Allen Martin, Appalachia, Atlanta, Ben Adams, Brandon Kirk, Charley Brumfield, crime, Frank Adams, Georgia, Greasy George Adams, Harts Creek, history, Huntington Herald-Advertiser, Lawrence Haley, Logan County, moonshining, murder, Ward Brumfield, West Virginia, writing
“Greasy George” Adams, a son of Ben Adams, was apparently a notorious character on Harts Creek in the early decades of the twentieth century. Lawrence Haley had mentioned his name to me on my first trip to Ashland, while Brandon said his home was the scene of Charley and Ward Brumfield’s double murder in 1926. A 1953 article from the Huntington Herald-Advertiser titled “HARTS CREEK HOME WHERE FIVE MET DEATH NOW IS OFTEN SCENE OF PRAYER MEETINGS” had this great interview with Adams.
George Adams of Harts Creek in Logan County has his rifle on the wall now and instead of a pistol in his hand he carries a prayer book. He’s given up feuding and fighting and settled down to old-time religion at his neat farm home where five persons were killed in gun fights. Almost never does the tantalizing smell of moonshine cooking in a barrel up a mountain hollow drift down to taunt the nostrils of the man who proudly states he has made thousands of gallons and the law never chopped up one of his stills. “I put ’em high up in the hills and the law got too tired before they reached them,” he said.
THE HONKING of a brood of ducks and the whining of droves of bees busy at work at his 40 honey hives are about the only sounds which disturb the silence around his 25 acres of land today. Land which he says he was able to buy through the sale of bootleg liquor. But it was not always so at George Adams’ place. Several decades ago he recalls that when he heard a rifle singing through the hills he reckoned it was a neighbor shooting at another neighbor. Open season on humans has closed in the area since, and squirrels and rabbits are about the only targets. George Adams misses the sparsity of “shine” from the hill country he loves so well, even though he says he hasn’t touched a drop since the last killing at his home. “Dang revenooers probably don’t know how good moonshine made out of tomatoes is, or they wouldn’t go around bustin’ up all the stills in the country,” he said.
THE MOUNTAIN folk in the Harts Creek area will tell you that there’s many a home along the small stream which flows into the Guyandotte River that’s seen a shooting or a killing. But George Adams’ home is slightly above par for the area — five people have met violent deaths there. As “Greasy George,” which his neighbors call him, puts it: “No trouble for a man to get in trouble but it’s hell to get out!” And he’s a man who should know about trouble. His legs are a little wobbly now because of carrying his six foot of height and weight around for 72 years, and he gets a little short of breath when working too hard, but when he starts talking about his shooting scrapes, he has all the enthusiasm of a country boy walking a country mile to a country house to date a country girl for the first time.
“I FUST got into trouble when I was nineteen. Mail carrier undertook to kill Dad and I went after him. Somebody got him,” he said, hastily adding: “Weren’t too nice a way to treat a man who delivers letters.” George related that his Dad got shot four times in the exchange of lead and “we both went to jail.” A trial in Logan County lasted for three days and he said, “Dad nearly went broke paying off lawyers,” before a verdict of self defense was brought in. That shooting affair took place less than a mile from George’s present home but several years later his kitchen was the scene of a battle where he said “guns were going off like popcorn.” Three participants emptied their guns at each other after George said one of them knocked him down and out of the way. Three burials took place afterwards. Before George built his present frame house over a log cabin, the logs were speckled with the bullets which went wild. The house today is probably the only frame house in the nation which has a cement roof on it three inches thick. “Ran out of lumber and got concrete real cheap,” George said. “While the house is plenty warm in winter time it sure is hot in summer,” he added.
ADAMS recalls that except for getting a year in jail for fighting during the kitchen shooting affair, the only time he strayed from the Harts area was when he went on a three-year vacation in Atlanta, Ga., courtesy of the federal government. Things were peaceful at his house for a while until a relative “up and chased his wife over here,” he said. The relative, according to George, fired and hit the wife with a blast from a 16-gauge shot gun. The next and last time a shooting occurred in the old homestead, Frank Adams, George’s son, lost his life. He said the affair was due to drinking and “since then I haven’t touched a drop unless somebody put it in my food unbeknowst to me.” “My boys were singing a lot of old fool songs and I told ’em to shut up. My son got up and slapped me down. While I was knocked out somebody shot Frank.”
GEORGE SAID he had 18 children. Three are living at home with him now and the rest are in other parts of the state. He says he can’t recall all their names “but they are in the Bible.” During recent years his home which saw so much violence is now the scene of many a religious meeting. He has even constructed benches in his yard to seat the neighbors who come from miles around to hear the services. He’s not filled full of the brine and vinegar he had when he was younger and as he says: “Me and other folks have quit this tomfoolery.” But nevertheless, George remarked that he would “sorta like to git in ‘nuther shakedown if I wasn’t too old.” And on the wall overhanging his bed is his rifle. “Keep it so’s if a man keeps coming in the house at night when I say stop I can stop him,” he said.