Ben Walker, Boney Lucas, Brandon Kirk, Cain Adkins, Daisy Ross, diphtheria, education, Faye Smith, feud, Flora Adkins, genealogy, Green McCoy, history, Huntington, Kenova, Low Gap United Baptist Church, Mariah Adkins, medicine, Melvin Kirk, murder, Nancy Adkins, Paris Brumfield, Spicie McCoy, Wayne County, West Virginia, writing
The day after visiting Abe Keibler, I met Brandon Kirk in Huntington, West Virginia. We made the short drive into Wayne County where we located the home of Daisy Ross in Kenova. Her daughter, Faye Smith, met us at the door and told us to come in — her mother was waiting on us. She led us through a TV room and into the dining room where we found Daisy seated comfortably in a plush chair. She was hard of hearing, so Faye had to repeat many of our questions to her.
We first asked Daisy about Cain Adkins. Daisy said he was a United Baptist preacher, schoolteacher, and “had several different political offices.” He was also a “medical doctor” and was frequently absent from home on business.
“I would imagine Grandpaw Cain — I’m not bragging – was pretty well off at that time compared to other people,” Faye said.
Daisy didn’t think Cain was educated — he “just had the brains. Mom said he could be writing something and talk to you all the time.” He was also charitable.
“Lots of times when he doctored, they didn’t have no money,” Daisy said. “They’d give him meat or something off of the farm,” things like dried apples and chickens. “He had little shacks built and would bring in poor people that didn’t have no homes and Grandpaw would keep them and Grandmaw would have to furnish them with food. Kept them from starving to death.”
Cain seemed like a great guy.
Why would the Brumfields have any trouble with him?
Daisy had no idea.
We had a few theories, though, based on Cain’s various occupations. First, as a schoolteacher in the lower section of Harts Creek, he may have provoked Brumfield’s wrath as a possible teacher of his children. As a justice of the peace, he was surely at odds with Paris Brumfield, who we assume (based on numerous accounts) was often in Dutch with the law. As a preacher, Cain may have lectured citizens against living the “wild life” or condemning those locals already engaged in it, which would’ve also made him an “opposing force” to Brumfield.
There is some reason to believe that Cain was a potent religious force in the community during the feud era. Unfortunately, the earliest church record we could locate was for the Low Gap United Baptist Church, organized by Ben Walker and a handful of others in 1898. Melvin Kirk was an early member. More than likely, Cain was an inspiration to Walker, who was ordained a preacher in 1890.
Brandon asked Daisy what she knew about Boney Lucas’ murder.
“They killed him before they killed Green McCoy,” she said.
“I don’t know,” she said. “They mighta had trouble, too.”
Then came an incredible story, indicating that Boney Lucas was no saint, either.
“He lived about a week after he was hurt,” she said. “He wanted to be baptized and the preachers around there wouldn’t baptize him because he didn’t belong to the church. Grandpaw said, ‘I’ll baptize him.’ Grandpaw was a good preacher. He said, ‘I’ll baptize you, Boney.’ So they made a scaffold and they took him out there and somebody helped him and they baptized him before he died.”
Brandon said, “So Boney was kind of a rough character,” and Faye said, “See, he was connected with Grandpaw’s family and they didn’t tell things. If some of the family was mean, they didn’t get out and tell things.”
Cain had more bad luck when two of his daughters, Nancy and Flora, died of diphtheria.
“They buried them little girls out from the house somewhere up on the hill,” Daisy said. “I don’t know where they were buried. Mom never showed me. I guess they just had rocks for tombstones, you know.”