I asked Joe if he ever heard any stories about Milt being a fiddle player and he said, “They was having a square dance up there at Peter’s once and I heard them a talking about his father playing the fiddle but that was all. They never said what he played or how much or nothing about it. They just said he was a musician. I’ve heard talk of him but I didn’t know him personally. I know about the trouble they had up here. I heard them talking about that up at George Greasy’s. Said they followed them over yonder at Green Shoal or someplace somebody said and killed them. I heard my dad a talking about that.”
Brandon mentioned that Milt and Green had supposedly been hired by Ben Adams to kill Al Brumfield, which caused Joe to say, “Well, I don’t know whether it was Ben Adams or… Well, Al and Ben were both head strong, let’s put it that way. I don’t know what was wrong with the families back then, but they seemed like they wanted to fight each other. They didn’t want to fight no strangers. They was all fighting through each other all the time. They’d burn each other’s barn and shoot their mules and cows in the field and everything on earth. All of them first cousins. I said, ‘That don’t make no sense to me.’ But back then if somebody needed something, it didn’t matter how mean they were, people’d go help them. If somebody was sick, people’d go sit up with them.”
Talking about the old Adamses around Harts Creek caused Joe to reminisce about his grandparents, Solomon and Anthony Adams.
“Grandpaw Anthony was from Hazard, Kentucky. He cut timber and built splash dams through here. Them old Adamses — Anthony, Ben, Sol — they’d float logs down to Hart and raft them to Huntington. I heard them tell about them Robinsons down there helping them raft them. Grandpaw Anthony, he didn’t let nobody put nothing on him. Them old fellas, 90-percent of them carried a pistol all the time. Most of them had ten or twelve children. Grandpaw Anthony, he acquired that place in the Forks of Hoover and he traded that place in Hoover for this place out here. He built a little house right out here on thirty-five acres in 1908. He ran a store at one time, too. They sold riggings, shoes, groceries, plow stocks, shovels…
“I can’t remember my grandpaw Sol nor his wife Dicy nor my Grandpaw Anthony but I can remember my Grandmaw Alifair well. She was from Missouri. She’d stay a while with us and she’d go up George Mullins’ and stay a while and she’d go down to Aunt Alice’s and stay a while. All the women smoked them old stone pipes and they wore them big gingham aprons that had two big pockets on them and they carried their tobacco and pipe and stuff in their pocket. They always had these old-time fireplaces and she’d go out in the chip-yard where they made ties and stuff and she’d pick her up a bunch of splinters and she’d sit them up in the chimney corner to light her pipe with and you’d better not bother them either.”
Joe’s father was Major Adams (1885-1944), the youngest son of Anthony Adams. He was a hammer-style banjoist.
“My daddy had a .32 Smith & Wesson with a shoulder holster with red leather and he kept that a hanging on the head of the bed,” Joe said. “They had these old iron beds with big, high headboards and stuff on them. And he kept that a hanging on the head of the bed all the time fully loaded in the belt and we knowed better than to tip it. Now, you might hang something up like that and a child take it down and shoot your brains out with it.”
Joe said Trace Fork had changed quite a bit since his childhood days. In the thirties, Ewell Mullins, Ed’s first cousin, had a store on the creek, as did Ernest Adams and Joe Mullins and Lewis Maynard. At one time, there were four stores on the creek; today, there are none. In 1938, the same year that electricity arrived on Trace, the Mountaineer Missionary Baptist Church was constructed at the mouth of the creek. Now an impressive brick building, it was originally a 24′ X 20′ structure. Prior to its construction, people met at Anthony Adams’ store or at the lower Trace Fork School. Joe said he bought the creek’s first television set from Jay Queen’s Bluegrass Hardware in Chapmanville in 1955. The roads were paved on Trace about that time.
Joe said we might find out more about Ed from Ewell Mullins’ daughter, Mag Farley. Billy said she ran a store just up Harts Creek near a fire department and playground. We found Mag working behind the checkout counter. She was a granddaughter to Uncle Peter but didn’t look very much like him. She got a little excited when we showed her pictures of her family but became suspiciously quiet when we inquired about Emma Haley. All we could get out of her was that Ed’s mother never remarried after Milt’s death and died around Harts. Maybe that was so, but we felt there might be more to her story; Mag’s version was almost too dull. We gathered back toward a cooler where we talked and ate bologna sandwiches and potato chips.