Adam Runyon, Adam Runyon Sr., Alden Williamson Genealogy, Aquillia Runyon, Aubrey Lee Porter, Billy Adkins, Bob Spence, Brandon Kirk, Charleston, civil war, Clarence Hinkle, Crawley Creek, Cultural Center, Ellender Williamson, Enoch Baker, Garrett and Runyon, genealogy, Harts, Hattie Hinkle, Henderson Dingess, history, Inez, Izella Porter, James Bertrand Runyon, James Muncy, John W Runyon, John W. Porter, Kentucky, Land of the Guyandot, Lawrence County, Logan County, Logan County Banner, logging, Martin County, Mary Runyon, Milt Haley, Moses Parsley, Nat's Creek, Nellie Muncy, Nova Scotia, Peach Orchard, Pigeon Creek, Pike County, Pineville, Rockcastle Creek, Runyon Genealogy, Samuel W. Porter, Stephen Williamson, timbering, Wayne, Wayne County, Wealthy Runyon, West Virginia, Wolf Creek, writing, Wyoming County
In the late summer of 1996, Brandon and Billy turned their genealogical sights on John W. Runyon, that elusive character in the 1889 story who seemed to have stirred up a lot of trouble and then escaped unharmed into Kentucky. They arranged a biographical outline after locating two family history books titled Runyon Genealogy (1955) and Alden Williamson Genealogy (1962). Then, they chased down leads at the Cultural Center in Charleston, West Virginia; the Wyoming County Courthouse at Pineville, West Virginia; the Wayne County Courthouse in Wayne, West Virginia; the Martin County Courthouse at Inez, Kentucky; and at various small public libraries in eastern Kentucky. Runyon had left quite a trail.
John W. Runyon was born in February of 1856 to Adam and Wealthy (Muncy) Runyon, Jr. in Pike County, Kentucky. He was a twin to James Bertrand Runyon and the ninth child in his family. His mother was a daughter of James Muncy — making her a sister to Nellie Muncy and an aunt to Milt Haley. In other words, John Runyon and Milt Haley were first cousins.
According to Runyon Genealogy (1955), Adam and Wealthy Runyon left Pike County around 1858 and settled on the Emily Fork of Wolf Creek in present-day Martin County. In 1860, they sold out to, of all people, Milt Haley’s older half-brother, Moses Parsley, and moved to Pigeon Creek in Logan County. John’s grandfather, Adam Runyon, Sr., had first settled on Pigeon Creek around 1811. The family was primarily pro-Union during the Civil War.
At a young age, Runyon showed promise as a timber baron.
“The first lumber industry in Logan County of any importance was started on Crawley Creek by Garrett and Runyon during the year 1876,” Bob Spence wrote in Land of the Guyandot (1978). “Garrett and Runyon deserve credit for their efforts in opening the lumber business in Logan County. They were the first to hire labor in this field. It might be of interest to note here that they originally brought trained men from Catlettsburg… In a few years, Garrett and Runyon left Logan [County], and soon Enoch Baker from Nova Scotia came to Crawley Creek to take their place.”
John may have put his timber interests on hold due to new developments within his family. According to Runyon Genealogy, his mother died around 1878 and was buried at Peach Orchard on Nat’s Creek in Lawrence County, Kentucky. His father, meanwhile, went to live with a son in Minnesota. In that same time frame, on Christmas Day, 1878, Runyon married Mary M. Williamson, daughter of Stephen and Ellender (Blevins) Williamson, in Martin County, Kentucky. He and Mary were the parents of two children: Aquillia Runyon, born 1879; and Wealthy Runyon, born 1881. John settled on or near Nat’s Creek, where his father eventually returned to live with him and was later buried at his death around 1895.
During the late 1880s, of course, Runyon moved to Harts where he surely made the acquaintance of Enoch Baker, the timber baron from Nova Scotia. An 1883 deed for Henderson Dingess referenced “Baker’s lower dam,” while Baker was mentioned in the local newspaper in 1889. “Enoch Baker, who has been at work in the County Clerk’s office and post office for several weeks, is now on Hart’s creek,” the Logan County Banner reported on September 12. Baker was still there in December, perhaps headquartered at a deluxe logging camp throughout the fall of 1889.
After the tragic events of ’89, Runyon made his way to Wayne County where he and his wife “Mary M. Runyons” were referenced in an 1892 deed. Wayne County, of course, was a border county between Lincoln County and the Tug Fork where Cain Adkins and others made their home. He was apparently trying to re-establish himself in Martin County, where his wife bought out three heirs to her late father’s farm on the Rockhouse Fork of Rockcastle Creek between 1892-1895.
In the late 1890s, John’s two daughters found husbands and began their families. On January 3, 1896, Wealthy Runyon married Clarence Hinkle at “John Runyonses” house in Martin County. She had one child named Hattie, born in 1899 in West Virginia. On March 29, 1896, Aquillia Runyon married Samuel W. Porter at Mary Runyon’s house in Martin County. They had three children: John W. Porter, born in 1897 in West Virginia; Aubrey Lee Porter, born in 1899 in Kentucky; and Izella Porter, who died young.
Allen B. Straton, Bella Wilkinson, civil war, David Straton, genealogy, Henry Clay Ragland, history, James A. Nighbert, John B. Wilkinson, John F. Aldridge, Logan Banner, Logan County, Mary Perry, Minnie Straton, photos, U.S. South, Vicie Nighbert, West Virginia, West Virginia Legislature, William Straton, Williamson
Appalachia, Blood in West Virginia, Brandon Kirk, Coal Iron and Slaves, ethnicity, feud, Harts, Historian Laureate of West Virginia, history, industrialization, Kentucky, labor, Ronald L. Lewis, timbering, Transforming the Appalachian Countryside, West Virginia, West Virginia University, writing
I proudly announce Dr. Ronald L. Lewis’ endorsement of my book, Blood in West Virginia: Brumfield v. McCoy. Dr. Lewis, professor emeritus of history at West Virginia University and Historian Laureate of West Virginia, ranks as one of Appalachia’s most distinguished and recognized historians. Best known for his award-winning book, Transforming the Appalachian Countryside (1998), an unsurpassed study of the timber industry in West Virginia, Dr. Lewis is author of five books, beginning with Coal, Iron, and Slaves (1979), as well as numerous articles. Throughout his long career in academia, he has consistently offered top-notch scholarship on the subjects of ethnicity, labor, industrialization, and social change, particularly as they apply to West Virginia and Appalachian history. While I would recommend any one of Dr. Lewis’ writings, his Transforming the Appalachian Countryside remains a personal favorite. Receiving praise from such an outstanding scholar (and personal hero) means a great deal to me.
Here is Dr. Lewis’ endorsement of Blood in West Virginia:
“The family feud is indelibly linked with Appalachia in American popular culture. As portrayed by sensationalist reporters and local color writers of the late 19th century, feuding was evidence of the genetic and/or cultural degeneracy of a people whose lack of social institutions and isolation had arrested their culture in a frontier state as American progress bypassed the region on its way westward. Appalachia was ‘a strange land with peculiar people’ and ‘a place where time stood still.’ Unfortunately, there is not a shred of evidence for this social construction of the region or the ‘hillbilly’ stereotype: that Appalachians were governed by an irrational predisposition to violence. Since the 1980s, scholars have rejected the popular-culture view of drunken hillbillies ready to shoot at the drop of a hat to protect family honor. Brandon Kirk’s Blood in West Virginia is one of the modern community studies that obliterate the stereotype; his intensive research of the Brumfield-McCoy feud that occurred in 1889-90 at Hart, West Virginia, reinforces the revisionist view that feuds occurred as the result of industrial capitalism, rather than the lack of it. Most Appalachian feuds occurred in the mountain counties of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky during the last two decades of the 19th century when railroad, timber, and coal development virtually transformed the region’s economy from its traditional agricultural economy into a rural-industrial one. Kirk clearly demonstrates that the Brumfield-McCoy feud was a struggle between rival factions to control the area’s economic and political development. Family ties among the feudists were incidental. Motives for the feud were, therefore, not peculiar to Appalachian culture; after all, violence for economic and political control in industrializing America was as American as apple pie. Blood in West Virginia is an exciting story well-told; fortunately, it is one that preserves the truth rather than perpetuates the stereotypes.”
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Satisfied that we’d taken up enough of Andy’s day, we drove up Trace Fork to see Wirt Adams, an older brother to Joe Adams. Wirt was busy installing a waterbed but took a break to talk with us. “Well, come on in boys, but I’ve only got a few minutes,” he seemed to say. Inside, however, after I had pulled out my fiddle and he had grabbed a mandolin, he seemed ready to hang out with us all day.
I told Wirt that I was trying to find out about Haley’s life. He said old-timers in the neighborhood used to tell stories about Ed playing for dances on Saturday nights with Johnny Hager, a banjo-picker and fiddler. Ed eventually left Harts Creek and got married but came back to stay with his cousins every summer.
Wirt said he sometimes bumped into him in local taverns:
“It was in the forties,” he said. “About ’47, ’48, ’49, ’50 — along there somewhere. We called it Belcher’s beer garden. It was a roadhouse over on Crawley Hill. Well, I just come in there from the mines and Ed was there and he heard somebody say that I was there and he said, ‘Come on over here Wirt and play one.’ I think the fella that’d been playing with him had got drunk and passed out. Well I played one or two with him and then Charley Conley and them boys come in and Charley says, ‘C’mon over here Wirt and get in with us.’ Ed said, ‘Don’t do that, you’re playing with me.’ I really wasn’t playing with him. I had my mine clothes on. I just come in there and picked up Bernie Adams’ old guitar. If you was playing they’d sit you a beer up there — no money in it. Mostly for fun, we thought. We’d gang up on Saturday night somewhere and play a little. Sometimes they’d dance.”
Wirt felt that Ed was “a good fiddler, one of the best in that time.”
I asked him about Ed’s bowing and he said, “It didn’t look like he moved it that far over the whole thing [meaning very little bow usage] but he played tunes where he did use the long stroke. But most of it was just a lot of movement but not no distance. Just hacking, I call it. Him and Johnny Hager were the only two fellas I know who done that.”
Brandon wondered about Ed’s tunes.
“Well, he played that ‘Blackberry Blossom’ — that was one of his favorites — and then he played ‘The Old Red Rooster’ and he played ‘Raggedy Ann’ and ‘Soldiers Joy’. He had one he called ‘somethin’ in the shucks’. I forget the name of it. Anyhow, it was one of the old tunes. And ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’, I’ve heard him play that.”
I asked if Ed played “Birdie” and he said, “Yeah. Now, that’s one of Charley’s favorites. ‘Chinese Breakdown’, that was one of Ed’s. ‘Down Yonder’.”
Wirt told us more about Johnny Hager and Ed Belcher.
“Johnny Hager was a banjo player but he could play the fiddle, too. He played the old ‘overhand’ [on the banjo]. He was a good second for somebody. Now Ed Belcher was a different thing altogether. He played all kinds of stuff. He played classical, he could play hillbilly. He played a piano, he played accordion, he played a banjo, he played a guitar. He was a good violin player. He tuned pianos for a living. Well, I’d call him a professional musician. They had talent shows in Logan. He’d sponsor that. He’d be like the MC and these kids would go in and play. He was a head musician. He was good. He could do ‘Spanish Fandango’ on the guitar and make it sound good. He could play all kinds of tunes. I never could play with him but then he could take the piano and make it talk, too. He was just an all-around musician.”
Brandon asked Wirt if he knew the story about how Ed came to be blind.
“Milt Haley was Ed’s dad,” Wirt said matter-of-factly. “They said his dad was kind of a mean fella and he took Ed out when he was a little kid — held him by the heels — and ducked him in the creek. He had some kind of a fever in wintertime. I’ve heard that, now. Ed never would talk about it. I never heard him mention his dad.”
Wirt had only heard “snippets” about Milt’s death.
“It was pretty wild times,” he said. “I understand the whole thing was over timberworks. These people, they’d have a splash dam on this creek and they’d get their logs and haul them in this bottom at the mouth of Trace — this was one of them. They had a splash dam and when the water got up they’d knock that dam out and that’d carry the logs down to Hart and they had a boom and them Brumfields owned the boom. They charged so much a log. Some way over that, there was some confusion. But I’ve seen Aunt Hollene. She was supposed to been riding behind old man Al Brumfield, her husband, and they shot at him and hit her.”
After Milt was caught, he made a last request.
“They said they asked him if he wanted anything and he wanted them to bring him a fiddle,” Wirt said. “He wanted to play a tune. Now this is hearsay but I’ve heard it several times. They said he played the fiddle and they hung him.”
Albert Gill, Barboursville, Big Sulphur, Big Ugly Creek, C.C. Fry, Charles Bolin, Charles Hendrick, coal, Dixie Toney, Dr. Crockett, Dr. Henley, Ed Reynolds, Edna Hager, Elmer Ferrell, genealogy, ginseng, Hamlin, Henry D. Hatfield, history, Ida Hager, Island Creek, Jeff Duty, Jeff Miller, Jennie Toney, John B. Mullins, John Hunter, Kizzie Toney, Knights of Pythias, Leet, Lenzie Lane, Lincoln Republican, Linnie Gillenwater, Logan County, Lucy Reynolds, Madge Hager, Mary Hager, Maude Toney, Noah Adkins, Paris Bell, Pearl Hager, Philip Hager, pneumonia, Rome Lambert, Sharples, timbering, typhoid fever, West Virginia, World War I
“Observer,” a local correspondent from Leet in Lincoln County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Lincoln Republican printed on Thursday, March 11, 1915:
There is an alarming lot of sickness in this vicinity at present.
Mrs. John B. Toney, Mrs. Wirt Toney, Misses Dixie and Kizzie Toney, Edna Hager and Elmer Ferrell are all very ill with typhoid fever. Drs. Crockett and Henley are in constant attendance.
Philip Hager, of Hamlin, is here with his daughter, Edna, who is seriously ill with typhoid fever. Misses Madge, Pearl and Ida Hager are also here with their sister, Miss Edna.
Charles Hendrick of Barboursville, was visiting on the creek Saturday and Sunday.
John B. Mullins has gone to Island Creek, where he has employment.
Business is at a stand still here and work is scarce.
A Knights of Pythias lodge was organized at Big Creek Saturday night. Albert Gill, C.C. Fry, Lenzie Lane and Chas. Bolin, of this place were charter members.
Jeff Miller has rented Philip Hager’s farm at the mouth of Big Sulphur and is preparing for a large crop.
The European war makes flour $9.00 per barrel; coal $1.00 per ton; cuts the price of lumber in halves; doubles the price of sugar and cuts the ginseng market “clean out.” Automatic-reversible-double-action — that war.
In all the criticism of the Governor by the democratic press, we have never seen where they claim that the rates of the Light and Heating Co. ought not to have been reduced. Then if they were too high, why all this hue and cry?
Mrs. General Gillenwater is real sick, being threatened with pneumonia.
Mrs. John M. Hager has been indisposed for several days.
John Hunter has been confined to his room the past week.
The infant child of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Reynolds, born last Thursday, died Sunday.
J.B. Lambert, who is working at Sharples, Logan county, spent Saturday and Sunday with his family here.
Jeff Duty has purchased Paris Bell’s farm. Mr. Bell has purchased the Noah Adkins farm.
Andy Mullins, banjo, Bernie Adams, Bill Adkins, Bill Monroe, Billy Adkins, Black Sheep, blind, Bob Dingess, Brandon Kirk, Buck Fork, Claude Martin, Dingess, Dobie Mullins, Drunkard's Hell, Ed Haley, Floyd Mullins, George Baisden, George Mullins, Green McCoy, Grover Mullins, guitar, Harts Creek, history, Hollene Brumfield, John Hartford, Logan County, Maple Leaf on the Hill, measles, Michigan, Millard Thompson, Milt Haley, Mona Haley, moonshine, music, Naaman Adams, Roxie Mullins, Smokehouse Fork, Ticky George Hollow, Trace Fork, West Virginia, Williamson, Wilson Mullins, writing
From Naaman’s, we drove out of Trace and on up Harts Creek to see Andy Mullins, who Brandon had met a few months earlier at Bill Adkins’ wake. Andy had just relocated to Harts after years of living away in Michigan; he had constructed a new house in the head of Ticky George Hollow. Andy was a son to Roxie Mullins, the woman who inspired my fascination with Harts Creek. Andy, who we found sitting in his yard with his younger brother Dobie, was very friendly. He treated us as if we had known him for years.
“I was just catting when you fellas come up through there,” Andy said to us. “One of the girls lost a cat down there over the bank last night — a kitten. This morning I went down there and it was up in that rock cliff and I took its mother down there and it whooped the mother. And I took one of the kittens down there and it whooped the kitten. The old tomcat, he come down there and he whooped it. It went back up under that damn rock.”
I liked Andy right away.
We all took seats in lawn chairs in the front yard where Andy told about Ed Haley coming to see his parents every summer when he was a boy, usually with his wife. He described him as having a “big, fat belly” and weighing about 200 pounds.
“He wasn’t much taller than Dobie but he was fat,” Andy said. “I can remember his eyes more than the rest of him because his eyes was like they had a heavy puss over them or something. It was real thick-like. Not like they were clouded or anything.”
Even though Ed was blind, he could get around all over Harts Creek and even thread a needle.
Andy had heard that Milt caused Ed’s blindness.
“They said that Ed got a fever of some kind when he was a baby and Milt went out and cut a hole in the ice and stuck him under the ice in the creek to break the fever,” he said.
Andy knew very little about Milt.
“Just that Milt got killed, that was it, over shooting the old lady down at the shoal below Bob Dingess’ at the mouth of Smokehouse,” he said.
“All the old-timers that knows anything about his daddy is probably dead,” Dobie said.
Brandon said we’d heard rumors that Milt and Green were innocent of shooting Hollena Brumfield and Andy quickly answered, “That’s what my father-in-law told me.”
Changing the conversation back to Ed, Andy said, “Ed used to go up on Buck Fork to George Mullins’ to stay a lot and up to Grover Mullins’. He lived just above George’s place — the old chimney is the only thing still standing.”
He also went up in the head of Hoover to see George Baisden, a banjo-picker who’d hoboed with him in his younger days. The two of them had a lot of adventures, like the time Ed caught a train at Dingess and rode it over to Williamson to play for a dance or at a tavern. Just before they rolled into town, George pushed him off the train then jumped off himself. It made Ed so mad that George had to hide from him for the rest of the night.
I asked Andy if Ed ever told those kind of stories on himself and he said, “He told big tales, I’d call them, but I don’t remember what they were. Well, he set and talked with my grandmother and grandfather all the time he was here, and Mom. I never paid any attention to what they talked about really. I guess, man, I run these hills. I was like a goat. Hindsight is 20/20.”
Not long into our visit with Andy, he got out his guitar and showed me what he remembered about Bernie Adams’ guitar style. From there, he took off on Bill Monroe tunes, old lonesome songs, or honky-tonk music, remarking that he could only remember Ed’s tunes in “sketches.”
I asked, “Do you reckon Ed would sing anything like ‘Little Joe’?” and he said, “I don’t know. It’s awful old. I heard him sing ‘The Maple on the Hill’. He played and sang the ‘Black Sheep’.”
“He played loud, Ed did,” Dobie said.
“And sang louder,” Andy said immediately. “He’d rare back and sing, man.”
The tune he best remembered Ed singing was “The Drunkard’s Hell”.
I wanted to know the time frame of Andy’s memories.
“1944, ’45,” he said. “I was thirteen year old at that time. Now in ’46, we lived across the creek up here at Millard’s. Him and Mona Mae and Wilson — they wasn’t married at the time — went somewhere and got some homebrew and they all got pretty looped. That was up on Buck Fork some place. Ed got mad at Wilson and her about something that night and that’s the reason they didn’t play music — him and Claude Martin and Bernie Adams.”
I asked Andy about Ed’s drinking and he said, “Just whatever was there, Ed’d drink. He didn’t have to see it. He smelled it. Ed could sniff it out.”
Brandon wondered if Ed ever played at the old jockey grounds at the mouth of Buck Fork. Andy doubted it, although it sure seemed to me like the kind of place for him to go. There was moonshine everywhere and men playing maybe ten card games at once.
“They’d get drunk and run a horse right over top of you if you didn’t watch,” Andy said. “It was like a rodeo.”
The last jockey ground held at the mouth of Buck Fork was in 1948.
Albert Wall, Charleston, Dr. Crockett, Edna Hager, genealogy, history, Huntington, Island Creek, John B. Mullins, Leet, Lincoln County, Lincoln Republican, Miss Doyle, Rector, Sheridan, T J Bolin, timbering, typhoid fever, Webb Terrill Gillenwater, West Virginia
“Observer,” a local correspondent from Leet in Lincoln County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Lincoln Republican printed on Thursday, March 18, 1915:
W.T. Gillenwaters, of Rector, was a business visitor here Tuesday.
Dr. Crockett returned from Charleston Sunday, where he had been on important business.
T.J. Bolin spent Sunday with his family in Huntington.
Albert Walls will move to Sheridan in a few days. We regret to lose Mr. Walls, as he is one of our best citizens, but wish him success in his home.
Miss Doyle, a trained nurse of Huntington, is here in charge of Miss Edna Hager, who is very low with typhoid.
John B. Mullins, who is employed on Island Creek, spent Sunday with his family near this place.
The big lumber mill at this place only runs about one-third time now. The boys here that voted for the party that put lumber practically on the free list have thoroughly repented and say they will never do so any more.
There are several cases of typhoid on the creek above here and we are informed they are no better.
Adams Branch, Ashland, Ben Adams, Billy Adkins, Bob Dingess, Brandon Kirk, Calhoun County, Ed Haley, Eloise Adams, Ernest Adams, Ewell Mullins, feud, Harts Creek, history, Imogene Haley, John Hartford, Logan, Logan County, Luster Dalton, Naaman Adams, Trace Fork, Twelve Pole Creek, West Virginia, writing
After talking with Luster, we drove to see Naaman Adams on Trace Fork. We talked in the yard with Naaman, who wore a straw hat and work clothes. His mother, we knew from Billy’s records, was Imogene Mullins, a first cousin to Ed’s mother and her namesake.
Naaman said his grandfather Ben Adams had lived in an old log cabin at the mouth of Adams Branch on Trace. Ben had feuded frequently with his neighbors and once ordered sixteen rifles for protection — eight .32 Winchesters and eight .38 Winchesters. To our surprise, Naaman said he had one of those very rifles. Disappearing momentarily into his house, he returned outside with a magnificent 1873 model .38 Winchester. Pointing to a dark spot on its butt end, Naaman said it had been caused by rifle fire. Apparently, during a feud, as Ben stood in his doorway shooting at his enemies, someone fired back, striking his rifle and causing the spot. He didn’t know if this incident occurred during the 1889 troubles.
Of the old feuds, Naaman said: “People back then feuded amongst themselves but ganged up on outsiders. People’d be killed and nobody knew who did it.”
Naaman said Ben’s feud “just died out” when a lot of the participants moved away from the area. The law eventually confiscated most of his guns. Someone located one of them in the old Logan Courthouse when it was torn down in the sixties. Bob Dingess had a .32, as did Ernest Adams, while a Hall on Twelve Pole had a .38.
Just before we left, Naaman mentioned that his wife was a daughter of Ewell Mullins, Ed’s first cousin. Ewell, of course, was the man who had bought Ed’s Trace Fork property in 1911. Naaman said when his father-in-law had bought the property, it contained a one-story boxed log house, which stood near a sugar tree toward the branch. Later, Ewell moved the house further up the bottom; old-timers had told Naaman about placing logs under the house and rolling it. In the 1950s, Naaman and several other men demolished the house. They did it in stages: first, the front was removed and rebuilt, then the back was removed and rebuilt. The newer home — the one there now, which we had nicknamed the “red house” — was patterned in its design after the older one.
This was a little disheartening: there didn’t seem to be anything left from Ed’s time on Harts Creek (nor in Ashland or in Calhoun County).
Bernie Adams, Big Branch, Billy Adkins, Brandon Kirk, Cacklin Hen, crime, Dood Dalton, Ed Haley, fiddle, fiddler, fiddling, Green McCoy, guitar, Harts, Harts Creek, history, Hollene Brumfield, John Hartford, Logan, Luster Dalton, Milt Haley, Mona Haley, music, Rockhouse Fork, Stump Dalton, Wild Horse, writing
From Harts proper, we headed up Harts Creek to the home of Luster Dalton, a son of Ed’s friend, Dood Dalton. Luster was born in 1924 and used to play the fiddle on weekends for free drinks at local “dives” with his brother Stump and two cousins. I asked him if he learned much from Ed and he said, “Yeah, I learned a lot from the old man Ed. He was a real fiddle player, son.”
I wondered if anybody around Harts played like Ed.
“Not as good as he could, no,” Luster said. “I’d have to say no to that. That old man really knew how to handle that job, buddy.”
Luster tried to remember some of Ed’s tunes.
“Way back in them days, they had one they called ‘Cacklin’ Hen’ and ‘Wild Horse’ and such as that on down the line,” he said.
I got my fiddle out and pointed it toward Luster, who said, “They ain’t a bit of use in me to try that. I’ve had too many bones broke.”
I tried to get him to just show me anything — but he refused.
He chose instead to talk, starting with how Ed came to visit his father on Big Branch.
“He came about onest a year and would maybe stay a month,” Luster said. “He’d maybe stay a week at Dad’s and go to some other family and stay a week and go up Logan and stay a week or so with somebody. Him and his old woman both would come and a couple three of his kids. Mona was one of them’s name. About all of them I guess has been to my dad’s. I don’t see how they raised a bunch of kids — neither one of them could see. That’s something we got to think about. They was good people. And a fella by the name of Bernie Adams used to come with them — he was a guitar picker — and they’d sit up there and sing and pick up at my dad’s till twelve o’clock and go to bed and go to sleep, get up the next morning, go into ‘er again. I went in the army in 1940, I believe it was, and I know I’ve not heard from them since then.”
Luster didn’t know if Milt Haley was a fiddler but had heard the old-timers talk about how either him or Green McCoy had shot Hollena Brumfield through the jaw at the mouth of the Rockhouse Fork on Harts Creek.
“They were murdered in a little log house,” Luster said. “They took a pole axe and beat them to death and then chopped them up.”
Albert Wall, Andrew Spurlock, Big Creek, Big Ugly Creek, Collie Fry, D.V. Hodge, Easy, Elijah Pauley, genealogy, Gill, history, Holden, J.A. Chaffin, Jeannette Stone, John E. Fry, Lincoln County, Mary Toney, Maude Toney, Midkiff, Mud River, Myrtle Toney, Nancy Jane Toney, Nora Harper, Parlee Hunter, Polly Ann Wall, Rector, Salt Rock, Tracy Baird, Walter Toney, West Virginia
“Sunshine,” a local correspondent from Rector in Lincoln County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Lincoln Monitor printed on Thursday, April 9, 1914:
Miss Jeannette Stone of Big Creek is the pleasant guest of her grandmother, Mrs. Squire Toney.
Mrs. Elijah Pauley of Holden is visiting relatives here this week.
Mrs. Walter Toney was shopping in Big Creek Saturday.
Mrs. M.A. Wall who has been visiting her son Albert, has returned to her home at Easy.
Miss Maude Toney who has been visiting relatives in Holden for the past two weeks, has returned and reports a very pleasant visit.
Dr. J.A. Chaffin was a pleasant visitor in Rector, Sunday.
Misses Maude Toney and Jeannette Stone spent Sunday horseback riding and were at Gill, where they dined with Miss Stone’s sister, Mrs. S.J. Harper.
Tracy Baird was a caller here Monday.
Mrs. Albert Wall, who has been ill for some time, is slowly improving.
Andrew Spurlock spent Sunday with friends at Salt Rock.
Misses Mary and Myrtle Toney are visiting their brothers on Mud this week.
Squire J.E. Fry made a flying trip to Midkiff Saturday.
D.V. Hodge made a business call to this place Saturday.
Collie Fry was a pleasant visitor in town Sunday.
Mrs. John Hunter was shopping here Saturday.
Admiral S. Fry, Billy Adkins, Brandon Kirk, Cecil Lambert, crime, George Fry, Green McCoy, Green Shoal, history, John Hartford, Lincoln County Feud, Lon Lambert, Milt Haley, Virgie Rooney, Watson Lucas, writing
The next day, Brandon, Billy, and I went to investigate the Watson Lucas-Lon Lambert home at the mouth of Green Shoal. For a long time, we had suspected it of being the actual “murder house,” the place where Haley and McCoy had been brutally murdered in 1889. Cecil Lambert, the current owner and occupant of the dwelling, told us, however, upon our arrival that it was not the same house. He said his father, Lon, had told him prior to his death that the old Fry log house was long torn down. The Fry home, he said, had been located just a few feet downriver from the current home, generally at the present-day location of a garage. Cecil had done some recent remodeling and was pretty sure that his father was correct: he hadn’t found a single log anywhere behind the walls.
Cecil walked us over to a nearby embankment and showed us what he figured to be the last remaining vestige of the Fry house: some old foundation stones strewn down into a ditch. He then took us through the house, which (unfortunately for our imaginations) really didn’t have a nineteenth century look to it.
There was one thing on the second floor that excited us: easily visible through a large hole in the wall (courtesy of Cecil’s remodeling) were some old dried beans lying on the rafter “floor.” It made us think of what Vergia Rooney had said about people using the top story of the old Fry house for drying peaches and apples. Of course, the beans we could see were not George Fry’s…but finding them like we did sure struck us as a coincidence.
Back outside, Brandon walked around the house searching for anything that might connect it with the events of 1889. He made a significant find on the upriver side, which Vergia remembered as being part of the original house. Clearly visible in a corner was an old foundation stone just like the ones at the ditch. We did not notice any more old stones under the house that day, but Cecil later found many more after further remodeling. On the upriver (or “original”) side of the house, foundation stones were intact (at least partially) while on the downriver (or “newer”) side, foundation stones had been tossed in the ditch. There was also a “hidden” door on the downriver side of the house (where Vergia had remembered one swinging open in the old days).
Back at Billy’s, Brandon got out the Fry history book and located a picture of A.S. Fry’s home at Green Shoal, presumably taken around the time of the murders. We compared it mentally with what we remembered about the present home at Green Shoal and noted a few similarities but nothing really conclusive. Then we noticed in the photograph that the Fry dwelling had an extension of rough lumber off to one side that resembled the current Lambert house. It wasn’t clear whether the log portion was on the upriver or downriver side but if it was on the downriver side (the end Vergia said was torn away) it would explain why some of the old foundation stones were lying about in that direction. In such a scenario, both Vergia and Lambert would be correct in their account of what happened to the Fry house. In other words, there was a real chance that the building was at least partly intact — although radically remodeled.