Episode Transcript 2: The Ghost of 22 Mine Road

The Mountain Mysteries

Episode 3

The Ghost of 22 Mine Road

The Mountain Mystery of

Mamie Thurman

Have you ever had an encounter or experience with a ghost? Do you even believe in that kind of thing? Some people believe in the spirits and other’s simply do not. According to a CBS news poll, nearly half of Americans say they do believe, or that spirits can return in certain places and situations. Maybe a sudden and violent death led to unrest or maybe it’s unfinished business. Whatever their reasons, if they do return, many speculate that they are trying to get some message across. This Mountain Mystery is about what many people in Logan West Virginia and many surrounding areas believe is just that. The ghost of a woman that still wanders a small country back road where her body was discovered nearly a century ago. Some say she is looking for justice after her murder in 1932, and that she is so adamant, she’ll push your car back up the hill, towards where her earthly remains were discovered. This, is The Mountain Mystery of Mamie Thurman…

22 Mine Road in quiet Logan West Virginia has converted some doubters into believers and strengthened the resolve of the belief in others. Legends and rumors have it that the apparition of Mamie Thurman, a young Logan socialite viciously murdered here, still roams this small country back road in the heart of the Appalachians just off Hiway U.S. 119 in Logan county, but who was Mamie Thurman? Who killed her? And…why?

Born Sept 12, 1900 in Louisville Kentucky as Mamie Morrison, to her father George A. Morrison and an unknown mother, Mamie married Jack Thurman around 1920 and moved to Logan WV from Bradfordsville Kentucky around 1924 at the height of the roaring twenties when money, speak easy alcohol and a lot of other things were flowing a lot more freely. Prohibition had already begun on January 17, 1920 and was well underway, not seeing its end until December 5 1933. Getting a drink legally then wasn’t an option. Of course, that didn’t stop those who wanted a drink, then, like now…money could get you almost anything you wanted.

Jack Thurman found work when he and Mamie came to Logan as a cop on the graveyard shift from 6pm till 6am. That was in no small part thanks to a man named Harry Robertson – who was the President of the Logan City Commission and worked as a bookkeeper at the Guyan valley bank, which was also known as the old stone bank. You’ll hear his name over and again quite a bit.

Jack and Mamie moved into a small two room apartment above the garage of Harry and Louise Robertson in their back yard. Before the depression hit after the stock market crash of ‘29, Logan was the center of trade for coal and timber, so this was a practical boom town. Money and favors flowed freely in the small town, but nothing or nowhere was safe from the holds of the great depression.

Now, I couldn’t find a lot about either Jack or Mamie before moving to Logan, but I can only speculate that either she hid things rather well, or just hadn’t come out of her shell so to speak. With Jack being in the police force and having developed a solid rapport with Harry, this put Jack and Mamie in the throes of Logan’s social exclusives. People who had powerful political connections, coal barons, plus a lot of bankers, lenders and people who oversaw Logan’s money matters in the day for both the county and city.

Mamie was known to be a very smart woman and an active member in the Logan community, including church and business matters, but she had another side that she managed to keep hidden from almost everyone, save for a few…she was a lively person who apparently said to hell with being conservative. She wore bright red lipstick, tons of makeup and very snug form fitting dresses. She was a hottie as they say now days. While this sounds tame by the standards of 2021, remember this all was going down in the early 1930’s, a fart in the wind was scandalous. In a 1985 article written by Dwight Williamson, Williamson declared Mamie Thurman as a depression era version of an 80s liberated woman. Many in Logan called her the Vixen of Stratton Street and a temptress.

It was around 1930 that Mamie Thurman began the affair with Harry Robertson and they both managed to keep this low key for about two years, with neither Louise Robertson nor Jack Thurman suspecting a thing. Many didn’t suspect much of anything, but I can’t help but think there were those who had to know what was going on. Logan is not a metropolitan area, it’s rural America, and then the population was a little over 4,300 people according to census records.

Logan had a highly secretive social club with a speak easy sense that some called the Amen club, which was located on the upper floors of the Holland building on Stratton Avenue. While there, Robertson and Mamie rubbed elbows with Logan’s upper echelon, as well as their wives, girlfriends, hell sometimes even both. At the time, her husband was at work walking the beats as a cop, his wife was often with Harry Robertson, and maybe a few others, 16 she claimed in fact that were all higher up and powerful members of Logan’s political structure. She was said to had kept a list of all their names also. But, nearly nine decades later, that list has still never been seen. That alone would give me 16 different suspects with enough reason to commit the murder. But Logan was said to have had a lot of crooked politicians and power structures then. Jack Thurman later said he assumed his wife Mamie was at home while he was at work. Well, he missed the ball on that call.

The Amen club wasn’t the only place Mamie and Harry went to play, on many occasions it’s reported that that they were driven, perhaps by Clarence Stephenson to isolated lover’s lanes in the county.

Now, Clarence Stephenson was a twenty-nine-year-old black man from Chattanooga Tennessee who had been in Logan for around nine years, and was known to be Harry Robertson’s handy man, servant, and according to Harry himself, his friend. In early 1932, Stephenson moved into Robertson’s attic and made a home there. He was often known to chauffer Harry Robertson around, and take care of his dogs while Harry hunted. By all accounts they were indeed good friends. Apparently, Clarence thought a lot of Harry’s friendship, answering to many of his beck and calls.

The Robertson Thurman affair was kept on the down low for about 2 years, Louise Robertson, Harry’s wife was the first to find out. She didn’t leave him but said later she tried to talk Harry out of the thing. When that didn’t work, Louise cut all friendly ties with Mamie and Jack.

June 21, 1932. Robertson and Thurman had planned another meeting for that evening but the get together was called off by Robertson for some reason. Sometime during those evening hours, Harry Robertson grows tense, he knows he’s not the only person Mamie is intimately involved with, it was stated Mamie had given him the list of the 16 names of other men that Mamie was involved with. Robertson sends Stephenson out, telling him to keep an eye out for Mamie. Stephenson watched Mamie leaver her apartment around 7pm and start walking down Main Street, at was then Robertson told Stephenson to drive to where Fannette Jones lived, who ran a boarding house on high street. This spot was a popular meeting place for Robertson and Thurman, but Stephenson said he checked at the Jones place and found no sign of Thurman. Robertson told Stephenson to keep an eye out for Mamie around the social club. Around 9 that evening, Harry went to join his son at the smokehouse to listen to the radio broadcast of the Schnelling vs Sharkey heavyweight fight. Stephenson is to have remained looking for Mamie outside the club from 1045 to 1115 but never saw her.

It was shortly after this, the Stephens and Robertson returned home and turned in for the night. Not 6 hours later, Jack Thurman came home, and Mamie was nowhere to be found. Frantic, he begins calling people. Offering to help, Clarence Stephenson began driving Jack Thurman around Logan and the surrounding area with no signs of his wife to be found. Jack Thurman was completely unacquainted with events that at that moment, were happening 8 miles to the south.

Around 1 pm on Wednesday, June 22, 1932, Garland Davis, a 37-year-old deaf mute was picking berries along 22 mine road. There…about 25 feet from the side of the road, Davis happened across the dead body of Mamie Thurman. Her throat had been slashed from ear to hear, she had two 38 caliber gunshot wounds to the head. Davis got ahold of the authorities. WV Troopers CB Satterfield and CA Thompson from the Stallings detachment of the West Virginia State Police responded. There were also joined by the Logan city and county authorities. She still had her diamond wedding ring on, as well as close to nine dollars in her purse, which is the equivalent of around 172 dollars in 2021. She also had a pack of cigarettes and a worn case knife. It was at first thought this was the weapon used to cut her throat, and a slip of paper said the contain a license plate number. Chief of Logan police Meade Smeltzer identified the body.

A warrant was sworn out the same day her body was discovered by magistrate Elba Hatfield and Robertson and Stephenson were arrested around 830 that evening and take to the Logan jail for questioning. Robertson admitted to having an affair with Mamie and said he would tell his wife he was going fox hunting.

Thurman’s body was then taken to what was then named the Harris Funeral Home. Today, the building and funeral home still stand, under the name of the Honaker Funeral home. It wasn’t uncommon then for the funeral directors to conduct the autopsy and it was concluded that Mamie’s throat was most likely cut before the gunshots were fired, and that was the cause of death. Now, it was determined that she had died sometime between 6pm June 21 and 8am June 22. So, who had the motive to kill Mamie?

There were many in Logan who may have wanted to see Mamie dead, including the dozen or so wives of the lover’s she was said to had had. Then of course there was the possibility of her husband Jack, a scorn husband, but he was quickly ruled out because he was seen at the time of the murders and his whereabouts could be accounted for, however… it was reported that earlier that day, Mamie and Jack had the worst fight in their marriage up to that point, and she is said to have told him that had an affair with the mayor and was carrying his child. It’s said that Jack crumpled the floor and cried like a three-year-old while she walked out headed towards the mayor’s office. Further talk states that once she arrived, she told the then mayor that she was carrying his child and he exploded in anger, slapping her and telling her that she was a fool to think he’d give up his wife’s money and his position for a child that probably wasn’t even his. It’s said the Mamie, through tear filled eyes, told him he would regret what he had done to her as she stormed out of his office slamming the door in her wake.

Also, the KKK was active in the region, and they may have wanted to make an example of a young while woman who was said to have possibly been gifting sexual favors tp a black man. Continually active at that time and it had been rumored the Mamie had even done a sexual favor or two for Clarence Stephenson as well as Robertson. Then there were the groups like the so-called list of 16. The 16 men Mamie is said to have listed that she was involved with on an intimate nature. Some even suspected bootleggers or cocaine dealers. It seemed those with motives were everywhere and the I’m not certain anyone alibied out. I’m not even sure they would have had to give the fact that Mamie had a list of men she had been intimate with, and apparently, they were all powerful with ties and connections. The kind of people who can make problems or threatening situations disappear.

Mamie’s funeral was held Friday, June 24, 1932 at the Nighbert Methodist Memorial Church in Logan West Virginia where it’s said Mamie was a member, but the church apparently has no records to indicate her membership. This had to have been one of the strangest funerals held for anyone. Pastor Rev. B.C. Gamble and Reverend R. Cavarlee officiated. Now Gamble did not deliver a sermon, rather he read from the book of John about an adulteress who was brought before Jesus expecting to be stoned. Jesus told them, Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. After which the accusers all left. Jesus didn’t condemn the woman but told her to go and sin no more. Gamble then stated, develop your own sermon on that basis. Those words were followed by dead silence and weeping ensued, Mamie’s obituary was read, and the service was concluded. It was attended by 550 women and 30 men.

West Virginia state troopers made their way to the Thurman’s residence the day of the funeral and conducted a search in the Robertson home and found and found several blood-stained rags in the basement. Efforts had been made to remove stains from the basement floor that were thought to be human blood, but at the time the court refused to enter blood tests into evidence. A Charleston chemist, TA Borradalie later identified those stains as human blood. A razor was also found, and they discovered what appeared to be a bullet hole in the basement wall of the Robertson home.

Further searching found more blood stains on the window, seat and fender of Robertson’s car. The backseat had been removed and a six by eight-foot tarp placed over the back portion of the cars from seats. The car was mostly used to transport the hunting dogs when Robertson went fox hunting on 22 mountain where he owned a cabin. Mamie’s body was found about a mile from that cabin.

With the tense atmosphere in the town, county and surrounding areas over a white woman possibly being murdered by a black man, or that a black man had anything remotely to do with her, in a move out of a cloak and dagger novel, Stephenson was transported under the cover of darkness to next door Mingo county in Williamson where he stayed in jail there until the trial began.

An obviously worried Stephenson wrote a letter to his sister Josie Carpenter. In the letter, he asked his sister to take the letter to Louise Robertson, in which he said he would not do anything to hurt either her or Mr. Harry and asked Louise Robertson to stand up for her husband and himself, and they needed her.

Prosecutor Emmet F. Skaggs was under pressure to produce results, but if he was concerned about public opinion, he didn’t show it. He said that he wasn’t going to drag people into this thing for the purpose of getting even with them just to satisfy curiosity seekers. He further alluded that there were more than likely plenty of people in and around the city and county that knew a hell of a lot more than they were telling but do to the fact the so many of those involved were powerful, most people kept a common knowledge to themselves because they didn’t want to get involved for fear of spite and revengeful motives. A mindset that still exists in some places to this day.

A fellow name Oscar Townsfield also rented a room from Harry Robertson and worked with him at the bank. In interviews, he stated the Mrs. Robertson had ill feelings towards Mamie Thurman over the affair that Harry and Mamie had. Townsend also informed police that he had traded a 32-caliber pistol to Harry Robertson for a 38 caliber. The same caliber that was used to put two bullets in Mamie’s head.

Further investigation into Robertson’s Ford sedan revealed a blood clot under the rubber floor mat. It looked as if an attempt was made to wash the car, but the blood clot had clung to the floor mat of the vehicle.

On July 25th, 1932, it was standing room only in the Logan county courthouse. Many had started lining up at 6 in the morning and the courtroom was packed to and beyond capacity as people wanted to see the preliminary hearing of Harry Robertson and Clarence Stephenson whom both of which, had been arrested for the murder of Mamie Thurman.

That morning, Jack Thurman showed up at 10am sharp, he was pale but seemed composed as he made his way over to attorney Hatfield. Fifteen minutes later, Robertson and Stephenson were brought in under guard of WV state troopers Satterfield and Thompson. Stephenson was cuffed, Robertson… was not. Stephenson appeared calm and almost…resolute. While Robertson appeared nervous, constantly wetting his lips. Around 1035 Harry’s wife was escorted into the courthouse by Oscar Townsend, she walked over gingerly to her husband, kissed him on the cheek and had a quite conversation with him for about ten minutes.

Judge Estep and CC Chambers, attorneys for Robertson and Stephenson sat at one end of the table while prosecutors Hager and Skaggs set at the other. A lot of Logan county prominent citizens, some of which were associated with Harry Stephenson served on the grand jury.

When Harry Robertson took the stand, people were in for a shock as he held back no secrets in the description of an affair that went on for nearly two years with Mamie. He spoke of how he often met Mamie at a place called the Key Club, located in Logan. If Robertson’s testimony was to be believed, the club was frequented by several well-known businessmen and their lady friends. Apparently both men and women alike held a pass key and Robertson testified that drinking parties, illicit affairs and strange unions of all sorts took place at the club, which was also known as the Social Club and the Logan businessmen’s club. Robertson claimed the Mamie had given him the list of the 16 men she was supposed to be having affairs with a year previous when they both worked at the Guyan Valley Bank, stating that one of the men were dead, and all but three lived in the city, and all married with one exception.

There had been vigilante actions considered against Clarence Stephenson because not only of his color, but the rumors of his sexual encounters with Thurman as well. Robertson however testified that Clarence never had that kind of relationship with Mamie. When Stephenson testified at the trial, he spoke of the State Police moving him to Williamson from the Logan jail. They went the way of a place called pigeon roost over isolated Trace Mountain, which is now called 22 mine road. Two cars were parked alongside the road and shots were fired in their direction. According to Stephenson, the State Troopers indicated they thought it was the mob and asked if he were scared, urging him to tell all he knew, or it was likely he’d be taken off. Stephenson replied that if he were making a dying statement it would be that “I don’t know any more than I’ve told.”

At one point during the proceedings, Mr. Stephenson pointed toward the courtroom as if he were scared out of his mind but wouldn’t say what he saw. The prosecution asked him, “What do you see … Mrs. Thurman? Stephenson refused to answer.

On September 15, 1932, The Logan Banner newspaper headlines rang out HARRY ROBERTSON NOT INDICTED. Clarence Stephenson, however, was indicted and would stand trial for the murder of Mamie Thurman.

According to the Banner, witnesses at the trial accounted for every minute of Clarence Stephenson’s time up until eleven o’clock on the night of June 22, when Mrs. Robertson said he went up to his attic bedroom. Despite this fact however, the jury was only out for fifty-minutes before returning with a guilty verdict with the recommendation of mercy, which carried a life sentence. Stephenson’s attorney immediately entered a motion for a new trial.

On November 15, pleas from the Logan County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) went across the county to raise the six-hundred-dollars needed for the appeal. Fifty-six churches in Logan began taking donations. More than three thousand people attended a mass meeting held at Aracoma High School with both whites and blacks attending. Despite all the efforts, the Supreme Court turned down Stephenson’s appeal in 1933.

Stephenson was sent to Moundsville Prison on August 22, 1934. On June 11, 1939, he was transferred to Huttonsville Prison Farm where he died of stomachic carcinoma (stomach cancer) on April 24, 1942. He was buried on the prison farm May 2, 1942 almost ten years after the death of Mamie Thurman.

Norman Sloan, a Logan County resident who spent time in jail and prison with Stephenson, said “He told me he was hired to take the body to 22 Mountain, and that he didn’t do anything to Mamie Thurman. He never did say who killed her, but he said that he didn’t do it. Stephenson told me it was all politics.”

In 1983, Mamie's half-brother, George Morrison Jr., an assistant district attorney in New Mexico, returned to Logan to try to find out what happened to her and to purchase a headstone for her grave. He never found her grave. She was reported to be buried in Logan, Mamie Thurman's death certificate filed at the courthouse states she was buried at Logan Memorial Park in McConnell, West Virginia. Other records show that her body was transported to Bradfordsville, Kentucky. It remains a mystery to this day just where Mamie Thurman was buried. Some Speculate that a thousand dollars was paid to have her exhumed and hidden so no further investigation of the body could be conducted, but no one knows by whom.

Morrison Jr concluded in his own book, “Ghost Of 22 Mountain,” a fictional account of the story based on facts, that Clarence Stephenson was not guilty.

One of the scenarios, Morrison proposed in his book, was that Mamie may have had an illegal abortion that was botched. The bullets and other injuries were a ruse to cover up the procedure that had gone horribly wrong, based on Morrison's conjecture. Morrison also proposed Stephenson may have tried to get rid of the body for the doctor.

Many historians also raise suspicions of her husband, Jack, who had to have had at least some knowledge of some of her activities with other men. He testified, however, he did not.

There are also those who believe it could have been one of the 16 men on the infamous list or maybe a jealous wife.

In any case, if you’re ever in the area of Logan West Virginia near 22 Mine Road, stop by and say hello, and talk to Mamie. Just be warned, when you go to drive away and get to the bottom of the hill near US 119, you may not want to put your car in neutral, she may try to push you back up the hill, and oh…several people have claimed to see the ghost of Mamie Thurman, and heard her screams, on 22 Mountain Road where Mamie’s body was found.

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