Annie Dingess, Appalachia, Bob Dingess, Cecil Brumfield, Charley Brumfield, Charley Evans, Dixie Adams, farming, genealogy, Gillis Adams, Harts Creek, history, Holden, Hoover Fork, Howard Adams, Inez Dingess, Isom Glover, Jake Workman, Logan Banner, Lucy Dingess, Mag Brumfield, Monaville, Mud Fork, Queens Ridge, Roxie Workman, Thompson Branch, Ula Adams, Wayne County, West Virginia
An unknown local correspondent from Harts Creek in Logan County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Logan Banner printed on May 21, 1926:
How do you do, old Banner? Glad to see you again.
We are having some rainy weather at this writing.
Jake Workman, of Holden, is visiting his parents of this place this week.
Mr. and Mrs. Isom Glover of Mud Fork were visiting homefolks Sunday of Thompson Branch.
Gillis Adams of Monaville spent the weekend with homefolks of Hoover.
Charley Evans of Mud Fork attended church here Sunday.
Chas. Brumfield passed through our vicinity last week attending business affairs.
Robert Dingess made a flying trip… [cropped]
[cropped]… ill for the past week or so but is able to be out again.
Born to Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Brumfield, a baby girl.
Mrs. Roxie Workman of Holden has returned home from a visit with her parents of Queen’s Ridge.
Misses Inez and Lucy Dingess were… [cropped]
[cropped]…downhearted Sunday? Cheer up, Freda, maybe it’s not so.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dingess was out car riding Sunday.
Jake Workman was calling on Miss Ula Adams Sunday.
Mr. and Mrs. Howard Adams are very busy farming this year.
Note: Queens Ridge P.O., located in Wayne County, served Harts Creek in Lincoln and Logan counties. The above news is for Harts Creek area, not Wayne County.
Anthelia Gore, Arminta Thompson, Caroline Dingess, Charley Brumfield, Charley Curry, Dump Farley, Dyke Garrett, Ella Workman, Farabell McCloud, Floyd Hager, Frances Adkins, genealogy, George Thompson, Harts Creek, James A. Hager, James Messer, James P. Mullins, James Williamson, Jesse Gore, John Chapman, Josephus Workman, Julia Browning, Lena Chapman, Logan County, Lucinda Hall, Margaret Vance, Pat Anna Dingess, Richard Kirk, Rosa B. Farmer, Sarah Ann McCloud, Susan McCloud, U.S. Richards, Van B. Prince, Vinson Collins, West Virginia, Wilson Abbott
The following list of Logan County marriages for 1890 reveals the names of preachers operating in the Harts Creek area. This is a “working list” and will be updated. The source for this material is “Marriages-Births-Deaths, 1872-1892,” pages 62-64, which is located at the Logan County Clerk’s Office in Logan, WV. Many thanks to the county clerks and their employees who have always been so helpful to my research these past twenty-five years. NOTE: Marriage records for the Lincoln County section of the community are unavailable.
Van B. Prince 23 February 1890 James Williamson and M.J. McCloud
Van B. Prince 25 March 1890 A.S. Lowe and Susan McCloud
Van B. Prince 28 March 1890 James Rose and Mary Marcum
Van B. Prince 17 April 1890 Vinson A. Collins and B. Ella Workman
Van B. Prince 25 April 1890 James Messer and Margarett Vance
J.P. Mullins 18 May 1890 John Chapman and Lena Chapman
Van B. Prince 23 May 1890 U.S. Richards and Pat Anna Dingess
Josephus Workman 25 May 1890 Wilson Abbott and Rosa B. Farmer
Van B. Prince 3 July 1890 Richard Kirk and Sarah Ann McCloud
M.V. Prince 19 July 1890 Floyd Hager and Farabell McCloud
Josephus Workman 14 September 1890 George B. Farley and Lucinda Hall
Van B. Prince 23 October 1890 James A. Hager and Julia Browning
Josephus Workman __ November 1890 Jesse Gore and Araminta Thompson
Van B. Prince 9 November 1890 Charley Curry and Frances Adkins
Josephus Workman 13 November 1890 George Thompson and Anthelia Gore
Dyke Garrett 27 November 1890 Charley Brumfield and Caroline Dingess
Al Brumfield, banjo, Billy Adkins, blind, Bob Bryant, Brandon Kirk, Burl Farley, Charley Brumfield, Ed Haley, Fed Adkins, fiddlers, French Bryant, Green McCoy, Harve "Short Harve" Dingess, history, Hollene Brumfield, Hugh Dingess, John Hartford, Kentucky, Lincoln County Feud, Martin County, measles, Milt Haley, music, Nashville, Piney, Smokehouse Fork, Tom Holzen, West Fork, Wolf Creek, writing
Brandon and I also called Bob Bryant, a son of the infamous French Bryant, who lived with his son at the mouth of Piney Creek on West Fork. Billy Adkins had encouraged us to call Bob, saying that he would probably tell us what he knew of the Haley-McCoy murders. When we called Bob, his son said we were welcome to talk with his dad, although he warned us that his memory wasn’t very good.
Bob said he was born on Piney in 1911.
When I asked him about French Bryant he said he knew very little about him because his dad “was pretty old” when he was born. He said he did remember his father talking “some” about the Haley-McCoy affair.
“Milt and Green were pretty rough fellers who got in a lot of trouble all the time,” Bob said. “They were bad to drink. Milt Haley and Green McCoy was fiddlers — I think so. Maybe they was. Yeah, I almost know they was. One of them picked the banjo, I believe, but I don’t know for sure.”
Bob said Hugh Dingess, who was “kind of an outlaw,” organized a posse to fetch Milt and Green after they shot Al and Hollena Brumfield. They found them over around Wolf Creek in Martin County, Kentucky.
“Them Dingesses up there killed them,” Bob said. “It didn’t take much to get them to shoot you back then. People’d shoot you just to be a doing something.”
I asked Bob if he ever heard anything about who took part in what he kept calling “the shooting” and he said, “Hugh Dingess and four or five more.”
He paused, then said, “A few of them I wouldn’t want to tell you.”
We were just waiting for him to say his father’s name when he said, “Short Harve Dingess was pretty rough. Seems like he was in that bunch some way.”
Some of the others were: Al Brumfield, Charley Brumfield, Fed Adkins, and Burl Farley.
Bob never identified his father as a member of the mob but mentioned that his father was a friend to the Dingesses on Smokekouse.
He said he remembered seeing Ed play at the schoolhouse above the mouth of Piney when he was nineteen years old.
“He was a real fiddler,” Bob said.
In subsequent weeks, Brandon and I went through most of our information — processing it, sorting it, discussing it. We thought more about the story of Milt causing Ed’s blindness by dipping him in ice water and wondered how anyone would have ever equated those as cause-effect events. I got on the phone with Dr. Tom Holzen, a doctor-friend of mine in Nashville, who said Milt’s dipping of Ed in ice water, while a little crude, was actually the right kind of thing to do in that it would have lowered his fever. Based on that, Milt seems to have been a caring father trying to save Ed’s life or ease his suffering. Was it the act of a desperate man who had already lost other children to disease?
Al Brumfield, Albert Dingess, Anthony Adams, Ben Adams, Bill Brumfield, Bill's Branch, Billy Adkins, blind, Blood in West Virginia, Boardtree Bottom, Brandon Kirk, Buck Fork, Burl Farley, Carolyn Johnnie Farley, Cecil Brumfield, Charley Brumfield, Charlie Dingess, crime, Ed Haley, Fed Adkins, fiddling, French Bryant, George Fry, Green McCoy, Green Shoal, Hamlin, Harts Creek, Harve "Short Harve" Dingess, Hell Up Coal Hollow, Henderson Dingess, history, Hugh Dingess, John Brumfield, John Dingess, Kentucky, life, Lincoln County Feud, Low Gap, Milt Haley, murder, Paris Brumfield, Polly Bryant, Smokehouse Fork, Sycamore Bottom, Tom Maggard, Trace Fork, Vilas Adams, West Fork, West Virginia, Will Adkins, Williamson, writing
Al rounded up a gang of men to accompany him on his ride to fetch the prisoners in Williamson. Albert and Charlie Dingess were ringleaders of the posse, which included “Short Harve” Dingess, Hugh Dingess, John Dingess, Burl Farley, French Bryant, John Brumfield, and Charley Brumfield. Perhaps the most notorious member of the gang was French Bryant – “a bad man” who “did a lot of dirty work for the Dingesses.” On the way back from Kentucky, he tied Milt and Green by the arms and “drove them like a pair of mules on a plow line.”
“French Bryant run and drove them like a pair of horses ahead of these guys on the horses,” John said. “That’s quite a ways to let them walk. Old French, he married a Dingess. I knew old French Bryant. When he died, he was a long time dying and they said that he hollered for two or three days, ‘Get the ropes off me!’ I guess that come back to him.”
When the gang reached the headwaters of Trace Fork — what John called “Adams territory” — they sent a rider out ahead in the darkness to make sure it was safe to travel through that vicinity.
Waiting on the Brumfield posse was a mob of about 100 men hiding behind trees at Sycamore Bottom, just below the mouth of Trace Fork. This mob was led by Ben and Anthony Adams and was primarily made up of family members or people who worked timber for the Adamses, like Tom Maggard (“Ben’s right hand man”).
As the Brumfield rider approached their location, they began to click their Winchester rifles — making them “crack like firewood.” Hearing this, the rider turned back up Trace Fork, where he met the Brumfields and Dingesses at Boardtree Bottom and warned them about the danger at the mouth of Trace. They detoured safely up Buck Fork, then stopped at Hugh Dingess’ on Smokehouse where they remained for two or three days, not really sure of what to do with their prisoners. They made a “fortress” at Hugh’s by gathering about 100 men around them, fully aware that Ben Adams might make another effort to recapture Milt and Green.
While at Hugh’s, they got drunk on some of the red whiskey and apple brandy made at nearby Henderson’s. They also held a “trial” to see if Milt and Green would admit their guilt. They took one of the men outside and made him listen through the cracks between the logs of the house as his partner confessed on the inside. About then, the guy outside got loose and ran toward Bill’s Branch but was grabbed by “Short Harve” Dingess as he tried to scurry over a fence.
After this confession, the Brumfields and Dingesses considered killing Milt and Green on the spot but “got scared the Adamses was gonna take them” and headed towards Green Shoal.
John didn’t know why they chose George Fry’s home but figured Mr. Fry was a trusted acquaintance. He said they “punished” them “quite a bit there” but also got one to play a fiddle.
“These people that killed them, they made them play their last tune,” John said. “One of them would play and one guy, I think, he never would play for them. I forgot which one, but they never could get one guy to do much. The other one’d do whatever they’d tell him to do. That’s just before they started shooting them. The tune that they played was ‘Hell Up Coal Hollow’. I don’t know what that tune is.”
After that, the mob “shot their brains out” and left them in the yard where the “chickens ate their brains.”
A neighbor took their bodies through Low Gap and buried them on West Fork.
John said there was a trial over Haley and McCoy’s murders, something we’d never heard before. Supposedly, about one hundred of the Brumfields and their friends rode horses to Hamlin and strutted into the courtroom where they sat down with guns on their laps. The judge threw the case out immediately because he knew they were fully prepared to “shoot up the place.”
This “quick trial,” of course, didn’t resolve the feud. Back on Harts Creek, Ben Adams often had to hide in the woods from the Dingesses. One time, Hugh and Charlie Dingess put kerosene-dowsed cornstalks on his porch and set them on fire, hoping to drive him out of his house where they could shoot him. When they realized he wasn’t home, they extinguished the fire because they didn’t want to harm his wife and children. Mrs. Adams didn’t live long after the feud. Ben eventually moved to Trace Fork where he lived the rest of his life. Charlie never spoke to him again.
John also said there seemed to have been a “curse” on the men who participated in the killing of Haley and McCoy. He said Albert Dingess’ “tongue dropped out,” Al Brumfield “was blind for years before he died,” and Charlie Dingess “died of lung cancer.” We had heard similar tales from Johnny Farley and Billy Adkins, who said mob members Burl Farley and Fed Adkins both had their faces eaten away by cancer. Vilas Adams told us about one of the vigilantes drowning (Will Adkins), while we also knew about the murders of Paris Brumfield, John Brumfield, Charley Brumfield, and Bill Brumfield.
Just before hanging up with John, Brandon asked if he remembered Ed Haley. John said he used to see him during his younger days on Harts Creek.
“When he was a baby, old Milt wanted to make him tough and he’d take him every morning to a cold spring and bath him,” he said. “I guess he got a cold and couldn’t open his eyes. Something grew over his eyes so Milt took a razor and cut it off. Milt said that he could take that off so he got to fooling with it with a razor and put him blind.”
John said Ed made peace with a lot of the men who’d participated in his father’s killing and was particularly good friends with Cecil Brumfield, a grandson of Paris.
Allen Martin, Anthony Adams, Ben Adams, Boardtree Branch, Brandon Kirk, Charley Brumfield, crime, Ed Haley, Ewell Mullins, fiddling, Greasy George Adams, Green McCoy, Green Shoal, Harts, Harts Creek, history, Jeff Baisden, John Hartford, Jr., Kentucky, Lincoln County Feud, Logan County, Milt Haley, moonshining, murder, music, Paris Brumfield, Peter Mullins, Sol Adams, Still Hollow, Ticky George Adams, timbering, Trace Fork, Vilas Adams, West Virginia, Will Adkins, writing
Trying to lift our spirits, we went to see Vilas Adams, who lived on the Boardtree Branch of Trace Fork. Vilas was a great-grandson of Ben Adams and a grandson of Ticky George Adams. He was very friendly, inviting us inside his very nice home where his wife fed us a whole mess of good food, which we ate between asking questions.
I first asked him about his memories of Ed Haley, who he said frequented Ewell Mullins’ store during the late 1930s and early forties.
“Down there at old man Ewell’s store, they’d gather in there of an evening and tell tales, old man Jeff Baisden and them,” Vilas said. “My grandpaw Ant Adams and I would walk down there and then Ed would walk down there from Uncle Peter’s. It was a quarter a mile — just a little hop and a jump I call it. Ed would come in there and fiddle for them and if they wanted a certain song, they’d give him a quarter or fifty cents. That was good money I guess back then.”
Vilas’ grandfather Anthony Adams (a brother to Greasy George) always gave Ed a quarter to hear his favorite tune.
“What was Ed like?” I asked.
Vilas implied that he was withdrawn.
“Mostly he stayed with that fiddle,” he said. “He was good.”
Like most of the other older people in Harts, Vilas knew about the Haley-McCoy killings.
“My grandpaw would tell me them tales but I wouldn’t pay no attention,” he said. “He was telling about them fellers — Sol Adams — going over there and locating them and they went back and captured them. Well, his daddy Anthony tried to waylay them and take them back through here somewhere. They thought they’d come through these hills somewhere but they missed them.”
So, Sol Adams — a 20-year-old nephew to Ben Adams who was often called “Squire Sol” because of his status as an officer of the law — “went over and located Haley and McCoy” in Kentucky after the ambush. Meanwhile, his father Anthony and uncle Ben Adams, organized a gang to recapture them as the Brumfields brought them back through Harts Creek. This seemed strange: why would Sol operate against the interests of his family? And why would he have even been compelled to even become involved since he was a Logan County justice and the crime had occurred in Lincoln County?
Brandon asked Vilas if he knew who had been in the Adams gang and he said, “No, I’ve heard my grandpaw talk but I’ve forgot some of it. They was somebody from down around Hart somewhere. He said they took them over around Green Shoal or over in there somewhere and killed them. Grandpaw said they maybe hit them with axe handles.”
Vilas said his grandfather told him something horrible had happened to most of the men who murdered Haley and McCoy.
“He said just about every one of them that was in on that, something bad happened to them,” he said. “I heard one of them’s own boy killed one of them. And one of them got drowned and my grandpaw said the river wasn’t deep. Said he fell off a horse or something right at the mouth of Hart.”
Of course, Vilas was referring to Paris Brumfield, who was killed by his son Charley in 1891, and to Will Adkins, who drowned at the mouth of Harts Creek on November 23, 1889.
Brandon asked Vilas about “old Ben Adams” and he almost immediately started talking about the old timber business.
“See, that was my great-grandpaw,” he said. “They would build splash dams. They had one right out here. They had them tied some way or the other. And they built them up on Hart there, maybe up on Hoover, and they’d work all winter and put them logs in the creek. And in the spring when them floods come, it would wash all them logs down around Hart and then they’d put them together and raft them on down to Kenova. I guess that was all they had to make a living — timber and farm.”
Ben, of course, made his living in timber. He lived at the mouth of Adams Branch, a little tributary of Trace Fork presently referred to as Still Hollow.
“Over there at what we call Still Hollow, they said he had a still-house there and he had a license to make apple brandy back then,” Vilas said. “And he would go with a wagon everywhere and get apples. They was a log house over there in the mouth of that holler — just down the road here a little ways. When I was a boy the old log house was there, but it rotted down. Just one-story as far as I can remember. The old well’s there. He had some kind of an old store or saloon right there.”
Vilas speculated very little on Ben Adams’ personality, but compared him to his son, Greasy George Adams: “always a likeable fella but seemed like trouble followed him.” He heard that after Ben’s first wife died, he lived with first one woman, then the next. He eventually got into a heap of trouble by murdering a local postman, Jim Martin.
“He killed a fella right over there at the mouth of that hollow,” Vilas said. “My grandpaw said he had some sort of an old store or saloon and he was shooting out the door. Right there in the mouth of that holler. It broke him. Lawyers. Lost everything he had.”
It was rumored that Ben’s and Martin’s trouble had something to do with a woman or a right-of-way.