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sid hatfieldIn the early spring of 1920, unorganized coal miners in Mingo County, West Virginia began seeking to join the UMWA. The coal operators became alarmed by the organizing activity and locked out the miners. On May 19, 1920, twelve men were killed at Matewan, West Virginia in a gun fight in which the local police and the people of Matewan faced a group of hoodlums hired by the infamous Baldwin Felts Detective Agency at the behest of the coal operators to unlawfully evict miners from their homes.

In the Matewan battle, Albert Felts, wearing a badge as a "deputy sheriff" of Harlan County, Kentucky, fired the first shot but was killed by Matewan Chief of Police Sid Hatfield. Hatfield had warned the thugs that they had no legal warrants to evict the citizens of Matewan and that he would not permit eviction without proper legal procedures. Felts then attempted to forcibly arrest the Chief of Police. Felts had been one of the chief gunmen used by the coal operators in the Ludlow, Colorado massacre in 1914, in which twenty persons were killed, including twelve women and children who were burned alive in their tents.

Sid Hatfield, a hero to West Virginia miners, was himself killed in August of 1921 in Welch, West Virginia by C. E. Lively, a Baldwin Felts gunman. Hatfield's murder was in all likelihood a set-up. He was arrested on July 28 on an allegation that he had shot up the town of Mohawk more than a year before. He was taken from his home town of Matewan to McDowell County, West Virginia, a stronghold of anti-UMWA coal operators. As he entered the court house with Ed Chambers, who had been called as a witness, both were shot down in front of their wives by Lively and two other gunmen. No charges were brought against Lively or the other murderers.

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