Appalachia, Buck Mullins, crime, Dennie Workman, Doc Workman, Flora Workman, Gene Wilson Dingess, Harlen Mullins, Harts Creek, history, Lloyd Farley, Logan, Logan County, Martha Workman, murder, mystery, Thomas B. Workman, true crime, U.S. South, Weddie Mullins, West Fork, West Virginia, Workman Fork, World War I, writing
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.”