, though some claim 1891, Hatfield was a coal miner and a tough, certainly not unlike many people in his area along the Kentucky-West Virginia border and certainly not unlike other members of his family, who were the Hatfields in the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Hatfield was named police chief of the small town of Matewan, West Virginia in 1919, just across the Tug Fork River from Kentucky. In part, this was because he was a tough, independent man who would stand up to the coal companies who were ravaging this area through their anti-union thugs, in particular from the Baldwin-Felts Agency. In May 1920, Hatfield got into a gun battle with the thugs after he stopped them from evicting striking miners from company housing, which resulted in the death of two of the Felts brothers and Matewan mayor Cabell Testerman. Hatfield then quickly married Testerman’s widow and became a labor hero. A short film was made featuring him and Mother Jones met him. But the mining companies would soon have their revenge. When appearing in court in Welch on August 1, 1921, coal company assassins killed him on the courthouse steps, as well as his deputy Edward Chambers. 3000 people attended their funeral. Hatfield was 28 years old.

Hatfield was famously played by the great David Strathairn in John Sayles’ film Matewan, although probably as a more taciturn character than the actual Hatfield.

Sid Hatfield is buried in Buskirk Cemetery, Buskirk, Kentucky, just across the Tug Fork from Matewan.

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