Editor's Note: Readers of The Kentucky Explorer have been introduced to the Rev. John J. Dickey in past issues. Remember that he was a traveling preacher throughout the eastern part of the state during the years between 1880 and 1925. He helped to establish numerous churches and at least two colleges. He was also a teacher and a newspaper editor. However, his most enduring gift to us today may well be his diary that he kept faithfully during some 50 years of his later life beginning in the 1880s. In all, over 6,000 pages written in his own hand make up this interesting digest.
In this journal of his, Dickey often wrote down accounts of events daily. Much of the material concerns his day to day life. However, during the late 1890s he began to gather family history on various families he met in his travels. Beginning in this issue we are offering these interviews to our readers in the hope that they will be appreciated in the sense that Rev. Dickey intended. These interviews were written word for word as they were given to Rev. Dickey. Nothing has been changed.
December 8, 1897
Last Sunday a number of the leading young men of the town and county were drunk on the streets, fighting, yelling, and brawling. Yesterday Sheriff-elect Bev White, Jr., and William Treadway, ex-marshall, emptied their revolvers at each other; but nobody was hurt. Today some man was drunk and shooting on the street. He met Mrs. Burchell and the girls coming to church tonight and shot on the highway. Thus things go. Monday the petition was filed but this cannot relieve us for 12 months. O that we might get the saloon keepers converted.
I have been at Col. D. Y. Lyttle's the last 24 hours, writing up his life and much else of mountain history. He is in his 80th year. I got much valuable information. This afternoon Bro. L. L. Pickett and Dr. McDonald came to receive Dr. Burchell's three daughters and Miss Emma Lyttle into the Presbyterian Church. They were converted on one meeting. He goes back tomorrow. I got him up a good audience by going to each house after sundown. Bro. Pickett is feeble. He sang tonight and talked a minute or so at my request at the close of the service about the meeting. We must have it, or we fail. But He has promised it, if we only believe. O for the faith of an Abraham! Nothing short of it is equal to the work here. Sin and the devil reign. The town is under a curse and has been for 50 years. O for its deliverance from these hard masters. O for the holy fire to fall on my heart and fit me for this work. God send the fire on us all!
December 9, 1897
We had a small audience but a good meeting this morning, 15 to 20 present. Tonight there were 75. Bro. Pickett preached on, "If ye being evil, etc." Prayer had liberty. One-third of the audience came and shook hands with us as a pledge that they would pray for the salvation of sinners. The call for those who wanted prayer to come and shake hands was not responded to, but the audience was serious.
December 11, 1897
Last night Robert Lucas, 20 years old, eldest son of Mrs. Amanda Lucas, proprietress of our hotel, was drunk yelling like an Indian. He was cursing the "sanctified preachers." This morning he was up and out early doing the same thing throughout the forenoon.
Abe Pace, recently pardoned out of the penitentiary where he was serving a life sentence for killing Allen Lewis, a hotel keeper in Hyden, was here and was raising a disturbance this morning. Sam Kash, his attorney, lives here, and he told me that Pace ate some sort of soap until he spit blood and made the physician believe he had consumption and was about to die. The physician wrote this on the certificate and Governor Bradley pardoned him. Now he is here ready to kill somebody and put the state to a vast expense.
We held strict meeting this morning after the second bell rang and invited the crowd on the street to come to church, but they did not come. We had 25 or 30 women and a-half dozen men. Bro. Pickett preached, "And ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you." Most of the congregation came forward to pray for power. Bro. Pickett told the audience that they ought to take the preachers out of the hotel, that they could not pay their bills and were unwilling to leave till their bills were paid. He said when he was put at a hotel he felt that he was an intruder in the community. He has been with us at the Lucas Hotel since he came. At the close of the service Mrs. Dr. Burchell invited two of us to stay at her house. So did Mrs. Dr. Manning, the latter only for lodging, but she would see that our meals were paid for at the hotel. Mrs. Burchell lives a mile in the country. Mrs. Manning lives in town. I hope to get a room at Mrs. Jefferies in town as soon as she and her son get fixed up in their house. I am sure God will take care of us.
It is commonly remarked that Manchester is more wicked than ever before. Another saloon was opened in town this week, making five in all. The devil is loose, but God is mightier than he and will give us the victory. Glory be to His name!
Bro. May is having some success in selling Bibles. He went to Benge this morning to fill my appointment for tomorrow. We are expecting victory in our meeting. Bro. Pickett is in fair working order, is full of faith, hope, and love. We are claiming the victory faith though the devil is raging around. This is a noisy day in town; drinking, carousing, cursing, laughing, shooting firecrackers, and other pyrotechnics. But Glory to God for peace within.