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
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.
The young woman who cleans up my room told me this morning that
her father and three brothers have been killed. Her name is Hignite.
She was reared in Leslie County. Two years ago her father was
waylaid and killed in a cornfield. One brother killed another
brother, and he in turn was killed in town by W. P. Bentley,
a lawyer of Hyden, who had killed his own brother. Three patricides
destroyed each other in a single combat. Such are the deeds that
make Kentucky still "The Dark and Bloody Ground."
I have been reading the early history of Kentucky recently,
and it is my opinion that the effusion of blood in the state
today is almost as great as in the days of Boone and Kenton.
Every newspaper brings tidings of murders and frays. Violence
and blood mark the population of Kentucky today. Her sons go
armed and they do not carry these arms for ornaments but for
We have a smallpox scare here. The contagion is at Middlesboro
and other towns in that part of the state. The State Board of
Health urges vaccination and it has begun here. People should
always be prepared for death. There should be compulsory vaccination.
Jenner's discovery was the greatest in modern times. It has saved
millions of lives. I was able to go downstairs today, the first
time in ten days. I walk with some difficulty but am conformable.
This ice is thawing, and I am beginning to get access to this
wicked household. God save them. The religious interest awakened
last fall has largely died out, but we will hope that as nature
revives the springs that so shall we see our Christians come
to life again.
Captain Byron, long of this place, but of London of late, died
News comes that Bro. May, my helper at Hyden, has "gone
wrong." He got drunk, hired a mule, and left the country.
He had $29 worth of watches belonging to Mr. M. D. Tanner of
this place, and he had doubtless taken them. He came here last
fall to help me in a meeting, with his nephew, Walter Bromley,
and I was pleased with him. I asked him to stay and help me in
my work. He agreed to do so, and after keeping him with me for
three months, I took him to Hyden. I stayed with him there two
weeks and left him in charge. He started off well, taught a singing
school from which he got about $40, was getting paper hanging
to do a $1.75 per day, and he was supporting himself. He was
very exemplary in every respect while here and while there till
he got under the influences of a Delilah, and in one evil hour
fell from his steadfastness. Until eight years ago he was a gambler,
a drunkard, and impure in his life. These things he told publicly
and privately. I believe he was as sincere a man as I ever saw;
but he was sorely tempted, often he used to tell me about. He
said the devil was always after him. I have no regrets for the
course I have pursued. I did what I thought best under the best
light I could get and praying for guidance I was seeking to lift
humanity up, and God will reward the effort. Poor man. My heart
bleeds for him. He is now a wreck, and his last state is worse
than his first. I pray that he might be restored. Mr. Tanner
will lose perhaps $20 by him. He left some Bibles that Mr. Tanner
can sell which will reduce his loss. I am sorry for him. He is
poor, struggling to get a start in the world, but he persistently
refuses to give his heart to God. But God will give us the victory
yet. Glory! I preached twice today and conducted Sunday School.