January 19, 1894: John Hardy Hanged in Welch

Jan 19, 2017

John Hardy was hanged in the McDowell County seat of Welch on January 19, 1894.

Hardy was just one of tens of thousands of African Americans who poured into southern West Virginia in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work in the coal and railroad industries.
Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / WV Humanities Council

The black railroad worker had been convicted of murdering a man in a gambling dispute at present-day Eckman.

Hardy was just one of tens of thousands of African Americans who poured into southern West Virginia in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work in the coal and railroad industries.

Hardy’s hanging probably would have been the end of the story if not for a ballad written about the event. The song circulated by word of mouth, with the details changing over time.

Today, “John Hardy” is considered a standard in folk and bluegrass circles and has been performed by everyone from the Carter Family to Béla Fleck.