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.