Al Brumfield, Albert Dingess, Ben Adams, Billy Hall, Brandon Kirk, Burl Farley, Charlie Dingess, crime, Dave Dingess, feud, Floyd Dingess, Harts Creek, Harve Dingess, Harvey "Long Harve" Dingess, Henderson Dingess, Hollene Brumfield, Hugh Dingess, John W Runyon, Logan County, Maude Dingess, Milt Haley, Rockhouse Fork, Sallie Dingess, timbering, West Virginia
Brandon asked Maude Dingess about her grandparents, Henderson and Sallie (Adams) Dingess. Maude said Grandpap Henderson was “kindly the leader of his family” but he had a real time keeping his older sons — Charlie, Floyd, and Hugh — in line. They ran around a lot with their uncle Ben Adams, who was Sallie Dingess’ youngest brother. Uncle Ben Adams was pretty tight with the Dingesses in the early years (he named his first three children after them) but was reportedly a bad influence on the Dingess boys. At some point, Maude said, her uncles “turned their meanness on him.”
One time, after Charlie Dingess whipped Ben in a fight, Ben came to complain to Sallie. Henderson saw him coming and told her, “Go out there and tell him to go home. We don’t want no trouble with them.” Sallie went outside and said to her brother, “Now Ben. You just go right back home. Don’t you get off here. There’s no use to quarrel at Charlie and Floyd ’cause you’ve made them what they are. You taught it to them.”
In subsequent years, Henderson tried to “distance” himself from Ben. He often made snide comments, like telling his son Dave that he was “all Adams” when he wouldn’t work.
“If I knew where the Adams vein was in your body, I’d drive a knife in it and let it run out,” Henderson would say.
Brandon asked Maude if her uncle Floyd Dingess was killed over timber in 1888.
“Floyd was tough,” she said. “Floyd was killed there at the mouth of Rock House. He had some logs there and that was his brother-in-law he was into it with, Bill Hall. They just got to quarreling over the logs, I guess. Floyd was bent down to drive the dregs in the logs and Bill Hall run up behind him and knocked him in the head with a pole axe.”
“I’ve heard Maude’s father talk about it,” Harve said. “He said when they’d be a floating the logs out of here — you know, huge water — Floyd Dingess would run them logs like a gray squirrel.”
Maude said, “He was a small man. Dad said Floyd was much of a man to be a little fella like that. He said he saw him do things a big man couldn’t do.”
As soon as we asked about Milt Haley’s death, Harve said, “It was all over timber. The Adamses around in the other creek yonder, they was all wanting to make a dollar out of timber, no doubt. Ben Adams and them had their own dam built somewhere up main Hart — splash dam. Well now, up in this fork, old Albert Dingess had a big one up there. Burl Farley had one too on up above it. They kept a huge dam there and when they’d get ready to float their logs, everybody would turn their dams out at once and let them go. When they would knock them there dams off and everybody had their timber ready to float out of here the timber would get mixed a going down. Naturally, it would. When they’d get down there at Hart — the Brumfields had the boom in there that caught the timber and hold it out of the river and then they’d make up their rafts there — and they’d have to pick through that and sort their timber out. They had their brands on it, but they’d slip and change their brands. Maude’s father, I heard him talk that they’d get down there and they’d get in the awfulest arguments ever was over whose logs were whose and whose belonged to what. I guess they had a time with it.”
In addition to all the hard feelings over people stealing logs, there was a lot of animosity toward Al Brumfield — even among his in-laws — because of the toll he charged at his boom.
“They was having to pay a toll down there at Hollene’s and they didn’t want to pay any toll,” Maude said. “And that’s what Al’s wife was shot over.”
“The Mullinses put this old guy [Milt Haley] up to doing the dirty work, I think,” Harve said. “Now, I ain’t sure on that. I’ve heard that talked a little bit.”
Brandon told Harve and Maude how Ben Adams was supposedly the one who hired Milt and Green to kill Al Brumfield and Maude confirmed, “He did. I thought it was Ben ’cause, you know, they talked that here.”
“That’s what the word was,” Harve said. “The Adamses and Mullinses around there. See, the Adamses and Mullinses was always locked in through marriage. They said that old Ben was the head of it. I just heard Maude’s brothers talking, you know, that he was a pretty ruthless man.”
Maude said, “He was awful hidden in his ways but Dad always bragged on him. Ben was his uncle.”
Brandon said, “People that live in Harts, down at the mouth of the creek, they’ve all been told that John Runyon hired those two men. People up here on the creek have always been told it was Ben Adams. What it looks like is that they both were in on it.”
Harve said, “It’s possible that they were in cahoots because now… Seems to me like, something I did hear… Somebody talked that in the past — might have been Maude’s father — that there was another person or some other people — which could have been the very people you’re talking about — tried to horn in on the Brumfields there at the mouth of the creek at one time and they had some problems with it. Like they tried to put a boom in of their own and squeeze old Hollene out.”
“I think Ben did that,” Maude said.
“Well, Ben could have been in on it with this other guy like he’s talking about,” Harve said.
Al Brumfield, Ben Adams, Billy Hall, crime, Ed Haley, Eveline Dingess, feud, Floyd Dingess, Harts Creek, Henderson Dingess, history, Hollene Brumfield, Hugh Dingess, Imogene Haley, John W Runyon, Kentucky, Kiahs Creek, Robinson Creek, West Virginia, writing
At the time of the ambush on Al and Hollena Brumfield, Henderson Dingess and his family were in no mood to see yet another one of their fold die violently. Less than a year before, on November 15, 1888, Floyd Dingess, an older son of Henderson, was murdered while working logs at the mouth of Rockhouse Fork on Harts Creek. It was a horrific deed: Floyd, whose wife was several months pregnant, was murdered by his own brother-in-law, Billy Hall. Floyd had never been popular with the Halls. He reportedly made a habit of bullying Billy. It was said that when he came home from working, his wife would clatter pots and pans in the kitchen just so her family wouldn’t hear his footsteps.
When Billy finally shot Floyd on that fateful day, some of the younger Dingess boys were fishing in the creek nearby. They raced home to tell their family what had happened, while Billy quickly returned home and received instructions to hide out in Robinson Creek, Kentucky. Meanwhile, Floyd’s pregnant wife was floated across the creek to her husband, who died in her arms. Hugh Dingess, Floyd’s brother, tracked Billy to Kiah’s Creek but lost his trail. For years, Hugh was devastated by his brother’s death. He used to get drunk and shoot the Halls’ cattle.
The Dingesses eventually learned the whereabouts of Billy Hall and prepared to fetch him by force. The Halls on Harts Creek caught wind of their plan and sent word to Billy to escape by train to Tennessee, which he did — and was never heard from again.
Surely, when Milt Haley and Green McCoy shot Hollena Brumfield less than a year later, the Dingess family was determined to execute a harsh revenge. It was, after all, the second attack on their clan in several months. We wondered then, why would Milt, Green, Runyon, and Ben Adams — knowing the fate of poor Billy Hall — want to risk their lives (and fortunes) to attack Brumfield? Surely Milt and Green — taking a cue from Billy Hall — were well aware that once they committed their heinous act, the only avenue open to them was to flee the state forever. We also wondered if Milt just abandoned Emma and Ed on Trace Fork or if there was some kind of arrangement to later meet him in Kentucky?