MATEWAN, W.Va. – For 16 years people from as far away as England and South Africa have enjoyed the Matewan Massacre Reenactment. The story tells of a bloody battle on May, 19, 1920 between residents and officials in the town of Matewan, W.Va. And Baldwin-Felts Detectives, who were hired by Stone Mountain Coal Company to evict the union miners from their residences. When the battle was over three towns people including the Mayor and seven detectives had lost their lives.
Donna Paterino, started the event and eight years ago the West Virginia Culture of History started funding the play. According to Paterino, upwards to 700 people have been at one performance. The group performs eight to ten times a year and is made up of on average 28 members, all volunteers with ages ranging from 16 months to 68 years old.
Props used in the play are constructed by volunteers also. An interesting piece of information shared by Mrs. Paterino is the suitcases used in the play actually belonged to the Testerman family and they were salvaged from the residence before its destruction. Cabell Testerman was the Mayor of Matewan at the time of the Massacre and was one of the people who lost their life that day.
Each year in May, the town celebrates with entertainment in Matewan’s plaza and a re-enactment of the Matewan Massacre, a shootout between UMWA miners, Police Chief Sid Hatfield and Baldwin-Felts detectives that happened on May 19, 1920.
The show was performed on Saturday at the future site of the Amphitheater in Matewan at 11 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. there were approximately 250 people in the audience during the first performance and an impressive turnout for the second performance at 3:00 p.m. even though the rain did not cooperate.
The next performance will be on June 10 during the Matewan Heritage Days.
(Kendra Mahon is a reporter for the Gilbert Times and Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected])