Alexander Varney, Appalachia, Devil Anse Hatfield, Elza Phillips, Frank Phillips, Hatfield-McCoy Feud, Henry Clay Ragland, history, John B. Gillespie, Johnson Hatfield, Kentucky, Logan County, Nancy L. Hatfield, Pike County, Pleasants Chafin, T.C. Whited, Thomas H. Harvey, U.B. Buskirk, West Virginia
Johnson “Johnse” Hatfield’s relationship with Nancy McCoy represents one of the more interesting components of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud. I recently located Hatfield’s 1890 divorce record, which I transcribed as follows:
State of West Virginia
County of Logan to wit
In the Circuit Court of said County
The Bill of Complaint of Johnson Hatfield filed in the Circuit Court of Logan County against Nancy L. Hatfield.
To the Hon. Thos. H. Harvey, Judge of the Circuit Court of Logan Co.
Humbly complaining your orator Johnson Hatfield would respectfully ____ unto your Honor that on the 14th day of May 1881 he intermarried with the defendant Nancy L. Hatfield, then Nancy L. McCoy, that he was at all times to her a kind and affectionate husband, that some time in 1888 he was forced to leave his home in Logan County West Virginia, and that shortly thereafter the said defendant abandoned his home and went to the state of Kentucky where she has since that time been living in adultery with Frank Phillips, and ____ other lewd and lascivious _____.
Your orator further represents that he cohabitated with the said defendant for the last time on or about the 8th day of March 1888 in Logan County West Virginia and that they last lived together as husband and wife in said County within five years from the institution of this suit.
Your orator further represents that he be informed and so believes that some time in the month of December 1889, the said defendant was delivered of a child, which was as a ____ of more than twelve months since he had last had any sexual intercourse with her.
Your orator further represents that the adultery complained of was not committed by his consent, connivance or procurement or knowledge. He therefore prays that the bonds of matrimony existing between your orator and the said Defendant be dissolved, and that your orator be restored to his ________ rights, and as is duly bound he will ever pray
Johnson Hatfield, By Counsel
State of West Virginia
To the Sheriff of Logan County, Greeting:
We command you that you summons Nancy L. Hatfield if she be found in your bailiwick, to appear before the Judge of our Circuit Court for the County of Logan at rules to be held in the Clerk’s Office of said Court on the first Monday in February next, to answer a Bill in Chancery exhibited against her in our said Court by Johnson Hatfield
And have then and there this writ.
Witness: T.C. Whited, Clerk of our said Court at the Court House of said County, on the 1st day of February 1890, and in the 27 year of the State.
T.C. Whited, Clerk
Order of Publication.
State of West Virginia, Logan County, T0-Wit:
At Rules held in the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of said county on Monday the 3rd day of February 1890
Johnson Hatfield v. Nancy L. Hatfield, In chancery
The object of this suit is to obtain a divorce from the bonds of matrimony. This day came the plaintiff by his Attorney and on his motion it appearing from an affidavit filed with the papers of this suit that the defendant is a non-resident of this State, it is therefore ordered that she appear here within one month from the first publication of this order and do what is necessary to protect her interest herein.
Teste: T.C. Whited, Clerk
H.C. Ragland, Sol.
I, U.B. Buskirk, one of the Publishers of the Logan County Banner, a newspaper published in Logan County, West Virginia, do hereby certify that the annexed notice was duly published in said paper for 4 successive weeks, ending on the 27 day of February 1890.
Given under my hand this 28th day of February 1890
Printer’s fees: $6.00
State of West Virginia
Logan County to wit:
Johnson Hatfield the plaintiff whose name is signed to the forgoing bill being first duly sworn upon oath says that the facts and allegations contained in the forgoing bill are true except so far as the same are ______ stated to be upon information and that so far as the same are stated to be upon information he believes ___ to be true.
Taken, __________ and sworn to before me this 10th day of March 1890.
T.C. Whited, Clerk
Notice to Take Deposition
To Nancy L. Hatfield. You will take notice that on the 10 day of October, 1890, between the hours of 8 o’clock A.M. and 6 o’clock P.M., at the house of Anderson Hatfield, in Logan County, West Virginia, I will proceed to take the deposition of myself and others to be read as evidence in behalf of myself in a certain suit in chancery now pending in the Circuit Court of Logan County wherein you are Defendant and I am plaintiff and if from any cause the taking of the said deposition be not commenced on that day, or if commenced and not completed on that day, the taking of the same will be adjourned and continued from day to day or from time to time, at the same place, and between the same hours, until completed.
Respectfully, &c., Johnson Hatfield
The depositions of Johnson Hatfield and others taken before Pleasants Chafins a notary in and for the county of Logan and State of West Virginia at the house of Anderson Hatfield on Friday October 10 in 1890, to be taken and consider as evidence in a certain chancery cause pending in the Circuit Court of said county wherein Johnson Hatfield is a plaintiff and Nancy L. Hatfield is a defendant.
Present Johnson Hatfield in person and by counsel , no appearance for the defendant.
Johnson Hatfield a witness of lawful age after being first duly sworn deposes in answer _____ as follows:
Q. What is your name, age, and where do you reside?
A. Johnson Hatfield. I am 28 years old past. I was born and raised in this county.
Q. What relation do you have to this suit?
A. I am plaintiff.
Q. When were you and the defendant Nancy L. Hatfield married?
A. It was on the 14th day of May 1881.
Q. How did you treat her during the time that you and she lived together as man and wife?
A. .I always kept her plenty of everything she wanted and was always good and kind to her.
Q. State about when it was that you and your wife separated.
A. It was on the 18 of March 1888.
Q. Have you lived with her since that time or had sexual intercourse with her?
A. No, sir.
And the next came Alex Varney, witness of lawful age being by me duly sworn, deposed and say as follows:
Q. State your name, age, and residents.
A. Alexander Varney, Age 56 years. Residents Logan County, West Va.
Q. State wither or not you are acquainted with the partys in this suit.
A. I am.
Q. State whether or not you know anything about the defendant Nancy L. Hatfield living in adultery with Frank Phillips or anyone else since her separation from the plaintiff.
A. I saw her in Pike Co. Kentucky on the 13 day of September 1890. She was staying at the house of frank filips and she told me that she was living with him. She showed me her baby and told me that frank filips was its father.
Q. How old do you suppose that the child was.
A. She told me that the child was 9 month and 4 days old and I suppose it was about that old as it was still sucking.
[Deposition of John B. Gillespie]
Q. State whether or not you know anything about the defendant Nancy L. Hatfield living in adultery with any person.
A. I was at a house in Pike County Ky. Frank Phillips and Nancy L. Hatfield were there. They called it their home.
Q. State whether or not it was the general impression throughout the community that they were living together as man and wife.
A. No, sir. Not as man and wife. It was that they were living together in adultery.
And further this _________ saith not.
John B. Gillespie
[Deposition of Johnson Hatfield]
_______ ________ __________ recalls and deposes as follows:
Q. State whether or not the acts of adultery committed by your late wife Nancy L. Hatfield with one Frank Phillips ______ in the two foregoing depositions were committed by or with your consent, knowledge, __________, or __________.
A. They were not.
And further this _________ saith not.
Johnson Hatfield, Jr.
State of West Virginia
Logan County, to wit:
I, Pleasants Chafins a notary in and for the county and state aforesaid do certify that the foregoing depositions were duly taken, sworn to, and subscribed in my presence at the time and place _____ in the notice here to _____.
Pleasant Chafin, a notary for Logan Co., W.Va.
2 hrs work as notary $1.50
Johnson Hatfield v. Nancy Hatfield, In chancery
This day this cause in which the defendant is prosecuted against as a nonresident and it appearing that the order of publication has been duly published and posted as required by law, came on to be heard upon the plaintiff’s bill and the depositions there with filed in support thereof together with the argument of counsel for plaintiff and the same being considered and inspected by the court the court is of the opinion that the plaintiff is entitled to the relief therein prayed for, whereupon it is adjudged, ______, and decreed that the said plaintiff Johnson Hatfield be and he is hereby divorced absolutely from the defendant the said Nancy L. Hatfield and that the bonds of matrimony now existing between himself and the said defendant be dissolved and the said plaintiff Johnson Hatfield be and he is hereby restored to all the rights, privileges and immunities of an unmarried man. And this cause having performed its object, the same is ordered to be stricken from the docket and it appearing that this order was made at the October 1890 term of this Court, and by _________ not entered, it is ordered that the same be entered now as for ____.
Source: Logan County Circuit Clerk’s Office, Logan County, WV, Case No. 33, File No. 35
Public Papers of Governor A.B. Fleming of West Virginia, February 6, 1890 to March 4, 1893 (Charleston, WV: Moses W. Donnally, Public Printer, 1893).
“Isaiah Mullins, convicted in the circuit court of Lincoln county, August term, 1891, of unlawful cutting and sentenced to one year’s confinement in the penitentiary. Pardoned December 8, 1891, for reasons entered in the pardon record as follows: The application for pardon is supported by the recommendation of the Hon. Thos. H. Harvey, the judge who presided at the trial, and who says: ‘This man Mullins, when sober, is represented as quiet and peaceable and tries to provide for his family, which, I understand is quite large, and who are now in very needy circumstances, depending largely on the assistance of neighbors and friends. I am inclined to believe it would now be a mercy to his little children to exercise the Executive clemency, and pardon him, which I respectfully recommend.’ The prosecuting attorney, clerk of circuit court, and nine of the jurors, also ask for the prisoner’s release.” (p. 96-97)
“John Brumfield, convicted in the circuit court of Lincoln county, February term, 1892, of unlawful shooting, and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary for two years. Pardon granted November 21, 1892, for reasons entered in the pardon record as follows: It appears that the prisoner was but fifteen years of age at the time of the commission of the offense. The petition for pardon is supported by the recommendation of the Hon. Thos. H. Harvey, the judge who sentenced the prisoner; by Rome Lambert, the person who was shot; by Wade Lambert, the father of the injured party; by most of the persons who witnessed the difficulty; by the prosecuting attorney; and a large number of citizens.” (p. 103)
Boone County, Charleston, crime, D.E. Wilkinson, governor, Green Wiley, H.C. Shelton, Heenan Smith, history, Ira Adkins, J.M. Hollandsworth, John Jenkins, Lincoln County, Linford Jarrell, Marcus Maynard, Moses W. Donnally, P.S. Blankenship, Public Papers of Governor William A. MacCorkle of West Virginia, Thomas H. Harvey, Wayne County, West Virginia, Wheeling Intelligencer, William A. MacCorkle, William Jones, William Kelley, Wirt Bias
Public Papers of Governor William A. MacCorkle of West Virginia, March 4, 1893 to March 4, 1897 (Charleston, WV: Moses W. Donnally, Public Printer, 1897).
“Wm. Kelley, convicted in the circuit court of Lincoln county, August term 1890, for shooting with intent to kill, and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. Pardon granted August 10th, 1894, for reasons entered in the pardon record as follows: It appears that the prisoner is in the last stages of consumption, and is dying. The pardon is recommended by the warden of the penitentiary, by the physician, chaplain, and several members of the Board of Directors. The prisoner is pardoned in order that he may be taken home to die.” (p. 90-91)
“Green Wiley, convicted in the circuit court of Lincoln county, August term 1892, for shooting with intent to kill, and sentenced to one year confinement in the penitentiary. Pardon granted April 27, 1893, for reasons entered in the pardon record, as follows: “The petition for pardon is supported by the recommendation of the judge who tried the case, the prosecuting attorney and assistant prosecuting attorney, the clerk of the circuit court, P.S. Blankenship the man who was shot by Wiley, and by very man citizens of Lincoln county. The prisoner was convicted on very slight evidence. I extend to him a pardon for the following reasons: 1. The testimony against him in the trial was very inadequate. 2. The evidence of the witness upon which defendant was convicted has since been found entirely untrustworthy and the accused showed no malice in the act, but that it was a mere hot headed fight.” (p. 78-79)
“H.C. Shelton, convicted in the circuit court of Lincoln county, ____ term 1892, for assault, and fined $318. Remission of fine granted August 16, 1896. It appears from the petition in this case that Shelton is a very poor man, and utterly unable to pay the fine imposed upon him, which has been standing nearly four years. He has had a great deal of sickness in his family, and since his conviction his wife has died, leaving him with a large family of small children entirely unprovided for except by his labor. Were the petitioner to be confined in jail upon a capias pro fine, his children would be entirely helpless and thrown upon the citizens of Lincoln county. The remission of the fine is urged by nearly all the county officials in Lincoln county and a large number of the best citizens of the county. It is utterly beyond the power of the petitioner to pay this fine, and confinement in jail upon a capias pro fine would be entirely useless and result in no good to the State and only hardship to the petitioner.” (p. 481-482)
“Ira Adkins, convicted in the circuit court of Lincoln county, June term, 1894, for burglary, and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. Pardon granted November 29, 1895, for reasons entered of record as follows: The petition for pardon is signed by every member of the jury that tried the case and a large number of citizens of Lincoln county. The pardon is asked for by these petitioners on the grounds that there is now ‘some doubt arising in the minds of said petitioners caused by circumstances which were learned of since his trial, when convicted and sentenced.’ The good petition further shows that his conduct has been good, during confinement, that his health is very much impaired by reason of his confinement, and that he has a wife and family in destitute circumstances.” (p. 437)
“Wirt Bias, convicted in the circuit court of Lincoln county, October term, 1894, for unlawful assault, confinement in jail for six months. Pardon granted April 2, 1895, for reasons entered of record as follows: The petition for pardon is supported by the recommendation of Hon. D.E. Wilkinson, prosecuting attorney of Lincoln county, J.M. Hollandsworth, sheriff, and William Jones, jailor, of said county, and by several members of the bar and a number of good citizens of the county. The petition shows that the prisoner is in bad health, the result of his confinement, and that the jail of Lincoln county is very unhealthy and that further confinement would seriously impair his health. The prisoner’s wife is also in very delicate health and needs his attention.” (p. 425)
“Heenan Smith, convicted in the circuit court of Lincoln county, February term, 1894 [1896?], for manslaughter, and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. This case is surrounded by many mitigating circumstances. Maynard had gone to Smith’s house; had been hospitably and kindly treated; had taken supper at his house and was staying all night. At bed-time they all retired and Maynard went to bed with the host (Smith), who is the father of Heenan Smith, the defendant in this case. A little girl, 13 years old, the daughter of the host and sister of Heenan Smith, retired in a separate bed in the same room. Late in the night Maynard got up out of the bed with the host and went over and got in with the little girl and attempted to have criminal connection with her. The child made an outcry and the old man raised up, and Maynard ran out of the house and disappeared. The next morning he was met by Heenan Smith, the defendant, and brother of the little girl, and an alteration occurred, in which Smith knocked this man down. A few hours afterwards Smith went to the post office and he met Maynard on the road. Another altercation occurred between him and Smith, having revolvers and both firing almost simultaneously, in which altercation Smith killed Maynard. The court sentenced Smith to the penitentiary for five years. The judge who tried the case writes a letter, and requests Smith’s pardon. A large number of the best citizens in the county join in the petition. I think that under the circumstances that it is a case deserving of executive clemency. (p. 463-464)
NOTE: The Wheeling Intelligencer of February 25, 1896 reports: “Herman Smith, who murdered Marcus Maynard in Lincoln county, last year, was found guilty of murder in the second degree to-day [Feb. 24] and was sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary by Judge Harvey.”
NOTE: The Wheeling Intelligencer of March 5, 1896 reports: “Two prisoners were received yesterday. One, John Jenkins, from Wayne county, two years, for grand larceny; another, Heenan Smith, Lincoln county, seven years, for murder in the second degree.”
“Linford Jarrell, convicted in the circuit court of Lincoln county, for burglary, at the July term, 1896, and sentenced of five years in the penitentiary. Pardon granted February 13, 1897. From all the evidence in this case it seems that this man was an ignorant and feeble minded person and as a matter of reality was not cognizant of his crime. This statement was made by Judge McClaugherty, who presided at the trial. Judge McClaugherty is extremely careful in matters of this kind and universally refuses to sign letters asking for clemency. In this case he makes a request for the pardon, and sets out that under the legal rules it was impossible for him to set aside the verdict. This prayer for clemency is joined in by ten of the jury which tried the case and by a great number of the best citizens of the county of Boone, where the case was tried and where the boy lived. There is no doubt in my mind but that the boy should not have been convicted.” (p. 466)
A. Gill, A.A. Low, Aaron Adkins, Abijah Workman Jr., Abner Vance, Al Brumfield, Albert Adkins, Albert G. Abbott, Amanda McComas, Anderson Fry, Andrew Elkins, Andrew Jackson Browning, Archibald Harrison, B.F. Scearcy, Ballard Lambert, Ben Walker, Bird Brumfield, Blackburn Lucas, Blackie Lucas, Cain Adkins, Caroline Brumfield, Catherine Dingess, Charles Adkins, Charles Browning, Charles Brumfield, Charles Kinser, Charles Lucas, Charles W. Mullins, Clementine Dingess, Cumberland Adkins, Cynthia Ann Mullins, David F. Smith, David Farley, Ed Dingess, Elias Vance, Elisha Vance, Elizabeth Elkins, Elizabeth Lucas, Elizabeth Mullins, Elvira Baisden, Emily Dingess, Emily Rakes, Emma Vance, Ene Adkins, Enos "Jake" Adkins, Evaline Sartin, Ezekiel K. Johnson, Farabell Vance, Floyd Rakes, Francis Vance, genealogy, George Alderson, George F. Miller, George Fry, George Shepherd, Hamlin, Harmon Stroud, Harts Creek, Henry C. Sias, Hiram Lambert, history, Hugh Evans, Isaac F. Nelson, Isaac Fry, Isaac Gartin, Isaac Workman, J.B. Pullen, J.H. McComas, J.L. Caldwell, J.M. Brammer, J.S. Payne, Jake Adkins, James H. Marcum, Jefferson Lucas, Jeremiah Lambert, John B. Pullen, John H Fry, John H. Adkins, John Henry Adkins, John M. Thompson, John McCloud, John Messer, John Vance, John W. Sartin, Joseph Browning, Julia Alderson, Lace Marcum, Laura Fry, Lewis C. Queen, Lewis Nelson, Logan County, Louisa A. Wiley, Malinda Adkins, Malinda J. Vance, Malinda Nelson, Margaret Browning, Marine Spurlock, Martha J. Fry, Martha Sias, Mary A. Mullins, Mary L. Nelson, Mary Slate, Melissa Adkins, Miles B. Browning, Minerva McCloud, Minnis W. Perry, Mitchell Browning, Moses Toney, Nancy E. Lucas, Nancy Jane Adkins, Nancy M. Workman, Olive F. Adkins, Peter M. Mullins, Peter Mullins, Pinkston Queen, Polly C. Bryant, Polly Spurlock, Rebecca Bell, Richard Adkins, Robert Fry, Robert Mullins, Rosa A. Fry, Rosa Browning, Rufus Pack, Rush Slate, Salena Vance, Sampson Brumfield, Sarah A. Perry, Sarah Ann Brumfield, Sarah B. Maynard, Sarah E. Gore, Sarah E. Thompson, Sarah E. Vance, Sarah M. Adkins, Sol Adams, Sophia Kinser, Stephen Lambert, Susan Stroud, T.R. Shepherd, Telitha Spears, Thomas H. Harvey, Thomas J. Adkins, Van Donley Lambert, Victory Thompson, Weddington Mullins, West Virginia, Wilford Fry, William Bell, William Dingess, William Manns, William Toppins, William Workman, Wog Dalton
Between 1881 and 1909, the following men served as justices of the peace in the Harts Creek community. The primary source for this material is “Commissioner’s Record of Destroyed Title Papers 2,” which is located at the Lincoln County Clerk’s Office in Hamlin, WV. Material is arranged based on the person’s name as given in the deed, the date of the deed, and the date of the deed’s acknowledgment by a JP. I have also found JPs listed in Deed Book 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, and 56. Deed Book “S” at the Logan County Clerk’s Office has also provided information. Many thanks to the county clerks and their employees who have always been so helpful to my research these past twenty-five years.
John McCloud (Logan County) 1881-1884, 1890-1892
Margaret Browning 01 October 1879 29 January 1881
A.A. Low to Stephen Lambert 1 June 1881 25 March 1882
Weddington Mullins 14 March 1881 18 July 1882
Charles Browning 1 June 1881 22 July 1882
Francis Vance 1 July 1882 10 March 1883
John Messer 15 September 1882 12 February 1884
Ezekiel K. Johnson 1 July 1882 30 December 1884
Robert Mullins to Sarah E. Gore 25 November 1890 3 December 1890
Sophia Kinser 1 June 1881 12 November 1891
Farabell and John Vance to Salena Vance 11 October 1892
Jeremiah Lambert (Lincoln County) 1881-1884
John Henry Adkins 10 May 188? 3 June 1881
Archibald B. Harrison 1 July 1882 7 July 1882
John H. Fry 1 July 1882 16 August 1882
Sampson S. Brumfield 1 July 1882 17 August 1882
Minnis W. Perry 1 June 1881 13 April 1883
Enos Adkins 1 July 1882 3 June 1883
Sarah E. Thompson 23 March 1883 23 June 1883
Miles B. Browning 14 April 1881 10 August 1883
Elisha Vance 15 September 1882 10 August 1883
Moses B. Toney 21 August 1882 21 August 1883
Jeremiah and Ballard Lambert 1 July 1882 12 September 1883
Van D. Lambert 15 September 1882 30 January 1884
Albert G. Abbott 23 March 1883 14 February 1884
James H. Marcum (Lincoln County) 1881
Harmon and Susan Stroud to Louisa A. Wiley 18 November 1881
Canaan Adkins (Lincoln County) 1885-1888
Mitchell Browning and Charles Kinser 23 March 1883 5 March 1885
John and Chloe Ann Messer to Floyd Caldwell 16 March 1885 16 March 1885
Aaron and Nancy Jane Adkins to B.W. Walker 12 June 1885
John M.P. and Victory Thompson 1 July 1882 18 July 1885
Sarah E. Vance, Mary L. Nelson, and Peter M. Mullins 25 April 1883 8 August 1885
Aaron and Nancy Jane Adkins to B.W. Walker 12 June 1885 12 June 1885
Abner Vance 21 August 1882 6 October 1885
Telitha Spears to Blackburn Lucas 26 July 1886 26 July 1886
Charles Lucas to Blackburn Lucas 18 September 1886 18 September 1886
Charles Lucas to William Bird Brumfield 18 September 1886 18 September 1886
Sarah A. Perry 14 April 1881 14 February 1887
Andrew Jackson Browning 23 March 1883 17 June 1887
Elvira Baisden 1 July 1882 19 November 1887
Aaron and Nancy Jane Adkins 24 August 1887 24 August 1887/14 February 1888
Jeremiah Lambert to Van D. Lambert 30 April 1888
Floyd and Martha Caldwell to Melvin Kirk 7 July 1888 7 July 1888
Stephen Lambert (Logan County), 1885-1886
NOTE: Moses Dalton stated he was a “magistrate” c.1885.
William and Emily Dingess to Polly C. Bryant 25 January 1886
NOTE: Stephen Lambert died on 21 October 1886.
John B. Pullen (Lincoln County) 1888
Robert Fry to Wilford Fry, Martha J. Fry, and Rosa A. Fry 3 January 1888
Elias Vance (Lincoln County) 1889-1896
Aaron and Nancy J. Adkins to Malissia Adkins 14 August 1889 14 August 1889
Marine and Polly Spurlock to Laura Fry 6 November 1889
Polly C. Bryant to children 15 July 1891
Minerva McCloud 15 September 1882 7 November 1891
2 June 1893
Andrew and Elizabeth Elkins to Thomas J. Adkins 27 March 1894
George A. and Julia Alderson, Floyd and Emily Rakes, and C.D. and Vietta T. Haverty to J.L. Caldwell 7 December 1894
Enos Adkins et ux to Allen Brumfield 28 December 1894 14 May 1895
Charles Lucas to Sarah Brumfield 6 July 1895 6 July 1895
Samuel Workman to Melvin Kirk 29 September 1896 29 September 1896
On 26 August 1898, JP Vance was sentenced to serve two years in the state penitentiary for embezzlement.
David F. Smith (Lincoln County) 1892-1907
Richard and Olive F. Adkins to Sarah M. Adkins 18 June 1892
Peter Mullins to Jerry Lambert 12 January 1901
Lewis and Malinda Nelson to A.E. Wagner 4 December 1906
Anderson Fry to A. Gill 7 January 1907
Jefferson and Nancy E. Lucas to Cumberland Adkins 11 April 1907 12 April 1907
Hiram Lambert (Lincoln County) 1893-1894
Farabel and John Vance to John H. Adkins 6 December 1893
Salena Vance 25 December 1893 25 December 1893
Peter M. and Mary A. Mullins et al to J.L. Caldwell 24 November 1894 29 November 1894
J.S. Payne (Lincoln County?) 1894
I.N. and Elizabeth Mullins to J.L. Caldwell 1 September 1894 7 September 1894
Isaac Fry (Lincoln County) 1897-1904
Richard and Spencer Adkins to D.P. Lambert 17 July 1897
Charles Adkins to Malinda Adkins 25 April 1898
Russell S. Stollings et ux to William D. Farley 24 March 1900
25 June 1900
Susan and Levi Rakes et al to J.L. Caldwell 28 July 1900 30 July 1900
28 July 1904
Jefferson Lucas (Lincoln County) 1899-1907
Isaac G. Gartin to William Manns 3 January 1899 3 January 1899
William Manns to William H. Manns 3 January 1899 3 January 1899
John P. Lucas to A.B. Staley 12 March 1907
William Bird Brumfield (Lincoln County) 1899-1904
J.H. and Amanda McComas to Blackburn Lucas 30 August 1899 30 August 1899
William and Rebecca Bell et al to Thomas H. Harvey and George F. Miller 12 January 1900
Malinda J. Vance to Emma Vance 21 July 1904 21 July 1904
George F. Frye (Lincoln County) 1901-1902
Farabell Vance to Salena Vance 7 May 1901
Enos Adkins to A.G. Adkins and F.E. Adkins 15 February 1902 15 February 1902
Rufus Pack (Lincoln County) 1903-1909
Isaac and Nancy M. Workman to Abijah Workman, Jr. 2 February 1903
Henry C. and Martha Sias to Isaac F. Nelson 17 February 1909
Charles Adkins (Lincoln County) 1905-1910
02 November 1905
Charles and Caroline Brumfield to J.M. Brammer and B.F. Scearcy 7 November 1906
Blackie Lucas to Elizabeth Lucas 15 July 1907
Asa and Rebecca Williamson to Hugh Evans 18 February 1908
William Workman to Joseph Browning 15 July 1908
Malinda Adkins to Isaiah Adkins 20 July 1908
02 January 1909
Joseph and Rosey Browning to Lace Marcum and T.R. Shepherd 1 April 1910
Sol Adams (Logan County) 1899, 1907-1908
Cynthia Ann Mullins deposition 21 October 1899
Charles Washington Mullins to Jerry Lambert 18 June 1907
Clementine and Ed Dingess et al to Catherine Adkins 1 October 1908 16 October 1908
Clementine and Ed Dingess et al to Ann F. Davis 1 October 1908 16 October 1908
William Toppins (Wayne County) 1907
L.C. and Pinkston Queen to Sarah B. Maynard 18 December 1907
Hugh Evans (Lincoln County) 1908
John W. and Evaline Sartin to George Shepherd 29 July 1908
A.E. Wagner (Lincoln County) 1910
Anderson Fry to Rush and Mary Slate 14 January 1910
J.M. Brammer et ux to David Farley 11 April 1910 19 April 1910
A.L. Smith, Adkins Conspiracy Case, Albert Adkins, Arty Fleming, Bill Brumfield, Charleston Gazette, Charley Brumfield, Christian Fry, Cosby Fry, crime, Dan Cunningham, Elizabeth Fry, Elizabeth Lizzie Fleming, Elliott Northcott, Emory Mullins, Fed Adkins, Fourteen Mile Creek, Harts Creek, Henry Mullins, history, J.P. Douglas, Jake Davis, John Fleming, John H. Mullins, John Henan Fry, Kentucky, Lace Marcum, Lillie Fleming, Lincoln County, Logan County, Luraney Fleming, Man Adkins, Margaret Adkins, Pike County, Preston Fleming, Raleigh County, Robert Fleming, Rosa Mullins, Squire Dial, Thomas H. Harvey, Upper Elkhorn Creek, West Virginia, Willard Fleming, Willard Frye, William Brumfield, William Fleming, William M.O. Dawson, writers, writing, Wyoming County
Over one hundred years ago, John Fleming, a desperado twice sentenced to serve time in the West Virginia State Penitentiary, escaped from the Lincoln County jail and disappeared forever in the mountains of the Big Sandy Valley.
John P. Fleming was born in February 1868 to Preston and Arty (Mullins) Fleming at Upper Elkhorn Creek in Pike County, Kentucky. Nothing is known of his early life except that he had a daughter named Roxie by Lucy Mullins in 1887. In the late 1880s, John and his family migrated to West Virginia and settled in the Abbott Branch area of Logan County, just above Harts Creek. In 1891, his brother William married Luraney Frye, a daughter of Christian and Elizabeth (Hunter) Frye, in Logan County. In 1897, his sister Sarah married Squire Dial in Logan County. The next year, brother Robert, or Bob, married Lillie Dempsey, also in Logan County.
On December 25, 1892, Fleming murdered his uncle, John H. Mullins, at Big Creek, Logan County. Essentially, the story went like this: Mr. Mullins’ sons, Henry and Emory, were in a quarrel and Fleming intervened. The elder Mullins came to settle the matter and Fleming fled across a creek. Mullins pursued, knife in hand. At the creek, Fleming shot his uncle. He was immediately taken before Squire Garrett, who discharged him. When a new warrant was sworn out for him, he fled the county. In March of 1893, his wife attempted to meet him but became ill and died at Dunlow, Wayne County. Fleming was at her bedside when authorities arrested him. A Logan County jury found him guilty of second degree murder and Judge Thomas H. Harvey sentenced him to eighteen years in the West Virginia state penitentiary in Moundsville. In the 1900 census, he is listed there under the name of “J.P. Flemons,” inmate. Curiously, he claimed to have been married for one year.
During Fleming’s incarceration, his siblings continued to marry into local families. In 1900, brother Willard married Caroline Caldwell, a daughter of Floyd Caldwell, in Logan County. In 1902, sister Lucy married James F. Caldwell, a son of Hugh Caldwell, in Logan County. Around 1903, brother George married Minnie Tomblin.
After his release from prison, John married Sarah Elizabeth “Lizzie” Frye, a daughter of John Henan and Ida Cosby (Headley) Frye. The Fryes lived on Sulphur Springs Fork of Fourteen Mile Creek, several miles below Harts Creek. Lizzie, born around 1887, was roughly eighteen years younger than John. They may have become acquainted through John’s brother, William, who had married Lizzie’s aunt, Luraney Frye, in 1891.
“Aunt Lizzie was married to John Fleming,” said Willard Frye, an elderly resident of Frye Ridge, in a 2003 interview. “John was a mean man who packed two .45 pistols. He was a member of Charley Brumfield’s gang. He was mean to Aunt Lizzie.”
Fleming’s involvement in the Brumfield gang soon led to more prison time. In the summer of 1907, the “feudist,” as newspapers would later call him, became entangled in the peculiar “Adkins conspiracy case.”
A little earlier, in December of 1906, Margaret Adkins, Fisher B. Adkins, Floyd Enos Adkins, Albert G. Adkins and Fed Adkins — all associates in an Adkins general store business in Harts — took out a four-month loan for $600 from the Huntington National Bank. By April 1907, they had not paid any money toward the loan and asked for a four-month extension. In late June or July, Margaret Adkins, sister to Fed, filed a bankruptcy petition. On July 3, the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of West Virginia adjudged her bankrupt. J.P. Douglass (later a Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates) was appointed as receiver in the case and arrived in Hart to survey the business. A.L. Smith stood guard at the store.
On July 5, after the government had taken control of the merchandise in the store, a vigilante group called the Night Riders robbed the store and hid the various goods in neighbors’ homes and barns.
Following the robbery, detectives descended on Harts in an effort to unravel the details of the crime. The most famous of these detectives was Dan Cunningham, a one-time participant in the Hatfield-McCoy Feud. More recently, Mr. Cunningham had been employed by Governor William M.O. Dawson in Raleigh and Wyoming Counties. During his Harts Creek investigation, he boarded with locals and eavesdropped on conversations between suspects. Those involved in the store heist, meanwhile, used various means to suppress information. But as the pressure of the investigation bore down on locals, neighbors began to snitch on each other.
By December of 1907, the State had evidence against eleven men in what the Charleston Gazette called “the celebrated Adkins Bankruptcy Case” which “if proven by witnesses for the government, will equal any novel ever written by Victor Hugo.” Those accused — described by the Huntington Herald-Dispatch as “eleven brawny mountaineers” — were Fed Adkins, Charles Brumfield, Albert “Jake” Davis, Manville Adkins, John Fleming, Willard Fleming, Robert “Bob” Fleming, John Adkins, Albert G. Adkins, Floyd Enos Adkins and William “Bill” Brumfield. The state charged the gang with “conspiracy to defraud the government and to impede the administration of justice after the government had taken possession of Adkins store.”
U.S. District Attorney Elliott Northcott prosecuted the case, while Lace Marcum argued for the defendants. In opening remarks on December 5, according to the Herald-Dispatch, District Attorney Northcott fiercely denounced “the eleven men who have been a terror to the country surrounding the village of Hart, in Lincoln county, for the past six months. He stated in words burning with bitterness that the government expected to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that crimes that would narrow the very souls of every juror had been committed in the vicinity of Hart, and had the story been told him three weeks ago he would have thought it a piece of fiction pure and simple… He also alluded to the fact that the government would prove by witnesses who would tell of the horror that had been created in the neighborhood: houses burned, men shot down from ambush, houses with unprotected women had been shot up and the inmates terrorized until they were afraid to venture outdoors. It was a thrilling recital of the worst crimes that have taken place in this state in a decade.” According to the Herald-Dispatch, the eleven defendants “showed but little interest except to look at each other and smile when the crimes were talked of.”
In Marcum’s opening remarks on December 5, he stated that he would prove the goods found at the homes of the defendants were there several weeks before the Adkins store went bankrupt.
On December 6, Northcott questioned Rosa “Sis” Mullins, a sister to Emory and a resident of Abbotts Branch, who swore that she saw John Fleming’s brothers — Bob and Willard — go by her house the night of the robbery on their way to the Adkins store.
“Nearly every witness who testified yesterday,” the Charleston Gazette reported on December 7, “showed just how desperate these defendants are, and the testimony of Capt. Dan Cunningham unraveled a tale of horror that was realistic in every sense of the word.”
On December 7, Lace Marcum began his defense of John Fleming and the ten other Harts men. Bob Fleming, John’s brother, was the second witness called to the stand. He swore that he knew nothing of the robbery until the day after it happened and that he never saw any of the stolen goods. Willard Fleming, John’s other brother, said he stayed with Charley Brumfield the night of the robbery and saw no one armed. John, referenced in one newspaper account as being a “paroled prisoner,” testified along the same lines, as did all the defendants who were called to the stand. “The entire list of defendants swore to very near the same thing,” reported the Gazette.
For the most part, Marcum’s defense of the eleven Harts men had little chance of success considering the evidence against them. In his closing remarks, he was forced to put them at the court’s mercy by claiming that they had acted the way they did because they didn’t know any better. In the end, ten of the accused were sentenced to twelve- or eighteen-month terms in the West Virginia state penitentiary.