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 William Sidney “Sid” Hatfield

William Sidney “Sid” Hatfield

Pike County, Kentucky, USA
Death 1 Aug 1921 (aged 30)
Welch, McDowell County, West Virginia, USA
Burial Buskirk, Pike County, Kentucky, USA
Memorial ID 9980 · View Source
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Police Chief. Born in Blackberry, Pike Co., Kentucky, the tenth of twelve children of Jacob Hatfield, a tenant farmer, and his wife Rebecca Crabtree. A miner in his teens, he then became a blacksmith. He was nicknamed 'Smilin' Sid' because of his distinctive grin, showing gold-capped teeth. He seems to have had a reputation for hard living and fighting. In 1919, when the mining community of Matewan came under threat from the Baldwin-Felts Agency, the mayor, Cabell Cornelis Testerman, appointed him police chief. Sid was an effective lawman, keeping order in the mining town and standing up to the coal companies and the Baldwin-Felts agents as the miners fought for their right to organise. The Baldwin-Felts Agency offered him substantial bribes. He refused them all. In May 1920, he and Testerman resisted the Baldwin-Felts agents' forcible evictions of unionised miners. In the gun battle, known as the battle of Matewan or the Matewan Massacre, 7 of the 13 Baldwin-Felts men were killed, included Albert and Lee Felts, brothers of the agency's head. Two miners were killed, and Mayor Testerman was mortally wounded, apparently by Albert Felts. Several more men, on both sides, were wounded. Sid married Testerman's widow, Jessie, only a couple of weeks after her first husband's death. The trial over the Matewan gunfight took place in spring 1921, with the acquittal of Sid and the miners. The battle had given Hatfield a degree of celebrity. He appeared in a short film, Smilin' Sid, for the United Mine Workers (UMWA), and was photographed with other UMWA activists, including Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones. However, he was aware that his life was in danger from Felts, who sought vengeance for his brothers Albert and Lee. Sid lost his post as Chief of Police in Matewan, but was elected Constable for Magnolia District. He was sent to stand trial with his friend and deputy, Edward Chambers, on conspiracy charges for another incident, in Welch, West Virginia. Both men arrived in Welch on August 1, 1921, unarmed and accompanied by their wives. As they began to climb the steps to the courthouse, the two young men were gunned down by Baldwin-Felts agents, including Charlie Lively. Sid died almost instantly from three or four chest wounds; Lively finished off Edward with a shot in the head. Although the killers were charged, none was ever convicted of the murders. He was played by David Strathairn in John Sayles' 1987 film "Matewan."

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 18 Jun 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9980
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William Sidney “Sid” Hatfield (15 May 1891–1 Aug 1921), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9980, citing Buskirk Cemetery, Buskirk, Pike County, Kentucky, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .