Adkins Conspiracy Case, Appalachia, Beecher Avenue, Billy Adkins, Custer McCann, Fed Adkins, Ferrellsburg, Guyandotte River, Harts, history, Isaac Adkins Branch, Lincoln County, Pearl Adkins, polio, Rinda Adkins, Sand Creek, U.S. South, Watson Adkins, West Virginia, writers, writing
Some years ago, I located a diary kept by Pearl Adkins, a physically handicapped and romantically frustrated intellect. A life-long resident of Harts, West Virginia, Pearl was born on August 1, 1904 to Fed and Rinda (Davis) Adkins. At the time of her birth, her parents resided in a two-story plank house situated at the mouth of Isaac Adkins Branch on Guyandotte River. Her father’s involvement in the famous Adkins conspiracy case of 1907 and subsequent incarceration in the West Virginia state penitentiary and loss of property disrupted her childhood and prompted a move. In 1908, the family relocated to a rental dwelling situated above the Adkins store, just back of the original homeplace. Between 1914 and 1916, Pearl and her family lived elsewhere in Hart Bottom. Thereafter, they resided at Sand Creek (1916-1921), then Ferrellsburg — a community above Hart. At this latter location, the Adkins clan briefly operated a store.
“I knew Pearl real well,” said Custer McCann, an 83-year-old retired schoolteacher and Harts resident in June 2002. “I worked for her brother Watson Adkins and stayed around there a lot. She was Watson’s half-sister. She was highly intelligent and she read widely. I’d say she was self-educated. She was a very kind-hearted person. I never did hear her say a bad word about any one.”
Polio crippled Pearl at a young age.
“I’ve always heard my sister Inez [Pearl’s friend and sister-in-law] say that Pearl walked until she was twelve years old,” said McCann. “She had a sick spell and never got over that. But her mother did a real job taking care of her. When she got out of bed, they’d put her in a wheelchair. She had no control with her legs at all.”
According to the genealogy notebooks of nephew Billy Adkins of Harts, “Pearl was five feet, one inch tall and had brown hair and blue eyes. She was a very intelligent woman. She read a lot. She was a very wise woman and counseled people. She was a good listener.”
Pearl’s three volume diary appears to chronicle thoughts and events from January 30, 1922 until May 6, 1928, although it is full of undated or vaguely dated entries. At the time of her writing, Pearl was a young woman approximately eighteen to twenty-four years old still living at home with her parents. The family resided on Beecher Avenue in a small single-story house situated on property owned by Watson Adkins.