Al Brumfield, Appalachia, Bob Adkins, Breeden, Cincinnati, crime, feud, feuds, Green McCoy, Guyandotte River, Harts Creek, Henderson Dingess, history, Hollene Brumfield, John Dingess, John Hartford, John W Runyon, Kentucky, Lincoln County Feud, Milt Haley, Norfolk and Western Railroad, Thompson Branch, Tug River, Twelve Pole Creek, West Virginia
Wow. So what about Al Brumfield, the guy who got into the feud with Milt?
“Well, he was a little more tamer fellow than old Paris but he was kind of a rough character — mean as a snake,” Bob said. “All those Brumfields were, you know. They was a tough outfit, all of them was.”
Al and his wife Hollena lived in a large white house at the mouth of Harts Creek, which Bob said had recently burned. They had a store and log boom nearby and kept a boat tied up at the riverbank for easy access across the Guyandotte. Things were going great for them until John Runyon (who Bob called “the root of all evil”) moved in from Kentucky.
“That fellow Runyon, he had a saloon and a store right across the creek there at the mouth of Harts, you know — a shebang,” Bob said. “And Aunt Hollene and Al Brumfield, they had a big store over there on the other side of the creek, over on the lower side of the creek. They was competitors in a way, you know. This fellow Runyon hired these two thugs to kill them, so as to get rid of their competition. And he hired Milt Haley and Green McCoy to kill them. They got a side of bacon and a can of lard and five dollars to do that…each. And these fellows, Milt Haley and Green McCoy, were two characters. I don’t know why they ever took a chance on that. Them boys got into that before they knew what they was into. Them Brumfields was mean as the devil up there.”
Bob spun out the details of Milt and Green’s ambush of Al Brumfield.
“Every Sunday, Al and Hollene would get on their horse and they’d ride up to the Forks of Big Hart about ten miles to visit her father. He was old Henderson Dingess, my great-grandfather. Al had a fine riding horse and he’d get on the horse and she’d ride behind him, see? And they’d been up there on a pretty summer day, and they’d done had dinner with her father.”
Haley and McCoy, meanwhile, laid in wait for them in a sinkhole at Thompson Branch with a .30/.30 Winchester.
“And Al and Hollene came along about three or four o’clock in the evening and those thugs laywaid them on the side of the hill up there as they came back down Harts Creek. They shot at Al’s head. That horse jumped and that bullet missed his head and hit Hollene right in the face right there and the bullet knocked her teeth out and came out this side here. It knocked her off of the horse.”
Al was carried on down the creek by his horse, which “sprang and run” so Milt and Green came off the hill toward his wife.
“They aimed to shoot Aunt Hollene again — and she a laying there in the road, her eyes full of blood. She couldn’t see hardly who it was. But she begged them not to shoot her anymore, because she figured they’d already killed her. She told them she was dying and begged them out of it.”
At that point, Al came back up along the creek bed shooting toward them “and they got scared and they run.”
Bob said, “Well, the Brumfields didn’t know who it was so they watched all around to see who it was. They watched Runyon like a hawk but he changed his name and walked right off. He left his store, his saloon and his family and went back to Kentucky. They hunted for years for him but they never did find him. He never poked his head around there anymore, not even to contact his family.”
Milt and Green also disappeared from the neighborhood — which caused locals to assume that they were guilty of some role in the trouble.
“And these two guys just left their family and went into Kentucky and just deserted their families,” Bob said. “Then they knew who it was. And they started looking for them.”
Al Brumfield put out a $3,000 reward for their capture. Detectives were told to search in river towns, as both men had run rafts out of the Guyan River.
A detective caught Green McCoy first in a Cincinnati restaurant. He identified him by noticing a nick in one of his ears. Just before apprehending him, the detective walked up and said, “I think you’re the man I’m looking for.” Once caught, Green gave the whereabouts of Milt, who was found working a butter churn on a steamboat at the river. Both men were jailed. Al Brumfield was informed of their capture by letter.
Brumfield organized two of his brothers-in-law and perhaps one of his brothers into a posse and rode to the rendezvous point (presumably in the vicinity of Cincinnati). He posed as a sheriff, paid the reward, took possession of the two men, then headed across eastern Kentucky and up the Tug River to Williamson. He and his gang rode a train on the N&W across Twelve Pole to Breeden, where they crossed the mountain and spent a night at the home of John Dingess, Hollena’s brother. Dingess ran a large country store and saloon, Bob said, but “nothing exciting happened around there.”