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.”