America Toppins, Ann Conley, Anthelia Elkins, Appalachia, Arminda Roberts, Asa Williamson, Barbara Workman, Canaan Adkins, David Straton, David Thompson, Elgan Tomblin, Eliza Thomas, genealogy, Harts Creek, Henry S. Godby, history, Isaac Fry, James Browning, James P. Mullins, Jefferson Mullins, Jeremiah McCloud, Jesse Collins, John Bryant, John Frock Adams, Josephus Workman, Letilia Kinser, Lewis Collins, Lewis Dingess, Logan County, Lucinda Curry, Margaret Hensley, Martha Hall, Mary A. Lowe, Matilda Vance, Melissa Ann Hager, Nancy Dempsey, Nancy J. Mullins, Obediah Tomblin, preachers, Pricy Roberts, Rebecca Browning, Sarah Lambert, Stephen T. Myers, Thomas Browning, U.S. South, West Virginia, William B. Wheatley
The following list of Logan County marriages for the period of 1879 to 1881 reveals the names of preachers operating in the Harts Creek area. This is a “working list” and will be updated. The source for this material is “Marriages-Births-Deaths, 1872-1892,” pages 37-41, which is located at the Logan County Clerk’s Office in Logan, WV. Many thanks to the county clerks and their employees who have always been so helpful to my research these past twenty-five years. NOTE: Marriage records for the Lincoln County section of the community are unavailable.
Isaac Fry 8 January 1879 James Browning and Margaret Hensley
James P. Mullins 15 February 1879 David Straton and Nancy J. Mullins
Canaan Adkins 21 February 1879 Obediah Tomberlin and Nancy Dempsey
Isaac Fry 22 March 1879 Lewis Collins and Pricy Roberts
Isaac Fry 24 April 1879 David Thompson and Barbary Workman
James P. Mullins 14 June 1879 James P. Mullins and Eliza Thomas
Isaac Fry 25 September 1879 Jeremiah McCloud and Sarah Lambert
Canaan Adkins 16 October 1879 Jesse Collins and Malisa Ann Hager
Canaan Adkins 14 November 1879 Jefferson Mullins and Anthelia Elkins
Isaac Fry 30 December 1879 Asa Williamson and Rebecca Browning
Canaan Adkins 4 May 1880 Lewis Dingess and Martha Hall
James Mullins 9 May 1880 Elgan Tomlin and Arminda Roberts
Josephus Workman 25 December 1880 H.S. Godbey and Mary A. Lowe
Josephus Workman 15 February 1881 John Bryant and America Toppins
Canaan Adkins 28 May 1881 John Adams and Lucinda Curry
Canaan Adkins 12 July 1881 Dr. Stephen T. Myers and Matilda Vance
Canaan Adkins 12 July 1881 Thomas Browning and Letilia Kinser
Josephus Workman 9 October 1881 William B. Wheatley and Ann Conley
Ben Adams, Bertha Mullins, Bill Thompson, Billie Brumfield, Brandon Kirk, Buck Fork, Cas Baisden, crime, Dingess, Dump Farley, Ed Haley, Ewell Mullins, Greasy George Adams, Green Shoal, Harts Creek, history, Imogene Haley, Jim Martin, John Frock Adams, John Hartford, Jonas Branch, Lincoln County Feud, Liza Mullins, Milt Haley, moonshining, Peter Mullins, Weddie Mullins, West Virginia, writing
Cas knew that Ed sold his homeplace at the mouth of Jonas Branch to Ewell Mullins. He said it originally stood below a big sugar tree in the bottom above Uncle Peter’s. (It was moved on logs.) It was a “little old two-room plank house” consisting of the “eating room,” which had a flat-rock chimney in the back with a fireplace and a “sleeping room.”
Cas best described the kitchen, which was just “out at the back” of the house.
“They wasn’t no floor in it,” he said. “It just sat on the ground. It was the length of the house — I guess maybe about eight feet wide — and they cooked out there in that. They cooked out there, packed it in, and set it on the table and they eat and everything in the same house. I’ve seen that old woman, Ewell’s wife, put fence rails in the stove — had a cook stove — and she’d stick them in there and set a chair on them till they burnt up to where they wouldn’t fall out. Me and her old man and his brother, we’d go up on that cliff and drag wood down that creek and the snow knee deep.”
Brandon asked Cas about the fate of Ewell’s house and he said they first enlarged it.
“We moved an old storehouse we had down the field there out there and put it beside of it,” he said. “It was there when the old man Ewell died ’cause the old storehouse had a crack up over the bed and his mother come in there and she was whining about that. Man, the snow’d blow in at him.”
Cas continued, “Then we turned around and tore that down and built this other to it. Tore that other’n down and built it back, too.”
He said the newer home was built on the same spot as the old one but it didn’t resemble it in any way.
Based on this testimony, we concluded that Ewell’s original home was truly gone.
Speaking of Uncle Peter, Brandon asked about him.
“Ah, he was a tomcat now, that old man was,” Cas said. “He was crippled in one foot and he walked on the back of it. Had his shoe made turned back. Prohibition men would come in and… I’ve seen him down there right below where Kate lived — he’d go out and hit that cliff. He’d get them bushes and swing up and go right up over them cliffs. He was bad to drink in his last few years. Well, they all the time made liquor and fooled with it. Finally got to drinking the stuff.”
Cas said Peter was bad to fight if provoked but Aunt Liza “was just like all other old women. She was a good old woman. She just stood and cooked.”
Cas thought that Ed’s mother was related to Uncle Peter, but wasn’t sure how.
“Wasn’t his dad named Milt Haley?” he asked.
“Well, you know they killed him down there around Green Shoal,” he said. “I heard somebody not too long ago a talking about them taking them over there and hanging them. I never did know too much about it. Nobody never talked too much about things back then.”
Cas had also heard about Ben Adams but didn’t know of his involvement in the 1889 troubles. He said Ben was a “pretty mean fellow” who lived in a log cabin still standing just up the creek.
“He had some kind of a brewery up here,” Cas said. “They had it built back in the bank. Sold booze there. Bootleg joint. I don’t know if all the old rocks and things is gone from there or not. He lived on Trace when he killed Jim Martin.”
Part of Ben’s old mill-dam was reportedly still visible in the creek at the Greasy George Adams place.
Cas told us again about Weddie Mullins’s death at Dingess, West Virginia. Weddie was an uncle to Ed Haley.
“I never did know too much about it,” he said. “We was little when that happened, I guess. Him and some of them Dingesses got into it and they shot and killed Weddie. And old man John Adams went down and looked at him, said, ‘What do you think about him?’ ‘Oh, I believe he’ll make it.’ Said he just hoisted that pistol, brother, and shot him right in the head and killed him. Said, ‘I know he won’t make it now.'”
This “old man John Adams” was Emma Haley’s half-brother, “John Frock.”
Cas said John could be ruthless.
“His wife was a coming out the gate and he shot her in the head and killed her,” he said. “Shot her whole head off. He was a little feller. He lived right there where Louie and them lived.”
Cas didn’t know what that killing was over.
“Back here at one time it was dangerous to even stick your head out of the door, son,” he said. “Why, everybody packed guns. Anybody’d kill you.”
The jockey grounds were rough places.
“A fella tried to run a horse over me up there at the mouth of Buck Fork and Billie Brumfield laid a pistol between his eyes and said, ‘You run that horse over him, you’ll never run it over nobody else.’ I believe it was before he killed his daddy.”
Cas said Dump Farley was at a jockey ground one time “right down under the hill from where Bill Thompson lived in that cornfield playing poker and he shot the corn all down. Talk about fellers a rolling behind the stumps and things.”
Al Brumfield, Ben Adams, Blood in West Virginia, Brandon Kirk, Chapman Dingess, Charlie Dingess, Cole Branch, Connecticut, crime, feud, Green McCoy, Harts Creek, Harvey "Long Harve" Dingess, Henderson Dingess, history, John Dingess, John Frock Adams, Joseph Adams, Kentucky, Lincoln County War, Milt Haley, Sallie Dingess, Smokehouse Fork, Thompson Branch, Tug River, Victoria Adams, West Virginia, World War II
That winter, Brandon made contact by telephone with John Dingess, a Connecticut resident who proved to be one of our best sources on the 1889 feud. John was born on the Smokehouse Fork of Harts Creek in 1918. A grandson to Henderson Dingess, he moved away from West Virginia after serving his country in World War II.
John said Henderson Dingess met his wife Sallie while boarding with her father Joseph Adams on Harts Creek. Henderson didn’t care much for his in-laws (he said they were “hoggish”), particularly his brother-in-law Ben Adams. Ben lived over the mountain from Henderson on main Harts Creek where he operated a small store. He and Henderson feuded “for years.” At some point, Henderson’s oldest son Charlie Dingess got into a racket with Ben over a yoke of cattle and “almost killed him in a fight” at Cole Branch.
The feud between Henderson’s family and Ben Adams reached a new level of tension when Ben refused to pay the sixteen-cents-per-log fee required by Al Brumfield to pass logs through his boom at the mouth of Harts Creek. Brumfield “was more of a businessman” than a feudist but “got into it” with Adams at his saloon near the boom. In the scrape, Ben pulled out his pistol and shot Al, who was spared from harm only because of a button on his clothes. Al subsequently fetched a gun and chased Ben up the creek — a very humiliating thing as there was probably a whole gang of people to witness his flight.
Ben soon gathered up a party of men with plans to force his timber out of Harts Creek under the cover of darkness. Before he could put his plan into action, though, the Dingesses caught wind of it and warned the Brumfields who promptly armed themselves with .38 Winchesters and .44 Winchesters and gathered in ambush on the hill at Panther Branch near the mouth of Harts.
Ben, anticipating trouble, put his wife, the former Victoria Dingess, at the front of his gang in the hopes that it might discourage her cousins from shooting at him as they came down the creek. It was a bad idea: the Brumfields and Dingesses shot “her dress full of holes.”
This was particularly horrible since she was probably pregnant at the time.
The next day, she came to her uncle Henderson’s to show him what his boys had done to her dress but he never punished them.
At that point, Ben was probably hell-bent on revenge and arranged for Milt Haley and Green McCoy, who John called two “professional gunmen,” to “bump Al off.”
John was sure of Ben’s role in the events of 1889.
“Ben Adams, my father’s uncle, he gave them a .38 Winchester apiece and a side of bacon to kill Al Brumfield,” he said.
Milt and Green caught Al one Sunday as he made his way back down Harts Creek after visiting with Henderson Dingess. He rode alone, while Hollena rode with her younger brother, Dave Dingess. As they neared Thompson Branch, Milt and Green fired down the hill at them from their position at the “Hot Rock.” Al was shot in the elbow, which knocked him from his horse and broke his arm, while Hollena was shot in the face. Al somehow managed to make it over a mountain back to Henderson Dingess’, while Hollena was left to crawl half a mile down to Chapman Dingess’ at Thompson Branch for help.
Upon learning of the ambush, Harvey Dingess (John’s father) hitched up a sled to one of his father’s yokes of cattle and fetched Hollena, who remained at Henderson’s until she recovered.
Immediately after the shootings, there was a lot of gossip about who’d been behind the whole affair. John said there was some talk that Long John Adams had been involved “but the Dingess and Brumfield people never believed it.” Everyone seemed to focus in on Milt and Green, who’d recently disappeared into Kentucky (where McCoy was from).
“They used to, if you committed a crime in West Virginia, would run away to Kentucky,” John said. “In the hill part of Kentucky there on the Tug River.”
Brumfield put up a $500 reward and it wasn’t long until a man rode up to Henderson Dingess’ claiming to have caught Milt and Green in Kentucky. He was sent to Brumfield’s home near the mouth of Harts where he found Al out back shoeing an ox steed. They talked for a while, then Brumfield told him, “You put them across the Tug River and when I identify them you’ll get your money.”
Al Brumfield, Ann Brumfield, Appalachia, Ben Adams, Bob Adkins, Brandon Kirk, Burl Adams, Cain Adkins, crime, Daisy Ross, Ed Haley, Green McCoy, Guyandotte River, Harts, Harts Creek, Henderson Dingess, history, Howard Dalton, Imogene Haley, Joe Adams, John Frock Adams, John Hartford, John W Runyon, Lawrence Haley, Lawrence Kirk, Lincoln County, Logan County, Major Adkins, Milt Haley, Paris Brumfield, Peter McCoy, Sallie Dingess, Trace Fork, West Virginia, writing
Two months later, Brandon was still digging, but in a different way. He was knee-deep in land records at the Lincoln and Logan County court houses. He was curious — based on the economic aspect of the 1889 feud — to know about property ownership for feudists, particularly those with land around the mouth of Harts Creek.
He started with the Brumfields.
In 1889, Paris Brumfield owned 771 acres of land worth $1020, while his wife owned 367 acres worth $483. Al Brumfield had 295 acres (195 acres on Brown’s Branch and 100 acres on the Guyan River) worth $642. By combining Al’s totals to that of his parents, the Brumfields owned a total of 1433 acres of land worth $2143. A little further up Harts Creek, Henderson and Sarah Dingess owned 546 acres (five tracts) worth $1234.50 with a building valued at 100 dollars.
How did these totals compare to the land holdings of their enemies?
Well, Cain Adkins owned 205 acres worth $420 (with no buildings listed for 1889), while John Runyon owned 100 acres worth $187.50. Ben Adams owned at least 340 acres in Lincoln and Logan Counties (2 tracts) worth $380. By combining Ben’s property with that of Adkins and Runyon they owned 645 acres worth $987.50 — not even half of the Brumfield family holdings.
Based on these records, we realized that it might have been the financial superiority of the Brumfields and Dingesses which caused Adams, Runyon, and/or Adkins to act out against them (through Milt and Green).
But there was also a reason for the Brumfields to feel a little threatened themselves: John Runyon, whose 100 acres of property was situated geographically closest to them near the mouth of Harts Creek, had accumulated his estate in only three years of residence in Harts. His first tract, totaling 75 acres, was worth $1.50 and was deeded by A.S. “Major” Adkins in 1887. The other tract, totaling 25 acres and worth three dollars per acre, was deeded in 1888. Neither tract contained a building, according to land records.
Al’s 100 acres near the mouth of Harts Creek, in contrast, reflected eight years of effort.
Brumfield was likely concerned that Runyon had acquired so much land at the mouth of Harts in such a short time, especially since it was property that he wanted for himself.
It was immediately clear in looking at the feud in mild economic terms that Milt Haley and Green McCoy were pawns in a larger game between local elites. While Paris Brumfield, Al Brumfield, Cain Adkins, John Runyon, and Ben Adams were leading citizens, property owners and businessmen, Milt and Green were timber laborers and musicians who owned no property whatsoever. Based on what we’d heard from Daisy Ross, it was easy to see why Green might have took a shot at Paris, but why did he attack Al? And what was Milt’s motivation for even getting involved in the whole mess? Was he pulled into the fray because of his friendship to Green, as Daisy Ross had said? Or did he have connections to Ben Adams (a possible economic dependence on the timber-boss, his residence nearby Adams on Trace, or the fact his wife was related to Ben)?
And what did either man hope to gain from the assassination of Al Brumfield? I mean, that’s a hell of a lot to risk for a side of bacon and a few dollars. I had this nagging suspicion that they were maybe innocent of the crime, but Brandon was pretty well convinced of their guilt (as had been Lawrence Haley). He did, however, leave an opening by pointing out how Bob Adkins, Howard Dalton, Joe Adams and Lawrence Kirk had all heard that they were innocent. Bob and Joe had actually mentioned other suspects: Burl Adams, a nephew to Ben Adams, and John “Frock” Adams, a half-brother to Ed’s mother (who later shot his wife’s head off with a shotgun in his front yard). There was also the testimony of Preacher McCoy, who said Milt and Green were “as innocent as Jesus Christ on the cross.”
Andy Mullins, Ashland, banjo, Ben Adams, Bernie Adams, Bill Adkins, Brandon Kirk, Buck Fork, Claude Martin, Clyde Haley, Devil Anse Hatfield, Devil's Dream, Dingess, Drunkard's Hell, Ed Haley, Ella Haley, fiddling, George Baisden, George Mullins, Greasy George Adams, Harts, Harts Creek, Henderson Branch, history, Hoover Fork, John Frock Adams, Johnny Canub Adams, Kentucky, Lincoln County, Logan County, Mona Haley, music, Ralph Haley, Roxie Mullins, Sally Goodin, Soldiers Joy, Ticky George Adams, Trace Fork, Weddie Mullins, West Virginia, Wilson Mullins, writing
Throughout the winter 1996, Brandon kept busy interviewing folks around Harts for new Ed Haley-Milt Haley leads. In March, he wrote me about recent developments, including the death of Bill Adkins, Sr. — the old fiddler in Harts. At Bill’s wake, Brandon met Andy Mullins, who had recently moved back to Harts Creek after settling in Michigan in 1952. He was the son of Roxie Mullins.
Andy said, when he was a child, Ed Haley spent summers with his parents. Ed also stayed with George Mullins on Buck Fork, George Baisden (a banjo player) in the head of Hoover Fork, “old John Adams” on main Harts Creek, and Johnny Adams (Ticky George’s son) on Trace Fork. Ed had a big, fat belly. Sometimes, he came with his wife, a quiet woman who would eat dinner and then sing for an hour or so while playing the mandolin. Their daughter “Mona Mae” traveled with them, as did her husband, Wilson Mullins.
Andy didn’t remember much about Ed’s other children. He said Clyde stayed six months at a time on Harts Creek and “wouldn’t work a lick” and “couldn’t stay out of trouble.” He heard that Ralph used to hang upside down from a bridge in Ashland.
When Ed was young, Andy said, he supposedly played a lot of music with George Baisden. Later, he played with Bernie Adams and Claude Martin. Andy remembered that Ed didn’t saw the fiddle — he played smooth — and he was a good singer. His voice was like a bell. When he played music with Bernie and Claude, people gathered in and brought food and booze. Andy never saw Ed drunk, although he would get pretty high. Ed and Bernie were hateful. Somebody might request a tune and Ed would say, “What do you think I am, a steam engine?” — then play it five minutes later. Andy remembered Ed playing “Devil’s Dream”, “Drunkard’s Hell,” “Soldiers Joy” and “Sally Goodin”.
Andy was familiar with Ben Adams, who he said operated a mill-dam at Greasy George’s place on main Harts Creek. Ben used this dam to back the creek all the way up to Henderson Branch. Before turning it loose, he would go and tell people to get out of their homes. His nephew, “old John Adams” (a.k.a. “Long John” or “John Frock”), was the one who went to Dingess and killed the man who had shot Ed’s uncle, Weddie Mullins. Andy said the doctor had this man on a table working on him when John showed up and “wasted” him. John Frock let Ed cut his fingernails one time and he cut them up so badly that his fingers bled. (Mona had told me a similar story, except she thought that Ed had cut Devil Anse Hatfield’s nails.)
Ben Adams, Billy Adkins, Bob Mullins Cemetery, Brandon Kirk, Cat Fry, Chapmanville, Eunice Mullins, Ewell Mullins, Greasy George Adams, Green McCoy, Harts Creek, Hell Up Coal Hollow, history, Hugh Dingess, Imogene Haley, John Frock Adams, John Hartford, Johnny Hager, Little Harts Creek, Louie Mullins, Milt Haley, Oris Vance, Peter Mullins, Sherman McCoy, Sol Bumgarner, Spicie McCoy, Ticky George Adams, Turley Adams, writing
Back in the car, I mentioned to Brandon and Billy that we hadn’t made any real progress on learning what happened to Emma Haley. Billy suggested trying to locate her grave in the old Bob Mullins Cemetery at the mouth of Ticky George Hollow on Harts Creek. He said it was one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in the area. I told him that I was all but sure that Emma was buried in one of the “lost” graves on the hill behind Turley Adams’ house but wouldn’t mind checking it out anyway.
We drove out of Smoke House and up main Harts Creek to the Bob Mullins Cemetery, which was huge and very visible from the road. We parked the car and walked up a steep bank into a large number of gravestones. Some were modern and easily legible but most were of the eroded sandstone vintage with faded writing or completely unmarked. I located one stone with crude writing which read “E MULL BOR 69 FEB ?8 DEC 1 OCT 1899.” It could have easily been Emma Haley — who was born around 1868 and died before 1900. However, Brandon read it as “E MULL19 SEP 188?-1? OCT 1891.” We couldn’t agree on the markings well enough to satisfy ourselves.
As we stood at the “E MULL” grave, Brandon pointed across Harts Creek.
“Greasy George lived over there where that yellow house is,” he said.
He then pointed across Ticky George Hollow to Louie Mullins’ house, saying, “That’s where ‘John Frock’ Adams lived.”
John Frock was Ed Haley’s uncle and a suspect in the Al Brumfield ambush at Thompson Branch.
“Ticky George lived on up in the hollow,” Brandon said.
We walked down the hill to speak with Louie but learned from his wife Eunice Mullins that he’d passed away several years ago. Eunice was a daughter of Greasy George Adams. She said Ed used to play music at her father’s home. She also confirmed that Ewell Mullins, her father-in-law, bought Ed’s property on Trace. He lived there for years and was a storekeeper before moving to the site of her present home, where he operated yet another store. Ed played a few times at this latter location before it was torn down around 1950.
From Eunice’s, we went to Trace Fork to take a closer look at Ed’s old property. Along the way, as we drove by Uncle Peter’s place, we bumped into Sol Bumgarner walking near the road. He invited us up to his house, where we hung out for about half an hour on the porch. I played a few fiddle tunes and asked about people like Uncle Peter, Ben Adams, and Johnny Hager.
Bum said Uncle Peter Mullins lived at the present-day location of a tree and swing near the mouth of the hollow in a home that was part-log. Ben Adams, he said, lived further up Trace and hauled timber out of the creek with six yoke of cattle. He remembered Ed’s friend Johnny Hager standing on his hands and walking all over Trace.
I reminded Bum of an earlier story he told about Ed splintering his fiddle over someone’s head at Belcher’s tavern on Crawley Creek. He really liked that story — which he re-told — before mentioning that Ed composed the tune “Hell Up Coal Hollow” and named it after the Cole Branch of Harts Creek. Cole Branch, Brandon said, was the home of his great-great-grandfather Bill Brumfield who kept the hollow exciting around the turn of the century.
After an hour or so on Trace Fork, we decided to see Oris Vance, an old gentleman on Little Harts Creek who Billy said was knowledgeable about early events in Harts. We drove out of Harts Creek to Route 10, then turned a few minutes later onto Little Harts Creek Road. As we progressed up the creek on a narrow paved road past trailers, chicken coops, and old garages, I noticed how the place quickly opened up into some beautiful scenery with nice two-story brick homes.
In the head of Little Harts Creek, near the Wayne County line, we found Oris walking around outside in his yard. He was a slender, somewhat tall fellow, well-dressed, and obviously intelligent. His grandfather Moses Toney was a brother-in-law to Paris Brumfield. Toney and his family had fled the mouth of Harts Creek due to Brumfield sometime before the 1889 feud.
Oris told us the basic story of Milt Haley’s and Green McCoy’s murders as we knew it up to their incarceration at Green Shoal. He said Hugh Dingess, a grandson to the “old” Hugh Dingess, was his source for the tale. At Green Shoal, one of the prisoners begged the Brumfield gang not to kill him so that he could see his children, but the mob gave no mercy and blew Milt’s and Green’s brains out.
“Cat Fry looked out of a window in the top of the house and saw out into the yard,” Oris said, apparently referencing her view of their grisly corpses.
Oris said he saw Green McCoy’s widow at a singing convention in Chapmanville in the early ’30s. She was an alto singer in a gospel quartet with her guitar-playing son. When Oris saw her, she was sitting with songbooks in her lap near a hotdog sale across the road from the old high school.
Anthony Adams, Appalachia, Ben Adams, Burl Farley, Cabell County, Carolyn Johnnie Farley, culture, Ed Haley, Green McCoy, Harts Creek, Hattie Farley, history, Imogene Haley, James Pig Hall, John Frock Adams, Lewis Farley, life, Logan County, Milt Haley, moonshine, Roach, timbering, West Virginia, writing
After the Milt Haley murder, Burl Farley was involved in several other feuds on Harts Creek. Around 1910, he and his brother-in-law Anthony Adams “had it out” over a “mix-up” of logs.
“The Adamses were mean,” Johnnie said. “They’d kill each other.”
Burl also beat up a neighbor named Pig Hall and dared him to ever frequent his property again.
Eventually, Burl left Harts Creek. He timbered briefly at Bluewater in Wayne County then sold his property on Brown’s Run to Johnnie’s father in 1918. He settled at Roach, near Salt Rock, in Cabell County.
Burl’s involvement in Milt Haley’s death apparently haunted him in his later life. Johnnie remembered him being drunk and talking about it.
“I believe it bothered his mind,” she said. “When you do something dirty, it usually hurts your mind. And the cancers eat his face up and killed him. It eat him completely — his ears off, nose off.”
We asked Johnnie if she ever heard what happened to Ed’s mother and she said, “I always thought from what I heard that she stayed with some people around in the Harts Creek area until she died. Before she died and after he died, she was able to work some and she’d go out and work for the neighbors to keep herself up and not ask nobody for nothing. She was an independent person. Don’t know where she’s buried nor nothing.”
Billy wondered if maybe Emma had remarried and Johnnie said, “Well, I’d say — going by some experiences I’ve saw — my dad died when my mother was 48 years old — you can’t call that old — and she never married nor never looked at a man and she lived to be 75 years old on the day she was buried.”
Was there a chance that Ed’s mother might have shacked up with someone?
“No, I don’t believe so,” Johnnie said. “The old women back then was different from the women today. I’ll just put it like I believe it: they were not sex crazy and they lived their life decent. They believed the Bible. They believed one man to one woman and when death parted them…stay single. I’d say my mother was happily married — she had twelve children and to have twelve children she musta loved him or she wouldn’t a stayed with him, would she? My dad, he drank a lot and he abused her a lot, but you know what? When he died and was put in the ground, my mother made a statement. She says, ‘I’ll never be married again.’ She said, ‘There goes my first love and that’s it.’ I’ve saw men ask my mother if she was ready to get married. She said, ‘I wouldn’t look at a man.’ She had the opportunity to marry into some good families, but she wouldn’t do it. And Mom raised nine of us children by herself and buddy she worked hard to raise us. She taught school.”
We asked Johnnie if she’d heard anything about Ben Adams hiring Milt and Green to ambush Al Brumfield.
“I never could get the full details on who was the ringleader behind it,” she said. “They always got to be a leader, and he’s the one that agitates and gets them out and gives them the whisky that gets them drunk. I’m gonna tell you something. Old Ben Adams was mean as a snake, honey. He didn’t care. And old man John Adams was just as mean. Ben was a brother to Grandpaw Anthony.”
Times were pretty wild on Harts Creek in those days.
“They’d go have associations and campaign rallies and they’d kill all kinds of hogs and sheep and stuff you know and have a big dinner set out for them,” Johnnie said. “And buddy they’d just go there and campaign and fight like dogs and cats. Get drunk. I remember in elections and stuff about what they’d do to my dad. They’d get him drunk and he’d walk up and take a knife and just cut a man’s tie off’n his neck as though it wasn’t nothing. Everybody with a big half a gallon of moonshine under his arm. Pistol in his pocket. Now that went on around here, honey. In the sixties, they stopped.”
I asked Johnnie where the old association grounds were and she said, “Well, they’d have one here at Grandpa Burl’s farm and then they’d go on down in Lincoln County and post another’n and they’d ride mules and horses and run them to death.”
Johnnie figured Ed played at the association grounds “because he liked to drink and he was where the action was. He played wherever he could find him a drink.”
Ben Adams, Billy Adkins, Brandon Kirk, Cas Baisden, Clyde Haley, crime, Dingess, Ed Haley, Ella Haley, Ewell Mullins, genealogy, Greasy George Adams, Harriet Baisden, Harts Creek, history, Jeff Baisden, John Frock Adams, Johnny Hager, Maggie Mullins, murder, music, Peter Mullins, Ticky George Adams, Weddie Mullins, West Virginia, writing
One fall day, Brandon and Billy drove to see 80-something-year-old Cas Baisden, a son of Jeff and Harriet (Jonas) Baisden. Cas lived on a farm near the mouth of Smoke House with a relative of Uncle Peter Mullins. He had been mostly raised by Uncle Peter and had vivid memories of watching Ed Haley play in his yard, as well as in the house. He said Ed didn’t usually have a very big crowd around him. “People didn’t care a bit, even though he was about as good as they was,” Cas said. He said Ed and his wife could play anything. “He was real skinny and would drink anything he could get his hands on.” He added that Ed knew all the roads and trails up around the creek and could walk them as well as a sighted person.
Ed’s uncle Weddie Mullins married Cas’ aunt, Maggie Jonas. Cas said Weddie went to Dingess to get some booze one time and was killed in a shooting scrape. The man who shot him was laid up in bed when Weddie’s half-brother John Adams came in and asked, “Do you think he’ll make it?” Someone said he might live so Adams pulled out his gun and said, “I know he won’t,” and opened fire on him. Later, in unrelated events, Adams “blew his wife’s head off.”
Cas said Ed’s uncle Ticky George Adams was harmless. He was a small man, short and chubby, who dug ginseng a lot on Big Creek. George was a brother-in-law to Ed’s friend Johnny Hager, who came from the North Fork of Big Creek and stayed a lot with Ewell Mullins and others around Harts. Johnny was a good fellow, a musician and a non-drinker.
Cas knew that Ed sold his homeplace on Trace to Uncle Peter’s son, Ewell Mullins. It was a plank building with two long rooms. In the rear of the eating room there was a flat-rock chimney with a long fireplace. The other room was used for sleeping. Later, an old store building was pushed up against the sleeping room to make a kitchen. The house had no porch.
Cas said Ed’s son Clyde Haley was “like a monkey” when it came to climbing trees; one time, he climbed 40 feet up into a tree and all the other kids ran away because they didn’t want to see him fall.
Cas remembered sketches about Ben Adams but didn’t know if he had been involved in the 1889 feud. At one time, he operated a store on main Harts Creek below the mouth of Smoke House. Across the creek, he had a saloon made entirely of rock. Later, he lived on Trace. Cas said part of his old mill-dam could be seen in the creek at the Greasy George Adams place.
Al Brumfield, Allen Martin, Andrew D. Robinson, Andrew Robinson, Anthony Adams, Appalachia, Ben Adams, Ben Robinson, Boardtree Branch, Chloe Gore, Chloe Mullins, crime, David Robinson, Dicy Adams, Elizabeth Abbott, genealogy, general store, Greasy George Adams, Green McCoy, Harts Creek, Harvey Adams, Henderson Dingess, history, Hollena Brumfield, Hugh Dingess, Jackson Mullins, John Frock Adams, John M. Adams, John Robinson, Joseph Adams, Joseph Robinson, Lincoln County Feud, Logan County, Logan County Banner, Lucinda Brumfield, May Adams, Meekin Branch, Milt Haley, Peter Carter, Rhoda Robinson, Sallie Dingess, Solomon Adams, Spicie McCoy, Susan Abbott, Ticky George Adams, timber, Trace Fork, Victoria Dingess, Viola Dingess, West Virginia, Wilson Abbott
Ben Adams — the man who supposedly hired Milt Haley and Green McCoy to assassinate Al Brumfield — was born in 1855 to Joseph and Dicy (Mullins) Adams on Big Harts Creek in Logan County, (West) Virginia. His older sister Sarah married Henderson Dingess and was the mother of Hollena Brumfield, Hugh Dingess and several others. He was a first cousin to Jackson Mullins, Milt Haley’s father-in-law, and a brother-in-law to Chloe Mullins, Milt’s mother-in-law, by her first marriage to John Adams.
In 1870, 17-year-old Ben lived at home with his mother, where he worked as a farmer. He was illiterate, according to census records. His neighbors were Andrew Robinson and Henderson Dingess, both of whom had married his sisters (Rhoda J. and Sally). In the next year, according to tradition, he fathered an illegitimate child, William Adams, who was born to Lucinda Brumfield (niece of Paris).
In 1873, Ben married Victoria Dingess. Victoria was born in 1856 and was a first cousin to Hollena Brumfield and Hugh Dingess. The marriage made for an interesting genealogical connection: Ben was already Hugh’s uncle; now he was also his brother-in-law, as Hugh was married to Victoria’s sister, Viola (his first cousin). Ben’s daughter Sally, who was named after Hollena’s mother, later married a cousin of Spicie McCoy, Green’s wife. For all practical purposes then, Ben Adams was genealogically connected to all sides of the feud — making it a true intra-family feud from his perspective.
For the first decade or so of his marriage, Ben lived with his mother on family property, although he did acquire land and open a general store business. In 1880, he was listed in the Lincoln County Census with his mother Dicy, aged 63, and family. He was 26 years old, Victory was 23, Sally was six, son Charlie was four, daughter Patsy A. was two, and son Anthony was a few months old. George Greaar, age 20, was a boarder. In 1881, he purchased 25 acres on the Meekin Branch of Trace Fork. Three years later, he was listed in a business directory as the proprietor of a general store. At that same time, his brother-in-law and neighbor Henderson Dingess was a distiller.
Later in the decade, Ben fathered three more children: George “Greasy” (1885), Harvey (1886), and May (1889). In 1889, the time of Milt Haley’s ambush of Al Brumfield, Adams owned 260 acres on the Boardtree Branch of Trace Fork valued at $1.00 per acre in Logan County.
Anthony Adams — Ben’s brother and ally in the 1889 troubles — was a prominent timberman on Harts Creek. Anthony had been born in 1849 and was the husband of Pricie Alifair Chapman, Burl Farley’s half-sister. In 1884, Adams was listed in a business directory as a blacksmith. In 1889, he owned two 50-acre tracts of land, one valued at $3.50 per acre with a $30 building on it, the other valued at $2.00 per acre. By that time, he had three sons of fighting age who may have participated in the feud: Solomon Adams (born 1869), Horatio “Rush” Adams (born 1871), and Wayne Adams (born 1874), as well as a son-in-law, Harrrison Blair (born c.1867).
A quick examination of the Adams genealogy gives a clue as to Ben’s other 1889 allies. First there was brother “Bad John” Adams. Adams was deceased at the time of the Haley-McCoy incident, but he had been married to Chloe Gore — mother of Emma Jean (Mullins) Haley. He had three sons of fighting age in 1889: Joseph Adams (born 1859), John Frock Adams (born 1861), and Ticky George Adams (born 1865)…as well as son-in-law Sampson Thomas.
Rhoda J. Robinson was a sister to the three Adams brothers. She had several children who may have allied with Ben: David Robinson (born 1860), Ben Robinson (born 1866), John R. Robinson (born 1868), and Joseph Robinson (born 1870). There was also brother Solomon Adams, who may have offered his loyalty to Ben, along with sons John M. Adams (born 1869) and Benjamin Adams (born 1867), and sons-in-law David Robinson and Peter Carter (c.1873).
As for Ben himself, he stayed busy with timber after the feud. According to an 1896 article from the Logan County Banner: “Benj. Adams, of Hart, is hauling some fine poplar from trace fork.” In 1901, he married Venila Susan Abbott, a daughter of Wilson and Elizabeth (Workman) Abbott, and had at least eight more children (born between 1901 and 1921). Not long after his remarriage, he was accused of murdering a local postman named Jim Allen Martin — and nearly went bankrupt paying for his legal defense. He died in 1910 and was buried on the hill near the mouth of Trace Fork.