Ben Adams, Ben Walker, Bill Fowler, Billy Adkins, Brandon Kirk, Cat Fry, Chapmanville High School, Charley Davis, Ed Haley, French Bryant, Fry, Green McCoy, Harts Creek, Henderson Dingess, history, Iris Williams, James Davis, John Brumfield, John Hartford, John W Runyon, Kentucky, Lincoln County, miller, Milt Haley, Spring Branch, West Fork, West Virginia, writing
That evening, Brandon and I met up with Billy Adkins and went to see James Davis on West Fork. James lived on Spring Branch of West Fork, a little hollow just across the creek from Iris Williams. A few years back, his older brother Charlie had told Brandon about seeing Ed win a twenty dollar gold piece in a contest at the old Chapmanville High School.
We found the eighty-something-year-old James laying on the couch with a little fuzzy dog crawling all over him like a monkey. He said he didn’t remember Ed, so I mentioned how he was Milt Haley’s son, which got an immediate reaction. He had heard the story of Milt’s death from Cat Fry, although he didn’t immediately offer up any details. Actually, James was hesitant to talk about the 1889 murders — almost as if the participants were still around and living next door. His answers to our questions were very evasive.
We learned from James that it was Bill Fowler (not John Runyon or Ben Adams) who hired Milt and Green to ambush Al. It was all over competition between businesses. Fowler was a saloon operator and a gristmill operator, while Brumfield ran a log boom.
“They was all there making money,” he said. “You know how that stirs up trouble. Some a making a little more money than others. They was bucking one another, like money men does.”
Milt and Green ambushed Al and Hollena one Sunday as they rode down the creek on a single horse after a visit with Henderson Dingess. In the attack, Mr. Brumfield was shot through the arm, while his wife was shot in the face. Milt and Green were soon captured in Kentucky by the Adkinses and Brumfields, who held them them at Fry. Neither man would admit to anything so John Brumfield shot one of them in the head. He reputedly put his toe at the hole and said, “I put a bullet right there.”
Brumfield was himself shot in the head a few years later.
French Bryant, “who was pretty hard to handle,” was also involved in the killings.
Afterwards, people were afraid to touch Milt’s and Green’s bodies until Ben Walker allowed them to be buried on his property. The whole event “shook people up pretty bad.” Fowler sold out at the mouth of Harts and moved away.