Archibald Harrison, Big Ugly Creek, Daniel Fry, fiddler, Francis Brumfield, genealogy, George Marshall Fry, Harold R. Smith, Henry H. Hardesty, John H Fry, Jupiter Fry, Levi Rakes, Martha E. Harrison, Nine Mile Creek, Phernatt's Creek, Sampson Brumfield, timbering, William A. Fry, writing
In 1865, Harrison married Martha E. Fry, the 21-year-old divorced wife of Lewis “Jupiter” Fry, a Confederate veteran and well-known fiddler in the Big Ugly Creek area of what was then Cabell County. Martha had been born on September 8, 1844 in Logan County. She was the daughter of Daniel H. and Nancy P. (Bailey) Fry, who lived at Big Creek in Logan County and later at the mouth of Big Ugly. One of her brothers, William A. Fry, died as a POW in a Delaware prison camp during the Civil War.
Archibald and Martha had seven children: William T., born April 18, 1867 in Kentucky; Daniel H., born September 29, 1869 in Kentucky; John M., born October 18, 1871; Mary L., born February 19, 1875, died August 7, 1875; George W., born October 10, 1874; Guy French, born June 18, 1876 in Virginia; and Louisa J., born February 1, 1879.
The first 23 years of Harrison’s second marriage are somewhat of a mystery. During the late 1860s, based on the birthplace of his two oldest children, he and his wife lived somewhere in Kentucky and, based on the birthplace of another child, they were in Virginia in the mid-1870s.
In 1878 Harrison settled near the Bend of the River or the mouth of Big Ugly Creek in the Harts Creek District of Lincoln County. His neighbors, based on the 1880 census, were Levi Rakes and Francis Brumfield, as well as brothers-in-law John H. Fry and Sampson S. Brumfield. Samp was a timber boss with a log boom at the mouth of the creek. George Marshall Fry, another brother-in-law, lived up Big Ugly where he worked as a farmer, timberman, and general store clerk.
On July 1, 1882, Harrison bought 360 acres of land on the west side of the Guyandotte River (near the Bend) in the Harts District from James I. Kuhn, a land agent for Abiel A. Low and William H. Aspinwall. It was worth $1.50 per acre and contained a $50 building, presumably a house or business.
“All that certain piece and parcel of land containing 260 acres more or less, granted by the commonwealth of Virginia to Wm. C. Miller & John H. Brumfield, assignees of Richard Elkins and Richard Elkins, May 1, 1850, lying on the Guyandotte above the mouth of Buck Lick branch,” the deed began. “Also all that part of a survey of 700 acres made for John H. Brumfield, Sept. 11th, 1854, on the east fork of Fourteen Mile Creek. The above described tract 100 acres of land is not to conflict with the lands conveyed to James Marcum.”
(The Kuhn deeds are interesting. In most cases, Kuhn, the grantor, was merely “selling” the surface rights to property already owned by the grantee. Kuhn’s employers claimed the mineral rights.)
In 1883, Harrison bought a 120-acre tract of land worth $2.50 per acre at Nine Mile Creek and a 230-acre tract of land worth $1.50 per acre on Phernatt’s Creek (at what would later be known as Brady) from W.T. Thompson. Harrison and his family soon settled on this latter property.
“Archibald B. Harrison is extensively engaged in farming, in Laurel Hill district, owning 380 acres of land on Guyan river, at the mouth of Phernats Creek,” Henry H. Hardesty chronicled in his history of Lincoln County, with “good improvements upon the farm, large orchard, heavily timbered, coal and iron ore in abundance.”
While Harrison referred to himself as a farmer in Hardesty’s history, there is also some indication that he was a timberman.
“The fact Archibald Harrison owned so much land at the mouth of Phernatt’s Creek is a clue that he was in the timber business,” said Harold R. Smith, Lincoln County genealogist and historian, in a c.2003 interview. “That was during the timber boom and land at the mouth of these creeks was heavily sought by people in that line of work. You could build a boom there and charge people a fee to get their logs out of the creek.”
At the time Harrison was profiled in Hardesty’s history, he and his wife were members of the Christian Church and received their mail at Hamlin.
“I don’t think he stayed at Phernatt’s Creek too long,” said Smith. “I think I read or heard somewhere that he moved to Big Ugly or Green Shoal and did a lot of timbering.”
Albert Dingess, Albert Gore, Alice Dingess, Anthony Adams, Burl Adams, Chloe Mullins, Dave Dingess, David Kinser, Ed Haley, Ewell Mullins, Frank Collins, genealogy, Henry Blair, history, Imogene Haley, Jackson Mullins, Joe Adams, John McCloud, Liza Mullins, Peter Mullins, Sewell Adams, Sol Adams, Sol Riddell, Spottswood, Thomas J. Wysong, Weddie Mullins, Whirlwind, writing
In spite of new economic developments, educational opportunities for young Ed Haley were limited. As far as can be ascertained, he received no formal education as a child. In that Victorian era of prosperity and refineries, schools (and other forms of improvement) were slow to arrive in the mountains of Appalachia. Joe Adams, whose father was Ed’s age and who was raised at the mouth of Trace Fork, summed it up this way: “All the education they got, they got theirselves.” (He had heard the old-timers speak of the McGuffey Readers.) In August of 1897, Ed got his first chance for an education when Sophia and David Kinser donated land on Trace Fork to the district board of education for the purpose of building a schoolhouse. So far as is known, this was the first school built on the branch. It was easy to picture Ed showing up to visit and entertain students with his amazing fiddle playing…and perhaps to occasionally sit in on school.
In February of 1898, as Ed approached his teen years, Weddie and Peter Mullins swapped property on Trace Fork. Weddie deeded his land to Peter’s wife Liza, who likewise sold her land to Weddie. Thereafter, Peter made his home in the spot where Lawrence Haley and I had visited in the early ’90s, while Weddie lived at the Jackson Mullins home. A few years later, after Weddie was murdered, his widow remarried to Lee Farley — brother to Burl — causing many people to refer to their home as the “old Lee Farley place” (as opposed to the Jackson Mullins place).
In May 1898, the Logan County Court appointed Henry Blair, Jr. as guardian of Ed Haley “an infant under the age of 14 years.” Blair and Albert Dingess paid the bond of 100 dollars. Haley was listed with his maternal grandparents, Jackson and Chloe Mullins, in the 1900 census.
By that time, the Emma Haley property had dropped in value to 33 dollars. Then, for reasons unknown, the value of “Emmagene Haley’s” property increased to $5.50 an acre for a total worth of $110 in 1906. Maybe Uncle Peter or Weddie had made an improvement on the property or maybe someone had appraised it for timber. In any case, Ed would’ve inherited it outright at that time as a person of legal adult age. More than likely, he had no idea of its worth.
The timber boom led directly to the creation of new towns on Harts Creek. Around 1902, a new post office was created at the mouth of Smoke House Fork called Spottswood. According to a 1904 business directory, Sol Adams was a justice at Spottswood. In 1906, Anthony Adams was the operator of a general store, as was J.M. Adams and James Thompson. Berl Adams was a blacksmith, Sewell Adams was a logger, Francis Collins was a miner, Albert Gore was a constable, David Dingess was a lawyer and Sol Riddell was a teacher. Joseph Adams dealt in walnut lumber, while Reverend John McCloud handled local religious matters. Alice Adams was the postmistress at Spottswood. A little later, Berl Adams, Albert Dingess, Alice Adams, Charles Dingess, William Farley and Thomas J. Wysong opened up general stores.
Later, other post offices opened on Harts Creek. In 1910, according to local tradition, Whirlwind Post Office opened in the head of Harts Creek. This replaced Spottswood as Ed Haley’s local post office, although he was traveling away from Harts quite a bit at that time. Whirlwind was roughly sixteen miles from Logan and nine miles from Dingess. (I had seen the remnants of Whirlwind post office on my recent visit to Harts Creek.) It served 250 people and received mail daily.
Ed Haley, meanwhile, sold the only piece of land he would ever own in March of 1911 to his first cousin Ewell Mullins for 25 dollars (1/5 of its appraisal value as per the assessor). In the deed, Jonas Branch was called Gunnel Branch and the size of the tract was given as 25 acres. The deed read as follows:
Beginning at a rock at the mouth of the Gunnel Branch on the right side of Trace creek thence up the hill to the top of the hill; thence up the ridge to opposite a ash corner on a cliff thence down the hill to the ash thence cross the creek to a plum tree thence up the hill to a beech thence a strait line to the top of the hill thence around the ridge to point on the u[p]per side of the Gunnel Branch thence down the point to a stake on the bank of branch thence down the branch and with the division between Ed Haley and Liza Mullins and crossing the creek to the beginning, containing 25 acres more or less.
Tax books first listed the property in Mullins’ name in 1912 and valued it at $140.
Andrew D. Robinson, Ben Adams, Boney Lucas, Chloe Mullins, Ed Haley, Harts Creek, Henderson Dingess, history, Imogene Haley, Jackson Mullins, Logan County Banner, logging, McCloud & Company, Paris Brumfield, Peter Mullins, timbering, Turley Adams, Van Prince, Warren, Weddie Mullins, West Virginia, writing
Ed Haley was born in 1885 at Warren, a small post office established the previous year five miles up Harts Creek just below the mouth of Smoke House Fork. It was a place of 300 to 500 people chiefly led in its daily affairs by Henderson Dingess, Andrew Robinson, Anthony Adams, Ben Adams, and Burl Farley — all connected genealogically through the Adams family. At Warren, in 1884, the primary business was a general store called McCloud & Company. Henderson Dingess, father to Hollena and the patriarch of the clan, was a distiller and storekeeper. Ben Adams, a brother-in-law to Dingess, was a general store operator. Andrew Robinson was the local postmaster. Van Prince was a physician, perhaps assisting in Ed Haley’s birth or in the treatment of his measles.
Henderson Dingess, a prominent personality from that era, was the son of pioneer parents, born in 1829 to John and Chloe (Farley) Dingess. His wife, Sarah Adams (1833-1920), was a daughter of Joseph and Dicie (Mullins) Adams, who settled on Harts Creek from Floyd County, Kentucky, in the late 1830s. Henderson and Sarah lived in a two-story log house on land partly granted to him by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1856. There, at the mouth of Hog Pen Branch, they raised eleven children, many of whom were active in the 1889 troubles. In the late 1880s, roughly the time of Milt Haley’s murder, Henderson and Sarah owned a 93-acre tract of land on Smoke House with a building valued at $100. They also owned an additional 350 acres on main Harts Creek and a 44-acre tract on nearby Crawley Creek worth $6.00 per acre with a $20 building on it.
At that time, Harts was caught up in the regional timber boom. According to The Logan County Banner, an estimated one million dollars worth of timber went out of the area in 1889. Perhaps prompted by this capitalistic invasion of the local economy, violence became the norm in Harts. Beginning with Paris Brumfield’s murder of Boney Lucas “over logs” in the early 1880s, there were at least six area killings before the turn of the century. (The Brumfields were involved in four of them and the Dingesses in three.) It was an era when Harts lost its innocence and began to earn the rough reputation it still carries today.
More than likely, following the horrific events of 1889, little Ed Haley and his mother lived for a brief time with Jackson and Chloe Mullins on Trace Fork. This changed a little later when, in 1891, Jackson and Chloe began to deed property to their three children. On March 18, they deeded their homestead to son Peter for 25 dollars. Deed records specify the property as a 20-acre tract of land, which began somewhere around the mouth of Trace and continued up to the Jackson Mullins Branch (basically the present-day Turley Adams property). The following day, Jackson and Chloe deeded another 20-acre tract to son Weddie Mullins for 25 dollars. This tract basically included everything from Jackson Mullins Branch to Jonas Branch.
On March 19, 1891, Jackson and Chloe deeded Imogene Haley 20 acres of land on Trace Fork for 25 dollars. In the property index, Imogene’s surname was spelled as “Hauley”, while the deed referred to her as “Immagin A. Haley.” Her land began at Jonas Branch and continued on up the creek. In the original deed, it was described as follows:
Beginning at the mouth of William Jonas branch thence up the Branch with the center of the branch to a _______ tree on the right hand side of the Branch as you go up the branch near a Chestnut that ________ on the left side of said branch thence acrosf the fields to some willow bushes at the front of the hill thence up the point with the center of the point to the brow of the Mountain thence with the brow of the Mountain to Mary Mullins line thence down the mountain to a bush thence a strate line crosfing the creek to a ash thence up the hill to the back line of the parties of the first part thence down the creek with the line of the said opposite the mouth of William Jonas branch thence down the hill a strate line to the Beginning supposed to contain 20 acres more or less.
An 1891 tax book listed “Emigene Hawley’s” property as being worth $2.00 per acre and having a total worth of $40. Records do not indicate if there was a house or building located on the property. In any case, Emma died soon after: an 1892 tax book lists her property under the name of “Immogen Hailey heirs”, which would have been Ed Haley. More than likely, seven-year-old Ed remained living in the home of his grandparents, Jackson and Chloe, for several more years.
At that time, Logan County was in the middle of a timber boom, which gave employment to Ed’s family on Trace Fork. “Some of the finest timber in the State is found in Logan county,” writes The Mountain State: A Description of the Natural Resources of West Virginia (1893). “Magnificent forests of oak, poplar, ash, lynn, maples, beech, birch, pines, hickory and other varieties still cover the greater part of the county in their primitive state. For thirty years timber men have been at work, destroying the forests and still in all this time not over a fourth of the timber has been removed. As an estimate of the value of the timber still standing in Logan county, three million dollars will not be far amise.”
Archibald Harrison, B.C. Levi, Barboursville, Chambersburg, civil war, Garland Matthews, history, Hurston Spurlock, John McCausland, Mary Harrison, Matt Adkins, Milton J. Ferguson, Monocacy Junction, Murder Hollow, Stephen Lewis, Sylvester Brooks Crockett, Virginia, Wayne, Wayne County, West Virginia, Winfield, writing
In January of 1864, Colonel Milton J. Ferguson’s 16th Regiment, which included Lt. Archibald Harrison, was back in southwestern West Virginia to visit family and restock supplies. On January 1, they crossed a frozen Big Sandy River into Kentucky and attacked a Union force at Buchanan. Eight days later, Ferguson and 150 of his men successfully engaged 75 members of the 39th Kentucky Mounted Infantry at Turman’s Ferry (near Catlettsburg), Kentucky, then made their way to East Lynn in Wayne County, West Virginia, and on to nearby Laurel Creek.
On January 16, a detachment of Union troops arrived in Trout’s Hill (Wayne) to quell the Confederate uprising in the area. Ferguson and the 16th, however, continued to wreak havoc on local Yankees from their base at Murder Hollow. On January 27, Spurlock’s Company (including Harrison) robbed Cabell County’s sheriff. The rebels suffered a mild setback shortly after the robbery: Captain Hurston Spurlock was apprehended by a detachment of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry at Lavalette in Wayne County.
Early in February, members of the 16th destroyed a Union cargo ship called the B.C. Levi on the Kanawha River near Winfield. They captured General E.P. Scammon, who was sent to Richmond, Virginia, and Captain Pinckard, who was sent to Wayne. (Harrison later claimed to have been present at this event, although history records Company H — not Company E — as being the actual force there.) Colonel Ferguson tried unsuccessfully to exchange Pinckard for Captain Spurlock, who was held at Barboursville.
On February 15, at daybreak, a Union force consisting of the 14th Kentucky Infantry and the 39th Kentucky surprised the 16th Regiment at their camp in Murder Hollow. Historian Stephen Lewis of Wayne records one account of this skirmish: “Garland Matthews told me that when he was a boy an old man by the name of Milt Adkins told him that he, though not a soldier, camped in the hollow with some friends who were Confederate soldiers, and that there were many soldiers camped there. They were attacked at dawn by Federal troops, and four or five Confederates were killed. Many were captured, but some got away. Garland Matthews confirmed that the battle was in winter; bodies froze to the ground and the spring ran red with blood. He also said they carted a number of the bodies away, but some were buried in Murder Hollow.” Colonel Ferguson was one of 42 men taken prisoner at Murder Hollow. Harrison managed to escape.
In July 1864, Lt. Harrison was captured by Union troops at Monocacy Junction, Maryland. Benjamin Dean, a Wayne Countian, wrote of the incident in a letter to his wife dated July 19. “We are under General McCaslin. We have been on a raid ever since the 11th of May. We started at Lynchburgh, from there back to the Valley of Virginia to Winchester, from there to Maryland to Frederick City. We fought 25,000 there. Lt. Harris was wounded and captured. We went near the city of Washington. We came back through East Virginia. I am near Winchester today. We marched all last night. I haven’t had a clean shirt for over five weeks. We manage to get enough to eat. We hook the Yanks at every point we can. We have been commanded by Colonel Graham. He does nothing but drink and curse and if Colonel Ferguson isn’t exchanged by next season I never expect to make another raid in this war.”
Three days after his capture, Harrison escaped and participated in a final engagement at Chambersburg on July 30, when Confederates burned the town.
In 1864, he returned home to Wayne County, at which time he and his wife, Mary Spurlock, were divorced. The former Mrs. Harrison soon remarried to Sylvester Brooks Crockett, who was eleven years her junior, and had several more kids before dying in 1883 on Wilson’s Creek in Wayne County.
Ben Adams, Bert Dingess, Billy Adkins, Cat Fry, crime, Ferrellsburg, feud, Fisher B. Adkins, Garnet Adkins, Green McCoy, history, Hollene Brumfield, Hugh Dingess, Johnny Golden Adkins, Milt Haley, writing
As we stood at Runyon’s Branch staring at weeds and trying to imagine John Runyon’s 1889 spread, Billy said Garnet Adkins and her son Johnny lived nearby. Garnet was a granddaughter of Hugh Dingess and had been raised at Huey Fowler Hollow just off the hill from the Haley-McCoy grave. Perhaps more interesting, her son Johnny had told Billy recently that his grandfather Adkins used to talk about John Runyon being his neighbor.
We quickly drove to Garnet’s where Billy spotted Johnny working with a mule in the yard. In no time, we were in the living room listening to Garnet talk about the Haley-McCoy murders.
“Well, I’ve heard Mommy talk about it, but it’s been so long ago I’ve about forgot about it,” she said. “She said her and Cat Adkins got in there and got in under the bed — or behind the bed or something — when they was a doing that.”
Your mother was there?
“Yeah, she was just a young’n, though,” Garnet said. “She said one of them said to the other… One had the headache and he said, ‘I can’t eat no supper.’ And he said, ‘You better eat your supper. This’ll be the last supper you’ll ever eat.’ And they just took them out there and killed them. I guess they shot them, I don’t know.”
I asked Garnet if she thought the mob might have shot Milt and Green at the table right after they ate and she said, “No, they took them outside, I think. I’ve heard Mommy talk about it. See Cat lived there in that house where Mommy was at. That’s where they killed them at.”
Garnet said she had seen the house.
“Yeah, I’ve saw it,” she said. “It’s up here across from Fry.”
Wait a minute. That was the same side of the river as what Lawrence Kirk had shown me in 1993.
Milt and Green were killed on the other side of the river, right?
“No,” Garnet said.
Her son Johnny, however, agreed with the popular notion that the killings took place at the Fry house on Green Shoal.
“That’s what Granddad Aaron said,” Johnny said. “An old hued log house is what Granddad said. He said it sat there at Fry. There where Lon Lambert lives.”
Garnet insisted otherwise: “It was on this side of the river, just an old flat house.”
Perhaps sensing that we were not going to agree on the location of the murders, Garnet changed the direction of the conversation.
“You know, that was a mighty cruel thing to take them men out and kill them,” she said. “They claimed my granddaddy Hugh Dingess was in on that but I don’t believe he was. Course Aunt Hollene was his sister, you know. Aunt Hollene came up there to his house one Sunday and lord it scared me to death when I seen her face. I run off and hid. She was mean as a hound dog. She carried a pistol and a watch and pocketbook and all kinds of stuff in a big apron pocket swinging down on her.”
Billy said to Johnny, “Down here on this end of the creek, we’d never heard about Ben Adams a being in on it, had we?”
Johnny answered, “Yeah, oh yeah. Well he knowed them Adamses. That’s the reason they brought them in this other way ’cause they was supposed to been, Granddad told me, men a waiting to take them away from them fellers when they brought them back in here. But they come this other way — the back way — on horses. Come back in through Chapmansville and down this a way. They thought they’d be a coming down Harts Creek but they didn’t come that way. They brought them down around the river way.”
Garnet said Milt and Green’s grave wasn’t marked when she was a little girl.
“They just threw them in a hole really,” she said. “Somebody said Ben Walker buried them.”
Johnny said, “Well now Mother. didn’t they come over there and visit that grave after you was a great big girl?”
“Yeah, I was a young woman,” she said. “Now I don’t know where she was from. I just heard them talk about their uncle living over there in Fisher’s place where Irv Workman lives. They went up that hill a crying and carrying on and I didn’t know what to think. I was just an old big young’n there with the young’ns. Mommy and Poppy both was gone. And I’d think, ‘Lord, who in the world is that coming up through there carrying on like that?’ And I kept seeing them motioning over there across the creek to where Fisher’s place was talking about… Seems to me the man’s name was Ben. Ben Adkins.”
To get an idea of when it was that people used to come to the grave I asked Garnet what year she was born.
“I was born in 1909,” she said. “June 26th. I was born up here at Ferrellsburg.”
16th Regiment Virginia Cavalry, Albert Gallatin Jenkins, Archibald Harrison, Barboursville, Carnifex Ferry, civil war, Droop Mountain, East Cavalry Battlefield, Fairview Rifles, Ferguson's Battalion, genealogy, Gettysburg, Guy Harrison, history, Hurston Spurlock, Knoxville, Lewisburg, Lincoln County, Mary Harrison, Milton J. Ferguson, Scary Creek, Tazewell County, Virginia, Wayne, Wayne County, West Virginia, writing
For a brief period of time in the 1880s, Archibald Harrison, a veteran officer of the Civil War, made his home in the Harts Creek District of Lincoln County, West Virginia, where he labored as a farmer and timberman.
Archibald was born in January of 1837 to Guy P. and Cleme (Harmon) Harrison in Tazewell County, Virginia. In 1850 census records for Tazewell County, he was listed with his father and stepmother, Nancy Jane Bruster, as well as his brothers and sisters.
By 1860, Harrison had made his way to Wayne County, where he was listed in the census with his older brother, Thomas, aged 35. Later in the year, he married Mary Spurlock, a daughter of Burwell and Nancy Spurlock. Mary’s father was a preacher who, among other things, established a Methodist Episcopal (South) Church at Trout’s Hill (Wayne) in 1846 with 36 charter members.
Archibald and Mary had three children: Laura P., born August 8, 1861, who died in 1879; Nancy C. “Nannie,” born February 1, 1863; and Lemuel, born September 18, 1865, died 1942. Daughters Laura and Nannie apparently spent their lives in Wayne County, while son Lem is probably the same person of that name who shows up in Logan County census records on Mud Fork and at Cherry Tree in 1910 and 1920.
During the Civil War, Harrison served in the Confederate Army and was a participant in many important events: namely General Albert Gallatin Jenkins’ famous march to Ohio in 1862, where his companions became the first Confederates to invade the Buckeye State; at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania under General J.E.B. Stuart in 1863; and at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania under John McCausland in 1864.
In 1861, the first year of the war, Harrison enlisted with the Fairview Rifles, an unorganized Confederate detachment under the command of Captain Milton J. Ferguson of Wayne County. He fought with them at Barboursville (July 14, 1861), at Scary Creek in Putnam County (July 17, 1861) at Carnifex Ferry in Nicholas County (September 10, 1861) and at Lewisburg in Greenbrier County (May 23, 1862). Most of these engagements were Confederate losses.
In August 1862 Harrison and the Fairview Rifles got a huge morale boost when they marched with Colonel Jenkins’s force from Monroe County to the Ohio River, occupying the towns of Buckhannon, Weston, Glenville, Spencer, Ripley, and Ravenswood along the way. At the Ohio, Jenkins and about half of his troops crossed the river and captured Racine (they were the first Confederates to enter Ohio) before re-entering (West) Virginia and heading to Point Pleasant.
On September 15, 1862, the Fairview Rifles were renamed Ferguson’s Battalion and officially mustered into service at Wayne Courthouse. Harrison, who was only 24 years old, was made second lieutenant of Captain Hurston Spurlock’s Company. (Spurlock was probably an in-law.)
On January 15, 1863, the 16th Regiment of Virginia Cavalry was formed when five companies from Ferguson’s Battalion merged with four companies of Major Otis Caldwell’s Battalion. Captain Ferguson was promoted to colonel and placed in command of the 16th, while Lt. Harrison and a majority of Spurlock’s Company were designated as Company E.
In the early summer of 1863, the 16th was attached to General Jenkins’ Brigade and sent north as part of General Robert E. Lee’s invasion force. In June, they moved through the Shenandoah Valley toward Pennsylvania where they fought at 2nd Winchester, Virginia, between June 14-15. They also saw action at Gettysburg on June 26, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on June 28-29 and at East Cavalry Battlefield near Gettysburg on July 3.
In the fall of 1863, on November 6, Harrison and the 16th fought at Droop Mountain in Pocahontas County, where the Confederates were defeated by a Union force that helped ensure Union control of the new state. Later in the month, the 16th participated in a siege of Knoxville, Tennessee, until December, 1863.
The next day, Billy directed Brandon and I up Walker Gap to the old Ben Walker farm. Walker was the man who reportedly organized the Haley-McCoy burial party in 1889. Once there, we found no buildings remaining so we stopped at the family cemetery, which was just off the hill from the Haley-McCoy grave. Ben’s grave was marked by a simple rock.
From there we headed to “Runyon’s Branch,” a small stream emptying into the Guyandotte River just above the mouth of Harts Creek. Supposedly, John Runyon once lived near the mouth of this branch while operating a sawmill at its head. It was a great set-up: Runyon owned his own hollow and could float his timber directly into the Guyan River, thus avoiding Al Brumfield’s boom and tax. Nearby on a bluff was the probable site of his “blind tiger,” where he would’ve had a great view of Brumfield’s timber operations just across the mouth of Harts Creek. At this location, Runyon was surrounded by members of the Adkins family. Some of his neighbors were Burl Adkins (a brother-in-law to Fed Adkins), Mose Adkins (Fed Adkins’ brother), Ben Walker, and Cain Adkins.
Al Brumfield, Ben Adams, Billy Adkins, Bob Dingess, Burl Farley, Cat Fry, Ferrellsburg, feud, French Bryant, Green McCoy, history, Hugh Dingess, John Hartford, Milt Haley, Ross Fowler, Ward Brumfield, writing
Bob said the Brumfields left Hugh’s with Milt and Green when they heard about the existence of an Adams mob nearby.
“They took them up over the ridge and down and crossed into Ferrellsburg up at Fry,” he said.
They went to the home of Tucker Fry, who took all of the women away from the place.
“I think maybe they stayed there a day and night or something like that a trying to make them tell who hired them to do that,” Bob said. “They was a trying to get them men to tell who hired them to kill Al Brumfield. And they took one of them outside and lectured him while the other was inside. When they took him back in, they said, ‘He won’t talk.'”
Bob said the mob even took Milt and Green into different rooms trying to get a confession but they just blamed the shooting on each other. Finally, French Bryant “blew Haley’s brains out with a gun.” Burl Farley hollered and everyone shot Haley and McCoy “all to pieces.” Cat Fry, who was about ten years old at the time, hid in a corner or in the fireplace and witnessed their deaths. “It was very cruel,” Bob said.
The mob returned to their homes after killing Milt and Green and it wasn’t long until the “murder house” was burned to the ground so there’d be no evidence against them.
I asked Bob if he remembered the house and he said, “Aunt Cat, she told me it was a two-room log house. One of them old-timers, big ones. They all slept in one room. Big fireplace in the other one. I never was in that house.”
Bob said that hard feelings over the feud lingered for years, especially toward Ben Adams. “After Haley and them was killed, old man Ben Adams never done no good at timber,” he said. “He run a mountain still up there — moonshine — and he had cabins built and he had men there and ever man had a Winchester and you couldn’t do much a bothering him ’cause old man Ben was a mean man.”
So what happened to Ben, we wondered.
“Ben died in 1912,” Bob said rather undramatically, “and was buried up yonder on the hill.”
According to Bob, the 1889 feud eventually ended because most of the participants were related and ultimately wanted to see it put to rest. “Here’s the thing,” Bob said. “The Adamses and Dingesses all married through each other and the Brumfields married into the Dingess clan. Everybody was kindly keeping a steel tongue because they didn’t want no more feuding more’n what they had and they didn’t want the young people to really know anything about it — how cruel it was. Dad up here never would talk about it. Nobody talked. Years and years and years in here it was just gossip. People a talking that didn’t know a thing on earth about it. It was a rumor. Someone would tell one story and someone would tell another.”
Every now and then a bit of the story leaked out, mostly from eyewitness Cat Fry. “Aunt Cat down here, now, was a little eight-year-old girl in the same house when they was killed,” Bob said. “She would very seldom talk about it but once in a while if nobody was around sometimes she’d start off a telling me about it some. She wouldn’t hardly tell you names. Nobody wanted to hear it. They wanted to let it die down and forget all about it.”
Bob remembered French Bryant well. “He was a big 200-pound 6’4″ tall mean man,” Bob said. “He’d carry a pistol on him that hung on his hip — one of these cap ‘n balls. He lived just over the hill up yonder and he made liquor and sold it all the time up that holler. Nobody lived up there. He had two miles of a hollow there to himself and he had a big dapple gray stud horse about fourteen, fifteen hundred pounds. He’d get on that horse and go to Ferrellsburg and if the river wasn’t too big he’d swim him across that river and he’d get him a load of groceries and put them on his back and then swim that horse back.” Bob told Billy, “People didn’t fool with that old man, either. Right when you leave the mouth of Hart and come up there at the schoolhouse — just across the creek starting up West Fork — there was a big house there and old man Ross Fowler lived there. I never did know what Ross done, but old man French went there… They didn’t have no lamp oil, they had pine knots. He took a sack full of pine knots there and set them afire and burnt creation up — burnt them out of house and home. Nobody ever knowed he did it, of course. He was a mean old cuss but he didn’t bother nobody in his last days. He made a little liquor and sold it and that’s the only way the old man could make it.”
Just before we left Bob’s, he told us a very important bit of information about Ed’s relationship with Al Brumfield’s oldest son, Ward. “Like I started to say a while ago, they was a feud between the Brumfields and the McCoys,” he said. “But remember, Ward Brumfield was a very fine man. He was a handsome man. Ward was a wonderful person. He was a first cousin to me and I have to congratulate him. He’d get up and him and Ed Haley’d hug each other and they’d prance and dance on the floor and just love each other. They’d both sit down at the table to eat together. Ward and him forgot all the past. Ward and Ed Haley was good friends.”
Al Brumfield, Ben Adams, Bob Dingess, Brooke Dingess, Burl Farley, Cat Fry, Dave Dingess, feud, French Bryant, genealogy, history, Hollene Brumfield, Hugh Dingess, John W Runyon, Milt Haley, moonshine, Peter Mullins, timbering, writing
I asked Bob about Milt and he said, “I don’t know too much about the first Haley. I think he was a rambler and just traveled here and there and got in with them Mullinses up there making liquor and moonshine and stuff. I’ve been told that he married Peter Mullins’ sister and he stayed there among them a long time. They was two or three clans of them Mullinses. They was a bunch of horse-thieves and stealers who come out of Kentucky. Well, they run them out of Kentucky. They aimed to kill them and they got into Harts Creek in that wilderness section back in there. They was gamblers, they was moonshiners and they was always in a fight and trouble with each other. They couldn’t trust each other. The men wouldn’t work a lick and the poor old women did the work and the men just sat in the yard or played cards or drunk liquor and that was the way they done it.”
Talking about Milt got us into the story of his feud with the Brumfields.
“See, that all happened before I was born,” Bob said. “That happened in ’89 you see and all I know is what my mother and what Aunt Cat down at Hart told me. Now, I was told this: that Al Brumfield controlled all timber that went out of Harts Creek down there and he had an apparatus put in right above the mouth of the creek to catch the timber and not let them go in the river. All right. Ben Adams up here was a millionaire nearly at that time and had all of this big poplar timber in this creek for miles up and down here. Ben Adams had a lot of timber down there and the way I got it some logs got lost. Well, he undertook to make Al pay for the timber since Al was responsible for it and taking the ten-cents-a-log to hold it in the creek for them till they got it rafted and Al wouldn’t do it. And Al went to get a gun to kill him and Ben Adams run up Harts Creek and took the Big Branch and took that ridge on back home. He got away from Al. Well, it was always figured that Ben Adams hired these two men to kill Al so he could get that timber out of here. Now, I’ve been told that.”
I asked Bob about John Runyon and he said, “I never heard of John Runyon. But, somehow, down yonder in that curve… You see, these men had done gone there and planted themselves waiting for these people to come.”
Bob said Milt and Green were laying in ambush when Al and Hollena Brumfield came riding along. Al rode one horse, while Hollena and Bob’s father Dave rode another.
“My dad was a riding behind Aunt Hollene and Al was in front and somehow when them men started he saw the gun and he fell over on the other side of his horse and hung to the saddle till he got around that point. He put his arms around the horse’s neck and had his leg up so they couldn’t… They was two shots fired. I don’t know which one of them was shot first but they shot Aunt Hollene right through the cheek. The bullet went in right on the left side of her cheek right at her ear and come out right above her nose. Dad jumped off the horse when they shot her and throwed his hand up and they shot him through his hand then they got away. And Dad took part of his shirt and tore it up and tied it and put it around her head to keep her from bleeding to death. I don’t guess he paid too much attention to that hand as long as he got her took care of.”
I said to Bob, “So, did Al gallop off at that point?” and he answered, “As far as I know, he made a get-away. He went on down the hollow, fast speed I imagine. He knowed they was a gonna kill him.”
“Well now, what about Haley and McCoy?” I asked.
“So far as we know, they run and took the mountain,” Bob said. “They was hid in the bushes, see? But Dad recognized them and knowed who they was. Aunt Hollene did, too. They never did get along in here after that. They run them men back through that country back yonder and caught them almost at Dingess on the N&W. And they was a clan of Dingesses back in there and they headed them off for them and they caught them. Ah, they was a mean bunch of men in here, then. Of course, I knew old man French Bryant — he was a ringleader in it. Old man Burl Farley. A lot of Brumfields and Dingesses and everything else involved in it. And they brought them back to Uncle Hugh’s up here.”
Billy recommended that we visit Bob Dingess, a man of advanced age who was related to and personally remembered almost everyone in Ed’s story. His father was Dave Dingess, a younger brother to Hollena Brumfield, while his mother was a daughter to Anthony Adams. His first wife was a daughter to Charley Brumfield, while his current wife was Robert Martin’s niece. Bob was a close cousin to Bob Adkins and Joe Adams, as well as many of the Brumfields. He was a fine old man — a retired schoolteacher and elementary principal — who could probably tell us more about Harts Creek history than any one alive.
We drove to Bob’s small white house, which sat just below the mouth of Smoke House on Big Harts Creek, and knocked at his back door, where a nurse met us. She knew Billy and invited us inside, through the kitchen and into a dark stuffy living room. There, we met Bob and his wife. Bob was bundled up in a light black jacket, oblivious to the enormous August heat. A somewhat tall man, he had an alertness to his movements that was surprising and enviable. He was very friendly. We all sat down on couches to talk about Ed Haley. I was sure that Bob’s heater was running; in no time at all, my sinuses were ready to explode.
When Billy told him that we were interested in finding out about Ed Haley, he said, “You have to give me a little time on this. My memory jumps on me. I’m no spring chicken and I have to think.”
But it was obvious that his mind was sharp as a tack when he started telling about his memories of Ed.
“Now Ed Haley, he left here after so long,” Bob said. “He went to Kentucky and he married there. He had a blind woman and she played the mandolin and he played the violin and they had a lot of the meanest boys you ever saw. I first saw him in 1918, during the First World War. Well on Saturday I’d go to Ferrellsburg to haul groceries. That’s the only way to get them. No bridge at Hart. And bless your heart, here that man and them four children come off’n that train, and that old woman, and I got a wagon load of groceries and set them on it and them boys fought and that old man he just slapped and knocked and kicked among them. And the old man, he wouldn’t tell them nothing — he was blind — and she couldn’t tell them nothing, either. And I finally got them up here at the house, and when I got them there Mom made me unload the wagon and says, ‘Get ’em away from here.’ And we took them up yonder to old man John Adams’ then, and let them go. They stayed a month up there.”
I asked how Ed dressed.
“Well, he was all right now, boys,” Bob said. “Don’t worry about him. He took care of everything. He’d laugh and talk, too. You’d think he could see. After you’d get him located and get him in the house, you know, he could get up and walk about through the house.”
Bob didn’t think Ed was the best fiddler he ever heard.
“Nah,” he said. “He couldn’t play this fancy music like Bill Monroe and them played. The old-time fiddle, he was good…old-time music. ‘Comin’ Around the Mountain’. He had a dozen songs.”
Bob said Ed used to play at the old pie suppers on Harts Creek.
“See, I was born in ’04, and I went to these frolics where they had pie suppers and socials and all these gals gathered and these men,” he said. “About every weekend the girls’d go to one home and they’d kill chickens and bake cakes and bake pies and everything and they’d auctioneer them off. If you had a pretty girl, buddy you’d better have a little pocketbook because somebody’s gonna eat with her and knock you out. Mother always give me a little money and I’d just pick me out one and get her. Yeah, planned all week, the girls would. We did that once a week unless they was some special occasion. We’d start at Bill Brumfield’s down yonder. From Bill’s, we’d come to Andy Thompson’s, come from Andy Thompson we went to Rockhouse to Uncle Wash Farley’s. Uncle Sol over here, he wouldn’t let them have it but just once in a while. Mom would let them have it about every three or four months up here. But on up the hollow up yonder it was a regular thing. Them days is gone, though. You couldn’t have that now. No fighting, no quarreling, everybody got along happy.”
I wanted to know more about Ed.
“Ed Haley, here’s what they’d do,” Bob said. “They’d put him and her on a mule and he’d be in front and she’d ride astraddle behind and hold him. And somebody else’d have to carry their musical instruments, see? And when they got them up there then they had to lead them and get them in the house and get them located. And somebody’d slip around and give him a big shot of liquor and her and they’d say, ‘All right, old-man, let ‘er go.’ ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’, boy here she’d go. He’d sing it. He was a good singer. And his old woman, she didn’t look like she was very much, but she was a singer. She was a little woman, blind. But she’d sing right with him. Yeah, ‘Turkey in the Straw’. Ah, that ‘Grapevine twist,’ man, ‘circle eight and all get straight.’ Ah man, them girls had them old rubber-heeled shoes and they’d pop that floor. It was an all-night affair. He’d play a while, then he’d rest a while, then he’d start again. Along about midnight, they’d drink that liquor in them half a gallon jugs. You know, I was a boy and I wasn’t allowed to drink too much but now them old-timers they would drink that liquor. ‘Bout one o’clock, she’d start again, and when the chickens was a crowing and daylight was coming still they were on the floor. They would lay all day and sleep.”