The headline in the Paintsville Herald for April 5, 1928 read, “Killing at White House: Jasper Lemaster Charged with Killing Alec Adams Surrenders to Officers.”
Alec Adams was my great grandfather. There are different accounts of what happened depending on which newspaper articles you read. Here, I will share with you the story from what I’ve learned through research and family lore.
It was the beginning of the Great Depression and Alec was a miner with a wife and small children, one of which was my grandmother, Garnet.
There was no food left in the house and Alec could see the hunger in his children’s silent faces. Alec went down to the general store of the miners’ camp, walked in, grabbed a small sack, and selected a few items: a loaf of bread, corned beef, beans.
Jasper Lemaster owned the store and was working that day. As Alec approached the counter, he asked for the groceries to be put on his tab. Lemaster refused to extend the credit, there was an argument, and Alec turned to leave with the food anyway. Suddenly, a gun shot boomed vibrating the rickety shelves of the shop. Alec Adams lay there dead. Shot and killed over a sack of groceries.
Now, I’m not hear to argue any point of this tragedy. Stealing is stealing and murder is murder. The story continues, as it always does.
Alec’s widow got remarried and had more children. My grandmother Garnet met my grandfather and married. Grandpa was a minister for the Church of God after his time in the army, and in 1971, they moved to Northern Ohio with their eight children to start a new church.
They raised their children in the faith. They instilled good values and strong work ethics in all of them. My father became a minister of music in the church and would often visit gospel singings and revivals in the area.
One summer, Dad took my grandmother to such an event in town. They arrived early and started visiting with the other folks around them anxious to hear some good old gospel music. At the front of the church, Dad recognized the guest speaker as a classmate from school.
The two men began catching up on the years that had passed and Dad introduced him to my grandmother. It so happens that his last name was Lemaster.
Now, my grandmother never really shared many details of her father’s death. Her children knew he died but they knew her step-father as their grandpa. So, the name Lemaster would have meant nothing to my father before this night.
She commented on how she used to know some Lemaster’s back in Kentucky where she grew up near White House. Shocked, my father’s school mate says that’s where his family was originally from. His mother happened to be visiting for the gospel singing and he offered to introduce them.
After a quick introduction, the two women sat down to visit. It wasn’t long before my Grandmother shared that her maiden name was Adams. The look on the other woman’s face was filled with so much emotion as she quietly listened and tears filled her eyes. My grandmother continued, “It was a Lemaster who shot my father.” She began to tear up herself. The other woman took her hand and said, “That was my father.” Grandma squeezed her hand. There was a powerful silence for a moment before both woman hugged each other tightly.
My grandmother was 54 when she had this experience, fifty years after her father was murdered. She shared something with my dad that night. Her whole life, she felt she would never have any closure from loosing her father, but the moment of that hug, she felt like such a weight was lifted from her soul. The emotion of coming face to face with her past and the eagerness to show forgiveness was overwhelming.
Both of the women in this situation could have easily allowed hatred and bitterness to grow inside them throughout their lives. Instead, they chose to live a life of goodness and love. Believe what you will, but I am sure their paths were guided to meet that night.
Forgiveness is so healing and powerful. Forgiveness toward ourselves, our family, and those who may only touch our lives for a moment.
Begin each day with optimism and end each day with forgiveness. Happiness in life begins and end within your heart.