Appalachia, Aquillia Porter, Bill Duty, Bill Fields, Billy Adkins, Brandon Kirk, cemetery, Ed Haley, genealogy, Graveyard Point, Hinkle Valley Road, history, Inez, James A Garfield, Jim Webb, Joe Fannin, John W Runyon, Kentucky, Lawrence County, Leonard Porter, Martin County, Mary Runyon, Mary Runyon Fields, Mary United Baptist Church, Milo, Nat's Creek, Peach Orchard, Route 1884, Route 40, Samuel W. Porter, Stidham, Tomahawk, U.S. South, Walt Mollett, Wealthy Fry, Webb Music Store, writing
A month or so after “striking out” on the Ed Haley house, Brandon and Billy drove to Inez, Kentucky, and searched for more information about John Runyon. Venturing north of the county seat, they met Leonard Porter, who lived in a little settlement called Tomahawk. Porter remembered Mrs. Runyon staying with Mary Fields in a small house at the mouth of nearby Hall Branch and said she was likely buried in the Fields family cemetery on a point at nearby Hall Branch Road. Billy and Brandon headed up there, where they found the grave of Bill Fields (1882-1948) and Mary Fields (1888-1985), but none of John Runyon’s family. Just down the hill from the cemetery (presently a trailer court) was the old homestead of Mr. and Mrs. Fields. At one time, they later discovered, the Fieldses ran a store beside of their home. Across the road was the location of the former Mary United Baptist Church — named for Mary Runyon or Mary Fields – now converted into a house. As they stood on the hill, Billy reminded Brandon that Bill Duty’s mother-in-law was a Fields prior to her marriage.
They next tried to find the location of John Runyon’s homeplace. According to the Williamson family history, Runyon lived at the “old Stidham post office,” which they figured was located on Rockhouse Fork. Unfortunately, they found no sign of “Stidham” up the many branches of Rockhouse. There were no mailboxes labeled “RUNYON” or any signs to help them along. Many of the names of local hollows had changed since the time of the old deeds.
Feeling a little desperate, they pulled into a driveway with a mailbox labeled “HINKLE” and spoke with a very nice middle-aged man who told them the exact location of the old Stidham Post Office — actually, all three of them. The first location ran by Joe Fannin was situated at the mouth of Spence Branch near Milo. Around 1935, the office was relocated to a site on what is now called Hinkle Valley Road, just across the creek from a sign reading “Left Fork.” The final Stidham Post Office was in what is today James Webb’s Music Store. Upon viewing the sites, Billy deduced that the old Runyon homeplace had been near the second post office.
While in that vicinity, they talked with an elderly man named Walt Mollett who confirmed that John Runyon had been a local resident. He said Runyon was probably buried down the road in a cemetery on Graveyard Point at Stidham, basically the junction of Route 1884 and Route 40.
A few minutes later they were at the cemetery, parking beside the road in a treacherous curve and tromping through a forest of damp growth. At the center of the cemetery was a single, ancient pine tree. Near the pine, Brandon spotted the grave of Runyon’s daughter, Wealthy Fry. Just below her was Aquillia Porter. And below her was a grave with a new tombstone written as “Mary M. Runyons” and dated “January 28, 1861-January 29, 1958.” Beside of Wealthy Fry’s final resting place was an older stone originally created for “Mary Runyon” dated “January 28, 1861-January 29, 1956.” There were plenty of Williamsons in the cemetery — all relation to Mrs. Runyon — including Sam Porter’s second wife — but absolutely no sign of John Runyon’s grave.
Jim Webb, a gentle middle-aged musician and proprietor of Webb’s Music Store, told Brandon and Billy that someone had wrecked in the cemetery a few years earlier and destroyed many of the tombstones. Equally tragic, the wrecker that removed the vehicle from the cemetery had caused more damage to the stones. The community had organized a fund to restore the graves, Webb said, but it was little consolation. Brandon theorized that John was buried beside of Wealthy — that someone had used Mary’s old tombstone to “sort of” mark the spot. He didn’t rule out, though, that Runyon had been buried with his parents on nearby Nat’s Creek in Lawrence County. (The Graveyard Point cemetery was more oriented toward his wife’s family, the Williamsons.) A quick drive to Nat’s Creek, including a tour of the “town” of Peach Orchard (a virtually abandoned coal town once prominent in business affairs and the site of a General Garfield Civil War story), failed to produce any signs of a Runyon cemetery, although it did offer some of the most serene, peaceful, spooky and haunting countryside found in the locale.
Brandon felt a real frustration in not being able to positively find Runyon’s grave and thus achieve some sense of closure on that facet of the story. It was as if he and Billy, whose ancestors had supposedly spent years looking for Runyon, had also been evaded by ole John — even in his death.
Adam Runyon, Analena Porter, Aquillia Runyon, Asa Williamson, Aubrey Lee Porter, Bill Fields, Bill Porter, Brandon Kirk, Buchanan County, Buskirk and Wittenberg, Clarence Hinkle, Etta M. Porter, Ferrellsburg, genealogy, Graveyard Point, Guiniford Apney, Hatti Hinkle Apney, history, Inez, Jean Ramey, John Porter Jr., John W Runyon, John W. Porter, Kentucky, Martin County, Mary Runyon Fields, Mary Williamson, Maude Williamson, Merrill Porter, Norfolk, Point Pleasant, Rockcastle Creek, Russell Goble, Samuel W. Porter, Stafford Fork Precinct, Stidham, Virgil Ramey, Virginia, Virginia Lee Porter, Wealthy Runyon, West Virginia, writing, Wyoming County
The John W. Runyon family seems to have headed further south to try their luck elsewhere. In February 1902, Mary Runyon, her recently remarried daughter, Wealthy (Runyon) Hinkle-Fry, and her former son-in-law Clarence Hinkle were listed in Martin County deed records as residents of Buchanan County, Virginia.
John Runyon, meanwhile, soon gave up on his case in Wyoming County. A court entry dated April 2, 1902 and titled “John W. Runyon vs. Buskirk and Wittenberg” mentions how he “failed to give bond for costs as required in an order entered at a former term of the Court.” The Court ruled that “the defendants recover of the plaintiff their costs in their behalf expended in their defense herein including an attorneys fee of $10.00.” Included in this record was a list of thirty-four “Petit Jurors” who were, for some reason, to be paid “out of the County Treasury to wit” for their services in this case, some of them serving as many as nine days and being paid as much as eighteen dollars. It wasn’t clear why jurors served up to nine days, as records indicate that the court dismissed Runyon’s case before it went to trial.
After a short stay in Virginia, the Runyon family returned to Martin County and settled near the old Stidham Post Office on Rockcastle Creek, several miles north of the countyseat of Inez. On June 25, 1903, Wealthy Fry died at the age of 22 years old. Aquillia Porter died on February 20, 1910. A few months later (April 20) her husband remarried to Maude Williamson. Both of the Runyon girls were buried in the Williamson family cemetery at Stidham. Runyon’s legal problems, meanwhile, continued in Martin County as late as the 1910s.
On the bright side, John and Mary Runyon Fork purchased many acres of land around Rockhouse between 1893-1917 and sold at least 1,001 acres in that same vicinity between 1904-1932. Most of it went to their family: Sam Porter got 100 acres in 1910, 50 acres in 1917 and 35 acres in 1925. Various members of the Williamson family also bought tracts from John and Mary Runyon.
In 1920, John W. Runyon was listed in the Martin County Census as a resident of the Stafford Fork Precinct. He was a 65-year-old general laborer. His wife Mary was 55 years old. Asa G. Williamson, age 52, brother-in-law, was also in the household. Next door was the family of grandson John W. Porter, a 23-year-old farmer, with wife Etta M. (age 23). There were two children listed: Analena, age three; and Virginia Lee, age one. Aubrey Lee Porter, 22-year-old brother to John, who was also present in the home and employed as a coal miner.
John Runyon died on January 12, 1925 in Martin County. His widow spent her final years under the care of his niece, Mary (Runyon) Fields, who had been listed with the family in the 1900 Wyoming County Census. Mary was a daughter of John’s twin brother. She married Bill Fields and participated in much of the “family business” (marriage records, land transactions). Mary Runyon was still alive in 1952, when the Runyon genealogy book was assembled and was a source on the Adam Runyon family line.
Back in Ferrellsburg, Brandon called Bill Porter, an 80-year-old man in the Inez-area who was distantly connected to John Runyon’s family. He hadn’t known Runyon personally but said, “He was a well-thought of person. He followed the timber business. Everywhere he went he had bad luck. He was pretty bad to crook people.”
Mr. Porter said the Runyon place sat just above the old Stidham Post Office at Graveyard Point and told all about the Runyon descendants. He said Aubrey Porter married a Williams and raised a family of three children (including one son named Jimmy) in Columbus, Ohio. John W. Porter had two children — Merrill and John, Jr — and lived in Norfolk, Virginia. Hattie (Hinkle) Apney had two daughters: one named Guiniford, who married Russell Goble (an active member of the Inez School Board for years), and Jean, who married Virgil Ramey. Mr. Porter thought Hattie divorced her husband and moved to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where she died.
Adam Runyon, Adam Runyon Sr., Alden Williamson Genealogy, Aquillia Runyon, Aubrey Lee Porter, Billy Adkins, Bob Spence, Brandon Kirk, Charleston, civil war, Clarence Hinkle, Crawley Creek, Cultural Center, Ellender Williamson, Enoch Baker, Garrett and Runyon, genealogy, Harts, Hattie Hinkle, Henderson Dingess, history, Inez, Izella Porter, James Bertrand Runyon, James Muncy, John W Runyon, John W. Porter, Kentucky, Land of the Guyandot, Lawrence County, Logan County, Logan County Banner, logging, Martin County, Mary Runyon, Milt Haley, Moses Parsley, Nat's Creek, Nellie Muncy, Nova Scotia, Peach Orchard, Pigeon Creek, Pike County, Pineville, Rockcastle Creek, Runyon Genealogy, Samuel W. Porter, Stephen Williamson, timbering, Wayne, Wayne County, Wealthy Runyon, West Virginia, Wolf Creek, writing, Wyoming County
In the late summer of 1996, Brandon and Billy turned their genealogical sights on John W. Runyon, that elusive character in the 1889 story who seemed to have stirred up a lot of trouble and then escaped unharmed into Kentucky. They arranged a biographical outline after locating two family history books titled Runyon Genealogy (1955) and Alden Williamson Genealogy (1962). Then, they chased down leads at the Cultural Center in Charleston, West Virginia; the Wyoming County Courthouse at Pineville, West Virginia; the Wayne County Courthouse in Wayne, West Virginia; the Martin County Courthouse at Inez, Kentucky; and at various small public libraries in eastern Kentucky. Runyon had left quite a trail.
John W. Runyon was born in February of 1856 to Adam and Wealthy (Muncy) Runyon, Jr. in Pike County, Kentucky. He was a twin to James Bertrand Runyon and the ninth child in his family. His mother was a daughter of James Muncy — making her a sister to Nellie Muncy and an aunt to Milt Haley. In other words, John Runyon and Milt Haley were first cousins.
According to Runyon Genealogy (1955), Adam and Wealthy Runyon left Pike County around 1858 and settled on the Emily Fork of Wolf Creek in present-day Martin County. In 1860, they sold out to, of all people, Milt Haley’s older half-brother, Moses Parsley, and moved to Pigeon Creek in Logan County. John’s grandfather, Adam Runyon, Sr., had first settled on Pigeon Creek around 1811. The family was primarily pro-Union during the Civil War.
At a young age, Runyon showed promise as a timber baron.
“The first lumber industry in Logan County of any importance was started on Crawley Creek by Garrett and Runyon during the year 1876,” Bob Spence wrote in Land of the Guyandot (1978). “Garrett and Runyon deserve credit for their efforts in opening the lumber business in Logan County. They were the first to hire labor in this field. It might be of interest to note here that they originally brought trained men from Catlettsburg… In a few years, Garrett and Runyon left Logan [County], and soon Enoch Baker from Nova Scotia came to Crawley Creek to take their place.”
John may have put his timber interests on hold due to new developments within his family. According to Runyon Genealogy, his mother died around 1878 and was buried at Peach Orchard on Nat’s Creek in Lawrence County, Kentucky. His father, meanwhile, went to live with a son in Minnesota. In that same time frame, on Christmas Day, 1878, Runyon married Mary M. Williamson, daughter of Stephen and Ellender (Blevins) Williamson, in Martin County, Kentucky. He and Mary were the parents of two children: Aquillia Runyon, born 1879; and Wealthy Runyon, born 1881. John settled on or near Nat’s Creek, where his father eventually returned to live with him and was later buried at his death around 1895.
During the late 1880s, of course, Runyon moved to Harts where he surely made the acquaintance of Enoch Baker, the timber baron from Nova Scotia. An 1883 deed for Henderson Dingess referenced “Baker’s lower dam,” while Baker was mentioned in the local newspaper in 1889. “Enoch Baker, who has been at work in the County Clerk’s office and post office for several weeks, is now on Hart’s creek,” the Logan County Banner reported on September 12. Baker was still there in December, perhaps headquartered at a deluxe logging camp throughout the fall of 1889.
After the tragic events of ’89, Runyon made his way to Wayne County where he and his wife “Mary M. Runyons” were referenced in an 1892 deed. Wayne County, of course, was a border county between Lincoln County and the Tug Fork where Cain Adkins and others made their home. He was apparently trying to re-establish himself in Martin County, where his wife bought out three heirs to her late father’s farm on the Rockhouse Fork of Rockcastle Creek between 1892-1895.
In the late 1890s, John’s two daughters found husbands and began their families. On January 3, 1896, Wealthy Runyon married Clarence Hinkle at “John Runyonses” house in Martin County. She had one child named Hattie, born in 1899 in West Virginia. On March 29, 1896, Aquillia Runyon married Samuel W. Porter at Mary Runyon’s house in Martin County. They had three children: John W. Porter, born in 1897 in West Virginia; Aubrey Lee Porter, born in 1899 in Kentucky; and Izella Porter, who died young.