Appalachia, Armilda, Blood in West Virginia, cemeteries, Community Memorial Gardens, East Lynn, genealogy, Green McCoy, history, Lincoln County Feud, Sherman McCoy, Spicie McCoy, Stiltner, Wayne County, West Virginia
06 Wednesday May 2015
Posted Cemeteries, East Lynn, Lincoln County Feudin
30 Thursday Apr 2015
Posted East Lynn, Lincoln County Feud, Music, Stiltnerin
21 Monday Jul 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, Lincoln County Feud, Music, Stiltnerin
05 Saturday Jul 2014
Posted Culture of Honor, Harts, Lincoln County Feud, Twelve Pole Creek, Waynein
Al Brumfield, Andrew D. Robinson, Beech Fork, Ben Adams, Bob Dingess, Brandon Kirk, crime, diptheria, Goble Richardson, Green McCoy, Green Shoal, Guyandotte River, Harrison McCoy, Harts, Harts Creek, history, Lincoln County Feud, Lynza John McCoy, Milt Haley, Monroe Fry, music, Paris Brumfield, Ross Fowler, Sallie Dingess, Sherman McCoy, Spicie McCoy, Warren, Wayne, Wayne County, Wayne County News, West Fork, writing
A few weeks later, Brandon called Nellie Thompson in Wayne, West Virginia. Nellie reportedly had the picture of Milt Haley and Green McCoy.
“I don’t know if I have anything like that or not,” Nellie said, “but I do have an old letter from Green McCoy.”
Almost hyperventilating, he asked her to read it over the telephone.
Nellie fetched it from somewhere in the house, said it was dated May 19, 1889, then read it to him and said he was welcome to see it.
The next day, she called Brandon back and said, “I think I’ve found that picture you were looking for. It’s a little tin picture with two men in it.”
A few days later, Brandon drove to see Nellie about the picture and letter. Before dropping in on her, he spent a little time at the local library where he located a story about Spicie McCoy.
“As I promised last week, today we will explore the life of a lady who claimed to have a cure for diphtheria,” the story, printed in the Wayne County News (1994), began. “Spicie (Adkins) McCoy Fry was so short that if you stretched out your arm she could have walked under it. Anyone who lived in the East Lynn area knew who Spicie Fry was because she had probably been in almost every church around to sing at a revival meeting, something she loved to do. Spicie was well educated. She saw that her children went to school. Once out of grade school, Spicie’s sons took advantage of correspondence courses in music, art, and any other subject they could get thru the mail order catalog. Spicie’s son Monroe Taylor Fry was a self-taught musician.”
After a short time, Brandon drove to Nellie’s home, where she produced a small tin picture of two men sitting together. One of the men was obviously Green McCoy based on the picture we had already seen of him. The other fellow, then, was Milt.
As Brandon stared at the tintype, Nellie handed him Green’s letter. It was penned in a surprisingly nice handwriting, addressed to his brother Harrison, and was apparently never mailed. At the time of his writing, it was spring and McCoy had just moved back to Harts — probably after a short stay with his family or in-laws in Wayne County. He may’ve been there with his older brother, John, who’d married a girl almost half his age from Wayne County earlier in February.
Dear Brother. after a long delay of time I take this opertunity of droping you a few lines to let you know that I am well hoping when these lines reaches you they may find you all the same. Harrison you must excuse me for not writing sooner. the cause of me not writing is this[:] the post master here is very careless. they let people brake open the letters and read them so I will write this time to let you know where I am and where Lynza is. I have moved back to the west fork of Harts Creek and Lynza is married and living in wayne co yet on beach fork. everybody is done planting corn very near in this country. every thing looks lively in this part. tell Father and mother that I[‘m] coming out this fall after crops are laid by if I live and Lynza will come with me. tell all howdy for me. you may look for us boath. if death nor sickness don’t tak[e] place we will come. Harrison I would rather you would not write anymore this summer. people brakes open the letters and reads them so I will not write a long letter. Brumfield and me lives in 2 miles of each other and has had no more trubble but every body says that he will kill me if I don’t kill him. I look to have trouble with him so I will close this time.
On the back of the letter was written the following: “My wife sends her best respects to you all and says she would like to see you all. my boy is beginning to walk. he is a spoiled boy to[o].”
Clutching carefully onto the tintype and letter, Brandon asked Nellie what she’d heard about Milt and Green’s death. She didn’t really know much, but her brother Goble Richardson said he’d always heard that pack-peddlers who boarded with Paris Brumfield never left his home alive. These men were supposedly killed, tied to rocks, and thrown to the bottom of the Guyan River where the fish ate their rotting corpses. Soon after the “disappearance” of these pack-peddlers, Paris would be seen riding the man’s horse, while his children would be playing with his merchandise.
When Brandon arrived home he studied over Green McCoy’s letter — all the cursive strokes, the occasional misspellings, trying to extract something from it beyond what it plainly read.
Strangely, the letter didn’t reveal to which Brumfield — Al or Paris — Green referred when he wrote, “every body says that he will kill me if I don’t kill him.” It seems likely, though, based on what Daisy Ross had said, that Green referenced Paris.
Still, it was Al Brumfield who was ambushed only three months later.
What started their trouble?
And who was the careless postmaster who allowed people to “brake open the letters and read them?”
At the time of the Haley-McCoy trouble, Harts had two post offices: Harts and Warren. The postmaster at Harts — where McCoy likely received his mail — was Ross Fowler, son to the Bill Fowler who was eventually driven away from Harts by the Brumfields. Ross, though, was close with the Brumfields and even ferried the 1889 posse across the river to Green Shoal with Milt and Green as prisoners (according to Bob Dingess) in October of 1889. A little later, he worked in Al Brumfield’s store. The postmaster at Warren was Andrew D. Robinson, a former justice of the peace and brother-in-law to Ben Adams and Sallie Dingess. Robinson seems to have been a man of good credit who stayed neutral in the trouble.
15 Sunday Jun 2014
Posted Lincoln County Feud, Stiltnerin
11 Sunday May 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, Stiltnerin
11 Sunday May 2014
Posted Ed Haley, Lincoln County Feud, Music, Stiltnerin
banjo, Brights Disease, Cain Adkins, Cain Adkins Jr., Catlettsburg, Chillicothe, Columbus, crime, Daisy Ross, Ed Haley, Faye Smith, fiddlers, fiddling, genealogy, Goble Fry, Green McCoy, Green McCoy Jr., guitar, Harkins Fry, history, Indian Girl, Kenova, Kentucky, Laurel Creek, Luther McCoy, Mariah Adkins, McCoy Time Singers, Monroe Fry, music, Ohio, Oscar Osborne, Salty Dog, Sherman Luther Haley, Sherman McCoy, Spicie McCoy, Time Has Made A Change, Wayne County, WCMI, West Virginia, Winchester Adkins, writing
After the feud, Cain Adkins settled on Laurel Creek in Wayne County and never returned to Harts. Not long afterward, he began suffering from some type of lingering illness.
“Grandpaw, he played a fiddle,” Daisy said. “They had him to play the fiddle on his deathbed. Somebody came in and they wanted to hear a song and he played it for him. He said, ‘They ain’t no harm in a fiddle. If they’s any harm, it’s when no one plays it.’ I’ve heard Mom tell the last song he played, but I don’t know what it was he played. Mom said it made him feel better.”
Cain died of Brights Disease in 1896.
His widow Mariah lived many more years.
“Grandmaw was a good person — she went to church every Sunday. The last ten years she went blind and stayed with Mom. Mom waited on her.”
She died in 1931.
It took Spicie years to forgive the Brumfields for killing Green. Even after remarrying Goble Fry (her first cousin) in 1893, she was unable to cope with Green’s death and always cried when recounting the tale of his murder. For years, her bitterness kept her from joining the church.
“She felt like he hadn’t done nothing to be killed for ’cause she loved him better than anything,” Daisy said. “Before she was baptized, my brother Sherman had went off to work — him and a bunch of boys — and they was all telling what church their mother belonged to and Sherman said to Mom, ‘Mom, I had to tell them you didn’t belong to the church.’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘I can’t forgive the Brumfields.’ He said, ‘You can’t forget it, but you got to forgive them or you’ll go to the same place where they did.’ I heard him say that. I was a young woman.”
These were apparently inspiring words, because Spicie was baptized soon afterwards and formed a gospel quartet, “The McCoy Time Singers.” Her son, Sherman McCoy, was a key member.
“Brother Sherman could play any kind of instrument, but banjo is what he played mostly,” Daisy said. “He played all kinds of pretty tunes on the banjo that wasn’t gospel. And when he was on WCMI he wanted people to write in and tell him to play the gospel music, but he had to play the one that got the most requests and he didn’t get very much requests for the gospel. But Mom and Sherman sung them gospel songs on there. They had a program on WCMI one time.”
Daisy said the only known recordings of the McCoy Time Singers had been destroyed years ago.
“They made records of their quartet singing and they peeled up. Got damp. Monroe, my brother, got some and even wrapped them in cloth and they still peeled.”
I wanted to know more about Sherman McCoy, so I got out my banjo and played a little bit for Daisy. She said he played a lot with his uncle, Winchester Adkins (one of the best fiddlers in Wayne County), and a guitar player named Oscar Osborne.
“Brother Sherman was one of the best banjo players I ever heard,” Daisy said. “I’ve heard them on television but I’ve never heard anything to beat Brother Sherman. He played a guitar and taught music lessons. He played all kinds of jigs. Did you ever play ‘The Indian Girl’? He didn’t like to play that one very much because he had to tune it different but that was the prettiest tune I ever heard on the banjo. It sounded like he had more than ten fingers.”
I asked Daisy about Sherman playing with Ed Haley and she said, “He played music with Ed Haley and they played in Catlettsburg.”
That’s all she knew about it but I wondered just how well they actually knew each other. Was it possible that Ed named his oldest child Sherman Luther Haley after Sherman McCoy? I could just picture them loafing together as young bachelors.
Daisy said Green McCoy’s other son, Green Jr., was a singing instructor. She remembered the first time he came into contact with a guitar.
“Uncle Cain, he played a guitar,” she said. “He come down one time and wanted Green to see his guitar. Green only seen that guitar one time and worked a week and got him a guitar and tuned it up and was playing on it. He was gifted.”
What happened to him?
Faye said, “Uncle Green, he hadn’t been dead but I’d say about eight or ten years. He played a guitar good.”
Daisy said Green’s son Luther plays the guitar on the radio in the Columbus-Chillicothe area.
“Uncle Green said he was absolutely the best he ever heard,” she said.
She didn’t know much about Luther or have any recordings of him but had a videocassette tape of Green Jr. picking the guitar and singing in 1975. (I couldn’t help but note that Green Jr. and Ed Haley both had sons named Luther.)
Spicie’s children by Goble Fry also were talented musicians, hinting at a musical strain in her genetics as well.
“Uncle Monroe was a Fry — that was Mom’s brother — and Harkins — they both played music,” Faye said. “But now, Uncle Monroe could play, I guess, about any type of instrument. I remember him playing ‘Salty Dog’ one time.”
Daisy really bragged on her brother Harkins Fry, a music teacher and songwriter. He wrote one gospel song called “Time Has Made A Change”, which Daisy and Faye sang for us:
Time has made a change in the old homeplace.
Many of my friends have gone away,
Some never more in this life I shall see.
Time has made a change in me.
Time has made a change in the old homeplace.
Time has made a change in each smiling face,
And I know my friends can plainly see
Time has made a change in me.
In my childhood days I was well and strong.
I could climb the hillside all day long,
But I’m not today what I used to be.
Time has made a change in me.
When I reach my home in that land so fair.
Meet my friends awaiting me over there.
Free from toil and pain I shall ever be.
Time has made a change in me.
04 Sunday May 2014
Posted Culture of Honor, Ed Haley, Lincoln County Feud, Stiltnerin
Angeline Lucas, Bill Frazier, Brandon Kirk, Cain Adkins, Cain Adkins Jr., Daisy Ross, Faye Smith, feud, Harts Creek, history, John Hartford, Laurel Creek, Lee Adams, Lena Adkins, Lincoln County, Liza Adkins, Mariah Adkins, Mittie Adkins, Napier Ridge, Ranger, Sherman McCoy, Spicie McCoy, Stiltner, Wayne County, West Virginia, Winchester Adkins, writing
I asked Daisy again about her mother’s escape from Harts Creek.
“Grandpaw and the oldest boy had to come on out and come down into Wayne County to save their lives,” she said.
This seeming abandonment of his family in such a dark time appeared to be a blemish on Cain’s otherwise “spotless record.” I thought about that and said, “Seems to me like the safest way to get everybody out was to get the menfolk out first. And also, too, the menfolk could have got out of there quicker without the womenfolk.”
Faye said, “Well, I remember Grandmaw saying the Brumfields said they’d kill everything from the housecat up. I guess that’s why Grandpaw left, but I still wonder why he left the womenfolk. I can’t help it if it is my great-grandpaw.”
Not long after Cain left Harts, Daisy’s grandmother, Mariah Adkins, killed twelve sheep and some hogs and stored the meat in barrels, then loaded the barrels and all of the other family possessions onto a rented push-boat.
“They couldn’t get nobody to row the boat,” Daisy said. “Grandmaw tried to hire a colored man and he said he would, but he said, ‘I know they’d kill me.’ So they had to do it all theirselves. And Mom and Sissy done the rowing.”
“It was a pretty big size boat cause they had all the stuff they had in their house and their barrels of meat all in there,” Daisy said. “But they couldn’t get nobody to row the boat. Grandmaw tried to hire a colored man and he said he would but he said, ‘I know they’d kill me.’ So they had to do it all theirselves. And Mom and Sissy done the rowing.”
Those on the boat were 46-year-old Mariah Adkins, 23-year-old Spicie McCoy, 18-year-old Mittie Adkins, 13-year-old Lena Adkins, 13-year-old Liza Adkins, nine-year-old Cain Adkins, Jr., and one-year-old Sherman McCoy. Daisy wasn’t sure if Aunt Angeline (aged 28) was on the boat with her six kids, including a newborn.
“I don’t know whether she was already down here or not,” she said. “She didn’t come on the boat with them, I don’t think. She come down and married Lee Adams and lived out on the Napier Ridge.”
Daisy gave a chilling account of the ride down-river.
“Mom was about four months along with my brother Green and she had that little baby. Sherman was about a year and a half old — and it was raining and cold. 8th day of January. They come down through there and the peach trees was in full bloom, she said. Had been kind of a warm spell and the peach trees bloomed out that year. Mom said she was cold; she was numb.”
As they crept out of Harts, little Sherman McCoy pulled a long hair pin from his mother’s hair and stuck it repeatedly in her breast. She was afraid to take it from him because he might cry and alert the Brumfields of their exodus.
“He’d take that straight pin and poke it in her breast and pull it out,” Daisy said. “She knowed she was gonna be drowned every minute, so she wouldn’t scold him for it. She said, ‘It didn’t hurt and he had fun at it.’ He was just a little fella.”
It was the beginning of a rough ride: Mariah almost tipped the boat twice before allowing her daughter Mittie to pilot it.
The Adkinses spent the night at Ranger where they stored their goods at a local home. The next day, they got off the boat at Branchland and crossed over a mountain to Laurel Creek in Wayne County.
“Then they got Bill Frazier from Stiltner to go back up there to Ranger in a wagon — he was a young man then — and haul whatever they had stored down there,” Daisy said. “By the time he got there, the hams and meat didn’t have much meat on them.”
This story about the Adkins family’s exodus constituted one of those unforgettable tales in our search. Hearing about the Brumfield threat to kill “everything from the housecat up” caused Brandon to feel horrible that his ancestors would’ve perhaps harmed innocent women and children. Things had apparently come to that in Harts. Women shot from ambush. Young widows. Orphans. The entire community seemed to be coming undone. Of course, the determination of the women and children to survive their horrible ordeal was both inspiring and awesome, especially considering they weren’t the strong, raw-boned mountaineer women which one imagines them to have been. (Spicie McCoy only weighed about 91 pounds.)
02 Friday May 2014
Posted Lincoln County Feudin
Boney Lucas, Brandon Kirk, Cain Adkins, crime, Daisy Ross, Eden, Eliza Fry, Faye Smith, feud, Green McCoy, history, Imogene Haley, Kentucky, Logan County, Milt Haley, Paris Brumfield, Randolph McCoy, Sherman McCoy, Spicie McCoy, West Virginia, writing
Brandon asked Daisy about Paris Brumfield.
“Well, he had a band of people. They went around and killed a lot of people, they said. They called them a mob. Mommy said they had a mob and if they didn’t like somebody they’d kill them. The Brumfields was rough. The Brumfields first killed Grandpa’s son-in-law, Boney Lucas, and when Mom married Green McCoy they said they had another one they was gonna kill.”
Daisy told us an incredible story about Green whipping Paris in a fight.
“All I know, they was into a racket beforehand and Green McCoy got him down and pulled his eyes all out and said, ‘Go back.’ He said they was just like rubber — he’d pull his eyeballs out and they’d go back. Said you couldn’t pull them all the way out. He did finally get his sight back. Had to wear a blindfold for two or three weeks or a month. Laid around for a while.”
Faye said, “Mom said Grandma was laughing — she kinda thought it was funny to tell about him pulling that eyeball out and it popping back like a rubber band.”
We could just picture the fight, based on what we’d read in the Lambert Collection.
“Fist fights between neighborhood bullies, or to settle old scores” were a part of local culture in those times. “It was not uncommon for contestants to engage in ‘gouging,’ as a natural sequence of a fist fight. Weapons were banned, but many a man lost an eye, by having it gouged out.”
It probably wasn’t too long after Green’s fight with Paris that he and Milt were murdered. Daisy knew they were killed in October (just after Spicie’s twenty-third birthday) after being captured in Eden, Kentucky, where Green’s first family lived. She said a Brumfield mob easily took possession of them there because “the law was afraid of them.”
“Paris Brumfield was one of the ringleaders,” she said. “They brought them back from Kentucky up to Fry and killed them there. They made Green McCoy play the fiddle and he didn’t want to. They was a gonna kill him, they said. Mrs. Fry — that lived in that house — she crawled under the bed, she said. She was afraid they was gonna kill her.”
Mrs. Fry was a sister to Boney Lucas.
Daisy said some of the younger Brumfields protested Milt’s and Green’s murder.
“They are good Brumfields,” she said. “Like other people, they’re mean people in every generation. Some of the Brumfields was real good people.”
Daisy said Spicie didn’t go with Milt’s wife to beg for Milt’s and Green’s life, as we’d heard from Billy Adkins. Actually, Daisy didn’t think her mother had known Emma Haley but Brandon wondered about that since one of Emma’s uncles had married an aunt to Spicie McCoy years before. (Another confusing, but seemingly relevant, genealogical connection.)
“Then after they shot them and killed them,” Daisy said, “they took a pole axe and beat his brains in and his brains went up on the door, Mom said. Oh, that liked to killed Mom.”
After the murders, the Brumfields warned people not to touch Milt’s and Green’s bodies.
“The Hatfields up there was a friend to Green McCoy ’cause when they murdered them they wasn’t gonna let them be buried, they said, and the Hatfields from Logan County come down there with their rifles to see if Grandpaw had let them bury them on his farm,” Daisy said.
That seemed unlikely to us, considering how the Hatfields were busy feuding with Randolph McCoy’s clan, however, Devil Anse Hatfield’s mother was a first cousin to Spicie McCoy’s grandfather.
In any case, Daisy said there was no Hatfield-Brumfield trouble because Milt and Green were buried on Cain’s farm before the Hatfields arrived in Harts.
In later years, Spicie made several trips to the gravesite with her son, Sherman McCoy — sometimes on paw paw runs. Faye took Daisy and Spicie on a final trip in August of 1953. The graves were in bad shape.
“It looked like it had been neglected,” Daisy said. “They just had little rocks for their tombstone. I couldn’t go up there now — I’m ninety-one years old — but I went there several years ago with my mother.”
09 Wednesday Apr 2014
Posted Big Harts Creek, Ed Haley, Musicin
banjo, Bill Frazier, Brandon Kirk, Cain Adkins, Daisy Ross, Eternity Is So Long, fiddlers, Green McCoy, Green McCoy Jr., Harkins Fry, Harts Creek, Heaven on My Mind, history, Jesus Walked All the Way, Lincoln County, Milt Haley, music, Ranger, Sherman McCoy, Stamps Baxter, Time Is Passing By, West Virginia, writing
Inspired by Brandon’s visit to Daisy Ross, I called her to ask if she knew that Green and Milt were fiddlers.
“Brother Sherman and brother Green’s father was a fiddle player,” she said. “Mom said he was the best she ever heard. I didn’t know what Milt played — they played together — but Green played the fiddle. Brother Sherman played a banjo. Brother Sherman could play any kind of music. I guess Green McCoy could, too.”
I asked about Sherman’s tunes and Daisy said, “I remember when I was little and I wanted him to play that ‘Indian Girl’ and he’d have to tune that banjo different. He’s been gone fifty-some years but he was a good banjo player. He was a singing teacher. Three of my brothers was singing school teachers. Sherman and Green, and then my full brother Harkins Fry, he made music. He wrote songs all the time. He musta wrote a thousand or more and had them in Gospel songbooks. ‘Heaven On My Mind’, ‘Eternity Is So Long’ and ‘Jesus Walked All the Way’. The first ones he wrote, he was just a teenager; he was about sixteen, I think. ‘Time Is Passing By’ — he sent that off and got a thousand copies made of it and after that they liked his music so they went to putting them in songbooks and they put two in every Stamps Baxter songbook that come out.”
I was really curious to hear more about the Adkins family’s exodus from Harts Creek but Daisy only added a few new details.
“I don’t know exactly where they got on the boat at, but they got off at Ranger and had to store their stuff there at somebody’s house,” she said. “Grandpa got a man down here, Bill Frazier, to go up with a wagon and haul their stuff down. People had a hard time then.”
08 Tuesday Apr 2014
Posted Ed Haley, Lincoln County Feudin
Angeline Lucas, banjo, Boney Lucas, Brandon Kirk, Cain Adkins, Daisy Ross, Eustace Gibson, Faye Smith, fiddler, Green McCoy, guitar, Harts, Harts Creek, history, Huntington Advertiser, John McCoy, Kenova, Lincoln County, Milt Haley, Oscar Osborne, Paris Brumfield, Sherman Boyd, Sherman McCoy, Spicie McCoy, Tug Valley, West Fork, West Virginia, Winchester Adkins, writing
Meanwhile, as I churned up new details about Ed Haley, Brandon was busy chasing down leads on the Milt Haley story in West Virginia. One crisp December day he visited Daisy Ross, the aged daughter of Spicy McCoy, who lived in a nice two-story house at Kenova, a pretty little town just west of Huntington. It was Brandon’s first face-to-face contact with Green McCoy’s descendants and he was anxious to hear more about their side of the tale. Daisy was white-headed and a little hard-of-hearing — but full of information about Green’s family. Her daughter Faye played hostess during Brandon’s visit.
Daisy said Green McCoy was originally from the Tug Fork area. He came to Harts playing music with his brother, John McCoy. He always kept his hair combed and wore a neatly trimmed mustache. Spicy used to have a tintype picture of him with Milt Haley. He and Milt met each other in the Tug Valley.
Daisy said her grandfather Cain Adkins was a country doctor. He was gone frequently doctoring and was usually paid with dried apples or chickens. He feuded a lot with the Brumfields, who killed his son-in-law, Boney Lucas. Boney’s widow Angeline was pretty wild: she had two illegitimate children after Boney’s death. One child belonged to a man named Sherman Boyd and the other belonged to John McCoy — Green’s brother.
When Green McCoy came to Harts, Cain discouraged Spicy from marrying him because he was divorced from a woman living in Kentucky. Spicy didn’t believe the family talk of “another woman” and married him anyway. She and Green rented one of the little houses on Cain’s farm. Green made his living playing music and he was often gone for several days at a time. When he came home, Spicy, ever the faithful wife, ran out of the house to hug him and he would playfully run around the yard for a while before letting her “catch” him. Daisy had no idea where Green went on his trips because he never told her mother. Spicy didn’t really care: she always said she would “swim the briny ocean for him.”
Brandon showed Daisy an 1888 newspaper article he had recently found, documenting Cain’s trouble with Paris Brumfield.
“Paris Brumfield was indicted for felony in five different cases by the grand jury of Lincoln county at its last term,” according to the Huntington Advertiser on June 23, 1888. “He fled the county, not being able to give bail, which was fixed by the Court at $5,000. Brumfield’s latest act of violence was his murderous assault upon Cain Adkins, a staunch Democrat, one of THE ADVERTISER’S most esteemed subscribers. The last act was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the county became too hot for Paris. Gibson & Michi have been retained by Brumfield’s friends to defend him when brought to trial.”
Daisy blamed Green’s murder on the Brumfields. She said Green once got into a fight with Paris Brumfield and “pulled his eyeballs out and let them pop back like rubber bands.” Brumfield had to wear a blindfold for a while afterward.
After Green’s death, Cain Adkins and his son Winchester fled Harts, probably on horses. Winchester was one of the best local fiddlers in his day. He mostly played with his nephew Sherman McCoy (banjo) and Oscar Osborne (guitar).
27 Thursday Mar 2014
Posted Ed Haley, Lincoln County Feudin
27 Thursday Mar 2014
Posted Culture of Honor, Ed Haley, Lincoln County Feudin
Ashland, Boney Lucas, Cain Adkins, Catlettsburg, crime, Daisy Ross, Ed Haley, Eden, Fry, Goble Fry, Harts Creek, history, John Hartford, Kenova, Kentucky, Laurel Creek, Mariah Adkins, Milt Haley, murder, music, Sherman McCoy, Spicie McCoy, Wayne County, West Virginia, Winchester Adkins, writing
Excitedly, I next called Spicie McCoy’s daughter Daisy Ross who lived in Kenova, a small city near Huntington, West Virginia. Daisy’s voice was weak — she said she’d been down sick with a cold for the past week. I told her that we were trying to find out about Green McCoy’s death and she said, “My mother married Green McCoy and he was murdered. She married Goble Fry after he died. My mother was Spicie. She talked about Milt Haley. She just said they played music together, him and Green McCoy. They were good friends. I don’t know whether he was rough or not. I never heard Mom say nothing against Milt Haley.”
To our surprise, Daisy had no idea why Milt and Green were killed by the Brumfields.
“The Brumfields was rough: they had a mob,” she said. “The Brumfields first killed Grandpa’s son-in-law Boney Lucas, and when Mom married Green McCoy they said they had another’n they was gonna kill. Said they were gonna kill everything from the housecat up. They was just kindly mean people, I reckon.”
Daisy said Milt and Green tried to hide out from the Brumfields somewhere in Eden, Kentucky. She wasn’t sure where that was, but knew why they went there.
“Green McCoy had been married and had his wife and two children down there,” she said. “Yeah, Mommy didn’t know that, you see. Just before she got married, she got news that he had a wife and two children down there. He had told her that he had divorced her and Grandma said that hurt her awful bad and she couldn’t make Mommy understand it. Said Mom loved him so good she went ahead and married him anyhow.”
It didn’t take long for the Brumfields to locate Milt and Green.
“They went down and got them,” Daisy said. “The law was afraid of them, you know. They killed them there at Fry. And when the Brumfields killed them, they wasn’t satisfied with that. They took a pole-axe and beat their brains out and their brains splattered up on the door, Mom said. That hurt Mom so bad.”
I was chilled to the bone.
After Milt’s and Green’s murder, Daisy’s mother and family fled Harts Creek.
“The murder was in October and Grandpa and Uncle Winchester, his son, had to get out to Wayne County because they said they was gonna kill everything from the housecat up, the Brumfields did,” she said. “Grandma and Mom and the girls rented a boat and put all their household stuff and barrels of meat and come down on the river in January to Laurel Creek here in Wayne County. It was in January, but the peach trees was in full bloom, Mom said. Come a little warm spell and they all budded out in bloom. They didn’t have no menfolks to row the boat; the women had to do it. Mom said they was looking every minute to be drowned ’cause they was all kinds of stuff on the river. It was up from bank to bank.”
I asked Daisy if she knew Ed Haley and she said, “Yeah that’s the one played music with my brother, Sherman McCoy. My brother, he played the banjo. That was Green McCoy’s son you know and that was my half-brother. Ed Haley and Sherman McCoy — they was good friends. They got together and played music together down in Kentucky somewhere. I guess maybe in Catlettsburg or maybe in Ashland. He was Milt Haley’s son. And they said their fathers was killed together.”
26 Wednesday Mar 2014
Posted Culture of Honor, Ed Haley, Harts, Lincoln County Feudin
Billy Adkins, Brandon Kirk, Cain Adkins, Cleveland, Columbus, crime, Daisy Ross, East Lynn, feud, Green McCoy, Green McCoy Jr., history, Huntington, John Hartford, Logan, Luther McCoy, Marango, McCoy Time Singers, music, Ohio, Ralph McCoy, Sherman McCoy, Spicie McCoy, Stiltner, Wayne County, West Virginia, writing
When we got back to Billy’s, we were amazed to find that he’d made contact with Green McCoy’s family. He showed us telephone numbers for two of Green’s grandsons, Ralph McCoy and Luther McCoy, as well as for Spicie McCoy’s daughter, Daisy (Fry) Ross.
I dialed up Ralph McCoy in Marango, Ohio, and explained who I was and what I was doing, then asked about Green McCoy’s murder.
“I’m 72 years old but a lot of that went on before I was born,” he said. “I’ve had two or three strokes and sometimes my memory’s gone. From the way I understood it, it was a Brumfield that killed my grandfather. There was something going on — I don’t know what the feud was about. See, I know nothing first-hand. My dad was born in 1888 and my dad was I think about two years old when his dad was murdered. My grandmother told me this part of it: that her and my dad and somebody else, I believe… My grandmother’s name was Spicie McCoy. I guess my grandfather put her on a raft or something and pushed her out in the river and told her to get out of there, to just keep on going and be quiet about it. She was pregnant for Uncle Green. Then after my grandfather got killed she married Goble Fry and then I think they came on down into Wayne County, which was around Stiltner and East Lynn and in that area.”
I asked Ralph if he knew anything about Green McCoy being a musician and he said, “Yes, very much. I’d say he was just like my dad, Sherman McCoy. He played anything that had strings on it. My dad and my grandmother, they traveled all over Wayne County playing in a quartet. They called themselves the ‘McCoy Time Singers.’ I did some traveling with them but it was just more or less in the Wayne County area. Logan city, I’ve been down that far with my dad and Grandma.”
So Green McCoy’s son Sherman was a musician, too?
“He did play with some people before he became a Christian and he played in Cleveland over the radio and stuff like that, but I wasn’t living with him then,” Ralph said. “I was living with mother. See, I was brought to Columbus, Ohio, and raised from about nine years old, so I lost track of a lot of them. But I did know he played over the radio in Cleveland and I think Huntington and several different places.”
“Have you talked with Luther McCoy?” Ralph asked.
I told him that we had tried calling Luther first but that he was in bed asleep.
“If you can talk with him, I think you’ll find out he’s probably in the same business you’re in,” Ralph said. “He plays, I think, back-up for several bands. From the way I understand it, he might be out on the West Coast.”
This was all great: our first contact with Green McCoy’s descendants.
17 Monday Mar 2014
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.
06 Wednesday Nov 2013
Posted Ed Haleyin
Angeline Lucas, Billy Adkins, Boney Lucas, Don Morris, feud, Green McCoy, Harkins Fry, history, Imogene Haley, Milt Haley, music, Paris Brumfield, Sherman McCoy, Spicie McCoy, Tucker Fry, Vinnie Workman, writing
I said, “That’s the very same story that Ed Haley’s people told. They would have just as much shame about the incident as Ed Haley’s folks. I wonder if Spicie and Emma got together and got their stories straight before they went their separate ways? I wonder if Spicie knew Emma Jean?”
Billy said, “Grandmaw I believe said them women come over that night and begged for them men — for them not to kill them. She said her mother was telling her about it. Her mother was the Fry where they lived at there. They wouldn’t listen to them. Now I don’t know if that’s true or not. That’s just what was passed down to her. Now I’ll tell you, that table had bullet holes in it.”
Oh, yeah…the table where Milt and Green ate their final meal. Brandon asked Billy who had it last and he said, “My grandmother, Vinnie Workman. I don’t know whether I can remember it or if I was just told about it.”
I told Billy that it sure would be nice to find that table, so he called up his Aunt Don Morris, who had eaten many meals on it as a child. When he got off the telephone, he confirmed, “The table they had their last meal in ended up with my Grandmother Vinnie (Thompson) Workman. And there were bullet holes in the table. Of course my aunt wasn’t there, but she said she can verify there was bullet holes in the table under the bottom of it — not on the top of it. You know, how side pieces are on a table. But when they’d be under the table as kids playing under the table, they’d see the bullet holes. She doesn’t know where the table is.”
And why did Vinnie end up with the table?
“I don’t know,” Billy said. “Uncle Tucker Fry, the one that owned the house where they was killed at, was my grandmother’s uncle. He may have just give the table to her. They was just probably getting rid of it and she took it.”
After thinking about it for a while, Billy said the table might be stored in his parents’ abandoned house next door. We walked over to the dark house and searched in vain.
Back at Billy’s, we returned to the family histories. I noticed there seemed to be a great deal of musical talent in Green and Spicie McCoy’s family. The Fry history referred to Spicie as a “well-known quartet singer” and featured a photograph of her in a quartet with her son, guitarist Sherman McCoy, and her grandsons, Charles and Raymond McCoy. Whether their talent came from Spicie or Green (or both) I didn’t know, but I took note of the fact that some of the children by Spicie’s second husband were also musical. According to Adkins, Harkins Fry of Huntington was a “song writer and publisher, and music teacher.”
My head was filled with images of Milt, Green and Spicie playing dances around Harts.
There was another surprise: according to the Adkins book, Spicie’s sister Angeline married Monteville “Mounty P.” Lucas (a brother to Mrs. George Fry) – a.k.a. “Boney Lucas.” Boney, then, was a brother-in-law to Green McCoy — making his death closely connected to the troubles of 1889. He and Angeline had several children: Eliza Lucas (1877), Julie A. Lucas (1879), Millard Fillmore Lucas (1880-1971), Blackburn Lucas (1882-1946), Ruth “Spicey Jane” Lucas (1883-1971), Taylor Lucas (1889-1966) and Wilda Lucas, born in 1891. Boney died around 1891, according to the Adkins history, when the “Brumfield brothers killed him by cutting his throat while Angeline watched.” According to Billy’s notes, Boney was “killed by Paris Brumfield while he was running from Paris.”
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