After about thirty minutes of talking with Brandon, I was convinced that he loved the families of Harts and was wrapped up in its history. He was not only serious business but he really — I mean really — knew his stuff.
Brandon flipped a few pages in his photo album, then pointed to a picture of a black-bearded, broad-shouldered giant of a man and said, “That’s Paris Brumfield.” I’d heard a lot about him from Bob Adkins and Lawrence Kirk — and never forgot what they said about him being killed by his own son. He was Brandon’s great-great-great-grandfather.
According to the Lambert Collection, Paris Brumfield was one of the most feared loggers in the Guyandotte Valley – a man who “gloried in shooting people.” He frequently stirred up trouble in the town of Guyandotte with his friends, Jerome Shelton of West Hamlin and Pete Dingess of Harts Creek. Shelton often got drunk and wandered through the streets of Guyandotte screaming “I am God!” and other obscenities. He climbed on ladders and pretended to make speeches to taunt officers and citizens. Wild cheering from loggers always followed his cry of “Millions bow down to me!” Wilburn Bias was the only marshal in Guyandotte who Paris and his gang feared, although others like a Mr. Fuller sometimes tried to arrest him. One marshal, J. “Doc” Suiter, once came to Brumfield’s hotel room to make an arrest, but a brawl ensued in which both men crashed through a window. At some point, while rafting on the Guyan River, Paris slammed his raft into Doc’s after seeing that it was fouled on some shoals.
Brumfield was a real rabble-rouser. Not only did he drink heavily and abuse his wife: in the late 1870s he took a mistress for himself. This woman, one Keziah Ramey, originally from the Kiah’s Creek area of Wayne County, moved near Paris at Harts and quickly produced him four children. Paris was a reported murderer as well, according to local history. There are rumors about him killing pack-peddlers and someone named Charlie Hibbits (whose body was put on the “Ha’nt Rock”). Reportedly, he also murdered a man who disturbed a fiddler playing his favorite song, “Golden Slippers”. These stories are likely untrue, as the only murder positively linked to him was his shooting of a local man named Boney Lucas.
Bob Adkins had told me about it. “They had a fight right there at the mouth of West Fork and Boney got loose and he run through the creek there,” Bob had said a few years earlier. “And Paris’ daughter Rat, she run and got the gun and brought it to Paris and, by george, he shot Lucas with a Winchester right across the creek. Lucas tried to get away.” Brandon’s grandfather Ray Kirk said the trouble was “over logs,” while Lawrence Kirk said it was brought on by arguments between their children at school. Either way, their fatal confrontation occurred at the Narrows of Harts Creek, where Al Brumfield later built his infamous log boom. Paris had gone to a store on the creek with his daughter when he noticed Lucas working there in a timber crew. He and Lucas “had words,” then Lucas attacked him, initially with the butt-end of his axe. In no time, one of Brumfield’s arms was almost completely severed from his shoulder — courtesy of Lucas’ axe. Paris hollered for his daughter to give him a pistol that he’d tucked into a grocery bag, then used it to shoot Boney in self-defense.
Life in the Brumfield home was difficult. At one point, during the fall of 1891, Ann Brumfield fled to her son Charley’s home for protection. I knew from Bob Adkins what had happened next.
On November 11, 1891, the Ceredo Advance reported: “The noted desperado of Lincoln county — Paris Brumfield — was shot five times by his son Charles, on Tuesday of last week [Nov. 3]. Paris was drinking and attempted to take the life of his wife, when the son interfered with the above result. The wounded man lived only a few hours after having been shot. Paris killed several men during his life and it is said that no man could get the drop on him, but finally one of his own flesh and blood ended his career. The son has not been arrested, and probably will not be.”
In 1892, The Logan County Banner reported: “We think the papers in the State have been a little harsh with Paris Brumfield. From what we have learned we do not blame his son for killing him in the defense of his mother, and we deeply sympathize with the young man in having to imbue his hands in the blood of his father. Paris Brumfield was an overbearing man and dangerous when in whisky, yet he was surrounded by a people not noted for angelic sweetness of temper, and he was driven to many an act of which he was ashamed. There was, however, a good side to the man. He was generous and brave, and no one was ever turned [away in] hunger from his door; and, remembering his kindness to the poor, we are willing to draw the curtain over his many grievous faults.”
Brandon said many old-timers around Harts heard that Paris’ ghost would jump up behind Charley every time he got on a horse to go anywhere.