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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.”
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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.)
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An unnamed local correspondent from Spottswood in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on Friday, October 2, 1903:
Some one insulted John Carter last Friday night by stealing his kraut tub.
Rev. I.M. Nelson preached a fine sermon Sunday at the Buck Fork schoolhouse in memory of Weddington Mullins. There was a large congregation.
Mrs. Sol Adams says she wants all the pumpkins there are on Hoover with which to make apple butter for they are fine for that.
Peter Mullins got mashed up by a log truck the other day, but has got so he can walk about the place again.
Peter Mullins is one of the greatest squirrel hunters on Hart’s creek. The crack of his repeating shotgun is often heard.
Miss Bell Dora Adams is struck on a young teacher who stays on the Buck Fork.
Mrs. French Bryant of Nolan, W. Va., is very low with fever at this place.
Moses Butcher of Yantus was a visitor at this place last week.
Prof. L.W. Riddle is a candidate for matrimony subject to the action of the ladies of Spottswood.
Miss Bettie Workman has resumed teaching after an illness of two weeks.
Miss Inez Adams, one of the belles of this place was making “goo goo” eyes at a young teacher while at church last Sunday.
Peter Carter says there is only one girl in the world for him and that is Miss Frances Baisden.
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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.
Albert Dingess, Albert Gore, Alice Dingess, Anthony Adams, Burl Adams, Chloe Mullins, Dave Dingess, David Kinser, Ed Haley, Ewell Mullins, Frank Collins, genealogy, Henry Blair, history, Imogene Haley, Jackson Mullins, Joe Adams, John McCloud, Liza Mullins, Peter Mullins, Sewell Adams, Sol Adams, Sol Riddell, Spottswood, Thomas J. Wysong, Weddie Mullins, Whirlwind, writing
In spite of new economic developments, educational opportunities for young Ed Haley were limited. As far as can be ascertained, he received no formal education as a child. In that Victorian era of prosperity and refineries, schools (and other forms of improvement) were slow to arrive in the mountains of Appalachia. Joe Adams, whose father was Ed’s age and who was raised at the mouth of Trace Fork, summed it up this way: “All the education they got, they got theirselves.” (He had heard the old-timers speak of the McGuffey Readers.) In August of 1897, Ed got his first chance for an education when Sophia and David Kinser donated land on Trace Fork to the district board of education for the purpose of building a schoolhouse. So far as is known, this was the first school built on the branch. It was easy to picture Ed showing up to visit and entertain students with his amazing fiddle playing…and perhaps to occasionally sit in on school.
In February of 1898, as Ed approached his teen years, Weddie and Peter Mullins swapped property on Trace Fork. Weddie deeded his land to Peter’s wife Liza, who likewise sold her land to Weddie. Thereafter, Peter made his home in the spot where Lawrence Haley and I had visited in the early ’90s, while Weddie lived at the Jackson Mullins home. A few years later, after Weddie was murdered, his widow remarried to Lee Farley — brother to Burl — causing many people to refer to their home as the “old Lee Farley place” (as opposed to the Jackson Mullins place).
In May 1898, the Logan County Court appointed Henry Blair, Jr. as guardian of Ed Haley “an infant under the age of 14 years.” Blair and Albert Dingess paid the bond of 100 dollars. Haley was listed with his maternal grandparents, Jackson and Chloe Mullins, in the 1900 census.
By that time, the Emma Haley property had dropped in value to 33 dollars. Then, for reasons unknown, the value of “Emmagene Haley’s” property increased to $5.50 an acre for a total worth of $110 in 1906. Maybe Uncle Peter or Weddie had made an improvement on the property or maybe someone had appraised it for timber. In any case, Ed would’ve inherited it outright at that time as a person of legal adult age. More than likely, he had no idea of its worth.
The timber boom led directly to the creation of new towns on Harts Creek. Around 1902, a new post office was created at the mouth of Smoke House Fork called Spottswood. According to a 1904 business directory, Sol Adams was a justice at Spottswood. In 1906, Anthony Adams was the operator of a general store, as was J.M. Adams and James Thompson. Berl Adams was a blacksmith, Sewell Adams was a logger, Francis Collins was a miner, Albert Gore was a constable, David Dingess was a lawyer and Sol Riddell was a teacher. Joseph Adams dealt in walnut lumber, while Reverend John McCloud handled local religious matters. Alice Adams was the postmistress at Spottswood. A little later, Berl Adams, Albert Dingess, Alice Adams, Charles Dingess, William Farley and Thomas J. Wysong opened up general stores.
Later, other post offices opened on Harts Creek. In 1910, according to local tradition, Whirlwind Post Office opened in the head of Harts Creek. This replaced Spottswood as Ed Haley’s local post office, although he was traveling away from Harts quite a bit at that time. Whirlwind was roughly sixteen miles from Logan and nine miles from Dingess. (I had seen the remnants of Whirlwind post office on my recent visit to Harts Creek.) It served 250 people and received mail daily.
Ed Haley, meanwhile, sold the only piece of land he would ever own in March of 1911 to his first cousin Ewell Mullins for 25 dollars (1/5 of its appraisal value as per the assessor). In the deed, Jonas Branch was called Gunnel Branch and the size of the tract was given as 25 acres. The deed read as follows:
Beginning at a rock at the mouth of the Gunnel Branch on the right side of Trace creek thence up the hill to the top of the hill; thence up the ridge to opposite a ash corner on a cliff thence down the hill to the ash thence cross the creek to a plum tree thence up the hill to a beech thence a strait line to the top of the hill thence around the ridge to point on the u[p]per side of the Gunnel Branch thence down the point to a stake on the bank of branch thence down the branch and with the division between Ed Haley and Liza Mullins and crossing the creek to the beginning, containing 25 acres more or less.
Tax books first listed the property in Mullins’ name in 1912 and valued it at $140.
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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.”
The next day, Lawrence’s son drove the four of us over to Inez, a small settlement on the Tug River and the seat of government for Martin County, Kentucky. According to written history, Milt and Green were captured and jailed there in 1889. We made our way to the courthouse, which was surrounded by a few interesting buildings where Brandon darted inside to seek out some record of Milt and Green’s incarceration. Unfortunately, many such records had been lost in an 1892 fire. (It’s said there’s nothing more convenient than a good courthouse fire.)
Just before we left town, Lawrence said, “Well, straight east from here at this courthouse about eight miles across the river is the mouth of Jenny’s Creek on the West Virginia side. That’s approximately the way they traveled with these people when they left Kentucky. They went up Jenny’s Creek out the head of Jenny’s Creek into Twelve Pole and out of Twelve Pole down Henderson Branch into Big Harts Creek. It’s a direct route through there. We’re goin’ to be traveling approximately that. We’re going to be going around some places on account of the road but we’ll come back to the mouth of Jenny’s Creek over there.”
As we crossed the Tug into Kermit, Lawrence said, “I don’t know how far they would travel in a day by horseback through these trails on these mountains but they would travel a long ways. I think they did it in a day from up here at Kermit. Yeah, they’d do it in a day.”
Lawrence directed us up Marrowbone Creek and over to the little town of Dingess on Twelve Pole Creek. He said the posse never came through there with Milt and Green but it was the closest we could get to their trail due to the layout of current roads. Dingess, I remembered, was the place where Ed Haley’s uncle Weddie Mullins was murdered in a shoot-out at the turn of the century. The little town was reportedly named after a brother-in-law of Al Brumfield.
The next big thrill was navigating cautiously along a gravel road and entering Harts Creek at the head of Henderson Branch. We followed that branch to its mouth then went on down the main creek past Hoover, Buck Fork, and Trace Fork before turning up Smoke House Fork. Lawrence guided us past Hugh Dingess Elementary School to the site of Hugh Dingess’ old home at the mouth of Bill’s Branch. He said the posse took Milt and Green up Bill’s Branch, over the mountain, and down Piney Creek. They followed Piney to its mouth, then went up West Fork to Workman Fork. From Workman Fork, they crossed the mountain to the Guyandotte River. We were only able to drive part of this latter leg of the trip.
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Ed Haley’s grandfather, Andrew Jackson Mullins, was born about 1843 to Peter and Jane (Mullins) Mullins. Jackson, as he was called, was named in honor of President Andrew Jackson, that early American icon. Like many folks in those days, Peter and Jane Mullins appear to have been caught up in the Jackson mystique. They even named one son Van Buren, after his vice president. Jackson Mullins was the first child born to Peter following the family exodus from Kentucky or Tennessee to Logan County, (West) Virginia. The 1850 Logan County Census listed him as seven years old. In 1860, he was eighteen. During the Civil War, Jackson served in the Confederate army. Brothers Weddington and Van Buren served as Confederates. In the late 1860s, Jackson married the slightly older Chloe Ann (Gore) Adams, a widow. Chloe had been born around 1840 to John and Margaret (Dingess) Gore, pioneer residents of Harts Creek. She had first married John Quincy “Bad John” Adams, a first cousin to Jackson, with whom she had four children: Dicy (born 1857), Joseph (born May 1858), John C. “Frock” (born c. 1861) and George Washington “Ticky George” (born 15 Jul 1864). She and Jackson had three children: Imogene Mullins (born c.1868), Peter Mullins (born May 1870), and Weddington Mullins (born April 10, 1872). Jackson and Chloe are thought to have lived on Trace Fork, perhaps at the present-day site of the Turley Adams home where they certainly lived in later years.
What little is known of Jackson Mullins — the man who partially raised Ed Haley — comes through deed records and census records. On February 13, 1869, his uncle Spencer A. Mullins wrote him a note that read: “Mr. A.J. Mullins and wife: you will pleas Come down and git your Deed for the Buck fork Land. I will not pay the taxes any longer.” In 1869 he purchased 200 acres of land on the creek from Riland Baisden. The next year he was listed in the 1870 census as 27 years old with 700 dollars worth of real estate and 200 dollars worth of personal property. His daughter — Ed Haley’s mother — first appeared in that record as “Em. Jane Mullins,” age two. An April 1871, Justice Jeremiah Lambert provided a receipt to him for $2.80 “in the cost of the peace warrant in favor [of] him against Benjamin Adams.” An 1871 Logan County tax receipt listed A.J. Mullins as a resident of “Hearts Creek.” On February 28, 1877, the Logan County Court appointed him as “Surveyor of Roads in Precinct No. 76 in place of Weddington Mullins for the time of two years commencing April 1, 1877.” On December 17, 1877, the Logan County Clerk provided a receipt to him for recording a deed from Henderson Dingess and wife (parents to Hollene Brumfield). An 1878 tax receipt shows him in charge of six tracts totaling 244 acres under the ownership of “John Adams Heirs.”
The 1880 Logan County Census listed Jackson as 37 years old, while his wife was 40. Children in the household were John C. Adams (aged eighteen), George Adams (aged 15), “Emagane Mullins” (aged 12), Peter Mullins (aged 9), and Weddington Mullins (aged 6). That same year, Jackson sold five tracts of land totaling over 200 acres to brother-in-law Mathias Elkins for 3,000 dollars. He also sold 50 or so acres on Buck Fork to his father Peter and stepmother Elizabeth for 600 dollars. In February 1881, the Logan County Court reappointed him to relieve his brother Weddington as Surveyor of Public Roads for Precinct No. 76 “commencing April 1st, 1881.” That same year, he secured land from the John Q. Adams estate and bought 100 acres on Trace Fork from A.A. Low, attorney. On August 7, 1883, Enoch Baker, a timber boss on Harts Creek, provided a receipt to him for fifteen dollars “in payment for a Stove.” In 1886, Jackson deeded 37 tracts on Trace Fork to stepsons Joseph and John Adams. On April 2, 1888, he signed a promissory note agreeing to pay William Abbott $41.75 plus interest within a year. Because he was illiterate, he signed the note with an “X.”
In March 1891, Jackson and Chloe Mullins deeded their property on Trace Fork to their three children: Imogene Haley, Peter Mullins, and Weddie Mullins.
In the 1900 Logan County Census, Jackson gave his birth date as March of 1845, while Chloe gave hers as July 1834. Ed Haley first appears in the 1900 Logan County Census as “James E. Haley, born August 1885,” and living in their home. His birth date of 1885 was two years later than what was given by the Haley family records. By 1910, Jackson lived with son Peter Mullins, while Chloe was in the home of Weddie Mullins’ widow, Mag. Ed was absent from the census entirely, indicating that he was gone from Harts by that time. A few years later, in 1915, Jackson Mullins died and was buried in an unmarked grave at the Bob Mullins Cemetery on main Harts Creek. His widow died in 1919.
Lawrence, Clifton, and I headed back down to Joe’s in order to see more of his pictures. We first looked in a smokehouse near Joe’s trailer. As Clifton took hold of the door, he proudly mentioned that it had come from Uncle Peter’s old log home. Almost as soon as I stepped inside, just back of an ancient spinning wheel, piles of rotting furniture and bags of god-knows-what, I spotted the large framed photograph of Bill and Peter Mullins — two very serious young men with thick mustaches. Thinking that the picture showed Peter and his brother Weddie, Clifton began to tell of Weddie’s death.
“They went over to Dingess and they got into a fight about an election or something and one of them got shot over there and they brought him back across the mountain, you know, on the horses. Weddie, he got killed.”
Nearby this picture was a faded one of equal size featuring what appeared to be a whole family of people. My first inclination was to assume it was the Jackson Mullins family, maybe even showing Milt Haley and Ed somewhere in the shadows.
Clifton said we were welcome to borrow the two large pictures. He then fetched a box from which we borrowed 22 small photographs. Satisfied, we headed down to Turley’s for his input on their identification.
Turley was very interested in the large photo of what we thought was Weddie and Peter Mullins, since Weddie was his grandfather.
“They shot and wounded a constable or sheriff or something another over at Dingess,” he said. “John Dillon was the sheriff over there, or deputy-sheriff. He killed Weddie, and Peter, he got away. Peter come home and Uncle John went back over there and Peter went with him but he didn’t go in, I don’t think. He went in, said this guy was laying there dying, said he asked him how he was. They said, ‘Well, seems to me like he’s a dying.’ Said he just pulled a gun there and shot him and said, ‘He’s dead now.'”
I was most interested in the large faded photo of what I presumed to be the Jackson Mullins family. The picture showed a very old couple, who I figured to be Jackson and Chloe, Ed’s grandparents. There was another smaller picture of the couple, which we had borrowed from Joe’s box. Turley, though, didn’t think it was Jackson and Chloe Mullins.
“I can tell you who I think that is,” he said. “Lude and Van Mullins.”
Van Mullins, he said, was a brother to Peter’s wife Liza.
“So Aunt Liza was a Mullins before she married Peter Mullins?” I asked.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Turley said, as if he’d never thought of it before.
After looking at more of Joe’s pictures, I asked Turley about the location of the old Milt Haley house. He said it used to sit at the site of his present-day home.
“When I was a little boy I could remember it,” he said. “They was a big old log house front and they was a big long porch. And they had guest rooms. And then the kitchen was back there. Had a big chimney in it. And then they had that porch and everything back through there. Had that big kitchen in it and big fireplace. They could just put a big kettle in there and make a whole big kettle of stuff.”
It resembled the old Stonewall Workman home, Turley said, although I had no idea what that meant.
“The year I was six years old is when they remodeled that house — seven,” he said. “I remember after they took a part of it off the top, made it a story and a half.”
I drew out a floor plan of “The Milt Haley House” based on Turley’s memories.
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In the early morning hours of April 20, 1956, someone shot Doc Workman in the abdomen with a 20-gauge shotgun as he stood at the doorway to his little house on Workman Fork. “I heard the shot fired that killed him,” said Gene Wilson Dingess, a neighbor, in a 2004 interview. “It was way up in the morning. My sister Mildred and Mommy heard it, too. No one thought anything about it. People roamed all hours of the night with guns and shot rabbits and possoms.”
Upon learning the true nature of the incident, residents of Workman Fork reacted with shock and surprise. Nothing like this had ever happened on Workman Fork. Located somewhat remotely in the headwaters of Harts Creek, the fork constituted one of the most peaceful sections of the community. Moonshining was quite common, but murder? Doc’s killing — any killing — was unprecedented on Workman Fork. People were horrified.
Most everyone agreed that Doc knew the identity of his killer. “Doc knew the person at his door,” Dingess said. “He answered the door in his pajamas.” The killer’s choice of weaponry was a source of great interest. First of all, the 20-gauge shotgun used to commit the murder reportely belonged to Mr. Workman himself. Secondly, a 20-gauge shotgun was the type of low-powered firearm that a teenager or woman (or an old man) might use at close range, say, within 30-40 yards. And, oddly, it was left lying across Workman’s leg presumably without fingerprints. “It looked like someone had been standing by his door where they stood and plotted,” said the late late Roma Elkins in a 2004 interview.
One of the initial suspects in the murder was Doc’s former wife, Flora Lilly. Police also questioned Doc’s former brother-in-law, Weddie Mullins, a son of Harlen Mullins. Buster Stollings, who boarded with Flora, was another suspect. Other suspects were two men named Jake and Bill who were out that night riding mules and stealing corn. Apparently locals were so incensed by the tragedy that they investigated the matter themselves. Early the morning of the murder, one eyewitness saw two young men, dubbed as “Frank” and “Jesse” here to hide their true identities, run by as she milked cows on Abbott’s Branch. “Ben Workman said he saw tracks from a woman in high-heeled shoes leading from the mouth of Workman Fork up to the mouth of Long Branch,” Dingess said. “Now who would’ve wore high heels on this creek back then?”
Today, so many years later, it appears that two young men dubbed as “Frank” and “Jesse” were involved in the murder. Although suspects at the time of the killing, they were never questioned by authorities. Jesse’s own mother believed him to be the killer. “When Jesse come in at the house that morning he had a whole roll of money as big as your fist,” his mother later said. “Him and Wed Mullins was in on that killing together.” Reportedly, Frank was haunted by the murder years later when he was on his deathbed. “My uncle went up to Logan and Frank was in the hospital about to die,” Dingess said. “There was a preacher there and Frank said he couldn’t get forgiveness because he’d helped kill a man.”
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Doc Workman was born on January 20, 1893 at Halcyon in Logan County, West Virginia. His parents were Thomas B. and Martha (Hill) Workman. Doc served in the First World War. According to his draft registration record, he was blue-eyed, had dark brown hair and was of medium build. “I think he got gased over there and he just barely made it,” said Gene Wilson Dingess, a close relative and namesake, in a 2004 interview. “They were in foxholes most of the time.” A decorated veteran and prisoner of war, Mr. Workman spoke little of his war experience after returning home. “He never told big tales about his service,” Dingess said. “If you asked him about it, he’d answer you in about thirty seconds and then change the subject.”
In 1919, Doc married Flora Mullins, the pretty red-haired daughter of Harlen Mullins, a local farmer. For many years, the couple enjoyed a happy marriage. By the early 1930s however, according to neighborhood gossip, both began affairs. Doc, who some called “Slick” because of his charms with women, reportedly courted a sister-in-law, while Flora reportedly sparked a Dingess. The family remained intact until at least 1940. Some time thereafter, Doc and Flora separated and eventually divorced. Mr. Workman built himself a small dwelling house just below his wife where he lived with a stepson, Dennie. Around that time, perhaps in related events, a few homes were burned in the neighborhood.
A 1942 draft registration record described Dock as six-feet tall, 178 pounds, of ruddy complexion, with gray hair and blue eyes. In the opinion of most people on Workman Fork, he made for a good neighbor. Lloyd Farley, a son-in-law, in a 2005 interview, said, “Doc was a fine fellow. He was hard to get to know but he would give you the shirt off of his back.” Mr. Dingess also had fond memories of the old gentleman. “We stopped there at Doc’s every day after school to see him,” he said. “He had candy and marshmallows and he always offered us a dollar to let him bust an egg between our eyes.” Dingess recalled that Doc was an excellent marksman. “Doc kept a loaded gun just inside his door to shoot foxes when they got after his chickens,” Dingess said. “He could shoot a fox from 100 yards away.”
In his last days, Doc received a pension for his service in the Great War and began to carry a significant amount of cash on his person. “He drew a veteran’s pension,” said Mr. Farley. “He often packed one-thousand dollars on him.” Not long before his murder, he loaned fifty dollars to his brother-in-law, Buck Mullins, who then lived in Logan. (Mullins soon repaid the loan.) Neighbors spoke of Dock’s money, of his pension… Family members cautioned him against keeping so much cash on hand, afraid that someone might rob him. Adding fuel to the fire of neighborhood gossip, Doc occasionally disappeared from the creek. “Doc would go out of here and be gone for a month at a time when I was young,” Dingess said. “We never did know why he left.” Just a few weeks before the murder, his son Dennie moved away to find a job. “Dennie had just left to work away from here two or three weeks when Dock was killed,” Dingess said. About one week before the killing, according to Farley, Weddie Mullins, Doc’s former brother-in-law, caught him with his arm around his wife’s waist. He told him that he “better not do it again.”
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At some point, Connie showed up with a small entourage of women toting some of Joe Mullins’ old pictures. My eyes immediately went to a large, framed photograph of two serious mustachioed men. Turley said one was Weddie Mullins — his grandfather on “both sides” of the family tree — while the other was Ed Haley’s Uncle Peter Mullins. Both men were brothers. Turley said his grandfather Weddie — Ed’s uncle — was murdered at the little town of Dingess just after the turn of the century.
Lawrence said, “Mom and Pop used to play at Dingess — just a little community over in MingoCounty.”
That got us back on the subject of Ed, although most of the commentary was choppy and mixed between looking at photographs. One of the girls said, “We’ve heard talk of Ed all our lives.” Another made the unusual remark, “He could see lightning. Some way he could feel it or something and tell it was hitting.” Someone said Ella could tell the difference between the Haley children by their smell.
Turley, who had been fairly quiet throughout our visit, said to Lawrence, “Bernie Adams used to play a lot of music with your dad.”
Violet said, “Bernie’s the one took him in the chicken house for the toilet. They stayed all night up at our house. Robert Martin and Bernie and Ed and them played music all night. I can remember it. I was just a little girl. Mother said Ed played many a time where she was raised up over in the head of Francis Creek.”
Lawrence said, “You know, these different places like Hoover and places like that don’t ring a bell to me. I can remember going down here to the end of Trace, and maybe down to Smoke House, and up to George Adams’ who lived on up this way, and up to that store — Maynard’s Store — and buying candy, but that’s about the limit of my travel, except coming up from the mouth of Harts.”
Basically, the next half-hour or so was a giant “get to know everybody session” — mostly between Lawrence and the locals. I sort of hung back a little, taking it all in, while Lawrence spoke of and listened to stories about his father. There was a glow about his face that had been absent in Ashland.
At one juncture, he told Connie how her grandparents, Peter and Liza Mullins, raised his father.
“Oh, really?” she said. “I didn’t know that. Now I remember Granny. They wanted me to stay all night with her and I was always afraid she’d die in her sleep or something. That’s terrible.”
She asked Lawrence if he remembered Uncle Jeff — “he was Granny’s brother and he was kinda slow.”
Violet said, “He liked to go to all these dinner meetings they’d have out in the country. He’d walk for miles and miles.”
Connie asked Lawrence if Ed ever played at Logan — the seat of government for Logan County — and he said, “Yeah, he used to play around Logan quite a bit and Peach Creek. He’d play up there during court days especially. Back in them days, the town would load up. I’ve been there with him during those times. The old courthouse, I think it faced toward the river. One side of it was on Stratton Street.”
Connie asked where Ed was buried and Lawrence said, “He’s buried in the Ashland Cemetery in Ashland. Mom’s buried in the same cemetery but not with him. By the time my mother died — she died three years after Pop — they’d filled that section up.”
I’d never really thought about that. Ed and his wife were not buried together, the kind of seemingly minor detail tossed out randomly that took on somewhat of a greater meaning at a later date. I made a note to myself right then that I would visit Ed’s grave in Ashland before heading back to Nashville.
Violet wondered about Lawrence’s older brother, Clyde.
“Clyde’s out in Stockton, California,” he said. “He’s what I call the black sheep of the family. Never married. He just followed the sun for work. When it was summertime, he’d go north; when it was wintertime, he’d go south.”
Just then, an old man called Bum showed up at Turley’s. Bum remembered Ed and his family well. He asked Lawrence about the Haleys. It was hard to focus on their conversation — everyone in the room seemed to be talking at once — but I heard Bum mention something about how Lawrence’s brother Ralph used to hang from tree limbs by his “sticky toes” and would “do anything.”
“That’s exactly how he got killed,” Lawrence said. “He was hanging by his toes and he was gonna let go with his toes and flip over and land on his feet but he didn’t make it. He was just active like that. See, Ralph danced around these carnivals and fairs and places.”
A few minutes later, things quieted down a little. I moved over near Bum to ask him about Haley. His answers seemed to come through his nose more than his mouth and were usually followed by a little chuckle. He was great. Bum said he was 67 years old and first saw “Uncle Ed” in the thirties.
“He lived down in Ashland and he’d come up pretty often,” Bum said. “People come from everywhere to listen at him play whenever they’d have them big dances and stuff. He’d play half the night. Yeah, I’ve been right there.”
I asked Bum about Ed’s tunes and he said, “Ah, he played so many… There was one religious tune he’d put the bow under the fiddle, and the hair, he’d turn it right over and slip his fiddle between it, and play that. I forgot what it was.”
Bum told me all about the old dances.
“They used to have a big working,” he said. “About every family on this creek and Harts Creek down here, they’d all gather up and hoe one man’s field out and then move to the next one. And they’d all go to each other’s farms that way and help each other, and when they got done one man would have a big dance. They’d have a dance on Saturday night. They’d have them at just about every home, mostly at Uncle Peter’s up here, in the house. Like one room in there, they’d gather everything up and take it outside and they’d have a dance in there, and when they got through they’d put the furniture all back in. Anybody that wanted to come was invited. They’d have food right in the house. There were usually three or four around to call the reel: ‘Dosy doe and here she comes and there she goes.'”
“It’d just be Uncle Ed and John Hager playing?” I asked.
“Well, Ed mostly,” Bum said. “Uncle Johnny, he played some with him. Uncle Ed, he played by himself most all of these dances. Mrs. Haley played with him a lot. She played the mandolin, guitar or accordion.”
“Did Johnny Hager play the banjo about like Grandpa Jones?” Turley asked Bum.
“Yeah, over-handed they call it,” Bum said. “Molly O’Day, she played that way. My grandpaw would whittle out two little sticks and he’d sit and beat on them strings and Ed a playing the fiddle.”
“Ed played with Ed Belcher,” Turley said.
“Yeah, I’ve heard Pop talk about Ed Belcher,” Lawrence said.
Now who was Ed Belcher?
“He played the guitar,” Bum said. “He could play the piano, too. They’d get together at times and play together. They’d go up Buck Fork.”
Bum said he last saw Ed Haley “over here on that mountain yonder” at Clifford Belcher’s beer joint.
“He’d go down there and play and people’d give him beer and stuff. That’s about all he wanted. I run into him over there one night. I said, ‘Uncle Ed, where you been?’ He said, ‘I ain’t been no where but right here. I come up here to sit around and play music a while.’ I bought him a beer and he sat there and played music. Well, a Conley boy run in and went to playing and thought he was better than Ed and everything. Ed finally told that boy, said, ‘Why don’t you quit playing that music? You can’t play. You’re cutting my music up too much.’ That boy come back at him, you know, and aimed to fight him. He said, ‘Shut up, old man. You don’t know what you’re a talking about.’ I was standing there and I told him, I said, ‘Now listen. If you jump on that man, you’ll have me to fight and him both.’ And Ed took his fiddle and hit that feller right down over the head with it and busted that fiddle all to pieces.”
Turley said Ed Haley was high-tempered, as well as strong, and hinted at his mean streak.
“Dad said Peter had a dog that Ed couldn’t get along with at all. Ed told Uncle Johnny, ‘You get me close to him and I’ll hit him in the mouth. I’ll knock him out.’ And he said Ed hit that dog and killed him with his fist. Hit him in the ear and killed him. That’s what my daddy told.”
Bum was very familiar with Ed Haley’s family on Trace. He said Uncle Peter Mullins was “pretty bad to get out and get drunk and get into it with people.” He knew all about Ed’s uncle Weddie Mullins’ murder at an election in Dingess. “There used to be a train come in there and they’d bring flour and stuff over there and people’d go over there to Dingess and get it,” he said. “They’d take wagons and go through these hills, like up Henderson and all them places and they got into it over there.” Bum wasn’t sure who shot Weddie but knew that his killer survived the fracas. Once the news reached Harts Creek, John Adams got a pistol from Jackson Mullins and rode to Dingess where he found Weddie’s killer laid up in a bed clinging to life. Someone told him the guy probably wouldn’t make it so (like something out of a Hollywood Western) he pulled out a .38 pistol and said, “I know he won’t,” and shot him in cold blood.
I wasn’t exactly sure who any of these people were — Jackson Mullins, John Adams — but I had the impression that they were some relation to Ed Haley. At that juncture, I just let the tape recorder roll and tried to take notes and absorb everything, figuring that what seemed like unimportant details would perhaps later develop into major items of interest.
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