Hatfield and McCoy Country

Books and Movies
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The Hatfield McCoy Feud

The most famous feud in American history.

Now, for the first time ever, the key Hatfield McCoy Feud sites are open to visitors.

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    The Hatfield McCoy Feud

    The most famous feud in American history.

    Now, for the first time ever, the key Hatfield McCoy Feud sites are open to visitors.More on the Hatfield McCoy Feud...

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    Historic Matewan

    A town at the crossroads of history.

    A town at the crossroads of history. More About Matewan...

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    Mine Wars

    The largest armed conflict in America since the Civil War.

    The largest armed conflict in America since the Civil War.Mine Wars...

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    Railroad Central

    One of the best places for train watching in the world.

    The region features one of the largest train yards in the world and one of the few operational roundhouses in the country. More About Railroading...

Books and Movies

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Movies

Mine Wars

By Bill Richardson

The award winning film, Mine Wars tells the story of the largest armed conflict in America since the Civil War.  Over 10,000 miners and disgruntled workers faced off against police and the U.S. military.  It was during an era when the first large-scale terrorist attack on American soil had shaken the country.  Riots and protests were sweeping the land and it looked like these forces were trying to overthrow the U.S. government.  Fear and injustice were rampant and large corporations were exerting undue control over government and the lives of ordinary citizens.  The world was changing for agrarian to industrial and from rural to urban.  It was the greatest social upheaval in human history.  In the middle of all this turmoil workers were struggling to gain basic constitutional rights and freedoms that were being denied them by their own government and the corporations that controlled their lives.  These tensions finally came to a head and exploded in the West Virginia Mine Wars.

Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys

By Bill Richardson

Reviewers have called the award winning film Feud, “The most interesting and accurate film to date about the Hatfields and McCoys.”  This documentary reveals the truth behind the highly mythologized tale of the Hatfields and McCoys.  It is a story as colorful and complex as any in American history.  There is murder, revenge, love, betrayal, injustice and punishment.  The truth behind the myth will defy your expectations.  The intriguing characters and twists and turns will fascinate you.  Don’t miss this wonderful film about America’s most famous feud.

Matewan

Chris Cooper (Actor), James Earl Jones (Actor), John Sayles (Director)

An important chapter of American labor history is brought vividly to life in this period drama from writer-director John Sayles. It's a fictional story about labor wars among West Virginia coal miners during the 1920's, but every detail is so right that the film has the unmistakable ring of truth. The tension begins when the Stone Mountain Coal Company of Matewan, West Virginia, announces a lower pay rate for miners, who respond by calling a strike under the leadership of a United Mine Workers representative (Chris Cooper). Proving strength in numbers, the miners are joined by black and Italian miners who initially resist the strike, and a fateful battle ensues when detectives hired by the coal company attempt to evict miners from company housing. Violence erupts in a sequence of astonishing, cathartic intensity.  Matewan achieves a rare degree of moral complexity combined with gut-wrenching tragedy. The film salutes a pacifist ideal while recognizing that personal and political convictions often must be defended with violence.  Matewan is a milestone of independent filmmaking and remains one of Sayles's finest achievements.

The Right Stuff

Sam Shepard (Actor), Scott Glenn (Actor), Philip Kaufman (Director) | Rated: PG | Format: DVD

Philip Kaufman's intimate epic about the Mercury astronauts (based on Tom Wolfe's book). The Right Stuff combines history, adventure, behind-the-scenes dish, spectacular visuals, and a down-to-earth sense of humor.  The Right Stuff chronicles NASA's efforts to put a man in orbit. Such an achievement would be the first step toward President Kennedy's goal of reaching the moon.  The movie contrasts the daring feats of the unsung test pilots--one of whom, Chuck Yeager, embodied more than anyone else the skill and spirit of Wolfe's title--against the heavily publicized (and sanitized) accomplishments of the Mercury astronauts. Through no fault of their own, the spacemen became prisoners of the heroic images the government created for them in order to capture the public's imagination. The casting is inspired; the film features Sam Shepard as the legendary Yeager, Ed Harris as John Glenn, Dennis Quaid as "Gordo" Cooper, Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard.

October Sky

Jake Gyllenhaal (Actor), Chris Cooper (Actor), Joe Johnston (Director) | Rated: PG | Format: DVD

Based on the memoir Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam Jr.   Hickam's true story begins in 1957 with Russia's historic launch of the Sputnik satellite, and while Homer (played with smart idealism by Jake Gyllenhaal) sees Sputnik as his cue to pursue a fascination with rocketry, his father (Chris Cooper) epitomizes the admirable yet sternly stubborn working-man's ethic of the West Virginia coal miner, casting fear and disdain on Homer's pursuit of science while urging his "errant" son to carry on the family business--a spirit-killing profession that Homer has no intention of joining.

Books

Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900

By Altina Waller

The Hatfield-McCoy feud, the entertaining subject of comic strips, popular songs, movies, and television, has long been a part of American folklore and legend. Ironically, the extraordinary endurance of the myth that has grown up around the Hatfields and McCoys has obscured the consideration of the feud as a serious historical event. In this study, Altina Waller tells the real story of the Hatfields and McCoys and the Tug Valley of West Virginia and Kentucky, placing the feud in the context of community and regional change in the era of industrialization.

Waller argues that the legendary feud was not an outgrowth of an inherently violent mountain culture but rather one manifestation of a contest for social and economic control between local people and outside industrial capitalists. Profiling the colorful feudists "Devil Anse" Hatfield, "Old Ranel" McCoy, "Bad" Frank Phillips, and the ill-fated lovers Roseanna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield, Waller illustrates how Appalachians both shaped and responded to the new economic and social order.

Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-21

by Lon Savage

The West Virginia mine war of 1920-21, a major civil insurrection of unusual brutality on both sides, even by the standards of the coal fields, involved thousands of union and nonunion miners, state and private police, militia, and federal troops.  Before it was over, three West Virginia counties were in open rebellion, much of the state was under military rule, and bombers of the U.S. Army Air Corps had been dispatched against striking miners.

The origins of this civil war were in the Draconian rule of the coal companies over the fiercely proud miners of Appalachia.  It began in the small railroad town of Matewan when Police Chief Sid Hatfield sided with striking miners against agents of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, who attempted to evict the miners from company-owned housing.  Much neglected in historical accounts, Thunder in the Mountains is the only available book-length account of the crisis in American industrial relations and governance that occurred during the West Virginia mine war of 1920-21.

Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880-1922

by David A. Corbin

Between 1880 and 1922, the coal fields of southern West Virginia witnessed two bloody and protracted strikes, the formation of two competing unions, and the largest armed conflict in American labor history --- a week-long battle between 10,000 coal miners and 3,000 state police, deputy sheriffs, and mine guards.

 

These events resulted in an untold number of deaths, indictments of over 550 coal miners for insurrection and treason, and four declarations of martial law. Corbin argues that these violent events were collective and militant acts of aggression interconnected and conditioned by decades of oppression.

 

When Miners March: The Story of Coal Miners in West Virginia

By William C. Blizzard

Over half a century ago, William Blizzard wrote the story of coal miners in West Virginia.

 

His father was the fearless Bill Blizzard, who led the Red Neck Army that marched toward Logan’s Blair Mountain in 1921, and who later led UMWA District 17 during the unionization of West Virginia’s southern coalfields. Blizzard’s new account of the Battle of Blair Mountain is sure to become a classic.

 

 

The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Union Uprising

by Robert Shogan

In this concise, dramatic and authoritative account of the bloody 1921 encounter between the mine workers and mine owners of the West Virginia coalfields—the most tumultuous labor battle in American history—Shogan gives us a strikingly vivid post-WWI America both utterly foreign and oddly familiar. A former political reporter for Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times, Shogan is as much good feature writer as historian. Out of a confusing and often still-disputed series of events, he sets scenes and fills in necessary background with an unfussy narrative drive. Such well-known figures as the mercurial Mother Jones and the stalwart Samuel Gompers have their roles, as do a pair of presidents (Wilson and Harding), whose dithering made a difficult situation worse. Less familiar figures such as the organizer Sid Hatfield and the detective C.E. Lively are drawn with lifelike strokes. Police raids and deportations, bombs sent through the mail and a general air of panic and "red" hysteria build as miners and owners move inexorably toward their ultimate confrontation. The tragic outcome of the battle between a group of mountain people and the full power of the emerging superstate is inevitable.  With WWI hero (and later state senator) Billy Mitchell's biplanes ready to bomb civilians 15 years before Guernica.

MATEWAN BEFORE THE MASSACRE: "POLITICS, COAL AND THE ROOTS OF CONFLICT IN A WEST VIRGINIA MINING COMMUNITY" (WEST VIRIGINIA & APPALACHIA)

By REBECCA J. BAILEY

On May 19, 1920, gunshots rang through the streets of Matewan, West Virginia, in an event soon known as the “Matewan Massacre.” Most historians of West Virginia and Appalachia see this event as the beginning of a long series of tribulations known as the second Mine War. But was it instead the culmination of an even longer series of proceedings that unfolded in Mingo County, dating back at least to the Civil War? Matewan Before the Massacre provides the first comprehensive history of the area, beginning in the late eighteenth century continuing up to the Massacre. It covers the relevant economic history, including the development of the coal mine industry and the struggles over land ownership; labor history, including early efforts of unionization; transportation history, including the role of the N&W Railroad; political history, including the role of political factions in the county’s two major communities—Matewan and Williamson; and the impact of the state’s governors and legislators on Mingo County.

The Goldenseal Book of the West Virginia Mine Wars,

Edited by Ken Sullivan

Goldenseal magazine published some of the best articles ever written about the tragic West Virginia mine wars.

 

This book compiles 19 of those articles, covering happenings from the governor’s office in Charleston to the bloodstained steps of the McDowell County Courthouse. Numerous historic photographs illustrate the volume.

 

 

King Coal: A Pictorial Heritage of West Virginia Coal Mining

By Stan Cohen

King Coal, largely through photographs, explores the history of underground coal mining in West Virginia.

 

It wasn't until after the Civil War, and the arrival of the railroad, that coal mining became big business in the Mountain State. King Coal offers an overview of West Virginia's most critical and formative industry, discussing and illustrating mining methods and operations, the geology of the state, life in a coal town, the unrest in the coalfields and more.

 

The Secret Life and Brutal Death of Mamie Thurman

By Keith Davis

This is the true account of a prominent, Depression-era woman from southern West Virginia, who was found brutally murdered. Mamie Thurman was a member of the tight-lipped, local aristocracy that frequented a private club in downtown Logan, where they gambled, drank illegally, swapped wives, and lived the decadent high life.

 

A local handyman was likely framed for her murder and spent the rest of his life in prison. However, new evidence points to several groups, from the mob to the KKK, to rumrunners and local merchants, as having a part in this gruesome account.

 

Ghost of 22 Mountain

The true story of a Mamie Thurman, who met death under the most brutal and mysterious circumstances imaginable. Of the dozens of people who might have killed Mamie only one paid the price. He was a black man who served as a handyman on the property where Mamie Thurman lived.  However, it is unlikely that Clarence Stephenson was the guilty party.

 

There were many others who could have killed the lovely Mamie and all were members of the elite in the small town of Logan, West Virginia. Mamie was a promiscuous flapper who wanted to climb the social ladder but ended up in a ditch with her throat slashed and two bullet holes in her head.    Who killed Mamie? Ghost of 22 Mountain offers the enticing story of all the candidates, while leaving the decision up to you.

 

The Right Stuff

By Tom Wolfe

The story begins in the late 1940s, when Americans were first attempting to break the sound barrier. Test pilots, we discover, are people who live fast lives with dangerous machines, not all of them airborne. Chuck Yeager was certainly among the fastest, and his determination to push through Mach 1--a feat that some had predicted would cause the destruction of any aircraft--makes him the book's guiding spirit.  Soon the focus shifts to the seven initial astronauts.

 

Wolfe traces Alan Shepard's suborbital flight and Gus Grissom's embarrassing panic on the high seas after splashdown.   The author also produces an admiring portrait of John Glenn's apple-pie heroism and selfless dedication. By the time Wolfe concludes with a return to Yeager and his late-career exploits, the narrative's epic proportions and literary merits are secure. Certainly The Right Stuff is the best, the funniest, and the most vivid book ever written about America's manned space program.

 

Yeager: An Autobiography

by Chuck Yeager

People who know nothing else about aviation know that it was Chuck Yeager who broke the sound barrier.   Bona fide heroes are a rare breed, and while Chuck Yeager would be the first to deny he was one, his life story tells a different tale. Here he describes his early life in the hills of West Virginia; his years as fighter pilot in World War II, where he was shot down in occupied France and escaped with the help of the French Resistance; his love of flying.

 

His coolness under pressure; his knowledge of how everything on his plane worked; and his extraordinary luck saved his life in many instances. Brash, opinionated, stubborn and given to wild antics, Yeager also comes across as a man of integrity and courage. Yeager both lived and made aviation history. He tells his story vividly and pulls no punches in describing the events and the people who made history with him.

 

Chuck Yeager and the Bell X-1: Breaking the Sound Barrier

By Dominick A. Pisano, F. Robert van der Linden and Frank H. Winter.  Chuck Yeager (Foreword)

Each year, millions of visitors flock to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to look at the Bell X-1 aircraft-the vehicle in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947. This in-depth look at the legendary aircraft tells the story of this momentous achievement-how the technology was developed, conflicts were resolved, and Yeager and his fellow pilots became the heroic figures depicted in The Right Stuff.

 

A wealth of historical photographs of the Bell X-1 enriches the text, which includes such fascinating material as Yeager's official memo about the historic flight. This is as close as readers will ever get to being inside the aircraft that paved the way for supersonic flight, thus ushering in the era of space exploration.

 

Press On!

By Chuck Yeager and Charles Leerhsen

In this informal account written with Newsweek editor Leerhsen, the sound-barrier-busting air pioneer recalls hunting and fishing adventures, and talks interestingly about his passion for fixing machines and growing up in West Virginia. His wife Glennis, pal Bud Anderson, brother Hal and several other friends and admirers chime in now and then, filling in details the taciturn general leaves out. Anderson, for instance, thinks fun is Yeager's middle name, and offers examples of his aggressive pursuit of it in far-flung wildernesses. Hal remarks that his brother "will never be confused with Leo Buscaglia," and goes on to discuss the emotional self-control and stoicism that is a family tradition. The general himself comes across as a likable, uncomplicated guy with a wry sense of humor.

The Quest for Mach One: A First-Person Account of Breaking the Sound Barrier

For the first time, the exciting inside story of breaking the sound barrier as told by Chuck Yeager and his X-1 team members. World renowned stunt pilot Bob Hoover was Yeager's chase pilot that fateful morning. It is a beautifully illustrated book with 125 photos, many from the authors’ private collections that have never been seen by the public before. It also includes a chapter on famous aviatrix and motion picture stunt pilot Pancho Barnes and her Happy Bottom Riding Club. Pancho offered a free steak to the first man to break the sound barrier (Mach One) and Yeager collected that steak on Oct. 14th 1947. Pancho's Club was the fraternity house for the test pilots, where they could share lessons learned in flying the new jets and celebrate surviving for one more day.  It is a brilliant saga of dedication to duty, team work, camaraderie, technical brilliance, unmatched flying skills and heroism. These men are true heroes and role models for today’s youth.

Rocket Boys

By Homer Hickam

On one level, it's the story of a teenage boy who learns about dedication, responsibility, thermodynamics and girls. On the other hand, it's about a dying way of life in a coal town where the days are determined by the rhythms of the mine and the company that controls everything and everybody. Hickam's father is Coalwood, WV's mine superintendent, whose devotion to the mine is matched only by his wife's loathing for it. When Sputnik inspires "Sonny" with an interest in rockets, she sees it not as a hobby but as a way to escape the mines. After an initial, destructive try involving 12 cherry bombs, Sonny and his cronies set up the Big Creek Missile Agency (BCMA) which progresses from Auk I (top altitude, six feet), through Auk XXXI (top altitude, 31,000 feet).  But Coalwood is the real star here. Teachers, clergy, machinists, town gossips, union, management, everyone become co-conspirators in the BCMA's explosive three-year project.  It is a coming of age story set against our nation’s fascination with the possibility of man reaching into space.

The Coalwood Way

by Homer Hickam

In this follow-up to his bestselling autobiography Rocket Boys, Homer Hickam chronicles the eventful autumn of 1959 in his hometown, the West Virginia mining town of Coalwood. Sixteen-year-old Homer and his pals in the Big Creek Missile Agency are high school seniors, still building homemade rockets and hoping that science will provide them with a ticket into the wider world of college and white-collar jobs. Such dreams make them suspect in a conservative small town where "getting above yourself" is the ultimate sin and where Homer's father, superintendent of the Coalwood mines, is stingy with praise and dubious about his son's ambitions. Homer's mother remains supportive, but bluntly reminds him, "You can't expect everything to go your way. Sometimes life just has another plan." Indeed, Hickam's unvarnished portrait of Coalwood covers class warfare (union miners battling with his authoritarian father), provincial narrow-mindedness (the local ladies scorn a young woman living outside wedlock with a man who abuses her), and endless gossiping along the picket "fence line." These sharp details make the unabashed sentiment of the book's closing chapters feel earned rather than easy. Hickam can spin a gripping yarn and keep multiple underlying themes and metaphors going at the same time. His tender but gritty memoir will touch readers' hearts and minds.