SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Thugs, Hell-Raisers And The Highly-Impaired


Was the town threatened by these Grantsville boys in 1912?
Would they now be able to abide by Grantsville's pending curfew,
or would they land in one of the area's regional jails?

By Bob Weaver

In this tiny slice of America, Spav Stump was once the jailer and court bailiff, not a refined man, who sometimes got drunk and let himself in a cell (for which he had a key) to sleep it off.

Yes, just like Mayberry's Otis.

The Grantsville town cop would gather up law-breakers who crossed the line or who crossed him, placing them behind bars for a few hours until they cooled down, or if the offense was bad enough, a hearing before a higher authority.

Charlie "Spav" Stump

On Saturday night, it was expected that a few revelers out in the county would come to town and get drunk, raise hell, break a few windows, and throw some punches, if only for entertainment purposes.

Officials understood the concept of "cool-down."

In 1928 there was what amounted to be a riot in the Village of Hur on election day, fired by the passion of whiskey and political convictions, voters slugged it out and nearly killed each other for nearly two hours.

The sheriff came from Grantsville and arrested the most despicable and took them to jail for a few days. The rest he wrote fines.

One man died.

It was a scene from the old west, cowboy justice, with Hur's citizens resolving the conflict during Sunday's church service, or continuing the feud with a few fist fights down on Barnes Run.

Bryan Ward

Alcoholism was a problem then, as it is today, but town cops Bryan Ward or Dudley Lutz would perform a valuable community service, now called detox, with little opposition and no legal complications.

Mental hygiene problems, now a process which takes nearly a day, was a quick acting system of placing the unfortunate person in protective custody, after which a local doctor would give the person a "shot" to quiet them down, waiting for improvement.
The mental hygiene process is now so burdensome and complicated, those who really need help, often don't get it.

       Dudley Lutz

The current mental health system pretends it is serving such rural areas as Calhoun County, and citizens and officials are more perplexed than ever about what to do.

If you don't have "reimbursement," you'd better ask God for direct intervention, or find the nearest neighbor to provide counseling.

Community life was once riddled with "characters," widely accepted as fascinating people who lent their dispositions to the social texture. It would have been easy to declare most of them "mental."

They were widely accepted.

See Rex McCartney was Grantsville Police Chief for well over 30 years

It is confusing that West Virginia is said to have one of the lowest crime rates in America, is among the safest places to live, an aging population that tends not to act out toward one another. Yet at the same time we're locking up more people than ever before.

The federal and state government declared that local jails could not meet their rigorous standards, and have built a multi-multi-million dollar system of containers that are now jam-packed, over-crowded.

The number of WV prison inmates has risen from 1,575 in 1990 to 5,252 in 2005. America has more people locked-up than any country in the world. So does West Virginia, per capita, even with a declining population.

It is hard to believe West Virginia and Calhoun County has become a more dangerous place with more dangerous felons these past 15 years.

It is costing WV taxpayers $70 million annually, not including the millions of dollars to construct the jails and pay their debt load.

It is a frivolous thought that some of the antiquated ways of dealing with the human condition might actually work again.

Sunny Cal was once operated by the under-educated and ill-informed, who just didn't understand the gravity of problems.

We're compelled to believe that times have changed, and Spav Stump, Dudley Lutz and Bryan Ward, were just crusty characters themselves who had no training and lacked enlightenment.

The smarter we've become and the more rules we make, assures that life is better.

Photo Credits
Bryan Ward - courtesy of Mary Jane Smith Ball
Dudley Lutz - from the Morris Bower collection
Charlie "Spav" Stump - from the collection of the late Gladys Weaver Stump