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In 1889, A Mob Murdered Green McCoy And Milt Haley Deep In The Hills Of West Virginia

Updated September 23, 2021 2.1k views11 items

The Hatfields and McCoys weren't the only feud ripping apart Appalachian hill towns in the late 19th century. In 1889, the same year that eight Hatfields were sentenced to life in prison, a new conflict flared up in the nearby community of Harts, WV. Milt Haley and Green McCoy facts show the intense violence of what became known as the Lincoln County Feud.

The logging community was no stranger to violence. One man took a shot at his neighbor for suspected log theft. And small grievances quickly spiraled into a bloody war in the mountain town. Ultimately, a mob of drunk men murdered Milt Haley and Green McCoy with knives, guns, and an ax.

The men, known for their fiddling and their quick hands with Winchesters, had shot Al Brumfield and his wife on a Sunday afternoon. Brumfield's men vowed revenge. After a posse slaughtered Haley and McCoy, their bodies were thrown into a single grave hidden in the woods.

  • Photo: Parsons / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    A Woman Was Shot In The Face

    Angry about the ambush at the log boom, Ben Adams continued to plot against Al Brumfield. On September 22, 1889, he struck. Brumfield and his wife, Hollena, were riding home from a family meal when the couple saw two men hiding in the rocks of a nearby hill. Brumfield was shot in the arm. A bullet ripped through Hollena's cheek. 

    As Brumfield rode for help, the snipers vanished into the hills. The furious targets hunted for their enemies. Because Brumfield was unpopular, there were numerous suspects. But Milt Haley and Green McCoy had skipped town, instantly throwing suspicion their way. Brumfield concluded that they'd been hired by Adams to kill him, so he got together a posse to bring the men to justice. 

  • Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / Wikimedia Commons / No Restrictions

    The Suspected Snipers Fled To Kentucky, But A Mob Dragged Them Back

    After the attempted murder of Al Brumfield and his wife, Milt Haley and Green McCoy fled to Inez, KY, just across the border from West Virginia. But Brumfield already suspected the pair, because they left town just after the shooting. Brumfield led a posse to Inez to catch the two men. They bound the captives' arms behind their back and drove them back toward Harts "like a pair of mules in a plow line."

    Haley and McCoy were just hired guns. The man who hired them, Ben Adams, tried to rescue them by attempting to ambush the returning posse, but a scout uncovered the plot and tipped off the Brumfields.

  • Photo: Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Mob Got Drunk And Started Dancing

    The posse hid Milt Haley and Green McCoy in a cabin, and started drinking. The men sampled jugs of corn liquor, apple brandy, and "red whiskey." The atmosphere lightened as the men began dancing. But no one forgot the two men they'd captured. In fact, some versions of the history claim the mob brought Haley down to play the fiddle.

    The party quickly turned violent. After separating Haley and McCoy, the men told McCoy, "We hung Milt. If you've got anything to say, you'd better say it." McCoy confessed to the ambush, but claimed that Haley had fired the gun. 

  • Photo: ForestWander / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0-US

    The Posse Stabbed, Shot, And Bludgeoned The Men

    The mob turned against Milt Haley and Green McCoy. They started by stabbing the men; Paris Brumfield was reportedly covered in their blood. Then the posse pulled out their guns and riddled the captives with bullets. According to one story, a Brumfield "put his toe at the [bullet] hole and said 'I put a bullet right here.'" And that was only the start. The furious, intoxicated men took a pole-ax and began beating the men who'd just been stabbed and shot. After bashing in their brains, they finally brought in a preacher to bury the bodies. 

    Haley and McCoy were buried in the West Virginia woods, tossed into a single grave. Once the story got out, it quickly reignited newspaper tales of backwoods murderers and bloody feuds.