Andy Cyfers, Big Ugly Creek, Billy Sunday, C.M. Adkins, cancer, coal, Earn Cooper, Elmer Fry, farming, Ferguson Evans, Gill, Hager, Hal Cyfers, Hubball, J.E. Gore, Janie Thompson, Lincoln County, Lincoln Republican, Logan, Madison, measles, moonshining, Nancy Cyfers, Sand Creek, W.M. Sperry, Ward Spears, Wayne County, West Virginia, Will Cyfers
“Reporter,” a local correspondent from Gill in Lincoln County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Lincoln Republican printed on Thursday, June 14, 1923:
Miss Janie Thompson was the weekend guest of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Sperry, and also assisted them while ill with the measles.
Earn Cooper, of Hager, was the guest of his sister, Mrs. W.M. Sperry, and also Mr. and Mrs. Ward Spears, the latter part of last week.
Elmer Fry has been hauling bank posts and ties the past week.
Hal Cyphers has been working at Omar the past week.
Quite a number of people from this section have been going to Logan to hear Billy Sunday preach.
W.M. Sperry and Andy Cyphers attended meeting at Sand Creek last Sunday.
J.E. Gore, Cancer Specialist of Madison, was here recently.
Ferguson Evans has moved to Hubball, where he will have employment in the mines.
The loafers, rats and moonshiners are not so thick around Gill at present as they have been.
Our Ticket Agent, C.M. Adkins, remains on the job at this place and knows business when he sees it.
Will Cyphers, of Wayne county, was the over Sunday guest of Mr. and Mrs. A. Cyphers. He reports the crops in Wayne good.
Ben Adams, Bertha Mullins, Bill Thompson, Billie Brumfield, Brandon Kirk, Buck Fork, Cas Baisden, crime, Dingess, Dump Farley, Ed Haley, Ewell Mullins, Greasy George Adams, Green Shoal, Harts Creek, history, Imogene Haley, Jim Martin, John Frock Adams, John Hartford, Jonas Branch, Lincoln County Feud, Liza Mullins, Milt Haley, moonshining, Peter Mullins, Weddie Mullins, West Virginia, writing
Cas knew that Ed sold his homeplace at the mouth of Jonas Branch to Ewell Mullins. He said it originally stood below a big sugar tree in the bottom above Uncle Peter’s. (It was moved on logs.) It was a “little old two-room plank house” consisting of the “eating room,” which had a flat-rock chimney in the back with a fireplace and a “sleeping room.”
Cas best described the kitchen, which was just “out at the back” of the house.
“They wasn’t no floor in it,” he said. “It just sat on the ground. It was the length of the house — I guess maybe about eight feet wide — and they cooked out there in that. They cooked out there, packed it in, and set it on the table and they eat and everything in the same house. I’ve seen that old woman, Ewell’s wife, put fence rails in the stove — had a cook stove — and she’d stick them in there and set a chair on them till they burnt up to where they wouldn’t fall out. Me and her old man and his brother, we’d go up on that cliff and drag wood down that creek and the snow knee deep.”
Brandon asked Cas about the fate of Ewell’s house and he said they first enlarged it.
“We moved an old storehouse we had down the field there out there and put it beside of it,” he said. “It was there when the old man Ewell died ’cause the old storehouse had a crack up over the bed and his mother come in there and she was whining about that. Man, the snow’d blow in at him.”
Cas continued, “Then we turned around and tore that down and built this other to it. Tore that other’n down and built it back, too.”
He said the newer home was built on the same spot as the old one but it didn’t resemble it in any way.
Based on this testimony, we concluded that Ewell’s original home was truly gone.
Speaking of Uncle Peter, Brandon asked about him.
“Ah, he was a tomcat now, that old man was,” Cas said. “He was crippled in one foot and he walked on the back of it. Had his shoe made turned back. Prohibition men would come in and… I’ve seen him down there right below where Kate lived — he’d go out and hit that cliff. He’d get them bushes and swing up and go right up over them cliffs. He was bad to drink in his last few years. Well, they all the time made liquor and fooled with it. Finally got to drinking the stuff.”
Cas said Peter was bad to fight if provoked but Aunt Liza “was just like all other old women. She was a good old woman. She just stood and cooked.”
Cas thought that Ed’s mother was related to Uncle Peter, but wasn’t sure how.
“Wasn’t his dad named Milt Haley?” he asked.
“Well, you know they killed him down there around Green Shoal,” he said. “I heard somebody not too long ago a talking about them taking them over there and hanging them. I never did know too much about it. Nobody never talked too much about things back then.”
Cas had also heard about Ben Adams but didn’t know of his involvement in the 1889 troubles. He said Ben was a “pretty mean fellow” who lived in a log cabin still standing just up the creek.
“He had some kind of a brewery up here,” Cas said. “They had it built back in the bank. Sold booze there. Bootleg joint. I don’t know if all the old rocks and things is gone from there or not. He lived on Trace when he killed Jim Martin.”
Part of Ben’s old mill-dam was reportedly still visible in the creek at the Greasy George Adams place.
Cas told us again about Weddie Mullins’s death at Dingess, West Virginia. Weddie was an uncle to Ed Haley.
“I never did know too much about it,” he said. “We was little when that happened, I guess. Him and some of them Dingesses got into it and they shot and killed Weddie. And old man John Adams went down and looked at him, said, ‘What do you think about him?’ ‘Oh, I believe he’ll make it.’ Said he just hoisted that pistol, brother, and shot him right in the head and killed him. Said, ‘I know he won’t make it now.'”
This “old man John Adams” was Emma Haley’s half-brother, “John Frock.”
Cas said John could be ruthless.
“His wife was a coming out the gate and he shot her in the head and killed her,” he said. “Shot her whole head off. He was a little feller. He lived right there where Louie and them lived.”
Cas didn’t know what that killing was over.
“Back here at one time it was dangerous to even stick your head out of the door, son,” he said. “Why, everybody packed guns. Anybody’d kill you.”
The jockey grounds were rough places.
“A fella tried to run a horse over me up there at the mouth of Buck Fork and Billie Brumfield laid a pistol between his eyes and said, ‘You run that horse over him, you’ll never run it over nobody else.’ I believe it was before he killed his daddy.”
Cas said Dump Farley was at a jockey ground one time “right down under the hill from where Bill Thompson lived in that cornfield playing poker and he shot the corn all down. Talk about fellers a rolling behind the stumps and things.”
Albert Messer, Arena Ferrell, Buffalo Creek, Coon Tomblin, Dollie Toney, education, Ethel Davis, Ferrellsburg, Fisher B. Adkins, genealogy, Hamlin, history, Homer Hager, Huntington, Iva Adkins, Jake Mathes, Lincoln County, Lincoln Republican, Logan, Lucinda Adkins, moonshining, Musco Dingess, Nettie Bryant, Philip Hager, Roxie Adkins, Ruby Adkins, sawmill, West Virginia, World War I
“Observer,” a local correspondent from Ferrellsburg in Lincoln County, West Virginia, offered the following items, which the Lincoln Republican printed on Thursday, February 14, 1918:
The infant child of Henry Bryant died suddenly Monday.
Miss Ruby Adkins gave a Birthday dinner Saturday. Those present were: Miss Dollie Toney and her school enmasse, Mrs. Arena Ferrell, Miss Ethel Daves, Miss Roxie Adkins, Miss Nettie Bryant, Messrs. Homer Hager, and Musco Dingess. The school children being trained by their teacher, who is especially fitted for training little ones, rendered a very interesting and entertaining program.
Miss Iva Adkins has been real sick this week.
It is reported that “Coon” Tomblin, President of the Local Bootleggers Union has been arrested and placed in jail at Logan. This is quite a shock to the members of the Union, being the first time they have been interrupted for two years.
Supt. F.B. Adkins returned from Hamlin Saturday and is husking corn.
Aunt Sinda Adkins has been seriously ill the past week.
Albert Messer and family, of Buffalo, are visiting relatives at this place.
Jake Mathes, of Huntington, who is sawing for Philip Hager, returned Monday and is making the mill hum.
Quite a lot of the boys are preparing to leave for the training camp the 27th.
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.
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.