WELCH — The city of Welch was host to multiple events celebrating the history of the Battle of Blair Mountain Saturday.
The day in Welch started at noon with the reenactment of the murder of Sid Hatfield & Ed Chambers at the McDowell County Courthouse by actors from the McArts Fine Arts Organization.
Michelle Whittaker, director of the McArts productions for the Blair Centennial, said the reenactment serves as a way to also discuss the different perspectives of what actually happened that day since no one will ever truly know all of the details.
“It is just a reenactment of the shooting in itself, where Sid Hatfield and Ed Chambers were gunned down on the courthouse steps there in Welch,” Whittaker said. “That’s what sparked the Battle of Blair Mountain. They had came to Welch to give a deposition at the courthouse, and when they left their motel and came up the street they were approached by Baldwin-Felts detectives on the steps of the courthouse.”
After the reenactment, a showing of “Matewan” took place down the street at the Pocahontas Theatre.
“Matewan” is the 1987 film written and directed by John Sayles that dramatizes the events of the Matewan massacre, and the events that led to the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921.
The McArts actors finished the celebration in Welch Saturday with a performance of “The Terror of the Tug,” an outdoor drama based on the West Virginia coal mine wars and the story of the murder of Sid Hatfield and Ed Chambers on the steps of the McDowell County Courthouse.
Written by Jean Battlo of Kimball, “The Terror of the Tug” focuses on southern West Virginia miners’ fight to join the United Mine Workers of America, resulting in the murder of Hatfield and Chambers on the steps of the Courthouse in Welch in August 1921. This is a pivotal event in the struggles of the miners and their families that later led to the Battle of Blair Mountain. The play is based on the true events with some fictionalized elements.
“When you watch it you’re getting the view of four storytellers,” Whittaker said. “You have a shoe salesman who is actually a Baldwin-Felts detective, you have a coal miner, you have Mother Jones and you have C.E. Lively, which rumor has it he was hired by the Baldwin-Felts detective to kill Sid. You’re getting the views from each one of them.”
Whittaker said the play also features scenes from other key points in mine wars history, such as the Matewan Massacre.
These three events were a part of the statewide celebration to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain.