Appalachia, ballads, Clayton Buchanan, crime, history, John C. Elkins, John Harrington Cox, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Logan County Jail, Logan Court House, Market Square, Moundsville, music, West Virginia Folklore Society, West Virginia University
“Logan County Court House” or “Logan County Jail” is one of several songs written about events in Logan County, West Virginia. From the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, dated 24 September 1926, we find this:
“For a dual purpose The Banner herewith reproduces one of the four known variants of the song entitled “Logan County Court House.” In the first place it should be of interest to those who have never read it or any similar version. Secondly, this paper is desirous of learning something about the authorship of the song.
“Who wrote it? And when and under what circumstances? Many a Banner reader may have some information on this matter which he or she should be willing to communicate.
“The variants of this song are reproduced in Prof. John Harrington Cox’s volume of ‘Folk-Songs of the South’ published last year. The following one was sent to that author, a member of the faculty of West Virginia University, by Miss Snoah McCourt, of Ornoff, Webster county, this state:
When I was a little boy, I worked on Market Square.
O’ money I did pocket, but I never did it fair.
I rode upon the lakes and learned to rob and steal,
And when I made a great haul, how happy I did feel.
I used to wear the white hat, my horse an’ buggy fine.
I used to court a pretty girl I always thought was mine.
I courted her for beauty, her love for me was great.
And when I’d go to see her, she’d meet me at the gate.
One night as I lay sleeping, I dreamed a mighty dream.
That I was marching down on the golden stream.
I woke all broken-hearted, in Logan County jail,
And not a friend around me for to go my bail.
Down came the jailer about ten o’clock,
And the key in his hand he shoved against the lock.
“Cheer up, cheer up, my prisoner!” I thought I heard him say.
“You’re going around to Moundsville, seven long years to stay.”
Down came the jailer about ten o’clock,
And with the key in his hand he shoved against the lock.
“Cheer up, cheer up, my prisoner!” I thought I heard him say,
“You’re going around to Moundsville, seven long years to stay.”
Down came my true love, ten dollars in her hand.
“O my dearest darling, I’ve done all that I can!
And may the Lord be with you, wherever you may go,
And Satan snatch the jury for sending you below.”
Sitting in the railroad, waiting for the train,
“I am going away to leave you, to wear the ball and chain.
I’m going away to leave you. Darling, don’t you cry.
Take a glass of whiskey and let it all pass by.”
A subsequent story printed on 28 September 1926, provided more information about the song’s history:
“Publication in last Friday’s Banner of the old ‘Logan County Jail’ song, with an inquiry as to its authorship, has brought a reward in the form of an interesting letter from John C. Elkins of the sheriff’s office. This letter reveals the name of the songwriter, and gives a glimpse into his life after his soul found a measure of relief in rime and rhythm.
“Doubtless many of those who last week read the song for the first time and others who re-read it with more or less eagerness will be interested and even pleased to learn that the prisoner escaped from jail and a long term at Moundsville: went west, reformed, and entered the ministry; then in the flickering twilight of his eventful life, he came back to die amid the mountains he loved so well.
“Here is the letter dated Sept. 27, which outlines the strange story:
“Question: Who was the author of the song ‘The Logan County Jail’?
“Answer: This song was composed by a Logan county boy whose childhood had been thrilled by the horrors of the war of 1861-65. His song tells the story of his life, his crime, his sentence, his thoughts of and goodbye to the girl he left behind, the invitation to take a glass of whiskey and let all worries pass by. He climbed the prison walls and made his escape into the west. There he became a minister. Some years later, broken in health, he returned to his native county and died about 20 years ago. The song was written 50 years ago and its author was Clayton Buchanan.
“To the Banner these revelations come with an irresistible appeal; and while thanking Mr. Elkins, the regret is expressed that he did not go into greater detail in unfolding this story–a story teeming with dramatic values.”
One additional story about the song appeared in the Banner on 5 October 1926:
“What the Banner has been publishing in recent issues relative to the authorship of the ‘Logan County Jail’ song has been read with interest by Prof. John H. Cox, head of the department of English, West Virginia University. It was from his book, ‘Folk Songs of the South,’ that this song was reproduced in these columns.
“From Prof. Cox the following letter dated September 30 was received by The Banner:
“This is to thank you for the clipping from The Logan Banner concerning the origin of the song, ‘Logan County Jail.’ It is very interesting and I have no doubt it is correct. I wonder if any records of Clayton Buchanan’s trial are in Logan County courthouse? I should like very much to have the details of the crime, the trial, the escape, and the death of this man for the files of the West Virginia Folk-Lore Society, of which I happen to be the president, archivist, and general editor. Could you not prevail upon Mr. John C. Elkins either to write out or dictate to some stenographer all that he knows about the case and have it printed in The Banner? It would be a real worthwhile piece of work.
“You may be interested to know that I am at work on a second volume of West Virginia Folk-lore, a volume which we hope to make as interesting and valuable as the first. We shall be glad to have any material of any kind that may be found.
“John H. Cox
“34 Campus Driveway
“P.S. A transcript of the record in the courthouse, if there is one, would be especially valuable.”
From the Logan Banner of Logan, West Virginia, dated January 5, 1911, we find this editorial:
“The bounteous harvest of holiday business is past, and the so-called dull season is upon our business man. But why a dull season? Some of our business men are going around with a face as long as a shingle, and to see them and hear them talk about dull business reminds one of a man in the last stages of consumption who is resigned to his fate. They appear as though they see bankruptcy staring them in the face. What they need is a little stiffening of the backbone. They need not expect business to be as good as it was through the holiday season, but they should remember that the people of this generation must be fed and clothed and furnished with whatever comforts they can afford, and as long as this is the case, there will be a continued demand for goods and merchandise of all kinds, and business will go on in the same old way. The trouble with the business men of this city is that they talk down instead of talking up. If the merchant talks dull times, the farmer, the miner, the teamster, the carpenter, the professional man and all others will catch the contagion, and then business will be dull, but if they take an optimistic view of the matter and talk up, the opposite will be the result.
There is no county in the state, and probably not in the union, that has a more brilliant future than Logan. Logan is today the best town of the state of its size, and it has much to be proud of. The coming year will witness greater development throughout the county than any two previous years, and instead of our business men going around with their lips hung down, they should be right now planning a vigorous campaign to capture their fair share of the prosperity that is sure to abound. Let them rouse themselves from the lethargy which now enshrouds them and be up and doing. Logan is all right. The fault is your own if you do not prosper. It is here for you. If you don’t get it, it will be your own fault. With the railroad going on up the river, and new coal operations opening up within sight of one another, and with our fine quality of coal and timber, nothing but Divine intervention can keep the Guyan Valley from blossoming as the rose. Stop your whining or get off the earth. Take hold and boost or the wheels of progress will mash you into smithereens.
Logan is all right.
It may be that you are too slow to keep up.
Appalachia, Bob Bryant, Calvary Bryant, Con Chafin, crime, Cush Chambers, Floyd Bryant, genealogy, Harts Creek, Henderson Bryant, history, Logan, Logan Banner, Logan County, Marion Bryant, moonshine, moonshining, Nellie Bryant, prosecuting attorney, Robert Bland, West Virginia
In a story titled “111 True Bills Found By Grand Jury Which Submits Final Report” and printed in the Logan Banner of Logan, WV, on October 12, 1926, we find this item (excerpted here):
“Concluding a four-day session the grand jury made its final report and was discharged last night by Circuit Judge Robert Bland. There were 111 indictments returned, 66 for felonies and 45 for misdemeanors–a total somewhat larger than the average for Logan county grand juries. Names of those indicted are withheld from publication for the reason that some persons involved are not in custody. Capiases will be issued forthwith for those indicted and not in jail, while those in jail and all who are apprehended without delay will be arraigned very soon. Court attaches are of the opinion that none of these will be tried until next month as there was already a big criminal docket. However, considerable progress has been made so far. Having caught up with the calendar, court adjourned yesterday morning for the remainder of the day, after a short session.
“Victory has come to the Bryants, who live on Old House Branch of Harts Creek, and who were indicted for operating a still last December. The joint indictment embraced Hent Bryant and his sons Calvary, Bob, and Floyd. When the case was called on Tuesday the defendants elected to be tried separately, whereupon Prosecuting Attorney Con Chafin chose to try Calvary first. There was a large volume of testimony for each side. The case was submitted to the jury without argument at 9 o’clock Tuesday night and in a few minutes a verdict of acquittal was returned. C.C. Chambers represented the defense.
“The State’s evidence showed that an official raiding party found a spot about three-fourths of a mile from the Bryant home where a still had been in operation and where a quantity of mash had been poured out shortly before the arrival of the officers. The Bryant premises were then searched, but no still or whiskey was found. However, Marion Bryant, a cousin of Calvary, testified that Calvary had employed him to assist him in the operation of a still.
“From the Bryants there came positive denials of any interest in any still or of any knowledge of a still having ever been in operation at the spot in the woods where the officers thought that they had made a significant discovery. The defense attacked the credibility of Marion Bryant’s testimony, claiming that he was actuated by spite. It was testified by members of the family that Marion, after staying at Hent Bryant’s home for a while and doing odd jobs, had been requested to leave; that he made threats against the family at that time because Nellie Bryant, a daughter of Hent, spurned his love and his proposals of marriage.
“After the jury returned its verdict, the cases against the other Bryants were continued to the next regular term.”
The Lincoln County Courthouse located in Hamlin, WV, burned in 1909. Most county records since 1867 were destroyed by fire. The following story provides some useful information on the reconstructed courthouse.
New Court House for Lincoln
After a year and a half of waiting Lincoln county is now assured of a new court house, which will be erected on the old site, which will be a credit to the county, and a lasting monument to those who were instruments in securing the erection.
The burning of the old court house marks the greatest epoch in the history of Lincoln county, and nothing but the undaunted courage of a people born and reared among the hills of Lincoln county, prevented a period of utter chaos.
A splendid temporary organization was effected, temporary quarters secured as a court house, and official quarters, until, but for the destruction of some records which can never be replaced, the average citizen hardly realizes that on the 19th day of November, 1909, Lincoln county suffered a loss, which ordinarily, would have retarded the growth and development of the county for a decade.
The contract is awarded to the Falls City Construction Company, of Louisville, Ky., one of the largest building concerns in the United States, at a cost of $71,000.00 and was secured by them by competitive bids, the next closest bid being $73,750.00.
Work will be started on the new building within the next 30 days, and by January 1, 1912, the County will have its new home completed.
Source: Logan (WV) Democrat, 11 May 1911